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The old devil, having finished with the second brother, went to Ivan the Fool. This time he disguised himself as a General, the same as in the case of Simeon, and, appearing before Ivan, said: "Get an army together. It is disgraceful for the ruler of a kingdom to be without an army. You call your people to assemble, and I will form them into a fine large army."
Ivan took the supposed General's advice, and said: "Well, you may form my people into an army, but you must also teach them to sing the songs I like."
The old devil then went through Ivan's kingdom to secure recruits for the army, saying: "Come, shave your heads [the heads of recruits are always shaved in Russia] and I will give each of you a red hat and plenty of vodki" (whiskey).
At this the fools only laughed, and said: "We can have all the vodki we want, for we distill it ourselves; and of hats, our little girls make all we want, of any color we please, and with handsome fringes."
Thus was the devil foiled in securing recruits for his army; so he returned to Ivan and said: "Your fools will not volunteer to be soldiers. It will therefore be necessary to force them."
"Very well," replied Ivan, "you may use force if you want to."
The old devil then announced that all the fools must become soldiers, and those who refused, Ivan would punish with death.
The fools went to the General; and said: "You tell us that Ivan will punish with death all those who refuse to become soldiers, but you have omitted to state what will be done with us soldiers.
We have been told that we are only to be killed."
"Yes, that is true," was the reply.
The fools on hearing this became stubborn and refused to go.
"Better kill us now if we cannot avoid death, but we will not become soldiers," they declared.
"Oh! you fools," said the old devil, "soldiers may and may not be killed; but if you disobey Ivan's orders you will find certain death at his hands."
The fools remained absorbed in thought for some time and finally went to Ivan to question him in regard to the matter.
On arriving at his house they said: "A General came to us with an order from you that we were all to become soldiers, and if we refused you were to punish us with death. Is it true?"
Ivan began to laugh heartily on hearing this, and said: "Well, how I alone can punish you with death is something I cannot understand. If I was not a fool myself I would be able to explain it to you, but as it is I cannot."
"Well, then, we will not go," they said.
"Very well," replied Ivan, "you need not become soldiers unless you wish to."
The old devil, seeing his schemes about to prove failures, went to the ruler of Tarakania and became his friend, saying: "Let us go and conquer Ivan's kingdom. He has no money, but he has plenty of cattle, provisions, and various other things that would be useful to us."
The Tarakanian ruler gathered his large army together, and equipping it with cannons and rifles, crossed the boundary line into Ivan's kingdom. The people went to Ivan and said: "The ruler of Tarakania is here with a large army to fight us."
"Let them come," replied Ivan.
The Tarakanian ruler, after crossing the line into Ivan's kingdom, looked in vain for soldiers to fight against; and waiting some time and none appearing, he sent his own warriors to attack the villages.
They soon reached the first village, which they began to plunder.
The fools of both sexes looked calmly on, offering not the least resistance when their cattle and provisions were being taken from them. On the contrary, they invited the soldiers to come and live with them, saying: "If you, dear friends, find it is difficult to earn a living in your own land, come and live with us, where everything is plentiful."
The soldiers decided to remain, finding the people happy and prosperous, with enough surplus food to supply many of their neighbors. They were surprised at the cordial greetings which they everywhere received, and, returning to the ruler of Tarakania, they said: "We cannot fight with these people - take us to another place. We would much prefer the dangers of actual warfare to this unsoldierly method of subduing the village."
The Tarakanian ruler, becoming enraged, ordered the soldiers to destroy the whole kingdom, plunder the villages, burn the houses and provisions, and slaughter the cattle.
"Should you disobey my orders," said he, "I will have every one of you executed."
The soldiers, becoming frightened, started to do as they were ordered, but the fools wept bitterly, offering no resistance, men, women, and children all joining in the general lamentation.
"Why do you treat us so cruelly?" they cried to the invading soldiers. "Why do you wish to destroy everything we have? If you have more need of these things than we have, why not take them with you and leave us in peace?"
The soldiers, becoming saddened with remorse, refused further to pursue their path of destruction - the entire army scattering in many directions.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER XII.