554 THE ROBBERS' CAVE.
Then they gave her something to eat, and pointed to a bed in which she and her child could sleep. The woman remained foi many years with the robbers, while Hans grew tall and strong. His mother told him stories, and taught him to read from an old book of chivalry, which she had found in the cave.
When Hans was about nine years old, he made himself a good strong cudgel from a fir branch, and hid it behind his bed. He then went to his mother, and said : " Dear mother, do tell me, just once, where my father is. I want to see him so much."
But his mother was silent; she would not tell him, because she feared it would create in him a longing for home, and she knew the wicked robbers would not let him go away from the cave; yet she felt heart-broken to think that Hans could not go to his father.
That night, when the robbers came home from their marauding excursions, Hans fetched his cudgel, and placing himself before the robber chief, he exclaimed : " I want to know where my father is, and if you won't tell me, I will knock you down !" The chief laughed, and gave |Hans such a box on the ear that he rolled under the table like a ball. Hans got up quickly without a word, but he thought to himself, " I will wait another year before I ask again. I shall manage better next time."
The year passed away, and Hans prepared himself for another attempt. So he fetched his cudgel, whisked off a little dust from it, and, examining it carefully, said : " It is a brave, clever little cudgel." -
At night the robbers came home in good spirits, for they brought with them such a large booty that at supper they drank a great deal of wine, bottle after bottle, till at last their heads began to droop, and their eyes to be heavy.
Then Hans took up his cudgel, and, standing boldly before them, asked again where his father was. The chief gave him such a tremendous box on the ear, that he rolled quite under the table; but he was up again in a moment, and struck such rapid blows right and left amongst them all, which they were too tipsy to resist, that he very soon had them on the ground, unable to move arm or leg. His mother stood in a corner watching him, full of wonder at her boy's bravery and strength.
When his work was finished, he went to his mother and said: " I have been in earnest this time, and now I must know where mv father is."