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The Three Apprentices

" "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 some one 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."

From Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Household Tales, trans.

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