“Yes, I know—to the gallows and to hell,” interposed the robber.
“Take up some trade,” pursued the count. “I will gladly assist you to become an honest man. I will lend you the money necessary to begin work, and you can pay me when you have succeeded. Surely honest labor is the best.”
“I thank you for the good advice, Herr Count, but it is too late. I know very well what would be best for me; but, as I said, it is too late now. There was a time when I would gladly have labored at my trade,—for I have one,—but no one would tolerate me because of my repulsive face. From my childhood I have been an object of ridicule and abuse. My father was well-born, but he died in a political prison, and I was left destitute with this hideous face. No one would employ me for anything but swine-herd; and even then luck was against me, for if anything went wrong with a litter of pigs, I was always blamed for the mishap, and sent about my business. Count Jharose gave me a job once; it was a ridiculous task, but I was glad to get any kind of honest work. I had to exercise the count’s two tame bears—promenade with them through the village. The bears’ fore paws were tied about their necks, so that they were obliged to walk on their hind feet, and I had to walk between them, my hands resting on a fore leg of each animal, as if I were escorting two young women. When we promenaded thus along the village street, the people would laugh and shout: ’There go Count Jharose’s three tame bears.’ At last I got out of the way of doing hard work, and got used to being ridiculed by all the world. But I had not yet learned to steal. The bears grew fat under my care. I was given every day two loaves of bread to feed to them. One day I saw, in a wretched hut at the end of the village, a poor woman and her daughter who were starving. From that day the bears began to grow thin; for I stole one of the loaves of bread and gave it to the poor women, who were glad enough to get it, I can tell you! But the steward found out my theft, and I was dismissed from the count’s service. The poor women were turned out of their miserable hut. The mother froze to death,—for it was winter then,—and the daughter was left on my hands. We got a Franciscan monk, whom we met in the forest, to marry us—which was a bad move for the girl, for no one would employ her, because she was my wife. So the forest became our home, hollow trees our shelter; and what a friend an old tree can become! Well, to make a long story short, necessity very soon taught me how to take what belonged to others. I got used to the vagrant life. I could not sleep under a roof any more. I could n’t live among men, and pull off my hat to my betters. When the little lad came into the world, I said to my wife: ’Do you quit the forest, and look for work in some village. Don’t let the little one grow up to become a thief.’ She did as I bade her; but the people who hired her always found out that she was