Whoever may find it, the curse of his king fall upon him, if he do not immediately deliver it to my son!
In his dungeon, poor Muck gave way to sorrowful reflections; he knew that for taking royal property death was the penalty; and yet—he could not betray the secret of his staff unto the king, because, in that case, he justly feared being deprived of both that, and his slippers. His slippers, alas! could render him no help, for there by close fetters he was fastened to the wall, and, torment himself as he might, he could not turn around upon his heel. When, however, on the next day, sentence of death was pronounced, he thought it would be better to live without the magic staff, than to die with it; and, having asked a private audience with the king, disclosed to him the secret. At first the king gave no credit to his assertions, but Little Muck promised him a proof, if he would respite him from death. The king gave him his word upon it, and having had some gold buried in the earth, unseen by Muck, commanded him to find it with his cane. In a few moments he succeeded in doing so, for the staff beat three times distinctly upon the ground. Then the king saw that his treasurer had betrayed him, and sent him, as is customary in the East, a silken cord, wherewith he should strangle himself. To Little Muck, however, he said:—
“I have indeed promised thee thy life, but it seems to me that this is not the only secret thou art possessed of, connected with this staff. Therefore thou shalt remain in everlasting captivity, if thou do not confess what relation exists between it and thy rapid running.”
Little Muck, whom one night in his dungeon had deprived of all desire for further confinement, acknowledged that his whole art lay in the slippers; nevertheless, he informed not the king of the wonderful effect of turning three times upon the heel. The king put on the slippers, himself, in order to make the experiment, and ran, like mad, through the garden; often did he wish to hold up, but he knew not how to bring the slippers to a halt, and Muck, who could not deny himself this revenge, let him run on, until he fell down exhausted.
Prince Ivan, the Witch Baby, and the Little Sister of the Sun
Category: Russia folktales
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