The Tsar and the Angel
He walked about, and wept, and wrung his hands: “Oh, woe is me! woe is me!” At last he lay down on his bed, but sleep he could not. Only toward dawn did he doze off, then he saw in a dream an angel standing at his head. “Fear nothing!” said the angel. “God hath sent me down on earth to protect thee!” So, early in the morning, the priest rose up full of joy and prayed gratefully to God.
The Tsar also awoke early in the morning, and bawled to his huntsmen to gather together and go a-hunting with him in the forest.
So away they went hunting in the forest, and it was not long before a stag leaped out of the thicket beneath the very eyes of the Tsar. Off after it went the Tsar; every moment the stag seemed to be faltering, and yet the Tsar could never quite come up with it. Hot with excitement, the Tsar spurred his horse on yet faster. “Gee up! gee up!” he cried; “now we’ve got him!” But here a stream crossed the road, and the stag plunged into the water. The Tsar was a good swimmer. “I’ve got him now, at any rate,” thought he. “A little longer, and I shall hold him by the horns.” So the Tsar took off his clothes, and into the water he plunged after the stag. But the stag swam across to the opposite bank, and the Tsar was extending his hand to seize him by the horns––when there was no longer any stag to be seen. It was the angel who had taken the form of a stag. The Tsar was amazed. He looked about him on every side, and wondered where the stag had gone. Then he saw some one on the other side of the river putting on his clothes, and presently the man mounted his horse and galloped away. The Tsar thought it was some evil-doer, but it was the self-same angel that had now put on the Tsar’s clothes and gone away to collect the huntsmen and take them home. As for the Tsar, he remained all naked and solitary in the forest.
At last he looked about him and saw, far, far away, smoke rising above the forest, and something like a dark cloud standing in the clear sky. “Maybe,” thought he, “that is my hunting-pavilion.