THE MASTER THIEF
' That's a brave shoe,' said he. ' If I had but the fellow to it, I would carry it home with me, and then I should put my old woman into a good humour for once.'
For he had a wife who was so cross and ill-tempered that the time between the beatings she gave him was very short. But then he bethought himself that he could do nothing with one shoe if he had not the fellow to it, so he journeyed onwards and let it lie where it was. Then the youth picked up the shoe and hurried off away through the wood as fast as he was able, to get in front of the man, and then put the shoe in the road before him again.
When the man came with the ox and saw the shoe, he was quite vexed at having been so stupid as to leave the fellow to it lying where it was, instead of bringing it on with him.
' I will just run back again and fetch it now,' he said to himself, ' and then I shall take back a pair of good shoes to the old woman, and she may perhaps throw a kind word to me for once.'
So he went and searched and searched for the other shoe for a long, long time, but no shoe was to be found, and at last he was forced to go back with the one which he had.
In the meantime the youth had taken the ox and gone off with it. When the man got there and found that his ox was gone, he began to weep and wail, for he was afraid that when his old woman got to know she would be the death of him. But all at once it came into his head to go home and get the other ox, and drive it to the town, and take good care that his old wife knew nothing about it. So he did this; he went home and took the ox without his wife's knowing about it, and went on his way to the town with it. But the robbers they knew it well, because they got out their magic. So they told the youth that if he could take this ox also without the man knowing anything about it, and without doing him any hurt, he should then be on an equality with them.
' Well, that will not be a very hard thing to do,' thought the youth.
This time he took with him a rope and put it under his arms and tied himself up to a tree, which hung over the road that the man would have to take. So the man came with his ox, and when he saw the body hanging there he felt a little queer.
' What a hard lot yours must have been to make you hang yourself!' said he. 'Ah, well! you may hang there for me; I can't breathe life into you again.'
So on he went with his ox. Then the youth sprang down from