302 THE STEEL CANE
from. At length one was found, good and industrious, as well as pretty; and as the young man raised no objections the wedding took place at once, and the bride and bridegroom went to live in the cottage with the old woman. But no change was to be seen in the husband's conduct. All day long he was out amusing himself in the company of his former friends, and if his wife dared to say anything to him on his return home he beat her with his stick. And nest year, when a baby was born to them, he beat it also.
At length the old woman's patience was worn out. She saw that it was quite useless to expect the lazy, idle creature to mend his ways, and one day she said to him:
' Do you mean to go on like this for ever ? Eemember, you are no longer a boy, and it is time that you left off behaving like one. Come, shake off your bad habits, and work for your wife and child, and above all, stop beating them. If not I will transform you into an ass, and heavy loads shall be piled on your back, and men shall ride you. Briars shall be your food, a goad shall prick you, and in your turn you shall know how it feels to be beaten.'
But if she expected her words to do any good she soon found out her mistake, for the young man only grew angry and cried rudely :
' Bah ! hold your tongue, or I will whip you also.'
' Will you ?' she answered grimly; and, swift as lightning, she picked up a steel cane that stood in the corner and laid it across his shoulders. In an instant his ears had grown long and his face longer, his arms had become legs, and his body was covered with close grey hair. Truly, he was an ass ; and a very ugly one, too !
' Leave the house ! ' commanded the old woman. And, shambling awkwardly, he went.
As he was standing in the path outside, not knowing what to do, a man passed by.
' Ho! my fine fellow, you are exactly what I was looking for! You don't seem to have a master, so come