The Red Fairy Book
The Master Thief
THERE was once upon a time a husbandman who had three sons. He had no property to
bequeath to them, and no means of putting them in the way of getting a living, and did
not know what to do, so he said that they had his leave to take to anything they most
fancied, and go to any place they best liked. He would gladly accompany them for some
part of their way, he said, and that he did. He went with them till they came to a place
where three roads met, and there each of them took his own way, and the father bade
them farewell and returned to his own home again. What became of the two elder I have
never been able to discover, but the youngest went both far and wide.
It came to pass, one night, as he was going through a great wood, that a terrible storm
came on. It blew so hard and rained so heavily that he could scarcely keep his eyes open,
and before he was aware of it he had got quite out of the track, and could neither find
road nor path. But he went on, and at last he saw a light far away in the wood. Then he
thought he must try and get to it, and after a long, long time he did reach it. There was a
large house, and the fire was burning so brightly inside that he could tell that the people
were not in bed. So he went in, and inside there was an old woman who was busy about
`Good evening, mother!' said the youth.
`Good evening!' said the old woman.
`Hutetu! it is terrible weather outside to-night,' said the young fellow.
`Indeed it is,' said the old woman.
`Can I sleep here, and have shelter for the night?' asked the youth.
`It wouldn't be good for you to sleep here,' said the old hag, `for if the people of the house
come home and find you, they will kill both you and me.'
`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
`Did you see if he had any money?' said the robbers.