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Emelyan, the Fool

In a certain village lived at one time a peasant, who had three sons, two of whom were clever, but the third was a fool, and his name was Emelyan. And when the peasant had lived a long time, and was grown very old, he called his three sons to him, and said to them: “My dear children, I feel that I have not much longer to live; so I give you the house and cattle, which you will divide among you, share and share alike. I have also given you each a hundred roubles.” Soon after, the old man died, and the sons, when they had buried him, lived on happy and contented.

Some time afterwards Emelyan’s brothers took a fancy to go to the city and trade with the hundred roubles their father had left them. So they said to Emelyan: “Hark ye, fool! we are going to the city, and will take your hundred roubles with us; and, if we prosper in trade, we will buy you a red coat, red boots, and a red cap. But do you stay here at home; and when our wives, your sisters-in-law, desire you to do anything, do as they bid you.” The fool, who had a great longing for a red coat and cap, and red boots, answered that he would do whatever his sisters-in-law bade him. So his brothers went off to the city, and the fool stayed at home with his two sisters.

One day, when the winter was come, and the cold was great, his sisters-in-law told him to go out and fetch water; but the fool remained lying on the stove, and said: “Ay, indeed, and who then are you?” The sisters began to scold him, and said: “How now, fool! we are what you see. You know how cold it is, and that it is a man’s business to go.” But he said: “I am lazy.” “How!” they exclaimed, “you are lazy? Surely you will want to eat, and if we have no water we cannot cook. But never mind,” they added; “we will only tell our husbands not to give him anything when they have bought the fine red coat and all for him!”

The fool heard what they said; and, as he longed greatly to have the red coat and cap, he saw that he must go; so he got down from the stove and began to put on his shoes and stockings and to dress himself to go out.

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