Gateway to the Classics: The Golden Ladder Book by E. Hershey Sneath
 
The Golden Ladder Book by  E. Hershey Sneath

Hans, the Shepherd Boy

Hans is a German name. Once upon a time there was a boy by that name who was a shepherd.

One day he was tending his master's sheep in a field near a great forest. By and by a hunter rode up to him and said:—

"My boy, can you tell me how far it is to the nearest village?"

"Yes," said Hans. "It is six miles. But you are in danger of losing your way. The road is not broad and straight. It is only a narrow, crooked path made by the sheep."

"Well," said the hunter, "if you will go with me, and guide me to the village, I will pay you well for your time and trouble."

"Thank you," said Hans, shaking his head. "I am sorry, but I cannot go. I must watch the sheep. They might stray into the forest and be killed by the wolves."

"Well," said the hunter, "if one or two of them should be killed, I will pay you more than they are worth. I will give you more than a year's wages."

But Hans refused to go. "Sir," said he, "these are not my sheep; they belong to my master. The blame would fall on me if they were lost. I cannot go with you."


[Illustration]

"Well, then, if you cannot go, will you find me a guide? I will tend the sheep until you return."

But Hans shook his head again, and said: "I cannot leave the sheep. You are a stranger. They do not know your voice. And—" said Hans, hesitating for a moment.

"What!" said the hunter. "Can't you trust me?"

"I cannot," replied Hans. "I have promised my master to take care of his sheep, and you have tried to make me break my promise. How can I be sure that you would keep your word to me?"

The hunter was not angry at Hans' reply. He laughed, and said: "You are right, my boy! I wish my servants were as faithful as you are. Then I could trust them as well as your master can trust you. Point out the path to the village, and I will try to find my way there alone."

Hardly had he spoken these words when a band of men came riding out of the forest. They were very happy when they saw the hunter.

"Sir!" said one, "we were afraid you were lost."

Hans was greatly surprised to learn that the stranger with whom he had just been talking was a prince, and he was afraid that he had offended him.

But the prince was not angry. He only smiled, and praised Hans for his faithfulness.

Not long afterwards the prince sent a servant to bring Hans to the palace.

When the prince saw him again, he said: "Hans, I want you to be my servant, because I can trust you. Leave your master, and come to me."

Of course Hans was very happy. He would be very glad to serve such a man, and such a prince. But he was a thoughtful boy. He was unwilling to leave his master before he had found some one to take his place. So he said to the prince:—

"Sir, I will come if my master can find another boy to tend his sheep." Then he returned to his master and took care of his flocks until another shepherd was found.

After that, Hans remained a long time in the service of the prince.


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