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The Story Of The Forty-first Brother

Source: Cossack Fairy Tales And Folk Tales

There was once upon a time an old man who had forty-one sons. Now
when this old man was at the point of death, he divided all he had
among his sons, and gave to each of the forty a horse; but when he
came to the forty-first he found he had no more horses left, so the
forty-first brother had to be content with a foal. When their father
was dead, the brothers said to each other, "Let us go to Friday and
get married!"--But the eldest brother said, "No, Friday has only
forty daughters, so one of us would be left without a bride."--Then
the second brother said, "Let us go then to Wednesday--Wednesday has
forty-one daughters, and so the whole lot of us can pair off with the
whole lot of them." So they went and chose their brides. The eldest
brother took the eldest sister, and the youngest the youngest,
till they were all suited. And the youngest brother of all said,
"I'll take that little damsel who is sitting on the stove in the
corner and has the nice kerchief in her hand." Then they all drank
a bumper together to seal the bargain, and after that the forty-one
bridegrooms and the forty-one brides laid them down to sleep side by
side. But the youngest brother of all said to himself, "I will
bring my foal into the room." So he brought in the foal, and then
went to his bedchamber and laid him down to sleep also. Now his
bride lay down with her kerchief in her hand, and he took a great
fancy to it, and he begged and prayed her for it again and again,
until at last she gave it to him. Now, when Wednesday thought that
all the people were asleep, he went out into the courtyard to sharpen
his sabre. Then the foal said, "Oh, my dear little master, come
here, come here!" He came, and the foal said to him, "Take off the
night-dresses of the forty sleeping bridegrooms and put them on the
forty sleeping brides, and put the night-dresses of the brides on
the bridegrooms, for a great woe is nigh!" And he did so. When
Wednesday had sharpened his sabre he came into the room and began
feeling for the stiff collars of the bridegrooms' night-dresses, and
straightway cut off the forty heads above the collars. Then he carried
off the heads of his forty daughters in a bunch (for the brides
now had on the night-dresses of their bridegrooms), and went and
lay down to sleep. Then the foal said, "My dear little father! awake
the bridegrooms, and we'll set off." So he awoke the bridegrooms
and sent them on before, while he followed after on his own little
nag. They trotted on and on, and at last the foal said to him, "Look
behind, and see whether Wednesday is not pursuing." He looked round:
"Yes, little brother," said he, "Wednesday is pursuing!"--"Shake
thy kerchief then!" said the foal. He shook his kerchief, and
immediately a vast sea was between him and the pursuer. Then they
went on and on till the foal said to him again, "Look behind, and
see if Wednesday is still pursuing!"--He looked round. "Yes, little
brother, he is pursuing!"--"Wave thy handkerchief on the left
side!" said the foal. He waved it on the left side, and immediately
between them and the pursuer stood a forest so thick that not
even a little mouse could have squeezed through it. Then they went on
still farther, till the foal said again, "Look behind, and see
whether Wednesday is still pursuing!"--He looked behind, and
there, sure enough, was Wednesday running after them, and he was not
very far off either.--"Wave thy kerchief!" said the foal. He waved
his kerchief, and immediately a steep mountain--oh, so steep!--lay
betwixt them. They went on and on, until the foal said again, "Look
behind, is Wednesday still pursuing?"--So he looked behind him and
said, "No, now he is not there." Then they went on and on again,
and soon they were not very far from home. Then the youngest brother
said, "You go home now, but I am going to seek a bride!" So he went
on and on till he came to a place where lay a feather of the bird
Zhar. "Look!" cried he, "what I've found!"--But the foal said to
him, "Pick not up that feather, for it will bring thee evil as well
as good!"--But his master said, "Why, I should be a fool not to pick
up a feather like that!" So he turned back and picked up the
feather. Then he went on farther and farther, until he came to a
clay hut. He went into this clay hut, and there sat an old woman.
"Give me a night's lodging, granny!" said he.--"I have neither bed
nor light to offer thee," said she. Nevertheless he entered the hut
and put the feather on the window-corner, and it lit up the whole
hut. So he went to sleep. But the old woman ran off to the Tsar, and
said to him, "A certain man has come to me and laid a certain
feather on the window-sill, and it shines like fire!" Then the
Tsar guessed that it was a feather of the bird Zhar, and said to his
soldiers, "Go and fetch that man hither!" And the Tsar said to him,
"Wilt thou enter my service?"--"Yes," he replied, "but you must give
me all your keys." So the Tsar gave him all the keys and a hut of his
own to live in besides. But one day the Tsar said to his servants,
"Boil me now a vat of milk!" So they boiled it. Then he took off his
gold ring, and said to the man, "Thou didst get the feather of the
bird Zhar, get me also this golden ring of mine out of the vat of
boiling milk!"--"Bring hither, then, my faithful horse," said he,
"that he may see his master plunge into the vat of boiling milk and
die!" So they brought his horse, and, taking off his clothes, he
plunged into the vat, but as he did so the horse snorted so
violently that all the boiling milk leaped up in the air and the
man seized the ring and gave it back to the Tsar. Now when the Tsar
saw that the man had come out of the vat younger and handsomer than
ever, he said, "I'll try and fish up the ring in like manner." So he
flung his ring into the vat of boiling milk and plunged after it
to get it. The people waited and waited and wondered and wondered
that he was so long about it, and at last they drained off the
milk and found the Tsar at the bottom of the vat boiled quite red.
Then the man said, "Now, Tsaritsa, thou art mine and I am thine." And
they lived together happily ever afterward.

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