Now there were forty-one houses in the village. The old man went and collected the eggs and put a brood hen over them. Two weeks later he and his wife went to see, and they found that there were children born of the eggs, and they looked again and they found that forty of the children were fine, strong and healthy, and there was one who was a weakling. So the old man gave them names. When the harvesting season came on the forty began making the hayricks, and in a single week all the ricks were put up.
So they came back home to the village, lay down, slept, and ate of the fare God provided. The old man looked at them and said, "Young and green, goes far, sleeps sound, and leaves the work undone! So the old man went into the fields and saw forty ricks standing. Look at all they have harvested in one week! He came home and said, "One rick has vanished. At midnight a sudden storm rose and the sea raged, and a strange nag rose out of the sea, ran up to the rick and began to eat it. The mare began to gallop over the valleys and over the hills, and she reared, but she could not dislodge the rider; and at last she stopped and said in a human voice: "Now, good youth, now you can mount me, you may become master of my foals.
You might go round the entire earth and never see any horses as good. The mother and father blessed them, and the brothers set forth on their distant way and road. They rode far in the white world in order to seek their brides. For they would not marry separately, and what mother could they find who should boast of having forty-one daughters? And they went across thirteen countries, and they then saw a steep mountain which they ascended, and there there stood a white stone palace with high walls round and iron columns and gates where they counted forty-one columns.
So they tied their knightly horses to each of the stakes, and they entered. First of all give us food and drink, take us into the bath, and thereafter ask us for our news, and question us. Then she replied, "I have daughters. Will ye cut off the heads of my insolent and uninvited guests? So they took the heads with them, put them on the forty-one stakes, armed themselves and galloped off. She was very angry, and she called for her fiery shield, and leapt out on the chase, and set to waving her fiery shield in all directions to the four winds.
Beyond thrice-nine lands, in the thrice-tenth realm—it was not in our kingdom—once an old man and an old woman lived in great need and poverty. They had two sons, who were very young and as yet of no use for field work. So the old man got up himself, and himself did all the work; he went out and looked after the labourers, and for all that he could only earn a few pence.
As he was going home one day he met a sorry drunkard, who had a hen in his hands. Then the old man returned home. But they were very hungry there; there was not a crust of bread. You must have gone utterly mad: our children are sitting down at home without any bread, and you buy a hen which you must feed!
Why, she will lay us an egg and will bring us chicks; we can sell the chicks and then buy bread. In the morning he looked, and the hen had laid a jewel of absolutely natural colours. So the old man said to his wife, "Now, old lady; amongst other folks the hens lay eggs, but our hen lays jewels: what shall we do? So the old man went into the city, went into all the inns by turns and showed his precious stone.
All the merchants gathered round him and began valuing the stone. They valued it and valued it, and it was at last bought for five hundred roubles. From that day the old man went on trading in precious stones which his hen laid him, and he very soon became enriched, had himself inscribed into the merchants' guild, put up a shop, hired apprentices, and set up sea-faring ships to carry his wares into foreign lands. One day he was going into foreign parts, and he bade his wife have a great heed to the hen: "Treasure her more than your eyes; should she be lost, you shall forfeit your own head.
As soon as he had gone the old woman began to think evil thoughts. For she was great friends with one of the young apprentices. So the apprentice took the hen, looked, and under the right wing he saw written in gold: "Whoever eats this hen's head shall become a king, and whoever eats her liver shall spit out gold. The cook twisted the hen's neck and put her into the oven, and himself went out. But in that time the two little children of the house, who were at school, ran in, looked into the oven, and wanted to nibble. The elder brother ate the head and the youngest ate the liver.
When supper-time came, the hen was put on the table, but when the apprentice saw that both the head and the liver were missing he was very angry, quarrelled with the old woman and went home. The old woman followed him and wheedled, but he still insisted: "You bring your children, take their liver out and brains, and give them me for supper; otherwise I will have nothing to do with you. So the old woman put her children to bed, called the cook and bade him take them whilst they were asleep into the wood, there kill them and extract their liver and their brains and get them ready for supper.
The cook took the children into the slumbrous forest, stopped, and made ready to whet the knife. So the boys went forth into the forest and he turned back. Fortunately for him a bitch came his way, so he took her two puppies, took their livers and brains, roasted them and gave them for supper.
The boys went out of the wood on the broad road, and went whither their eyes gazed—maybe far, maybe short, they went. Soon the road divided into two, and a column stood there, and on the column it was written:. So the brothers considered this inscription, and decided to go in different directions; the elder went to the right and the younger to the left. The elder went on and on, and soon came to an unknown capital city. He also saw a mass of people, only they were all mourning and sad. So he begged shelter of a poor old widow. When he got there, if you had been there three years you could not have counted all those people.
