The Tale of a Youth Who Set Out to Learn what Fear Was
" And as he spoke two huge black cats sprang fiercely forward and sat down, one on each side of him, and gazed wildly at him with their fiery eyes. After a time, when they had warmed themselves, they said: "Friend, shall we play a little game of cards?" "Why not?" he replied; "but first let me see your paws." Then they stretched out their claws. "Ha!" said he; "what long nails you've got! Wait a minute: I must first cut them off." Thereupon he seized them by the scruff of their necks, lifted them on to the carving bench, and screwed down their paws firmly. "After watching you narrowly," said he, "I no longer feel any desire to play cards with you"; and with these words he struck them dead and threw them out into the water. But when he had thus sent the two of them to their final rest, and was again about to sit down at the fire, out of every nook and corner came forth black cats and black dogs with fiery chains in such swarms that he couldn't possibly get away from them. They yelled in the most ghastly manner, jumped upon his fire, scattered it all, and tried to put it out. He looked on quietly for a time, but when it got beyond a joke he seized his carving-knife and called out: "Be off, you rabble rout!" and let fly at them. Some of them fled away, and the others he struck dead and threw them out into the pond below. When he returned he blew up the sparks of the fire once more, and warmed himself. And as he sat thus his eyes refused to keep open any longer, and a desire to sleep stole over him. Then he looked around him and beheld in the corner a large bed. "The very thing," he said, and laid himself down in it. But when he wished to close his eyes the bed began to move by itself, and ran all round the castle. "Capital," he said, "only a little quicker." Then the bed sped on as if drawn by six horses, over thresholds and stairs, up this way and down that. All of a sudden--crash, crash! with a bound it turned over, upside down, and lay like a mountain on the top of him.