Page:Korolenko - Makar's Dream and Other Stories.djvu/228

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say they'd drink water if it didn't taste so bad. If you want to know what happens I'll tell you, because I've been about the world and am not a stay-at-home like you. I have lived in the city for more than a year, and this is the first time I have ever worked for a Jew."

"And isn't it a sin to work for a Jew?" asked the miller.

"It would be for any one else; a soldier can do anything. We get a paper given to us that says so."

"Can a piece of paper really——"

Then the soldier began telling the miller very affably all about Khapun and how he carries off one Jew a year on this day.

And if you don't know it, I might as well tell you that Khapun is a regular Hebrew devil. He is just like ours in every way, black, with horns just like him, and he has wings like a huge bat; the only difference is that he wears ringlets and a skull cap, and only has power over Jews. If a Christian meets him at midnight in the desert, or even on the shore of a pond, he runs away like a scary dog. But he can do what he likes with the Jews, so he catches one every year and carries him away.

And Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the day fixed for him to make his choice. Long before that day comes the Jews weep and tear their clothes, and even put ashes out of their stoves on their heads for some reason or other. On the evening of the day