THERE was once upon a time a couple of needy folk who lived in a wretched hut, in which there was nothing but black want; so they had neither food to eat nor wood to burn. But if they had next to nothing of all else they had the blessing of God so far as children were concerned, and every year brought them one more. The man was not overpleased at this. He was always going about grumbling and growling, and saying that it seemed to him that there might be such a thing as having too many of these good gifts; so shortly before another baby was born he went away into the wood for some firewood, saying that he did not want to see the new child; he would hear him quite soon enough when he began to squall for some food.
As soon as this baby was born it began to look about the room. ‘Ah, my dear mother!’ said he, ‘give me some of my brothers’ old clothes, and food enough for a few days, and I will go out into the world and seek my fortune, for, so far as I can see, you have children enough.’
‘Heaven help thee, my son!’ said the mother, ‘that will never do; thou art still far too little.’
But the little creature was determined to do it, and begged and prayed so long that the mother was forced to let him have some old rags, and tie up a little food for him, and then gaily and happily he went out into the world.
But almost before he was out of the house another boy was born, and he too looked about him, and said, ‘Ah, my dear mother! give me some of my brothers’ old clothes, and food for some days, and then I will go out into the world and find my twin brother, for you have children enough.’
‘Heaven help thee, little creature! thou art far too little for that,’ said the woman; ‘it would never do.’
But she spoke to no purpose, for the boy begged and prayed until he had got some old rags and a bundle of provisions, and then he set out manfully into the world to find his twin brother.
When the younger had walked for some time he caught sight of his brother a short distance in front of him, and called to him and bade him to stop.
‘Wait a minute,’ he said; ‘you are walking as if for a wager, but you ought to have stayed to see your younger brother before you hurried off into the world.’
So the elder stood still and looked back, and when the younger had got up to him, and had told him that he was his brother, he said: ‘But now, let us sit down and see what kind of food our mother has given us,’ and that they did.
When they had walked on a little farther they came to a brook which ran through a green meadow, and there the younger said that they ought to christen each other. ‘As we had to make such haste, and had no time to do it at home, we may as well do it here,’ said he.
‘What will you be called?’ asked the elder.
‘I will be called Minnikin,’ answered the second; ‘and you, what will you be called?’
‘I will be called King Pippin,’ answered the elder.
They christened each other and then went onwards. When they had walked for some time they came to a crossway, and there they agreed to part, and each take his own road. This they did, but no sooner had they walked a short distance than they met again. So they parted once more, and each took his own road, but in a very short time the same thing happened again–they met each other before they were at all aware, and so it happened the third time also. Then they arranged with each other that each should choose his own quarter, and one should go east and the other west.