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362 A Soldier Rescues a Tsarevna 153. A soldier was posted to distant borders. He served his prescribed term, received a clear discharge, and went back to his homeland. He walked through many lands, through many countries. He came to a capital city and stopped at the dwelling of a poor old woman. He began questioning her:“How is it with you, Granny, is everything going well?”“Oh, Soldier! Our tsar has this beautiful daughter, Marfa Tsarevna. This foreign prince has been courting her. The tsarevna didn’t want to marry him, and he has sent down an evil spell onto her. She’s been ill these three years! The evil spirit gives her no rest at night; the dear heart struggles and shouts out of her mind . . . . The tsar can do nothing more. He’s brought in wizards and healers, but nothing can save her.” The soldier heard all this and thought to himself,“Let me go and try my luck. Maybe I can save the tsarevna. The tsar will reward me with a little something for the road.” He took his great coat, cleaned its buttons with chalk, put it on, and marched to the palace. A court servant girl saw him, found out why he had come, took him by the hand, and led him to the tsar himself. “Greetings, Soldier! What good have you to say?” said the tsar. “I wish you good health, Your Royal Highness! I’ve heard that your Marfa Tsarevna is ill. I can cure her.” “Fine, Brother! If you cure her, I’ll cover you with gold from head to foot.” “Only give the order, Your Highness, that I am to be given everything that I demand.” “Just say what you need!” “So then, give me a stock of iron bullets, a measure of walnuts, a pile of candles, and two decks of cards, and an iron claw with five teeth, and an iron man with springs.” “Very well. By tomorrow everything will be ready.” So they prepared everything that was needed. The soldier locked all the windows and doors in the palace and sealed them with an Orthodox cross. He left only one door unlocked, and he stood next to it as a sentry . He lit the room with candles and placed the cards on the table, and A Soldier Rescues a Tsarevna h 363 he shoved some of the iron bullets and walnuts in his pockets. He dealt with everything and waited. Suddenly, exactly at midnight, the unclean spirit flew up, but wherever he tried, he couldn’t enter. He flew around and around the palace and finally caught sight of that one open door. He turned himself into a human and thought to go in. “Who’s there?” shouted the soldier. “Let me in, Soldier! I’m a court servant.” “Where have you been, you ugly mug!” “Wherever I was, I’m not there now! Give me some nuts to crack.” “There are a lot of you pagans here. If I shared a nut with each, there’d be nothing left for me.” “Oh, please give me one!” “Well, take it.” And he gave him a bullet. The devil put the bullet in his mouth and chomped and chomped with his teeth, but he didn’t manage to crush it. And so he gnawed, but couldn’t gnaw it either! While he was fussing with the iron bullet, the soldier cracked and ate about twenty walnuts. “Hey, Soldier,” said the devil, “you’ve got strong teeth!”“You’re weak, I see!” replied the soldier. “Why, I served the tsar twenty-five years and dulled my teeth on hardtack.You should have seen what I was like in my youth!” “Let’s play cards, Soldier!” “And what shall we play for?” “Obviously, for money!” “Oh, you pagan mug! What kind of money does a soldier have? For his pay he gets three coppers a day, and he has to buy soap and shoe polish and chalk and paste, and he has to go to the bathhouse. Let’s play knocks, if you like.” “Why not!” So they began to play for blows. The devil won three blows from the soldier. “Let me start hitting you!” “Let’s go to ten and then hit. There’s no point in soiling your hands with just three blows!” “All right.” They started playing again. The soldier got a flush of clubs and counted out ten blows against the devil. “Well,” he said...


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