THE STEEL CANE
with me. I will find something for you to do.' And taking him by the ear he led him from the cottage.
For seven years the ass led a hard life, just as the old woman had foretold. But instead of remembering that he had brought all his suffering on himself, and being sorry for his evil ways, he grew harder, and more bitter. At the end of the seven years his ass skin wore out, and he became a man again, and one day returned to the cottage.
His wife opened the door in answer to his knock ; then, letting fall the latch she ran inside, crying :
' Grandmother! grandmother! your son has come back!'
' I thought he would,' replied the old woman, going on with her spinning. ' Well, we could have clone very well without him. But as he is here I suppose he must come in.'
And come in he did. But as the old woman expected, he behaved still worse than before. For some weeks she allowed him to do what he liked ; then at last she said:
' So experience has taught you nothing ! After all, there are very few people who have sense to learn by it. But take care lest I change you into a wolf, to be a prey for dogs and men! '
' You talk too much. I shall break your head for you !' was all the answer she got.
Had the young man looked at her face he might have taken warning, but he was busy making .a pipe, and took no notice. The next moment the steel cane had touched his shoulders, and a big grey wolf bounded through the door.
Oh! what a yapping among the dogs, and what a shouting among the neighbours as they gave chase.
For seven years he led the life of a hunted animal, often cold and nearly always hungry, and never daring to allow himself a sound sleep. At the end of that time his wolf skin wore out also, and again he appeared at the