The Story of Little Tsar Novishny, the False Sister, and the Faithful Beasts
I have a wife so lovely that the like of her is not to be found in the whole world, take her and let me go!”––“No!” replied the Accursed One, “I will not have her.” The Tsar was in great straits. “What am I to do now?” thought he. “I have offered him my lovely wife, who is the very choicest of my chattels, and he won’t have her!”––Then said the Accursed One, “Promise me what thou shalt find awaiting thee at home, and I’ll let thee go.”
The Tsar gladly promised this, for he could think of naught else that he had, and then the Accursed One let him go.
But while he had been away from home, there had been born to him a Tsarevko (little Tzar) and a Tsarivna; and they grew up not by the day, or even by the hour, but by the minute: never were known such fine children. And his wife saw him coming from afar, and went out to meet him, with her two children, with great joy. But he, the moment he saw them, burst into tears. “Nay, my dear love,” cried she, “wherefore dost thou burst into tears? Or art thou so delighted that such children have been born unto thee that thou canst not find thy voice for tears of joy?”––And he answered her, “My darling wife, on my way back from the bazaar I was athirst, and turned toward a mountain known of old to my father and me, and it seemed to me as though there were a spring of water there, though the water was very near dried up. But looking closer, I saw that it was quite full; so I bethought me that I would drink thereof, and I leaned over, when lo! that Evil-wanton (I mean the Devil) caught me by the beard and would not let me go. I begged and prayed, but still he held me tight. ‘Give me,’ said he, ‘what thou hast at home, or I’ll never let thee go!’––And I said to him, ‘Lo! now, I have horses.’––‘I don’t want thy horses!’ said he.––‘I have oxen,’ I said.––‘I don’t want thine oxen!’ said he.––‘I have,’ said I, ‘a wife so fair that the like of her is not to be found in God’s fair world; take her, but let me go.’––‘I don’t want thy fair wife!