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The Four Skilful Brothers

There was once a poor man who had four sons, and when they were grown up, he said to them, "My dear children, you must now go out into the world, for I have nothing to give you, so set out, and go to some distance and learn a trade, and see how you can make your way." So the four brothers took their sticks, bade their father farewell, and went through the town-gate together. When they had travelled about for some time, they came to a cross-way which branched off in four different directions. Then said the eldest, "Here we must separate, but on this day four years, we will meet each other again at this spot, and in the meantime we will seek our fortunes."

Then each of them went his way, and the eldest met a man who asked him where he was going, and what he was intending to do? "I want to learn a trade," he replied. Then the other said, "Come with me, and be a thief." "No," he answered, "that is no longer regarded as a reputable trade, and the end of it is that one has to swing on the gallows." "Oh," said the man, "you need not be afraid of the gallows; I will only teach you to get such things as no other man could ever lay hold of, and no one will ever detect you." So he allowed himself to be talked into it, and while with the man became an accomplished thief, and so dexterous that nothing was safe from him, if he once desired to have it. The second brother met a man who put the same question to him—what he wanted to learn in the world. "I don't know yet," he replied. "Then come with me, and be an astronomer; there is nothing better than that, for nothing is hid from you." He liked the idea, and became such a skilful astronomer that when he had learnt everything, and was about to travel onwards, his master gave him a telescope and said to him, "With that canst thou see whatsoever takes place either on earth or in heaven, and nothing can remain concealed from thee." A huntsman took the third brother into training, and gave him such excellent instruction in everything which related to huntsmanship, that he became an experienced hunter.

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