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A Russian Fairy Tale Story

Once upon a time there was a Smith, and he had one son, a
sharp, smart, six-year-old boy. One day the old man went to
church, and as he stood before a picture of the Last Judgment
he saw a Demon painted there--such a terrible one!--black, with
horns and a tail.

"O my!" says he to himself. "Suppose I get just such
another painted for the smithy." So he hired an artist, and
ordered him to paint on the door of the smithy exactly such
another demon as he had seen in the church. The artist painted
it. Thenceforward the old man, every time he entered the
smithy, always looked at the Demon and said, "Good morning,
fellow-countryman!" And then he would lay the fire in the
furnace and begin his work.

Well, the Smith lived in good accord with the Demon for
some ten years. Then he fell ill and died. His son succeeded
to his place as head of the household, and took the smithy into
his own hands. But he was not disposed to show attention to
the Demon as the old man had done. When he went into the
smithy in the morning, he never said "Good morrow" to him;
instead of offering him a kindly word, he took the biggest hammer
he had handy, and thumped the Demon with it three times
right on the forehead, and then he would go to his work. And
when one of God's holy days came round, he would go to church
and offer each saint a taper; but he would go up to the Demon
and spit in his face. Thus three years went by, he all the
while favoring the Evil One every morning either with a spitting
or with a hammering. The Demon endured it and endured it,
and at last found it past all endurance. It was too much for

"I've had quite enough of this insolence from him!" thinks
he. "Suppose I make use of a little diplomacy, and play him
some sort of a trick!"

So the Demon took the form of a youth, and went to the

"Good day, uncle!" says he.

"Good day!"

"What should you say, uncle, to taking me as an apprentice?
At all events, I could carry fuel for you, and blow the

The Smith liked the idea. "Why shouldn't I?" he replied.
"Two are better than one."

The Demon began to learn his trade; at the end of a month
he knew more about smith's work than his master did himself,
was able to do everything that his master couldn't do. It was
a real pleasure to look at him! There's no describing how
satisfied his master was with him, how fond he got of him.
Sometimes the master didn't go into the smithy at all himself,
but trusted entirely to his journeyman, who had complete charge
of everything.

Well, it happened one day that the master was not at home,
and the journeyman was left all by himself in the smithy.
Presently he saw an old lady driving along the street in her
carriage, whereupon he popped his head out of doors and began

"Heigh, sirs! Be so good as to step in here! We've
opened a new business here; we turn old folks into young

Out of her carriage jumped the lady in a trice, and ran into
the smithy.

"What's that you're bragging about? Do you mean to say
it's true? Can you really do it?" she asked the youth.

"We haven't got to learn our business!" answered the
Demon. "If I hadn't been able to do it, I wouldn't have invited
people to try."

"And how much does it cost?" asked the lady.

"Five hundred roubles altogether."

"Well, then, there's your money; make a young woman of

The Demon took the money; then he sent the lady's coachman
into the village.

"Go," says he, "and bring me here two buckets full of

After that he took a pair of tongs, caught hold of the lady
by the feet, flung her into the furnace, and burnt her up; nothing
was left of her but her bare bones.

When the buckets of milk were brought, he emptied them
into a large tub, then he collected all the bones and flung them
into the milk. Just fancy! at the end of about three minutes
the lady emerged from the milk--alive, and young, and beautiful!

Well, she got into her carriage and drove home. There she
went straight to her husband, and he stared hard at her, but
didn't know she was his wife.

"What are you staring at?" says the lady. "I'm young and
elegant, you see, and I don't want to have an old husband! Be
off at once to the smithy, and get them to make you young; if
you don't, I won't so much as acknowledge you!"

There was no help for it; off set the seigneur. But by that
time the Smith had returned home, and had gone into the
smithy. He looked about; the journeyman wasn't to be seen.
He searched and searched, he enquired and enquired, never a
thing came of it; not even a trace of the youth could be found.
He took to his work by himself, and was hammering away,
when at that moment up drove the seigneur, and walked straight
into the smithy.

"Make a young man of me," says he.

"Are you in your right mind, Barin? How can one make a
young man of you?"

"Come, now! you know all about that."

"I know nothing of the kind."

"You lie, you scoundrel! Since you made my old woman
young, make me young too; otherwise, there will be no living
with her for me."

"Why I haven't so much as seen your good lady."

"Your journeyman saw her, and that's just the same thing.
If he knew how to do the job, surely you, an old hand, must
have learnt how to do it long ago. Come, now, set to work at
once. If you don't, it will be the worse for you. I'll have you
rubbed down with a birch-tree towel."

The Smith was compelled to try his hand at transforming
the seigneur. He held a private conversation with the coachman
as to how his journeyman had set to work with the lady,
and what he had done to her, and then he thought:--

"So be it! I'll do the same. If I fall on my feet, good; if
I don't, well, I must suffer all the same!"

So he set to work at once, stripped the seigneur naked, laid
hold of him by the legs with the tongs, popped him into the
furnace, and began blowing the bellows. After he had burnt
him to a cinder, he collected his remains, flung them into the
milk, and then waited to see how soon a youthful seigneur
would jump out of it. He waited one hour, two hours. But
nothing came of it. He made a search in the tub. There was
nothing in it but bones, and those charred ones.

Just then the lady sent messengers to the smithy, to ask
whether the seigneur would soon be ready. The poor Smith
had to reply that the seigneur was no more.

When the lady heard that the Smith had only turned her
husband into a cinder, instead of making him young, she was
tremendously angry, and she called together her trusty servants,
and ordered them to drag him to the gallows. No sooner said
than done. Her servants ran to the Smith's house, laid hold of
him, tied his hands together, and dragged him off to the gallows.
All of a sudden there came up with them the youngster
who used to live with the Smith as his journeyman, who asked

"Where are they taking you, master?"

"They're going to hang me," replied the Smith, and straightway
related all that had happened to him.

"Well, uncle!" said the Demon, "swear that you will never
strike me with your hammer, but that you will pay me the same
respect your father always paid, and the seigneur shall be alive,
and young, too, in a trice."

The Smith began promising and swearing that he would
never again lift his hammer against the Demon, but would
always pay him every attention. Thereupon the journeyman
hastened to the smithy, and shortly afterwards came back again,
bringing the seigneur with him, and crying to the servants:

"Hold! hold! Don't hang him! Here's your master!"

Then they immediately untied the cords, and let the Smith
go free.

From that time forward the Smith gave up spitting at the
Demon and striking him with his hammer. The journeyman
disappeared, and was never seen again. But the seigneur and
his lady entered upon a prosperous course of life, and if they
haven't died, they're living still.