The Devil And The Three Slovak Lads





There was once, I don't know where, in Slavonia, a man who had three

sons. "Well, my sons," said he one day to them, "go to see the land; to

see the world. There is a country where even the yellow-hammer bathes in

wine, and where even the fence of the yards is made of strings of

sausages; but if you wish to get on there you must first learn the

language of the country." The three lads were quite delighted with the

description of the wonderful country, and were ready to start off at

once. The father accompanied them as far as the top of a high mountain;

it took them three days to get to the top, and when they reached the

summit they were on the border of the happy land: here the father slung

an empty bag on every one of the lads' shoulders, and, pointing out to

the eldest one the direction, exclaimed, "Ah! can you see Hungary?" and

with this he took leave of them quite as satisfied as if he had then

handed them the key of happiness. The three lads went on and walked into

Hungary; and their first desire was to learn Hungarian, in accord with

their father's direction. The moment they stepped over the border they

met a man, who inquired where they were going? They informed him, "to

learn Hungarian." "Don't go any further, my lads," said the man, "the

school year consists of three days with me, at the end of which you will

have acquired the requisite knowledge." The three lads stayed; and at

the end of the three days one of them had happily learned by heart the

words "we three"; the other, "for a cheese"; and the third, "that's

right." The three Slovak lads were delighted, and wouldn't learn any

more; and so they continued on their journey. They walked till they came

to a forest, where they found a murdered man by the road-side; they

looked at him, and to their astonishment they recognised the murdered

man as their late master whom they had just left; and while they were

sighing, not knowing what to do, the rural policeman arrived on the

spot. He began to question them about the murdered man, saying, "Who

killed him?" The first, not knowing anything else, answered, "We three."

"Why?" asked the policeman. "For a cheese," replied the second. "If this

is so," growled the policeman, "I shall have to put you in irons."

Whereupon the third said, "That's right." The lads were escorted by the

policeman, who also intended to get assistance to carry away the dead

man; but the moment they left, the dead man jumped up, shook himself,

and regained his ordinary appearance, and became a sooty devil, with

long ears and tail, who stood laughing at the lads, being highly amused

at their stupidity, which enabled him to deceive them so easily.





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