And he took a candle in his hand, and it lit up at once. So they all burst upon him and began to blow out his candle, to damp it, but the flame lit all the brighter. There was no help for it: they acknowledged him as their king, and dressed him in golden apparel and led him to the palace. But the younger brother, who had turned to the left, heard that there was a fair princess in a certain kingdom who was indescribably lovely. But she was very grudging, and she announced in all countries that she would only marry the man who could feed her army for three whole years; yet every one had to try his luck.
So the boy went there, and he went on his way, went on the broad road. And he spat into his little bag, and spat it full of pure gold. Well, it may be long, it may be short, it may be near, it may be far, but he at last reached the fair princess, and he said he would accomplish her task. He had no need to ask for gold, he simply had to spit and there it was. For three years he maintained the princess's army, gave it food and drink and dress. So the time came for a jolly feast and for the wedding. But the princess was still full of wiles. She asked herself and she sought to know whence God had sent him such enormous wealth.
So she invited him to be her guest, received him, honoured him. From that day gold fell from her lips, and she would not have her bridegroom with her. So he went on and went on, and he came into the dreamy wood, and he looked and he saw three men fighting with their fists. This is a flying carpet: wherever you think it will take you. And this is a whip: strike a maiden and say 'You have been a maiden, now become a mare,' and she will become a mare at once.
But this is the way out: I will send an arrow in this direction, and you all run after it; he who reaches it first shall have the barrel, and the second shall have the flying carpet, and the third shall have the whip. So the youth sent out the arrow very far. The three darted after it and ran, and they never looked up. But the doughty youth took the barrel and the whip, sat upon the flying carpet, waved it one end, and he rose higher than the forest that stood there, lower than the clouds above, and he flew whither he would.
So he went back to the forbidden lands of the fair princess, began beating the barrel, and an enormous army came out; infantry, cavalry and artillery, with cannon and with powder waggons. And the mighty host rolled on and rolled on. The drums beat out and the trumpets sounded, and the army went at a pace. But he took the whip, struck her on the back: "You are a maiden, now became a mare! He bridled and rode her, and went to the kingdom of his elder brother. He galloped at a full pace, put both spurs into her back and used a scourge of three iron rods, and the army followed him, an unbelievable host.
It may be long, it may be short, at last they came to the boundary, and the doughty youth stopped, collected his army into the barrel, and went to the capital. He went straight to the royal palace, and the king himself saw him and looked at the mare and began to wonder: "What is this great hero approaching? I have never seen such a fine mare in all my life.
So they sat on the flying carpet, and the younger brother shook it at the corner and they flew higher than the forest, lower than the wandering cloud, straight back to their own country. So they flew back, took a room with their father, and as to who they were they never told their father and mother. So they then thought they would give a feast to all the christened world.
They assembled all the people in countless hosts, and for three whole days they gave food and drink to all without requital, without any charge. And afterwards every one began saying had any one a tale of wonder to tell; let him start. But no one would say: "We, it is said, are strange folk, but —— ". Whoever interrupts three times is to be ruthlessly punished.
And he began to tell how the two old folks had lived together, how they had had a hen which laid jewels, and how the mother had made friends with the apprentice. But the son went on with his tale. And he narrated how they had twisted the hen's neck, and the mother again interrupted. At last the story went up to the point when the old woman wished to take away the children, and again she would not stand it: "It is untrue! Could ever a mother wish to be torn from her children? Then the whole story came out, and the father bade his wife be chopped up into bits. He tied the apprentice to the tail of horses, and the horses broke in every direction and scattered his bones over the fields.
But the younger son smote his mare with the back of his hand and said, "You are a mare; now become a maiden! They made peace, became friends and wedded. It was a magnificent wedding. In a country, in a kingdom far away, once upon a time there lived a merchant, Mark the Rich; and, what with all his estates and revenues, you couldn't count them. He lived, and was merry, and never suffered the poor man to come to his door, so ungracious was he.
One day he had a dream: "Make ready, Mark the Rich, and wait. God Himself will be thy Guest! He covered all of his courtyard with scarlet velvet and golden brocade, and at every side-path he posted journeymen and servants to keep out all the hunger-brothers and scare them outside. Then Mark the Rich came, and sat awaiting the Lord. The hours went by, and never a guest. And then the poor heard that there was a great feast at the house of Mark the Rich. They all gathered round for the hallowed gifts; but the journeymen and servants drove them all away. But one poor beggar, bent with age, and all in rags, went up to the door of Mark the Rich.
