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Grimm's Fairy Tales.

The Three Apprentices

There were once three apprentices, who had agreed to keep always
together while traveling, and always to work in the same
town. At one time, however, their masters had no more work
to give them, so that at last they were in rags, and had nothing
to live on. Then one of them said, what shall we do. We cannot
stay here any longer, we will travel once more, and if we do
not find any work in the town we go to, we will arrange with
the innkeeper there, that we are to write and tell him where we
are staying, so that we can always have news of each other, and
then we will separate. And that seemed best to the others also.
They went forth, and met on the way a richly-dressed man who
asked who they were. We are apprentices looking for work. Up to
this time we have kept together, but if we cannot find anything
to do we are going to separate. There is no need for that, said
the man, if you will do what I tell you, you shall not want for
gold or for work. Nay, you shall become great lords, and drive
in your carriages. One of them said, if our souls and salvation
be not endangered, we will certainly do it. They will not,
replied the man,
I have no claim on you. One of the others, however, had looked
at his feet, and when he saw a horse's foot and a man's foot,
he did not want to have anything to do with him. Then the
devil said, be easy, I have no designs on you, but on another
soul, which is half my own already, and whose measure shall
but run full. As they were now secure, they consented, and the
devil told them what he wanted. The first was to answer,
all three of us, to every question. The second was to say,
for money, and the third, and quite right too. They were always
to say this, one after the other, but they were not to say one
word more, and if they disobeyed this order, all their money would
disappear at once, but so long as they observed it, their pockets
would always be full. As a beginning, he at once gave them as
much as they could carry, and told them to go to such and such
an inn when they got to the town. They went to it, and the
innkeeper came to meet them, and asked if they wished for
anything to eat. The first replied, all three of us. Yes,
said the host, that is what I mean. The second said, for money.
Of course, said the host. The third said, and quite right too.
Certainly it is right, said the host.
Good meat and drink were now brought to them, and they were well
waited on. After the dinner came the payment, and the innkeeper
gave the bill to the one who said, all three of us, the second
said, for money, and the third, and quite right too. Indeed
it is right, said the host, all three pay, and without money I
can give nothing. They, however, paid even more than he had
asked. The lodgers, who were looking on, said, these people must
be mad. Yes, indeed they are, said the host, they are not very
wise. So they stayed some time in the inn, and said nothing else
but, all three of us, for money, and and quite right too. But
they saw and knew all that was going on. It so happened that a
great merchant came with a large sum of money, and said, sir
host, take care of my money for me, here are three crazy apprentices
who might steal it from me. The host did as he was asked. As
he was carrying the trunk into his room, he felt that it was
heavy with gold. Thereupon he gave the three apprentices a
lodging below, but the merchant received a separate apartment
upstairs. When it was midnight, and the host thought that all
were asleep, he came with his wife, and they had an axe and
struck the rich merchant dead. And after they had murdered
him they went to bed again. When it was day there was a great
outcry. The merchant lay dead in bed bathed in blood. All
the guests came running out, but the host said, the three
crazy apprentices have done this. The lodgers confirmed it,
and said, it can have been no one else. The innkeeper, however,
had them called, and said to them, have you killed the merchant.
All three of us, said the first. For money, said the second.
And the third added, and quite right too. There now, you hear,
said the host, they confess it themselves. They were taken to
prison, therefore, and were to be tried. When they saw that
things were going so seriously, they were after all afraid,
but at night the devil came and said, bear it just one day
longer, and do not spurn your luck, not one hair of your head
shall be hurt.
The next morning they were led to the bar, and the judge said,
are you the murderers. All three of us. Why did you kill the
merchant. For money. You wicked wretches, you have no
horror of your sins. And quite right too. They have confessed,
and are still stubborn, said the judge, lead them to death
instantly. So they were taken out, and the host had to go with
them into the circle. When they were taken hold of by the
executioner's men, and were just going to be led up to the
scaffold where the hangman was standing with naked sword,
a coach drawn by four chestnut horses came up suddenly, driving
so fast that fire flashed from the stones, and someone made
signs from the window with a
white handkerchief. Then said the hangman, it is a pardon
coming, and pardon, pardon, was called from the carriage also.
Then the devil stepped out as a very noble gentleman,
beautifully dressed, and said, you three are innocent. You
may now speak, make known what you have seen and heard. Then
said the eldest, we did not kill the merchant, the murderer
is standing there in the circle, and he pointed to the innkeeper.
In proof of this, go into his cellar, where many others whom he
has killed are still hanging. Then the judge sent the
executioner's men thither, and they found it was as the
apprentices said, and when they had informed the judge of this,
he caused the innkeeper to be led up, and his head was cut off.
Then said the devil to the three, now I have got the soul which
I wanted to have, and you are free, and have money for the
rest of your lives.

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