Czech Folk Tales/The soldier and the devil
THE SOLDIER AND THE DEVIL
A discharged soldier was going home. He had only threepence in his pocket. As he was going through a forest he met a beggar. The beggar asked him for a penny. The soldier gave him one, and went on his way. Then he met another beggar. This beggar was very ill, and he asked the soldier for a penny. So the soldier gave him the other penny. Then he met a third beggar. This beggar was half-dead. The soldier took pity on him and gave him the third penny. Soon after he had left the forest our Lord appeared to him, and in return for those three pennies He granted him three boons. For the first boon the soldier chose a pipe that should be full of tobacco whenever he wished, so that he might always have a smoke handy. The second boon he asked was that, if he wanted to put any one in his knapsack, they should be in it as soon as he said: "Leap into that knapsack."The third boon was that his purse should be full of gold coins whenever he knocked on it.
Our Lord said: "So be it!"
Soon afterwards he came to a mill and asked for a night's lodging. They said that they only had one room for themselves; the other one was haunted by a devil every midnight. But the soldier wasn't afraid. He said that they could leave him there alone; he didn't mind a bit.
He sat down at the table and played cards. When midnight came there was a terrible noise, and the devil appeared, sure enough. When he saw the soldier playing cards he grinned; he was sure he had him. So he sat down opposite him and began to play too. It was nearly one o'clock at last time for him to go, so he caught hold of the soldier and tried to tear him in pieces. But he had no success. For the soldier said : "Leap into my knapsack," and the devil was in it. Then the soldier threw the sack with the devil in it under the bed, and went to sleep in the bed.
In the morning, as soon as he had got up, the millers went to see if the soldier was still alive. They were greatly surprised to find him all right. They said they would give him anything he wanted, but he wouldn't take anything. Off he went, and called at a blacksmith's. He told the blacksmith to give the devil in the sack a good hammering, and then he let the devil go.
After that he came into a town. He heard that there was a count's daughter there who was an accomplished cardplayer. She won everybody's money from them. He went to her palace and asked her if she would play with him. She was ready. So they played and played, but she couldn't win all his money from him. for his purse was always fuller than before. It was late by now and the lady was sick of the game, so he went to bed. He put the three precious gifts on the table, but when he got up in the morning they were gone; the lady had stolen them from him. He grieved over his bad luck, but it was no use, and he had to leave the palace.
As he went on his way, he saw a fine apple-tree by the side of the road with delicious apples on it. So he took an apple and ate half of it. Then he went on his way, but he was surprised to see that everybody who looked at him ran away from him. So he went to a well and saw that he had horns on his head; that came from his eating the apple. Back he went, and he found a pear-tree; he ate half of a pear and the horns fell off.
He thought that he would give the other half of the apple to the lady, and perhaps she would get horns too. So he went and gave her the half apple. She enjoyed it very well, but soon horns grew on her head. The count called together all the doctors and asked them to operate on the horns. But the more they cut at the horns the longer they grew. So the king proclaimed that she would marry the man who should rid her of the horns, but if he failed, his life should be forfeit. So the soldier came back and told the lady that he would rid her of the horns if she would give him his three treasures back. She agreed at once. So he gave her the other half of the pear; she ate it, and the horns fell off.
The soldier was quite happy now. One day he met Death, and he said to him: "Leap into my knapsack." And Death was immediately imprisoned in the knapsack.
The soldier was carrying Death about for some time, until at last the Lord appeared to him and told him he must not do that: he must let Death go, for people could not die, and there would soon be too many of them in the world. So he let Death go. He wanted to go to Heaven himself. But he went to Hell, and as he drew near Hell the devils closed the gate, they were so frightened of him. When he reached the gate of Heaven, he knocked. St. Peter opened the gate, but he wouldn't let him in. The soldier asked him to let him have just one peep, so that at least he might know what Heaven looked like.
Now, he remembered that he still had his soldier's cloak in his knapsack, so he took it out of the knapsack and threw it into Heaven. Then he jumped after it and sat down on it, and then he said he was sitting on his own property. He sat there for a full hundred years, though it only seemed a short time to him. But he couldn't come to an agreement with St. Peter on the case, so our Lord told him that he must first die, for no living people were admitted into Heaven. So the soldier had to leave the premises. He returned to this world, and afterwards he went to Heaven again, and there he is still, as right as rain.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.
The longest-living author of this work died in 1925, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 97 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.
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