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Ivan having succeeded in plowing all but a small portion of his land, he returned the next day to finish it. The pain in his stomach continued, but he felt that he must go on with his work. He tried to start his plow, but it would not move; it seemed to have struck a hard root. It was the small devil in the ground who had wound his feet around the plowshares and held them.
"This is strange," thought Ivan. "There were never any roots here before, and this is surely one."
Ivan put his hand in the ground, and, feeling something soft, grasped and pulled it out. It was like a root in appearance, but seemed to possess life. Holding it up he saw that it was a little devil. Disgusted, he exclaimed, "See the nasty thing," and he proceeded to strike it a blow, intending to kill it, when the young devil cried out:
"Do not kill me, and I will grant your every wish."
"What can you do for me?"
"Tell me what it is you most wish for," the little devil replied.
Ivan, peasant-fashion, scratched the back of his head as he thought, and finally he said:
"I am dreadfully sick at my stomach. Can you cure me?"
"I can," the little devil said.
"Then do so."
The little devil bent toward the earth and began searching for roots, and when he found them he gave them to Ivan, saying: "If you will swallow some of these you will be immediately cured of whatsoever disease you are afflicted with."
Ivan did as directed, and obtained instant relief.
"I beg of you to let me go now," the little devil pleaded; "I will pass into the earth, never to return."
"Very well; you may go, and God bless you;" and as Ivan pronounced the name of God, the small devil disappeared into the earth like a flash, and only a slight opening in the ground remained.
Ivan placed in his hat what roots he had left, and proceeded to plow. Soon finishing his work, he turned his plow over and returned home.
When he reached the house he found his brother Simeon and his wife seated at the supper-table. His estate had been confiscated, and he himself had barely escaped execution by making his way out of prison, and having nothing to live upon had come back to his father for support.
Turning to Ivan he said: "I came to ask you to care for us until I can find something to do."
"Very well," Ivan replied; "you may remain with us."
Just as Ivan was about to sit down to the table Simeon's wife made a wry face, indicating that she did not like the smell of Ivan's sheep-skin coat; and turning to her husband she said, "I shall not sit at the table with a moujik [peasant] who smells like that."
Simeon the soldier turned to his brother and said: "My lady objects to the smell of your clothes. You may eat in the porch."
Ivan said: "Very well, it is all the same to me. I will soon have to go and feed my horse any way."
Ivan took some bread in one hand, and his kaftan (coat) in the other, and left the room.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER IV.