DEAR children, said a poor man to his four sons, I have nothing to give you;
PPPyou must go out into the world, and try your luck.
PPPBegin by learning some trade, and see how you can get on.
PPPSo the four brothers took their walking-sticks in their hands, and their little bundles on their shoulders, and, after bidding their father good-bye, went all out at the gate together.
PPPWhen they had got on some way they came to four cross-ways, each leading to a different country.
PPPThen the eldest said, Here we must part;
PPPbut this day four years we will come back to this spot;
PPPand in the mean time each must try what he can do for himself.
PPPSo each brother went his way;
PPPand as the oldest was hastening on, a man met him, and asked him where he was going and what he wanted.
PPPI am going to try my luck in the world, and should like to begin by learning some trade, answered he.
PPPThen, said the man, go with me, and I will teach you how to become the cunningest thief that ever was.
PPPNo, said the other, that is not an honest calling, and what can one look to earn by it in the end but the gallows?
PPPsaid the man, you need not fear the gallows;
PPPfor I will only teach you to steal what will be fair game;
PPPI meddle with nothing but what no one else can get or care any thing about, and where no one can find you out.
PPPSo the young man agreed to follow his trade, and he soon showed himself so clever that nothing could escape him that he had once set his mind upon.
The second brother also met a man, who, when he found out what he was setting out upon, asked him what trade he meant to learn.
PPPI do not know yet, said he.
PPPThen come with me, and be a star-gazer.
PPPit is a noble trade, for nothing can be hidden from you when you understand the stars.
PPPThe plan pleased him much, and he soon became such a skilful star-gazer, that when he had served out his time, and wanted to leave his master, he gave him a glass, and said, With this you can see all that is passing in the sky and on earth, and nothing can be hidden from you.
The third brother met a huntsman, who took him with him, and taught him so well all that belonged to hunting, that he became very clever in that trade;
PPPand when he left his master he gave him a bow, and said, Whatever you shoot at with this bow you will be sure to hit.
The youngest brother likewise met a man who asked him what he wished to do.
PPPWould not you like, said he, to be a tailor?
PPPsaid the young man;
PPPsitting cross-legged from morning to night, working backwards and forwards with a needle and goose, will never suit me.
PPPanswered the man, that is not my sort of tailoring;
PPPcome with me, and you will learn quite another kind of trade from that.
PPPNot knowing what better to do, he came into the plan, and learnt the trade from the beginning;
PPPand when he left his master, he gave him a needle, and said, You can sew anything with this, be it as soft as an egg, or hard as steel, and the joint will be so fine that no seam will be seen.
After the space of four years, at the time agreed upon, the four brothers met at the four cross-roads, and having welcomed each other, set off towards their fathers home, where they told him all that had happened to them, and how each had learned some trade.
PPPThen one day, as they are sitting before the house under a very high tree, the father said, I should like to try what each of you can do in his trade.
PPPSo he looked up, and said to the second son, At the top of this tree there is a chaffinchs nest;
PPPtell me how any eggs there are in it.
PPPThe star-gazer took his glass, looked up, and said, Five.
PPPNow, said the father to the eldest son, take away the eggs without the bird that is sitting upon them and hatching them, knowing any thing of what you are doing.
PPPSo the cunning thief climbed up the tree, and brought away to his father the five eggs from under the bird, who never saw or felt what he was doing, but kept sitting on at her ease.
PPPThen the father took the and put one on each corner of the table and the fifth in the middle, and said to the huntsman, Cut all the eggs in two pieces at one shot.
PPPThe huntsman took up his bow, at one shot struck all the five eggs as his father wished.
PPPNow comes your turn, said he to the young tailor;
PPPsew the eggs and the young birds in them together again, so neatly that the shot shall have done them no harm.
PPPThen the tailor took his needle and sewed the eggs as he was told;
PPPand when he had done, the thief was sent to take them back to the nest, and put them under the bird, without its knowing it.
PPPThen she went on setting, and hatched them;
PPPand in a few days they crawled out, and had only a little red streak across their necks where the tailor had sewed them together.
Well done, sons!
PPPsaid the old man, you have made good use of your time, and learnt something worth the knowing;
PPPbut I am sure I do not know which ought to have the prize.
PPPthat a time might soon come for you to turn your skill to some account!
Not long after this there was a great bustle in the country;
PPPfor the kings daughter had been carried off by a mighty dragon, and the king mourned over his loss day and night, and made it known that whoever brought her back to him should have her for a wife.
PPPThen the four brothers said to each other, Here is a chance for us;
PPPlet us try What we can do.
PPPAnd they agreed to see whether they could not set the princess free.
PPPI will soon find out where she is, however, said the star-gazer as he looked through his glass, and soon cried out, I see her afar off, sitting upon a rock in the sea, and I can spy the dragon close by, guarding her.
PPPThen he went to the king, and asked for a ship for himself and his brothers, and went with them upon the sea till they came to the right place.
PPPThere they found the princess sitting, as the star-gazer had said, on the rock, and the dragon was lying asleep with his head upon her lap.
PPPI dare not shoot at him, said the huntsman, for I should kill the beautiful young lady also.
PPPThen I will try my skill, said the thief;
PPPand went and stole her away from under the dragon so quickly and gently that the beast did not know it, but went on snoring.
Then away they hastened with her full of joy in their boat towards the ship;
PPPbut soon came the dragon roaring behind them through the air, for he awoke and missed the princess;
PPPbut when he got over the boat, and wanted to pounce upon them and carry off the princess, the huntsman took up his bow and shot him straight at the heart, so that he fell down dead.
PPPThey were still not safe for he was such a great beast, that in his fall he overset the boat, and they had to swim in the open sea upon a few planks.
PPPSo the tailor took his needle, and with a few large stitches put some of the planks together, and sat down upon them, and sailed about and gathered up all the pieces of the boat, and tacked them together so quickly that the boat was soon ready, and they then reached the ship and got home safe.
When they had brought home the princess to her father, there was great rejoicing;
PPPand he said to the four brothers, One of you shall marry her, but you must settle amongst yourselves which it is to be.
PPPThen there arose a quarrel between them;
PPPand the star-gazer said, If I had not found the princess out, all your skill would have been of no use;
PPPtherefore she ought to be mine.
PPPYour seeing her would have been of no use, said the thief, if I had not taken her away from the dragon;
PPPtherefore she ought to be mine.
PPPNo, she is mine, said the huntsman;
PPPfor if I had not killed the dragon, he would after all have torn you and the princess into pieces.
PPPAnd if I had not sewed the boat together again, said the tailor, you would all have been drowned;
PPPtherefore she is mine.
PPPThen the king put in a word, and said, Each of you is right;
PPPand as all cannot have the young lady, the best way is for neither of you to have her;
PPPand to make up for the loss, I will give each, as a reward for his skill, half a kingdom.
PPPSo the brothers agreed that would be much better than quarrelling;
PPPand the king then gave each half a kingdom, as he had said;
PPPand they lived very happily the rest of their days, and took good care of their father.