And as Mark the Rich saw him from the window, he cried out in a fierce voice: "Hi, you sluggards and louts! Eyes and no eyes? Look at the beast that is traipseing up and down our courtyard: get rid of him. And all the servants scampered up, laid hold of the poor old fellow, and rushed him out the back way. One good old woman saw him, and said: "Come to me, you poor old beggar; I will feed and rest you. At midnight the lady had a dream, and heard some one knock at the window and ask: "Old and righteous man, are you sleeping here to-night?
The old peasant woman went to Mark the Rich and told him of her dream. Mark went to the peasant and asked for the baby. He took the little boy, went home, and threw him into a snow-drift. Many years passed by, and much water flowed in the river, and one day Mark the Rich went out with those huntsmen, saw the young boy, heard his story, and spoke about him, and knew it was the same he had cast forth. So Mark the Rich asked the youth to go home and take a letter to his wife; but in that letter he bade her poison the boy like a dog. The poor foundling set out on his road; when on his way, he met a poor man with nothing on but a shirt; but this beggar was Christ Himself.
He stopped the wayfarer, took the letter, and held it for one minute, and the letter was changed in all it said. The wife of Mark the Rich was to receive the bearer with all honour, and marry him to her daughter. It was said, and it was done. Once upon a time there was an aged queen who had a son and a daughter, who were fine, sturdy children.
But there was also an evil witch who could not bear them, and she began to lay plots how she might contrive their overthrow. So she went to the old Queen and said: "Dear Gossip, I am giving you a ring. Put it on your son's hand, and he will then be rich and generous: only he must marry the maiden whom this ring fits. The mother believed her and was extremely glad, and at her death bade her son marry only the woman whom the ring fitted.
Time went by and the boy grew up: he became a man and looked at all the maidens. Very many of them he liked, only as soon as he put the ring on their finger it was either too broad or too narrow. So he travelled from village to village and from town to town, and searched out all the fair damsels, but he could not find his chosen one, and returned home in a reflective mood.
So he told her of his trouble, explained his sorrow. He danced for joy and told her to make ready for the wedding. She wept bitter tears, went in front of the house, and sat on the threshold and let her tears flow. Two old beggars came up, and she gave them to eat and to drink. They asked what her trouble was, and she needs must tell the two. Make up four dolls and put them in the four corners of the room. After your brother calls you in for the betrothal, go; and if he calls you into the bridal chamber, ask for time, trust in God, and follow our advice. The brother and sister were betrothed, and he went into the room and cried out, "Sister mine, come in!
And the brother cried out again: "Come into the feather-bed. And the brother kept crying, and crying, and crying. And when she never returned, he became angry and ran out to fetch her. He could see nothing but the dolls, which kept singing. So he knocked off their heads and threw them into the stove. The sister went farther under the earth, and she saw a little hut standing on cocks' feet and turning round. So the hut stopped and the doors opened, and a fair maiden looked out. She was knitting a cloth with gold and silver thread.
She greeted the guest friendlily and kindly, but sighed and said, "Oh, my darling, my sister! Oh, I am so glad to see you. I shall be so glad to look after you and to care for you as long as my mother is not here. But as soon as she flies in, woe to you and me, for she is a witch. When she heard this the maiden was frightened, but could not fly anywhere. So she sat down and began helping the other maiden at her work.
So they chattered along; and soon, at the right time before the mother came, the fair maiden turned her guest into a needle, stuck her into the besom and put it on one side. I must now get about again and look out for other booty. Then the witch came into the room once more. She sniffed about the house, and said, "Daughter, my sweet daughter, my darling, tell me at once, why does it so smell of Russian bones?
I did my best to keep them, but they would not stay. So the witch was angry, scolded her daughter, and flew away. In the meantime her unknown guest was sitting in the besom. The maidens once more set to work, sewed, laughed, and thought how they might escape the evil witch. This time they forgot how the hours were flying by, and suddenly the witch stood in front of them.
So the maiden looked up and was frightened to death.
So the mother and daughter carried firewood in, logs of oak and maple; made the oven ready till the flames shot up merrily. Then the witch took her broad shovel and said in a friendly voice: "Go and sit on my shovel, fair child. But the girl stuck her feet against the wall of the hearth. But it was not any good. So she became angry, thrust her back and said, "You are simply wasting time! Just look at me and see how it is done.
