There was once an old woman who had three sons. The father died when Tito, the youngest brother, was only five years old; and the mother was left alone to bring up her three boys. The family was very poor; but the good woman worked hard, and her sons grew into sturdy young men.
One day the mother called her sons before her, and said, “Now, my sons, as you see my strength is failing me, I want each of you to go into the world to seek his fortune. After nine years, come back home and show me what you have learned to do.” The three brothers consented, and resolved to leave home the very next morning.
Early the following day the three brothers—An-no the oldest, Berto the second, and Tito the youngest—bade their mother good-by, and set out on their travels. They followed a wide road until they came to a place where it branched in three directions. Here they stopped and consulted. It was at last agreed that An-no should take the north branch, Berto the south branch, and Tito the east branch. Before they separated, An-no proposed that at the end of the nine years they should all meet at the cross-roads before presenting themselves to their mother. Then each, wishing the others good luck, proceeded on his way.
Well, to make a long story short, at the end of the nine years the three brothers met again at the place designated. Each of them told what he had learned during that time. An-no had been in the company of glass-makers, and he had learned the art of glass-making. Berto had been employed in a shipyard, and during the nine years had become an expert boat-builder. The youngest brother, unfortunately, had fallen into the company of bad men, some notorious robbers. While he was with this band, he became the best and most skillful robber in the gang. After each had heard of the others’ fortunes, they started for their home. Their mother felt very glad to have all her sons with her once more.
Shortly after this family had been re-united, the king issued a proclamation stating that his daughter, the beautiful princess Amelia, had been kidnapped by a brave stranger, and that whoever could give any information about her and restore her to the palace should be allowed to marry her. When the three brothers heard this news, they resolved to use their knowledge and skill to find the missing princess.
An-no had brought home with him a spy-glass in which everything hidden from the eyes of men could be seen. With this instrument, he told his brothers, he could locate the princess. He looked through his glass, and saw her confined in a tower on an island. When An-no had given this information to the king, the next question was how to rescue her. “We’ll do the rest,” said the two younger brothers.
Accordingly Berto built a ship. When it was finished, the three brothers boarded her and sailed to the island where the princess was confined; but there they found the tower very closely guarded by armed soldiers, so that it seemed impossible to get into it. “Well, that is easy,” said Tito. “You stay here and wait for my return. I will bring the princess with me.”
The famous young robber then went to work to steal the princess. Through his skill he succeeded in rescuing her and bringing her to the ship. Then the four sailed directly for the king’s palace. The beautiful princess was restored to her father. With great joy the king received them, and a great feast was held in the palace in honor of the rescue of his daughter. After the feast the king asked the three brothers to which of them he should give his daughter’s hand. Each claimed the reward, and a quarrel arose among them. The king, seeing that all had played important parts in the rescue of the princess, decided not to bestow his daughter on any of them. Instead, he gave half his wealth to be divided equally among An-no, Berto, and Tito.