THE MASTER THIEF
' What kind of people are they then, who dwell here ? ' said the youth.
' Oh ! robbers, and rabble of that sort,' said the old woman ; ' they stole me away when I was little, and I have had to keep house for them ever since.'
' I still think I will go to bed, all the same,' said the youth. ' No matter what happens, I'll not go out to-night in such weather as this.'
'Well, then, it will be the worse for yourself,' said the old woman.
The young man lay down in a bed which stood near, but he dared not go to sleep; and it was better that he didn't, for the robbers came, and the old woman said that a young fellow who was a stranger had come there, and she had not been able to get him to go away again.
' Did you see if he had any money ? ' said the robbers.
' He's not one to have money, he is a tramp ! If he has a few clothes to his back, that is all.'
Then the robbers began to mutter to each other apart about what they should do with him, whether they should murder him, or what else they should do. In the meantime the boy got up and began to talk to them, and ask them if they did not want a manservant, for he could find pleasure enough in serving them.
' Yes,' said they, ' if you have a mind to take to the trade that we follow, you may have a place here.'
' It's all the same to me what trade I follow,' said the youth, ' for when I came away from home my father gave me leave to take to any trade I fancied.'
' Have you a fancy for stealing, then ? ' said the robbers.
' Yes,' said the boy, for he thought that was a trade which would not take long to learn.
' Not very far off there dwelt a man who had three oxen, one of which he was to take to the town to sell. The robbers had heard of this, so they told the youth that if he were able to steal the ox from him on the way, without his knowing, and without doing him any harm, he should have leave to be their servant-man. So the youth set off, taking with him a pretty shoe with a silver buckle that was lying about in the house. He put this in the road by which the man must go with his ox, and then went into the wood and hid himself under a bush. When the man came up he at once saw the shoe.