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The Vampire And St Michael






Source: Cossack Fairy Tales And Folk Tales

Once upon a time in a certain village there lived two neighbours; one
was rich, very rich, and the other so poor that he had nothing in the
world but a little hut, and that was tumbling about his ears. At
length things came to such a pass with the poor man that he had
nothing to eat, and could get work nowhere. Full of grief, he
bethought him what he should do. He thought and thought, and at last
he said, "Look ye, wife! I'll go to my rich neighbour. Perchance he
will lend me a silver rouble; that, at any rate, will be enough to buy
bread with." So he went.

He came to the rich man. "Good health to my lord!" cried he.--"Good
health!"--"I have come on an errand to thee, dear little master!"--"What
may thine errand be?" inquired the rich man.--"Alas! would to God that I
had no need to say it. It has come to such a pass with us that
there's not a crust of bread nor a farthing of money in the house. So I
have come to thee, dear little master; lend us but a silver rouble and
we will be ever thankful to thee, and I'll work myself old to pay it
back."--"But who will stand surety for thee?" asked the rich man.--"I
know not if any man will, I am so poor. Yet, perchance, God and St
Michael will be my sureties," and he pointed at the ikon in the corner.
Then the ikon of St Michael spoke to the rich man from the niche and
said, "Come now! lend it him, and put it down to my account. God will
repay thee!"--"Well," said the rich man, "I'll lend it to thee." So he
lent it, and the poor man thanked him and returned to his home full of
joy.

But the rich man was not content that God should give him back his
loan by blessing him in his flocks and herds, and in his children, and
in his health, and in the blessed fruits of the earth. He waited and
waited for the poor man to come and pay him back his rouble, and at
last he went to seek him. "Thou son of a dog," he shouted, before the
house, "why hast thou not brought me back my money? Thou knowest how
to borrow, but thou forgettest to repay!" Then the wife of the poor
man burst into tears. "He would repay thee indeed if he were in this
world," said she, "but lo now! he died but a little while ago!" The
rich man snarled at her and departed, but when he got home he said to
the ikon, "A pretty surety thou art!" Then he took St Michael down
from the niche, dug out his eyes, and began beating him.

He beat St Michael again and again, and at last he flung him into a
puddle and trampled on him. "I'll give it thee for standing me surety
so scurvily," said he. While he was thus abusing St Michael, a young
fellow about twenty years old came along that way, and said to him,
"What art thou doing, my father?"--"I am beating him because he stood
surety and has played me false. He took upon himself the repayment of
a silver rouble, which I lent to the son of a pig, who has since gone
away and died. That is why I am beating him now."--"Beat him not, my
father! I'll give thee a silver rouble, but do thou give me this holy
image!"--"Take him if thou wilt, but see that thou bring me the silver
rouble first."

Then the young man ran home and said to his father, "Dad, give me a
silver rouble!"--"Wherefore, my son?"--"I would buy a holy image,"
said he, and he told his father how he had seen that heathen beating
St Michael.--"Nay, my son, whence shall we who are poor find a silver
rouble to give to him who is so rich?"--"Nay, but give it me, dad!"
and he begged and prayed till he got it. Then he ran back as quickly
as he could, paid the silver rouble to the rich man, and got the holy
image. He washed it clean and placed it in the midst of sweet-smelling
flowers. And so they lived on as before.

Now this youth had three uncles, rich merchants, who sold all manner
of merchandise, and went in ships to foreign lands, where they sold
their goods and made their gains. One day, when his uncles were again
making ready to depart into foreign lands, he said to them, "Take me
with you!"--"Why shouldst thou go?" said they; "we have wares to sell,
but what hast thou?"--"Yet take me," said he.--"But thou hast
nothing."--"I will make me laths and boards and take them with me,"
said he.--His uncles laughed at him for imagining such wares as these,
but he begged and prayed them till they were wearied. "Well, come,"
they said, "though there is naught for thee to do; only take not much
of these wares of thine with thee, for our ships are already
full."--Then he made him laths and boards, put them on board the ship,
took St Michael with him, and they departed.

