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Ivan The Fool
by [?]

CHAPTER I

In a certain kingdom there lived a rich peasant, who had three sons–Simeon (a soldier), Tarras-Briukhan (fat man), and Ivan (a fool)–and one daughter, Milania, born dumb. Simeon went to war, to serve the Czar; Tarras went to a city and became a merchant; and Ivan, with his sister, remained at home to work on the farm.

For his valiant service in the army, Simeon received an estate with high rank, and married a noble’s daughter. Besides his large pay, he was in receipt of a handsome income from his estate; yet he was unable to make ends meet. What the husband saved, the wife wasted in extravagance. One day Simeon went to the estate to collect his income, when the steward informed him that there was no income, saying:

“We have neither horses, cows, fishing-nets, nor implements; it is necessary first to buy everything, and then to look for income.”

Simeon thereupon went to his father and said:

“You are rich, batiushka [little father], but you have given nothing to me. Give me one-third of what you possess as my share, and I will transfer it to my estate.”

The old man replied: “You did not help to bring prosperity to our household. For what reason, then, should you now demand the third part of everything? It would be unjust to Ivan and his sister.”

“Yes,” said Simeon; “but he is a fool, and she was born dumb. What need have they of anything?”

“See what Ivan will say.”

Ivan’s reply was: “Well, let him take his share.”

Simeon took the portion allotted to him, and went again to serve in the army.

Tarras also met with success. He became rich and married a merchant’s daughter, but even this failed to satisfy his desires, and he also went to his father and said, “Give me my share.”

The old man, however, refused to comply with his request, saying: “You had no hand in the accumulation of our property, and what our household contains is the result of Ivan’s hard work. It would be unjust,” he repeated, “to Ivan and his sister.”

Tarras replied: “But he does not need it. He is a fool, and cannot marry, for no one will have him; and sister does not require anything, for she was born dumb.” Turning then to Ivan he continued: “Give me half the grain you have, and I will not touch the implements or fishing-nets; and from the cattle I will take only the dark mare, as she is not fit to plow.”

Ivan laughed and said: “Well, I will go and arrange matters so that Tarras may have his share,” whereupon Tarras took the brown mare with the grain to town, leaving Ivan with one old horse to work on as before and support his father, mother, and sister.

CHAPTER II.

It was disappointing to the Stary Tchert (Old Devil) that the brothers did not quarrel over the division of the property, and that they separated peacefully; and he cried out, calling his three small devils (Tchertionki).

“See here,” said he, “there are living three brothers–Simeon the soldier, Tarras-Briukhan, and Ivan the Fool. It is necessary that they should quarrel. Now they live peacefully, and enjoy each other’s hospitality. The Fool spoiled all my plans. Now you three go and work with them in such a manner that they will be ready to tear each other’s eyes out. Can you do this?”

“We can,” they replied.

“How will you accomplish it?”

“In this way: We will first ruin them to such an extent that they will have nothing to eat, and we will then gather them together in one place where we are sure that they will fight.”

“Very well; I see you understand your business. Go, and do not return to me until you have created a feud between the three brothers–or I will skin you alive.”