So the maidens instantly put her into the oven, shut the oven door, and slammed her in; took their knitting with them, and their comb and brush, and ran away. She had set herself free. So she stretched out her claws, scratched herself a way through, and again ran after them. Whither should the two poor girls flee? They flung their comb behind them, and a dark, murky oak forest grew up, so thick, no fly could ever have flown its way through. Then the witch whetted her teeth and set to work.
And she went on tearing up one tree after another by the roots, and she made herself a way, and again set out after them, and almost caught them up. Now the girls had no strength left to run, so threw the cloth behind them, and a broad sea stretched out, deep, wide and fiery. The old woman rose up, wanted to fly over it, but fell into the fire and was burned to death. The poor maidens, poor homeless doves! They sat down in order to rest, and a man came and asked them who they were.
He told his master that two little birds had fluttered on to his estate; two fairest damsels similar in form and shape, eye for eye and line for line. One was his sister, but which was it? He could not guess. So the master went to both of them. One was the sister—which?
In the meantime I will go by and will stab you in the side with my knife; then blood will flow; then your sister will betray herself who she is. As soon as it was said it was done. The servant stabbed his master in the side, and the blood poured forth, and he fell down. Once upon a time an old man lived in a village with his wife, and they were very poor: they had only one son. And when he grew up, the mother said to her husband: "It is full time that we secured a wife for our son. The old woman went to her neighbour and asked him if her son could marry his daughter. But the neighbour said, "No!
And she searched the whole village, and not a single soul would hear a single word of it. When she came back she said: "Goodman, I fear our son is born under an unlucky star! Woman, go into the next village, as you may find somebody there. The old woman went to the next village, went from one end to the other, went through all the courtyards and houses of the peasants, but it was all in vain. Wherever she showed her nose, she was put off. And she came back home as she had left. When the boy was on the road, he wept bitterly and spoke to himself: "Am I then the feeblest man in the world, and no maiden will really have me?
If the Devil would only send me a bride I think I would rake  her! Suddenly, just as though he had grown out of the earth, an old man came to meet him. I will do you no harm, and perhaps I can help you in your need. Speak out boldly. So the boy told him all the truth. That is making me angry; and I said in my indignation that if the Devil himself came and gave me a girl, I would make her my bride. So the old man laughed and said: "I can give you a bride, oh, as many brides as you like"; and they then came to a lake.
As soon as he had turned round, and had gone four steps, he found himself under the water, in a white stone palace. The old man gave him meat and drink, and afterwards showed him twelve maidens, each of whom was fairer than the others. You shall have any of them. Let me have till to-morrow to think of it. The boy lay down to sleep and began to think which he would take. Suddenly the door opened and a beautiful maiden came in. So, listen to me; if you ever wish to return to the light of day, you must do as I say. If you do not, you will not leave this place alive.
You must choose me, and look at me very carefully. There will be a patch  over my right eye; that will be the sign. I am his daughter, and was stolen from his house nine years ago. One day my father was angry with me and made a hasty wish that the Devil might take me. I went in front of the house and cried, and the Unholy Spirit soon snatched me on the spot, carried me here; and I have never left the place since. Next day the old man set the twelve maidens in a row before the boy, and commanded him to choose one of them.
He looked until he had seen the one with the patch  over the right eye, and chose her. The old man was angry, but he had to give her up. And he therefore mixed the maidens together and told him to make a second choice. The boy hit on the same one, and after a third choice he took his fated bride.
Now take her home! All at once the boy and the maiden found themselves on the bank of the lake, and they walked backwards until they reached the high road. The Devil wanted to hunt after them; but all at once the lake vanished, and there was no trace of the water. When the boy had taken his bride into the village, he stopped at the pope's house. The pope saw her, and sent a servant out and asked what they desired.
The boy and the maiden came in, made due greetings, and sat behind, on a corner of the fire bank. I am your own daughter! A merchant looked at them and said: "Those are my plate. Once I was dining with guests, and became rather drunk, quarrelled with my wife, and I wished them all to the Devil. And since then all my plate has vanished! And this was the truth, for as soon as ever the man mentioned the Devil, the Evil Spirit appeared on the threshold, gathered up all the gold and silver plate, and threw skeleton bones down instead. He lived with her for some time, then he thought he would go to that far distant country where the Jews crucified Christ.
So he issued orders to his ministers, bade farewell to his wife, and set out on his road. It may-be far, it may-be short, he at last reached that distant land where the Jews crucified Christ. This King saw the Tsar, and he bade him be seized and lodged in the dungeon. There were many tortures in that dungeon for him. And he sought for some occasion. And he wrote her this little line: "Sell," he said, "all my possessions and come to redeem me from my misfortune.
