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A Russian Fairy Tale

There once was a rich merchant named Marko--a stingier fellow
never lived! One day he went out for a stroll. As he went
along the road he saw a beggar--an old man, who sat there asking
for alms--"Please to give, O ye Orthodox, for Christ's

Marko the Rich passed by. Just at that time there came up
behind him a poor moujik, who felt sorry for the beggar, and gave
him a copeck. The rich man seemed to feel ashamed, for he
stopped and said to the moujik:

"Harkye, neighbor, lend me a copeck. I want to give that
poor man something, but I've no small change."

The moujik gave him one, and asked when he should come
for his money. "Come to-morrow," was the reply. Well next
day the poor man went to the rich man's to get his copeck. He
entered his spacious courtyard and asked:

"Is Marko the Rich at home?"

"Yes. What do you want?" replied Marko.

"I've come for my copeck."

"Ah, brother! come again. Really I've no change just now."

The poor man made his bow and went away.

"I'll come to-morrow," said he.

On the morrow he came again, but it was just the same story
as before.

"I haven't a single copper. If you like to change me a note
for a hundred--No? well then come again in a fortnight."

At the end of the fortnight the poor man came again, but
Marko the Rich saw him from the window, and said to his wife:

"Harkye, wife! I'll strip myself naked and lie down under
the holy pictures. Cover me up with a cloth, and sit down and
cry, just as you would over a corpse. When the moujik comes
for his money, tell him I died this morning."

Well the wife did everything exactly as her husband directed
her. While she was sitting there drowned in bitter tears, the
moujik came into the room.

"What do you want?" says she.

"The money Marko the Rich owes me," answers the poor

"Ah, moujik, Marko the Rich has wished us farewell; he's
only just dead."

"The kingdom of heaven be his! If you'll allow me, mistress,
in return for my copeck I'll do him a last service--just
give his mortal remains a wash."

So saying he laid hold of a pot full of boiling water and began
pouring its scalding contents over Marko the Rich. Marko, his
brows knit, his legs contorted, was scarcely able to hold out.

"Writhe away or not as you please," thought the poor man,
"but pay me my copeck!"

When he had washed the body, and laid it out properly, he

"Now then, mistress, buy a coffin and have it taken into the
church; I'll go and read psalms over it."

So Marko the Rich was put in a coffin and taken into the
church, and the moujik began reading psalms over him. The
darkness of night came on. All of a sudden a window opened,
and a party of robbers crept through it into the church. The
moujik hid himself behind the altar. As soon as the robbers had
come in they began dividing their booty, and after everything
else was shared there remained over and above a golden sabre--each
one laid hold of it for himself, no one would give up his
claim to it. Out jumped the poor man, crying:

"What's the good of disputing that way? Let the sabre
belong to him who will cut this corpse's head off!"

Up jumped Marko the Rich like a madman. The robbers
were frightened out of their wits, flung away their spoil and
scampered off.

"Here, Moujik," says Marko, "let's divide the money."

They divided it equally between them: each of the shares
was a large one.

"But how about the copeck?" asks the poor man.

"Ah, brother!" replies Marko, "surely you can see I've got
no change!"

And so Marko the Rich never paid the copeck after all.