In days of yore there was a war, and when it was at an end a great number of the soldiers that had been engaged in it were disbanded. Among the rest Brother Merry received his discharge, and nothing more for all he had done than a very little loaf of soldier's bread, and four halfpence in money. With these possessions he went his way. Now a saint had seated himself in the road, like a poor beggar man, and when Brother Merry came along, he asked him for charity to give him something. Then the soldier said—
"Dear beggar man, what shall such as I give you? I have been a soldier, and have just got my discharge, and with it only a very little loaf and four halfpence. When that is gone I shall have to beg like yourself."
However, he divided the loaf into four parts, and gave the saint one, with a halfpenny. The saint thanked him, and having gone a little further along the road seated himself like another beggar in the way of the soldier. When Brother Merry came up the saint again asked alms of him, and the old soldier again gave him another quarter of the loaf and another halfpenny.
The saint thanked him, and seated himself in the way a third time, like another beggar, and again addressed Brother Merry. Brother Merry gave him a third quarter of the loaf, and the third halfpenny.
The saint thanked him, and Brother Merry journeyed on with all he had left—one quarter of the loaf and a single halfpenny. When he came to a tavern, being hungry and thirsty, he went in and ate the bread, and spent the halfpenny in beer to drink with it. When he had finished, he continued his journey, and the saint, in the disguise of a disbanded soldier, met him again and saluted him.
"Good day, comrade," said he; "can you give me a morsel of bread, and a halfpenny to get a drop of drink?"
"Where shall I get it?" answered Brother Merry. "I got my discharge, and nothing with it but a loaf and four halfpence, and three beggars met me on the road and I gave each of them a quarter of the loaf and a halfpenny.