They went on and on. They sailed a short distance and they sailed a
long distance, till at last they came to another tsardom and another
empire. And the Tsar of this tsardom had an only daughter, so lovely
that the like of her is neither to be imagined nor divined in God's
fair world, neither may it be told in tales. Now this Tsarivna one day
went down to the river to bathe, and plunged into the water without
first crossing herself, whereupon the Evil Spirit took possession of
her. The Tsarivna got out of the water, and straightway fell ill of so
terrible a disease that it may not be told of. Do what they would--and
the wise men and the wise women did their utmost--it was of no avail.
In a few days she grew worse and died. Then the Tsar, her father, made
a proclamation that people should come and read the prayers for the
dead over her dead body, and so exorcise the evil spirit, and
whosoever delivered her was to have half his power and half his
tsardom.

And the people came in crowds--but none of them could read the prayers
for the dead over her, it was impossible. Every evening a man went
into the church, and every morning they swept out his bones, for there
was naught else of him remaining. And the Tsar was very wrath. "All my
people will be devoured," cried he. And he commanded that all the
foreign merchants passing through his realm should be made to read
prayers for the dead over his daughter's body. "And if they will not
read," said he, "they shall not depart from my kingdom."

So the foreign merchants went one by one. In the evening a merchant
was shut up in the church, and in the early morning they came and
found and swept away his bones. At last it came to the turn of the
young man's uncles to read the prayers for the dead in the church.
They wept and lamented and cried, "We are lost! we are lost! Heaven
help us!" Then the eldest uncle said to the lad, "Listen, good
simpleton! It has now come to my turn to read prayers over the
Tsarivna. Do thou go in my stead and pass the night in the church, and
I'll give thee all my ship."--"Nay, but," said the simpleton, "what if
she tear me to pieces too? I won't go!"--But then St Michael said to
him, "Go and fear not! Stand in the very middle of the church, fenced
round about with thy laths and boards, and take with thee a basket
full of pears. When she rushes at thee, take and scatter the pears,
and it will take her till cockcrow to pick them all up. But do thou go
on reading thy prayers all the time, and look not up, whatever she may
do."

When night came, he took up his laths and boards and a basket of
pears, and went to the church. He entrenched himself behind his
boards, stood there and began to read. At dead of night there was a
rustling and a rattling. O Lord! what was that? There was a shaking of
the bier--bang! bang!--and the Tsarivna arose from her coffin and came
straight toward him. She leaped upon the boards and made a grab at him
and fell back. Then she leaped at him again, and again she fell back.
Then he took his basket and scattered the pears. All through the
church they rolled, she after them, and she tried to pick them up till
cockcrow, and at the very first "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" she got into her
bier again and lay still.



When God's bright day dawned, the people came to clean out the church
and sweep away his bones; but there he was reading his prayers, and
the rumour of it went through the town and they were all filled with
joy.

Next night it was the turn of the second uncle, and he began to beg
and pray, "Go thou, simpleton, in my stead! Look now, thou hast
already passed a night there, thou mayst very well pass another, and
I'll give thee all my ship."--But he said, "I won't go, I am
afraid."--But then St Michael said to him again, "Fear not, but go!
Fence thee all about with thy boards, and take with thee a basket of
nuts. When she rushes at thee, scatter thy nuts, and the nuts will go
rolling all about the church, and it will take her till cockcrow to
gather them all up. But do thou go on reading thy prayers, nor look
thou up, whatever may happen."

And he did so. He took his boards and the basket of nuts, and went to
the church at nightfall and read. A little after midnight there was a
rustling and an uproar, and the whole church shook. Then came a
fumbling round about the coffin--bang! bang!--up she started, and made
straight for him. She leaped and plunged, she very nearly got through
the boards. She hissed, like seething pitch, and her eyes glared at
him like coals of fire, but it was of no use. He read on and on, and
didn't once look at her. Besides, he scattered his nuts, and she went
after them and tried to pick them all up till cockcrow. And at the
first "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" she leaped into her coffin again and pulled
down the lid. In the morning the people came to sweep away his bones,
and lo! they found him alive.

