The Orange Fairy Book
Pinkel the Thief
Long, long ago there lived a widow who had three sons. The two eldest were
grown up, and though they were known to be idle fellows, some of the
neighbours had given them work to do on account of the respect in which their
mother was held. But at the time this story begins they had both been so
careless and idle that their masters declared they would keep them no longer.
So home they went to their mother and youngest brother, of whom they thought
little, because he made himself useful about the house, and looked after the
hens, and milked the cow. 'Pinkel,' they called him in scorn, and by-and-by
'Pinkel' became his name throughout the village.
The two young men thought it was much nicer to live at home and be idle than to
be obliged to do a quantity of disagreeable things they did not like, and they
would have stayed by the fire till the end of their lives had not the widow lost
patience with them and said that since they would not look for work at home they
must seek it elsewhere, for she would not have them under her roof any longer.
But she repented bitterly of her words when Pinkel told her that he too was old
enough to go out into the world, and that when he had made a fortune he would
send for his mother to keep house for him.
The widow wept many tears at parting from her youngest son, but as she saw
that his heart was set upon going with his brothers, she did not try to keep him.
So the young men started off one morning in high spirits, never doubting that
work such as they might be willing to do would be had for the asking, as soon as
their little store of money was spent.
But a very few days of wandering opened their eyes. Nobody seemed to want
them, or, if they did, the young men declared that they were not able to
undertake all that the farmers or millers or woodcutters required of them. The
youngest brother, who was wiser, would gladly have done some of the work that
the others refused, but he was small and slight, and no one thought of offering
him any. Therefore they went from one place to another, living only on the fruit
and nuts they could find in the woods, and getting hungrier every day.
One night, after they had been walking for many hours and were very tired, they
came to a large lake with an island in the middle of it. From the island streamed a
strong light, by which they could see everything almost as clearly as if the sun
had been shining, and they perceived that, lying half hidden in the rushes, was a
'Let us take it and row over to the island, where there must be a house,' said the
eldest brother; 'and perhaps they will give us food and shelter.' And they all got in
and rowed across in the direction of the light. As they drew near the island they
saw that it came from a golden lantern hanging over the door of a hut, while
sweet tinkling music proceeded from some bells attached to the golden horns of
a goat which was feeding near the cottage. The young men's hearts rejoiced as
they thought that at last they would be able to rest their weary limbs, and they