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The Kindhearted Lad And His Four Friends

2006-07-13 23:58

  Once upon a time there lived a man and his son. One day it so happened that there was no bread left in the house, so the father gave the son a ruble for him to buy some. The son took the money and set off for the market.

  He walked and he walked and what did he see but a peasant beating his dog so hard that it looked as if he meant to kill it.

  Said the son, going up to him:

  “Please don't beat the dog, peasant! I'll give you a ruble if you let it go.”

  The peasant agreed and left the dog alone, and the son gave him the ruble and went back home to his father without any bread.

  The father met him on the doorstep.

  “Well, have you brought the bread?” he asked.

  “No, I haven't,” replied the son. “What's a ruble! You can't buy anything with it. I must have more if we are to have any bread.”

  But the kept the truth from his father and never told him what he had done with the money.

  On the next day, as there was nothing at all to eat in the house, the father gave the son another ruble to buy bread with. The son took the money and set out for the market.

  He walked and he walked and what did he see but the same peasant beating a mouse.

  “Please don't beat the mouse, peasant!” he cried. “I'll give you a ruble if you let it go.”

  The peasant agreed and left the mouse alone, and the son gave him the money and went back home to his father without any bread.

  The father met him on the doorstep.

  “Well, have you brought the bread?” he asked.

  “No, I haven't,” the son replied. “What's a ruble! You can't buy anything with it. I must have more if we are to have any bread.”

  There was nothing to be done, and the father was left hungry again.

  On the third morning he gave the son yet another ruble and told him to be sure to buy some bread this time, for there wasn't so much as a crumb in the house.

  The son took the money and set out for the market.

  He walked and he walked and what did he see but the selfsame peasant beating a cat. The sight was too much for him.

  “Please don't beat the cat, peasant!” he cried. “I'll give you a ruble if you let it go.”

  The peasant agreed and left the cat alone. The son gave him the money and went back home without any bread again.

  Thee father met him on the doorstep.

  “He's sure to have brought the bread this time,” said he to himself, but seeing the son coming up to him empty-handed, knew that this was not the case.

  “Well, have you brought the bread?” he asked just to make sure.

  “No, I haven't, ” the son replied. “What's a ruble! I must have more if we are to have any bread.”

  The father did not argue and, when morning came, gave him a ruble.

  The son took the money and told himself that he would certainly buy some bread this time-he couldn't very well let his father starve!

  He set off for the market, he walked and he walked, and what did he see but the selfsame peasant beating a snake.

  “Please don't beat the snake, peasant!” he cried. “I'll give you a ruble if you let it go.”

  The peasant agreed and left the snake alone. The son gave him the money, and the peasant went off with it laughing to himself, for wasn't this a foolish lad indeed-to pay out a whole ruble just to save a dumb creature's life!

  As for the snake, so grateful was it for its delivery that it gave the son a magic ring, saying:

  “Take this ring. If ever you want for anything, twist it round on your finger, say what it is you want half under your breath, and you will have it. And if you need any bread, just knock the ring against a millstone, and you'll get more than your fill.”

  The son was overjoyed. He took the ring and hurried home with it.

  The father met him on the doorstep.

  “Well, have you brought the bread?” asked he.

  “No,” the son replied. “But now we'll have more than enough.”

  At this the father only started, for where could the bread come from if there wasn't a crumb in the house!

  But what was his wonder and surprise when the son walked up to a millstone, knocked his ring against it and wished for some bread, for-lo and behold! -there before them lay loaves and loaves of it.

  From that time on the father and son never wanted for anything: the son had only to twist the ring on his finger, and whatever it was they needed they got.

  They lived in this way for a time and had not a care in the world. Then one day the son said to himself:

  “Wouldn't it be fine if the leaves on the tree s turned to diamonds and gold?”

  He twisted the ring on his finger, and the same moment the trees near their hut were covered with gold and diamond leaves, and everything around became as beautiful as can be.

  Soon, rumour of it spread throughout the countryside, and the lord of the manor came to see the miracle for himself. He looked, and he saw that the people had indeed spoken the truth. So he asked the son to come and cast a spell over his garden, too, that the trees in it might have gold and diamond leaves as they did in his. The son agreed and off he went with the lord to his castle.

  He walked the garden and twisted the ring, and at once gold and diamond leaves appeared on all the trees. But the lady of the house had noticed the ring on his finger and had seen him twist it. She told the lord about it and he asked the son not to go back home that day but to spend the night in the castle. Suspecting nothing, the son agreed. He had no sooner fallen asleep than the lady crept up to him and took away his magic ring, but she never knew that at her touch the ring had lost all its magic powers.

  On the following morning everyone looked and saw that the trees were just as they had ever been and that the gold and diamond leaves were gone. So they seized the son and threw him in a dungeon, for, said they, he was nothing but a common swindler. He was sentenced to death then and there, and it was decided to hang him in the morning.

  What was the son to do? The walls of the dungeon were thick and the doors strong, and, as he did not have the ring any more, there seemed to be no way of escaping death.

  It was then that the mouse, the dog and the cat came to their friend's aid. The mouse and the cat made their way into the castle at night, crept into the lady, fearing lest the ring be stolen, had been keeping it in her mouth all this time, and when she opened her mouth a little in her sleep, the mouse quickly slipped the tip of its tail into it. The lady started awake, she coughed, and the ring rolled out of her mouth and over the floor. The cat snatched t up, and, darting out of the door, rushed off with it. In the meantime the dog had been scratching away at the wall and had made hole into the dungeon and gave the ring to the son. The son was overjoyed. He slipped the ring on his finger, twisted it and wished himself out of the dungeon.

  The same moment the walls parted, and the son stepped out of the dungeon to freedom. He had nothing to fear any more, for now that the ring was in his possession, the lords could do him no harm.

  So he and his father began living together again in their hut and were very, very happy.

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