The Devil and Gipsy (Russian Folk Tale)

An old gipsy went to engage himself as servant to a devil; the devil said: “I will give you what you wish to bring me firewood and water regularly, and to put fire under the kettle.” “Good!” The devil gave him a pail and said: “Go yonder to the well and draw some water.”

Our gipsy went off, got some water into the pail, and drew it up with a hook; but, being old, he couldn”t draw it out, and was obliged to pour the water out, in order not to lose the pail in the well. But what was he now to return home with? Well, our gipsy took some stakes out of a fence, and grubbed round about the well, as if he were digging. The devil waited and waited, and as the gipsy didn”t appear himself; of course he didn”t appear with the water. After awhile he went himself to meet the gipsy, and without thinking inquired: “But why do you loiter so? Why haven”t you brought water by this time?” “Well, what? I want to dig out the whole well, and bring it to you!” “But you would have wasted time, if you had purposed anything of the sort; then you wouldn”t have brought the pail in time, that the quantity of firewood might not be diminished.” And he drew out the water and carried it himself. “Eh! if I had but known, I should have brought it long ago.”

The devil sent him once to the wood for firewood. The gipsy started off, but rain assailed him in the wood and wetted him through; the old fellow caught cold and couldn”t stoop after the sticks. What was he to do? Well, he took and pulled bast; he pulled several heaps, went round the wood, and tied one tree to another with strips of the bast. The devil waited, waited on, and was out of his wits on account of the gipsy. He went himself, and when he saw what was going on: “What are you doing, loiterer?” said he. “What am I doing? I want to bring you wood. I'm tying the whole forest into one bundle, in order not to do useless work.” The devil saw that he was having a bad time of it with the gipsy, took up the firewood, and went home.

After settling his affairs at home, he went to an older devil to ask his advice: “I've hired a gipsy, but he”s quite a nuisance; we”re tolerably ”cute,” says he, “but he”s still stronger and ”cuter than we. Unless I kill him–”Good, when he lies down to sleep, kill him, that he mayn”t lead us by the nose any more.” The time came to go home; they lay down to sleep; but the gipsy evidently noticed something, for he placed his fur-coat on the bench where he usually slept, and crept himself into a corner under the bench. When the time came, the devil thought that the gipsy was now in a dead sleep, took up an iron club, and beat the fur-coat till the sound went on all sides. He then lay down to sleep, thinking: “Oho! it”s now amen for the gipsy!” But the gipsy grunted: “Oh!” and made a rustling in the corner. “What ails you?” “Oh, a flea bit me.”

The devil went again to the older one for advice: “But where to kill him?” said he. “When I smashed him with a club, he only made a rustling and said: “A flea bit me.”“ “Then pay him up now,” said the elder devil, “as much as he wants, and pack him off about his business.” The gipsy chose a bag with ducats and went off. Then the devil was sorry about the money, and consulted the older one again. “Overtake the gipsy, and say that the one of you that kicks a stone best, so that the sound goes three miles, shall have the money.” The devil overtook him: “Stay, gipsy! I've something to say to you.” “What are you after, son of the enemy?” “Oh, stay, let us kick; the one that kicks loudest against a stone, let his be the money.” “Now then, kick away,” said the gipsy. The devil kicked once, twice, till it resounded in their ears; but the gipsy meanwhile poured some water on it: “Eh! what”s that, you fool?” “When I kick a dry stone, water spurts out.” “Ah! when he kicks, tremble! water has spurted out of the stone.”

The devil went again for advice. The elder one said: Let the one who throws the club highest have the money.” The gipsy had now got some miles on his way; he looked round; the devil was behind him: “Stop! wait, gipsy!” What do you want, son of the enemy?” “The one of us that throws the club highest, let his be the money.” “Well, let us throw now. I've two brothers up yonder in heaven, both smiths, and it will just suit them either for a hammer or for tongs.” The devil threw, so that it whizzed, and was scarcely visible. The gipsy took it by the end, scarcely held it up, and shouted: “Hold out your hands there, brothers–hey!” But the devil seized him by the hand: “Ah, stop! don”t throw; it would be a pity to lose it.”

The elder devil advised him again: “Overtake him once more, and say, “The one that runs fastest to a certain point, let him have the money.”“ The devil overtook him; the gipsy said: “Do you know what? I shan”t contend with you any more, for you don”t deserve it; but I've a young son, Hare, who”s only just three days old; if you overtake him, you shall measure yourself with me.” The gipsy espied a hare in a firwood: “There he is! little Hare! now, then, Hare! Catch him up!” When the hare started he went hither and thither in bounds, only a line of dust rose behind him. “Bah!” said the devil, “he doesn”t run straight.” “In my family no one ever did run straight. He runs as he pleases.”

The elder devil advised him to wrestle; the stronger was to have the money. “Eh!” said the gipsy; “you hear the terms for me to wrestle with you: I have a father, he is so old that for the last seven years I have carried him food into a cave; if you floor him, then you shall wrestle with me.” But the gipsy knew of a bear, and led the devil to his cave. “Go,” said he, “in there; wake him up, and wrestle with him.” The devil went in and said: “Get up, long-beard! let us have a wrestle.” Alas! when the bear began to hug him, when he began to claw him, he beat him out, he turned him out, and threw him down on the floor of the cave.

The elder devil advised that the one who whistled best, so that it could be heard for three miles, should have the money. The devil whistled so that it resounded and whizzed again. But the gipsy said: “Do you know what? When I whistle you will go blind and deaf; bind up your eyes and ears.” He did so. The gipsy took a mallet for splitting logs, and banged it once and twice against his ears. “Oh, stop! Oh! don”t whistle, or you”ll kill me! May ill luck smite you with your money! Go where you will never be heard of again!” That”s all.

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