The Story of Little Tsar Novishny, the False Sister, and the Faithful Beasts
Once upon a time, in a certain kingdom, in a certain empire, there dwelt a certain Tsar who had never had a child. One day this Tsar went to the bazaar (such a bazaar as we have at Kherson) to buy food for his needs. For though he was a Tsar, he had a mean and churlish soul, and used always to do his own marketing, and so now, too, he bought a little salt fish and went home with it. On his way homeward, a great thirst suddenly fell upon him, so he turned aside into a lonely mountain where he knew, as his father had known before him, there was a spring of crystal-clear water. He was so very thirsty that he flung himself down headlong by this spring without first crossing himself, wherefore that Accursed One, Satan, immediately had power over him, and caught him by the beard. The Tsar sprang back in terror, and cried, “Let me go!” But the Accursed One held him all the tighter. “Nay, I will not let thee go!” cried he. Then the Tsar began to entreat him piteously. “Ask what thou wilt of me,” said he, “only let me go.”––“Give me, then,” said the Accursed One, “something that thou hast in the house, and then I’ll let thee go!”––“Let me see, what have I got?” said the Tsar. “Oh, I know. I’ve got eight horses at home, the like of which I have seen nowhere else, and I’ll immediately bid my equerry bring them to thee to this spring––take them.”––“I won’t have them!” cried the Accursed One, and he held him still more tightly by the beard. “Well, then, hearken now!” cried the Tsar. “I have eight oxen. They have never yet gone a-ploughing for me, or done a day’s work. I’ll have them brought hither. I’ll feast my eyes on them once more, and then I’ll have them driven into thy steppes––take them.”––“No, that won’t do either!” said the Accursed One. The Tsar went over, one by one, all the most precious things he had at home, but the Accursed One said “No!” all along, and pulled him more and more tightly by the beard. When the Tsar saw that the Accursed One would take none of all these things, he said to him at last, “Look now!