The next night he had to go again in the third uncle's stead. Then he
sat down and cried and wailed, "Alas, alas! what shall I do? 'Twere
better I had never been born!"--But St Michael said to him, "Weep
not, 'twill all end happily. Fence thyself about with thy boards,
sprinkle thyself all about with holy water, incense thyself with holy
incense, and take me with thee. She shall not have thee. And the
moment she leaves her coffin, do thou jump quickly into it. And
whatever she may say to thee, and however she may implore thee, let
her not get into it again until she says to thee, 'My consort!'"

So he went. There he stood in the middle of the church, fenced himself
about with his boards, strewed consecrated poppy-seed around him,
incensed himself with holy incense, and read and read. About the
middle of the night a tempest arose outside, and there was a rustling
and a roaring, a hissing and a wailing. The church shook, the altar
candelabra were thrown down, the holy images fell on their faces. O
Lord, how awful! Then came a bang! bang! from the coffin, and again
the Tsarivna started up. She left her coffin and fluttered about the
church. She rushed at the boards and made a snatch at him, and fell
back; she rushed at him again, and again she fell back. She foamed at
the mouth, and her fury every instant grew worse and worse. She dashed
herself about, and darted madly from one corner of the church to the
other, seeking him everywhere. But he skipped into the coffin, with
the image of St Michael by his side. She ran all over the church
seeking him. "He was here--and now he is not here!" cried she. Then
she ran farther on, felt all about her, and cried again, "He was
here--and now he's not here!" At last she sprang up to the coffin, and
there he was. Then she began to beg and pray him, "Come down, come
down! I'll try and catch thee no more, only come down, come down!"
But he only prayed to God, and answered her never a word. Then the
cock crew once, "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"--"Alas! come down, come down, my
consort!" cried she. Then he came down, and they both fell on their
knees and began praying to God, and wept sore and gave thanks to God
because He had had mercy on them both.

And at dawn of day crowds of people, with the Tsar at the head of
them, came to the church. "Shall we find him reading prayers, or shall
we only find his bones?" said they. And lo! there they both were on
their knees praying fervently to God. Then the Tsar rejoiced greatly,
and embraced both him and her. After that they had a grand service in
the church, and sprinkled her with holy water, and baptized her again,
and the unclean spirit departed from her. Then the Tsar gave the young
man half his power and half his kingdom, but the merchants departed in
their ships, with their nephew on board.



They lived together, and time went on and the young man still remained
a bachelor, and was so handsome that words cannot describe it. But the
Tsar lived alone with his daughter. She, however, grew sadder and
sadder, and was no longer like her former self, so sorrowful was she.
And the Tsar asked her, saying, "Wherefore art thou so sorrowful?"--"I
am not sorrowful, father," said she. But the Tsar watched her, and saw
that she was sorrowful, and there was no help for it. Then he asked
her again, "Art thou ill?"--"Nay, dear dad," said she. "I myself know
not what is the matter with me."

And so it went on, till the Tsar dreamt a dream, and in this dream it
was said to him, "Thy daughter grieves because she loves so much the
youth who drove the unclean spirit out of her." Then the Tsar asked
her, "Dost thou love this youth?"--And she answered, "I do, dear
father."--"Then why didst thou not tell me before, my daughter?" said
he. Then he sent for his heyducks and commanded them, saying, "Go this
instant to such and such a kingdom, and there ye will find the youth
who cured my daughter; bring him to me." Then they went on and on
until they found him, and he took just the same laths and boards that
he had had before, and went with them. The Tsar met him, and bought
all his boards, and when they split them in pieces, lo! they were full
of precious stones. Then the Tsar took him to his own house and gave
him his daughter. And they lived right merrily together.





Next: The Story Of Tremsin The Bird Zhar And Nastasia The Lovely Maid Of The Sea

Previous: The Story Of Little Tsar Novishny The False Sister And The Faithful Beasts



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