The three apprentices



There were once three apprentices, who had agreed to keep always together while travelling, 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 had, however, 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. The Devil, however, 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 still 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 came up-stairs into a separate apartment. 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 ran at once 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 play away 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 headsman was standing with naked sword, a coach drawn by four blood-red 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 headsman, "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."
从前有三个小伙计,他们商定要一同游历,并总在同一个镇上干活。 然而好景不长,他们的主人再无活儿给他们干了,因此不久他们就变得衣服褴褛,难以度日。 于是其中的一个说:"怎么办?我们再不能呆在这儿了,我们还要再次去旅行,如果我走到哪所城市找不到活干,我就和店主商定,把我的行踪告诉你们,以便我们能互通消息,这样我们就可分开行事了。"这个主意倒是个万全之策,他们便又继续往前走,路上遇到了一位穿着考究的人,他问他们姓啥名啥。 "我们都是寻活干的伙计;现在我们还在一块,但一旦找不到活干,我们就将分开。""那倒没必要,"那人说,"如果你们照我说的去做,你们就既不会愁钱用又不会缺活干。不仅如此,你们还会成为贵族,乘一流马车!"其中一个叫道:"如果那样不危及灵魂和济世原则,我们就会那样做。""当然不会,"那人答道,"我不会骗你们。"但另一个人看了看他的脚,发现他有一只是马脚,一只是人脚,就不肯相信他的话了。 但鬼说:"别怕,我对你们没有歹意,是为一个别的灵魂而来的,他已有一半是我的了,我要叫他恶贯满盈。"现在既然安全了,他们就答应了,那鬼便告诉他们如何得到想得到的东西:即对任何人都得回答:第一个,"我们三个";第二个,"为了钱";第三个,"太对了!"只要他们总是连着这么说,不再说别的字,就会得到钱,一旦他们不听从指令,他们的钱就会顷刻消失;但只要他们一直照着做,他们的钱袋总会鼓鼓囊囊的。 作为见面礼,他马上把钱给了他们,他们能提多少就提多少,并指定他们到城里去找某某旅店。 他们去了,店主跑来迎接他们并问他们想吃些什么。 第一个回答说:"我们三个。""好啊!"店主说,"这正是我想的。"第二个说:"为了钱。""当然,"店主说。 第三个又说:"太对了!""当然正确,"店主说。
好酒好菜马上给端了出来,他们得到了周到的侍候。 吃完该付钱了,店主把帐单递给了一个人,那人说:"我们三个。"第二个:"为了钱。"第三个:"太对了!"店主说:"三人都付钱,没钱我可啥也不给。"但他们付的比他要的还要多。 在一旁瞧热闹的房客都说:"这些人一定是疯了。""嗯,肯定是,"店主说,"他们的脑子准有问题。"接着他们又在店里留了些时候,口中只是说:"我们这三个","为了钱","太对了!"但是他们清楚一切都在进行中。 事情是这样的,一个大商人携巨款而来,并说:"店主先生,帮我看好钱,怕那三个疯子可能会把它偷了去。"店主按他的话做了。 当店主提着箱子走进卧室时,他感觉箱子里都是沉甸甸的金子,他于是将三个伙计安排在楼下的房间里,让商人在楼上单独一室。 到了深夜,趁大家都睡熟之际,店主和他的女人用斧子将大商人砍死,之后他们又回床睡觉了。 白天大家听到了一声尖叫,发现大亨死在了浴池里,倒在一片血泊之中。 所有的房客都跑了出来,但店主说:"是那三个疯子干的。"房客们都想证明这一点,说:"是你们杀了他吗?""我们三个",第一个说;"为了钱",第二个说;第三个补充说:"太对了!""看看吧,听听,"店主说,"他们自己承认了。"这样他们就下了狱,并要受到审判。 这下他们才意识到事情严重了,他们都担心害怕起来,但是夜里鬼来说:"再忍耐一天,别怨天忧人,谁也动不了你们的一根毫毛。"
次日清晨,他们被带上了法庭。 法官说:"是你们几个谋杀别人吗?""我们三个。""为什么杀那个商人?""为了钱。""你们几个不要命的家伙,难道你们就不怕自己犯下的罪孽吗?""太对了!""他们已经招供,却还顽固不化,"法官说,"立即处以死刑。"于是他们被拖了出来,那个店主也走在了人群里。 就在他们被刽子手的助手们拖出来,带到那拿着明晃晃的大刀的站着的刽子手旁的架子边时,一辆四匹栗色马拉的车子突然出现,朝刑场急驰而来,车窗边有人用白手巾打着信号。 刽子手见状忙说:"赦免令下了,""大赦!大赦!"于是魔鬼走了出来,变了个先生,雍容华贵,气宇轩昂地说道:"你们三个是无辜的,现在你们可以讲话了,把你们所见所闻说出来给大伙听。"年纪最大的那个人说:"我们没有杀人,杀人真凶就在你们中间。"接着他又指着店主说:"为了证实这一点,去看看这个人的地窖吧,那里还挂着许多别的人,都是叫他给害死的。"于是法官派刽子手来到了店主的地窖中,发现那里的情形跟那伙计说的完全一样,于是他们把见到的一切报告了法官。 法官就派人将店主吊起来,砍了他的头。 最后鬼对三个伙计说:"现在我得到了我想要的灵魂,你们自由了,而且你们今生今世也不会缺钱用。"

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