If I send one of the ministers, I can place no reliance on him. She cut off her red hair, went and disguised herself as a wandering musician, took her gusli , and never told anybody, and so set out on her road and way. When the King heard such wonderful music he summoned the harpist into the palace. From what land have you come? From what kingdom? I wish to go to foreign kingdoms, and I have no one with whom I can exchange a word. As they were journeying on to their own kingdom the Tsar said, "Let me go, good man, for I am no simple prisoner, I am the Tsar himself.
I will pay you ransom for as much as you will; I will grudge you neither money nor service. So they parted, and each set out on his own way. In about one hour cries rang out and the attendants came up to the palace, for the Tsar had arrived. He greeted the ministers and said, "Look, gentlemen, what a wife mine is! Now she flings herself on my neck, but when I sat in prison and sent her a letter to sell all my goods and to redeem me she did nothing.
Of what was she thinking if she so forgot her liege husband? Then the Tsar was very angry and commanded, "My ministers, do ye judge my unfaithful wife according to justice and to truth. Where has she been roaming in the white world? Why did she not try to redeem me? This Tsar had a garden so rich that in no other kingdom was there any better, and in that garden many rare trees grew with fruits and without fruits.
And the Tsar had an apple-tree which he especially loved, and on that apple-tree all the apples that grew were of gold. The feathers of the bird were all gold, but the eyes were like crystal of the East. He who captures it alive, I will in my lifetime give him the half of my kingdom, and at my death he shall have it all. He sat under the same apple-tree, and sat there one hour and went to sleep so soundly that he never heard the coming of the Bird of Light, which flew on to the tree, perched on it, and plucked many apples.
In the morning the Tsar called his second son and questioned him, and he answered: "Gracious lord, my father, this night the Bird of Light did not come. You must seek for the Bird of Light and bring it to me alive; and what I promised you before, he who captures the Bird of Light shall have.
And as he went on the road and way—it may be near, it may be far, it may be high, it may be low, the tale is soon told, but the deed is not soon done—at last he reached an open field and green meadows. And in the open field there stood a stone column, and on the column these words were written:. Whosoever goes to the right, he shall have health and life, but his horse shall be slain.
And whosoever goes to the left, he shall himself be slain, but his horse shall have life and be healthy. So he went on one day, and a second and a third day, and suddenly a fierce grey Wolf met him and said: "All hail to thee, warrior! So why hast thou ridden this way? Come, sit on me—on the grey Wolf—and say whither I shall take you and wherefore. There is a garden behind the wall, and in that garden the Bird of Light is sitting in a golden cage.
You must take the Bird of Light, but you must not touch the golden cage, or they will capture you at once. He took the Bird out of the cage, and was going back, and then he thought and said to himself: "Why should I take the Bird of Light without the cage? Where shall I put it? Who are you—of what land? Who was your father? How do they call you on earth? If you had come to me, I should have given you the Bird of Light as an honour; but, now, would it be well, were I to send you into all kingdoms to proclaim how you came into my realm and dealt dishonourably?
Why did you take the golden cage? I will take you wherever you wish. But he saw the golden bridle on the wall, and when his glance fell on it he took it from the hook. In return for this I will forgive you, and give you what you sought as an honour: but if you do not do me this service I will proclaim throughout all the realms of the world that you are a dishonourable thief.
They were just returning to their kingdom with empty hands, and they were provoked. But ye have slain him in his sleep, and how shall ye receive praise? Is not a man asleep as one dead? If you do not say this, we will slay you at once. The grey Wolf sprang from behind the bush, laid hold of one of the nestlings and was going to tear it in two.
Then the crow flung himself on earth and sat not far from the grey Wolf on the fields. On the third day the crow flew back and brought with him two phials: in one was the water of Life and in the other the water of Death. And he gave these to the grey Wolf; and the grey Wolf took the phials, cut the nestling into two, sprinkled him with the dead water, and the nestling grew together; then he sprinkled him with the water of Life, and the nestling shook himself and flew away.
You must hasten there as fast as possible. Sit on me, on the grey Wolf, and I will take you there. Then the fair Princess told him all the real truth, how it had been. There was once a priest who lived in the parish of St. He served St. Nicholas for some years, and all his earnings were that he had neither house nor home, nor a roof over his head. So our good priest got together all his keys, and seeing the icon of St. Nicholas, struck it down, and left his parish to go whithersoever his eyes should guide him.
