The Wondrous Story of Ivan Golik and the Serpents
Somewhere, nowhere, in another kingdom, in the Empire of Thrice-ten, lived––whether ’twas a Tsar and a Tsaritsa, or only a Prince and a Princess, I know not, but anyhow they had two sons. One day this prince said to his sons, “Let us go down to the seashore and listen to the songs of the sea-folk!” So they went. Now the prince wanted to test the wits of his two sons; he wanted to see which of the twain was fit for ruling his empire, and which should stand aside and make way for better men. So they went on together till they came to where three oaks stood all in a row. The prince looked at the trees, and said to his eldest son, “My dear son, what wouldst thou make of those trees?”
“What would I make of them, dear father? I would make me good barns and store-houses out of them. I would cut them down and plane the timber well, and goodly should be the planks I should make of them.”
“Good, my son!” replied the prince, “thou wilt make a careful householder.”
Then he asked his younger son, “And what wouldst thou make out of these oaks, my son?”
“Well, dear father,” said he, “had I only as much power as will, I would cut down the middle oak, lay it across the other two, and hang up every prince and every noble in the wide world.”
Then the prince shook his head and was silent.
Presently they came to the sea, and all three stood still and looked at it, and watched the fishes play. Then, suddenly, the prince caught hold of his younger son, and pitched him right into the sea. “Perish!” cried he, “for ’tis but just that such a wretch as thou shouldst perish!”
Now, just as the father pitched his younger son into the sea, a great whale-fish was coming along and swallowed him, and into its maw he went. There he found wagons with horses and oxen harnessed to them, all of which the fish had also gobbled. So he went rummaging about these wagons to see what was in them, and he found that one of the wagons was full of tobacco-pipes and tobacco, and flints and steels. So he took up a pipe, filled it with tobacco, lit it, and began to smoke.