The RED Fairy Book - online children's book

Illustrated classic fairy tales for children by Andrew Lang

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78                             THE MASTER THIEF
be done but give it; so she took out the flask with the sleeping drink 'and put it to the lips of the first of them ; and now she shook no more, but guided the flask so that each of them got just as much as he ought, and the twelfth had not done drinking before the first was already sitting snoring. Then the Master Thief flung off his beggar's rags, and took one stable boy after the other and gently set him astride on the partitions which divided the stalls, and then he called his eleven men who were waiting outside, and they rode off with the Governor's horses.
In the morning when the Governor came to look after his stable boys they were just beginning to come to again. They were driv­ing their spurs into the partition till the splinters flew about, and some of the boys fell off, and some still hung on and sat looking like fools. ' Ah, well,' said the Governor, ' it is easy to see who has been here ; but what a worthless set of fellows you must be to sit here and let the Master Thief steal the horses from under you !' And they all got a beating for not having kept watch better.
Later in the day the Master Thief came and related what he had done, and wanted to have the Governor's daughter as had been pro­mised. But the Governor gave him a hundred dollars, and said that he must do something that was better still.
' Do you think you can steal my horse from under me when I am out riding on it ? ' said he.
' Well, it might be done,' said the Master Thief, ' if I were absolutely certain that I should get your daughter.'
So the Governor said that he would see what he could do, and then he said that on a certain day he would ride out to a great common where they drilled the soldiers.
So the Master Thief immediately got hold of an old worn-out mare, and set himself to work to make a collar for it of green withies and branches of broom; bought a shabby old cart and a great cask, and then he told a poor old beggar woman that he would give her ten dollars if she would get into the cask and keep her mouth wide-open beneath the tap-hole, into which he was going to stick his finger. No harm should happen to her, he said ; she should only be driven about a little, and if he took his finger out more than once, she should have ten dollars more. Then he dressed himself in rags, dyed himself with soot, and put on a wig and a great beard of goat's hair, so that it was impossible to recognise him, and went to the parade ground, where the Governor had already been riding about a long time.
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