And he went roaming on his way. Suddenly an unknown man met him. They went on some versts , and became tired. It was time to rest. Now the pope had two biscuits, and his new friend had two wafers . The pope said to him: "We will first of all eat up your wafers, and we will then go on with the biscuits. So they ate the wafers, ate them all up, and they were fully sated, and there were still wafers over. So the pope became envious. The old man went to sleep; so the pope abstracted the wafers from his pocket and silently began eating them. Who has eaten them up? Have you, pope?
So they shook themselves up, and they went on their way and journey, went on and on, and the roads suddenly divided and they came to a carfax. So they both went on a single road and arrived at a kingdom. Now, in this kingdom the Tsar's daughter was near her death, and the Tsar had promised any one who should cure her half of his reign and rule and realm; but any one who failed was to have his head cut off and placed on a pole. When they arrived in front of the Tsar's courtyard, they got themselves up finely, and they called themselves doctors. The henchmen sallied out of the Tsar's courtyard, and asked them: "What sort of people are you?
What is your race? What is your city? What do you require? The Tsar gave them all they required. They then locked themselves up in the huts, tied the princess down on the big table, cut her up with the curved sabre into little bits, put them all into the cauldron, washed them, and rinsed them out. Then they began to put them together—bit by bit, fragment by fragment.
And the old man breathed on them. Piece clove to piece, and made one. Then he took all the pieces, breathed on them for the last time, and the princess trembled all over, and woke alive and well. The Tsar himself came into their hut. The Tsar said to the doctors: "What good thing do you desire—gold or silver? Ask and you shall have. And the old man took as much as he could take with his thumb and two fingers, but the pope took it by handfuls, and he rammed it all into his wallet and hid it away, concealed it, lifted it up as much as ever his power could.
The old man then said to the pope: "Let us bury all the money in the earth and again go a-healing. So they went on and went on, and they arrived at another kingdom in which there also was a princess on the verge of death, and the Tsar promised any one who should cure her half of his realm and rule and reign; but any one who failed was to have his head cut off.
But the Evil One was tempting the envious pope—how he should manage to tell nothing to the old man, but to cure her by himself, and so get all the gold and silver for himself. So he dubbed himself a doctor, arrayed himself finely, and arrived at the Tsar's courtyard, just as they had done before. He then cut it all up fine, threw it into the cauldron, washed it and rinsed it, took it out, put piece to piece exactly the same as the old man had done.
He pumped his lungs out, but nothing happened.
Alan Beale's Core Vocabulary Compiled from 3 Small ESL Dictionaries (21877 Words)
It was all to no purpose. So he put all the fragments back into the water, rinsed and scoured them through, fitting the pieces together, and breathed on them. It was all of no good. In the morning the Tsar went to him and saw that the doctor had had no luck. He had mixed up the whole body on the floor. So the Tsar ordered the doctor to the gallows. The pope then began to beg. I am a free man. Give me a short space of time. The fiends tempted me. I wanted to cure the Tsar's daughter all by myself, and I was not able, and they are now going to hang me.
Do come and help me! So the old man went with the pope, and the noose was put round the pope's neck. Then the old man said to the pope: "Pope, who ate up my wafers? So they made him mount one rung higher, and again the old man said to him: "Pope, who ate my wafers up? So he went up the third rung, and again said he didn't. This time he had his head in the noose tight, and still he said: "I did nothing of the sort!
So the old man said to the Tsar: "I am a free man. So they started. They put all the money into three little piles, and the pope looked on, and said: "What do you mean? There are only two of us. Who is to have the third? Once upon a time there was a soldier who had served God and the Great Sovereign for twenty-five whole years, and had only in the end earned three biscuits, and was journeying back home. And, as he went along, he thought: "Lord!
I am cold and hungry, and have only three biscuits to eat. As he went along he met a poor beggar who asked alms of him. The soldier gave him one biscuit, and kept two. And, as he trudged on, he soon came across another poor beggar, who bowed down low and asked for alms. So the soldier gave him another biscuit, and had only one left. Again on he went, and met a third beggar. The old fellow bowed low and asked for alms. The soldier got his last biscuit out, and thought: "If I give him the whole, I shall have none left; if I give half, why, this old man will come across brother-beggars, will see they have a whole biscuit, and be offended.
Better let him have it all, and I shall get on somehow. Then the old man asked him: "Tell me, good man, what do you wish? Of what have you need? I will help you. For the old man was Christ Himself walking on earth in a beggar's guise. The old man put his hand into his breast and drew out a pack of cards, saying: "Take them. With whomsoever you play, you will win the game; and here you have a nosebag. Whatever you meet on the way, whether wild beast or bird that you would like to catch, just say to it: 'Jump in here, beast or bird!
