THE MASTER THIEF
T HERE was once upon a time a husbandman who had three sons. He had no property to bequeath to them, and no means of putting them in the way of getting a living, and did not know what to do, so he said that they had his leave to take to anything they most fancied, and go to any place they best liked. He would gladly accompany them for some part of their way, he said, and that he did. He went with them till they came to a place where three roads met, and there each of them took his own way, and the father bade them farewell and returned to his own home again. What became of the two elder I have never been able to discover, but the youngest went both far and wide.
It came to pass, one night, as he was going through a great wood, that a terrible storm came on. It blew so hard and rained so heavily that he could scarcely keep his eyes open, and before he was aware of it he had got quite out of the track, and could neither find road nor path. But he went on, and at last he saw a light far away in the wood. Then he thought he must try and get to it, and after a long, long time he did reach it. There was a large house, and the fire was burning so brightly inside that he could tell that the people were not in bed. So he went in, and inside there was an old woman who was busy about some work.
' Good evening, mother ! ' said the youth.
' Good evening!' said the old woman.
' Hutetu! it is terrible weather outside to-night,' said the young fellow.
' Indeed it is,' said the old woman.
' Can I sleep here, and have shelter for the night ? ' asked the youth.
' It wouldn't be good for you to sleep here,' said the old hag, ' for if the people of the house come home and find you, they will kill both you and me.'