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371 The Two Ivans, a Soldier’s Sons 155. In a certain tsardom, in a certain land, there lived and dwelt a peasant. The time came, and he was conscripted into the army. He was leaving his pregnant wife. He spoke his farewells, saying,“Look here, Wife, live well, don’t make fun of kind folks, don’t ruin the household, and wait for me. If God permits it, I’ll come back retired. I’ll return to you. Here are twenty-five rubles. Whether you have a daughter or a son doesn’t matter. Keep the money until they are grown. Then, if you have a daughter, this will be her dowry. And if God gives you a son and he lives to adulthood, then he’ll find plenty of support in this money.” Some three months later, the woman gave birth to two twin boys, and she called them both Ivan, the soldier’s sons. So the boys grew—like wheat dough in the leavening, they stretched upward. They knocked on ten years, and their mother gave them over to learning. They soon learned to read and write, and they outshone the children of boyars and merchants. Nobody could read or write or respond to questions better than they. The boyars’ and merchants’ children envied them, and every day they would hit them or pinch them. One brother said to the other,“Are they going to go on hitting and pinching us for long? Mummy can’t keep us in clothes. She can’t buy enough caps for us. Whatever we put on, our classmates tear it all into shreds. Let’s deal with them in our own way!” So they agreed to stand up for each other and not let the other down. The next day, the boyars’ and merchants’ children went after them, but they’d had enough of it, and they started paying them back. One got an eye poked out, another’s hand went sailing off, and somebody else lost a head! They beat up every last one of them. Then the guards came running up, tied them together, these good lads, and put them in jail. News of the affair got to the tsar, and he called the boys before him. He questioned them about everything, and then ordered them released. “They aren’t guilty,” he said. “God already punished those who started the fight.” So the two Ivans, the soldier’s sons, grew up. And they asked their mother,“Mummy, did our father not leave us any money at all? If he did 372 h The Two Ivans, a Soldier’s Sons leave us some, then give it to us, and we will go to the market in town and buy ourselves fine horses.” Their mother gave them the fifty rubles—twenty-five each—and instructed them: “Listen, my children. When you are entering the town, bow to everyone you meet or who crosses your path.” “All right, dear parent!” So the brothers set off for the town, and they came to the horse yard and stared. There were many horses there, but there wasn’t one they could choose. None of them came up to the needs of these young men! One brother said to the other,“Let’s go to the other end of the square and take a look at what that huge crowd is milling about for.” So they went there and made their way through the crowd. There stood two stallions chained with iron chains to two oaken posts, one by six chains and the other by twelve. The horses were yanking at the chains and biting at their bits, and they were pawing the earth with their hooves. No one dared go up to them. “What’s the price of your stallions?” Ivan the soldier’s son asked the owner. “Don’t stick your nose into this business, Brother! He’s for sale, but not to the likes of you. There’s no point to your even asking.” “Why, may I ask? You don’t know; perhaps I’ll buy them. Just let me take a look at their teeth.” The owner laughed.“Go ahead, if you don’t care about your head.”Immediately , one brother went up to a stallion, the one chained with six chains, and the other brother went up to the stallion chained with twelve chains. They started to take a look at their teeth, but no way! The stallions reared up...


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