He went on and on, may-be far, may-be near, may-be short, may-be long, and arrived at a lake, on which three wild geese were swimming. Then the soldier suddenly remembered the nosebag and thought: "I'll just test this nosebag"; took it out, opened it, and said: "Hi! The soldier grabbed the bag, tied it up, and went on his way. He travelled on and on and came to a town. He entered an eating-house and told the inn-keeper: "Take this goose and cook it for my supper, and I will give you another goose for your pains. It occurred to him suddenly he might peer out of the window, and he saw opposite a big palace, but not one pane of glass was whole.
Why does it stand empty? Some unholy power drives every one out of the place. Every night an assemblage of devils meets there, make a row, dance, play cards, and perpetrate every sort of vileness! So off the soldier went to the Tsar. I served God and the Great Sovereign five-and-twenty years, and never died of it; and, for one night's service for you, I am to die!
Stay the night there if you will; you are free, and I won't hinder you! So the soldier marched into the palace, and settled himself down in the biggest saloon, took his knapsack off and his sabre, put the knapsack in a corner and the sabre on a hand-peg, sat down on a chair, put his hand into his pocket for his tobacco-pouch, lit his pipe, and smoked at his ease. Then about midnight, I don't know where from, hordes of devils, seen and unseen, scurried up, and made such a turmoil and row, and set up a dance with wild music.
Will you play cards with us? He took them out and dealt round. We'll stake them on the last game. So a new game commenced; and then the little devil had to pry in every nook and come back and tell the old devil: "It's no use, grandfather—we have no more. The devils got angry at losing all their money, and began to assault the soldier, roaring out: "Smash him up, brothers! Eat him up!
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Then the soldier buckled the bag tightly, hung it on a peg, and lay down to sleep. In the morning the Tsar sent for all his folks. If the unholy powers have destroyed him, bring me his little bones. So off they went and entered the palace, and there saw the soldier trudging up and down gaily in the rooms and smoking his pipe.
We never expected to see you again alive. How did you pass the night? What kind of bargain did you make with the devils? Just come and look what a lot of gold and silver I won off them. Look, what piles of it! And the soldier told them: "Bring me two smiths as fast as you can. Tell them to bring an iron anvil and a hammer. So the smiths took the nosebag, and they began to whisper to each other: "How fearfully heavy it is! The devil must be in it. So the smiths instantly laid the nosebag on the iron anvil, and they began to knock it about with their hammers as though they were hammering iron.
Very soon the devils saw that they could not possibly stand such treatment, and they began to shriek: "Mercy on us—mercy on us! Let us out, discharged soldier, into the free world. Unto all eternity we will not forget you, and into this palace never a devil shall enter again. We will forbid everybody—all of them—and drive them all a hundred versts away. So the soldier bade the smiths stop, and as soon as he unbuckled the nosebag the devils rushed out, and flew off, without looking, into the depths of hell—into the abysses of hell. But the soldier was no fool; and as they were flying out he laid hold of one old devil—laid hold of him tight by his paw.
The unholy spirit wrote him out this undertaking in his own blood, gave it him, and took to his heels.
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The soldier came to the Tsar, and he told him some kind of tale how he had delivered the palace from the infernal visitation. I will treat you as if you were my brother. So the soldier went and stayed with the Tsar, and had a sufficiency of all things, simply rolled in riches, and he thought it was time he should marry. So he married, and one year later God gave him a son. Then this boy fell into such a fearful illness—so terrible that there was nobody who could cure it—and it was beyond the skill of the physicians; there was no understanding of it. The soldier then thought of the old devil and of the undertaking he had given him, and how it had run in the undertaking: "I shall serve you eternally as a faithful servant.
So the devil fumbled in his pocket, got out a glass, poured cold water into it, and put it over the head of the sick child, and told the soldier: "Come here, look into the water. He would go and look at the glass, and instantly he knew who had to die and who should recover. Now, the Tsar himself became ill, and the soldier was called in. So he poured cold water into the glass, put it at the Tsar's head, and saw that Death was standing at the Tsar's head.
The soldier said: "Your Imperial Majesty, there is nobody in the world who can cure you. Death is standing at your head, and you have only three hours left of life. When the Tsar heard this speech, he was furious with the soldier. I shall instantly have you put to death. So the soldier thought and thought what he should do. And he began to beseech Death. And he looked in the glass, and saw that Death was standing at the Tsar's feet. Then the soldier took the water and sprinkled the Tsar, and he recovered completely.
And when Death was standing very near him, she said, "Now, discharged soldier, say good-bye quickly—you have only three minutes left to live in the bright world. So the soldier stretched himself out, took his nosebag from under his head, opened it, and asked: "What is this? And Death instantly jumped straight into the bag. And he went there, and he hung this bag on the bitter aspen, on the very top twig, and he went back home.
From that day forward nobody died in that kingdom: they were born, and they kept on being born, and they never died. And very many years went by, and the soldier never took his nosebag down. One day he happened to go into the town. He went, and on his way he met such an old, old lady, so old that on whichever side the wind blew, she inclined. At the time when you put Death into the nosebag I had only one hour left in which to live in the white world. I should be very glad to have some rest; but unless I die, earth will not take me up; and you, discharged soldier, are guilty of an unforgivable sin in God's eyes.
For there is no single soul left on earth who is tortured as I am. Then the soldier stayed and began to think. Thus it is better now whilst I am still strong and I bear pain on this earth; for when I shall become very old then it will be all the worse for me to suffer anything. And he himself lay down on his bed, bade farewell to his wife and son, and he begged Death that he might die.
And she  ran outside the door with all the strength in her feet. So the soldier remained alive and healthy. And he thought: "Shall I go straight into the burning pitch, for then the devils will throw me into the seething sulphur until such time as my sins shall have been melted from off me. And he went on: may-be near, may-be far, may-be downhill, may-be uphill, may-be short, may-be long; and he at last arrived in the abyss, and he looked, and all round the burning cauldron there stood watchmen.
As soon as he stopped at the gate a devil asked who was coming. All the infernal powers roused themselves and looked out of the gates and windows with their unbreakable bolts. And the soldier went all round the cauldron, and he called out to the master of the cauldron: "Let me in, please; do let me into the cauldron.
I have come to you to be tortured for my sins. I will take them up to God, and perhaps the Lord will pardon my faults. And the master of the cauldron answered: "I will add fifty more souls to the lot; only do go away! The Apostles saw him, and said to the Lord: "Some soldier or other has come up here with two hundred and fifty souls from hell! But the soldier had given up his nosebag to one guilty soul, and had told it: "Just look here. When you enter the gates of Paradise, say at once: 'Soldier, jump into the nosebag! Then the gates of Paradise opened, and the souls began to go in; and this guilty soul also went in, and for sheer joy forgot all about the soldier.
Once upon a time there was a king who was a widower. He had twelve daughters: each was fairer than the others. Every night these princesses went where nobody knew: it was only for twenty-four hours, and they always wore out a new pair of shoes. Now the king had no shoes ready for them, and he wanted to know where they went at night and what they did. Whoever guesses it I will give him my beloved daughter as a wife and a half of my kingdom as a dowry. No one was able to find out where the princesses went at night.
Only one poor nobleman cried out, "Your kingly Majesty, I will find out! So then the poor nobleman began pondering and saying to himself, "What have I done? I have undertaken to find out, and I don't know myself. If I don't find out now, possibly the king will put me under arrest. So he went out of the palace beyond the city, and went on and on, and at last he met an old woman on the road who asked him, "What are you thinking of, doughty youth?
I have undertaken to discover for the king where his daughters go by night. Now, remember, when you go to sleep the princesses will pour a sleeping-draught out for you: you turn to the wall and pour it into the bed and do not drink it. So the poor nobleman thanked the old woman and returned to the palace. Night-time approached and they gave him a room next to that in which the princesses slept. So he lay on the bed and began to keep watch.
Then one of the princesses brought sleeping-drugs in wine and asked him to drink her health. He could not refuse, and so he took the goblet, turned to the wall, and poured it into the bed. At midnight the princesses went to look whether he was asleep or not. Then the poor nobleman pretended to be as sound asleep as a log, and himself kept a keen look out for every noise. They all went down a flight of stairs, and the poor nobleman quietly got off his bed, put on the cap of invisibility, and followed them.
He, without noticing, touched the youngest princess's dress: she was frightened and said to her sisters, "O my sisters, somebody has stepped on my dress. This is a foretokening of woe. So they all went down the flight of steps into a grove, and in that grove there were golden flowers. Then the poor nobleman broke off and plucked a single sprig, and the entire grove rustled. Did you hear how the grove rustled?
So they went into the Tsar's palace. He, with his lacqueys, met them; music sounded; and they began dancing: and they danced until their shoes were worn thin. Then the Tsar bade wine to be served to his guests. The poor nobleman took a single goblet from under his nose, poured out the wine, and put the cup into his pocket.
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