Russian Folk-Tales/Elijah the Prophet and St. Nicholas

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ELIJAH THE PROPHET AND ST. NICHOLAS


Once, a long time ago, there lived a peasant. He always observed St. Nicholas' day, but never, never, that of St. Elias; he even worked on it. He used to say a Te Deum to Nicholas, and burn a taper, but never gave as much as a thought to the Prophet Elijah.

One day Elijah and Nicholas were walking through this peasant's fields, going along and surveying; and the ears were so large, so full, that it warmed one's heart to look at them!

"What a fine crop this will be!" said Nicholas. "Yes, and he's a fine fellow, a good, brave peasant, pious; he remembers God, and reveres the Holy Saints. Whatever he turns his hand to shall prosper."

"Ha, let's have a look, brother," Elijah demurred. "Will there be so much over? My lightnings shall glint and my hail beat his field down; then your peasant shall learn right, and regard my name-day."

So they wrangled and argued, and at last agreed to go each his own way.

St. Nicholas at once went off to the peasant, and said: "Go and sell the Father by St. Elias' all your standing corn: not a blade will be left; it will be destroyed by hail."

Up the peasant dashed to the pope: "Oh, bátyushka, won't you buy all my standing corn? I'll sell you my whole field; I am so short of money; take it and give it me. Do buy it, Father; I'll sell it cheap."

They haggled and bargained, and at last agreed. The peasant took his cash and went home.

Time went by—not much, nor little; a heavy thundrous cloud gathered, and, with frightsome lightning and hail, played on the peasant's field, cut through his crops like a scythe, and left not one blade to tell the tale.

Next day, Elijah and Nicholas were faring through, and Elijah said: "Look how I've blasted the peasant's field!"

"The peasant's field? No, my brother, no; you've done your work thoroughly; but it belongs to the pope by St. Elias, not to the peasant."

"What! That pope?"

"Oh, yes; about a week ago the peasant sold the field to the pope, and got hard cash for it! And the pope is crying over the spilt money."

"That won't do," said Elijah; "I will grow the meadow anew—'twill be as good as it was."

They had their talk out and went on their way.

Up went St. Nicholas to the peasant once again. "Go and see the pope," he said, "and redeem your field; you won't lose by it."

The peasant went to see the pope. "The Lord has grievously afflicted you, has smitten your field with hail, as smooth as a board. Let's share the cost of it; I will take back my field, and to relieve your loss will return you half the money."

Oh, how glad the pope was to consent! They shook hands on it at once.

Meanwhile, somehow or other, the peasant's field righted itself; new shoots sprang up out of the old roots, the rain poured down on them, and nourished the earth; wonderful fresh corn grew up, lofty and thick; not a weed to be seen; and the ears were so full that they bowed down to earth. The little sun warmed them, and the rye was warmed through, and waved like a field of gold. The peasant bound up sheaf after sheaf, built rick after rick; carted it away and stacked it.

Just then Elijah and St. Nicholas were once more passing by. Elijah looked blithely at the field and said: "Just look, Nicholas, what a blessing I have wrought! This is my reward to the pope, and he'll never forget it all his life."

"The pope! No, brother; it is a great boon, but then this is the peasant's field; the pope hasn't a rod of it!"

"Wha-at?"

"It is true. After the meadow had been battered by hail, the peasant went up to the pope and bought it back at half price."

"Stop a bit," said the Prophet Elijah, "I'll take all the good out of it; out of all the peasant's ricks he shall not thresh more than six gallons at a time."

"Here, this looks bad," thought St. Nicholas, and instantly went to see the peasant, and said: "See to it; when you start threshing, never take more than a sheaf at a time on the threshing-floor."

So the peasant set to threshing, and he got six gallons out of every sheaf; all his granaries and lofts were full up with rye, and still there was much left over; he built new storehouses, and filled them full to the flush.

But one day Elijah the Prophet and St. Nicholas were passing by his courtyard, and Elijah glanced up and said: "Why has he built these new granaries? How can he stock them all?"

"They're full up," St. Nicholas replied.

"How did he get so much grain?"

"Oho! Every sheaf yielded him six gallons, and, as soon as he started threshing, he brought them in sheaf by sheaf."

"Oh, my brother Nicholas!" Elijah guessed: "you must have told him what to do!"

"Well, I thought it all out, and was going to say . . ."

"What are you after? It's all your work. Never mind; your peasant shall still have a reminder of me."

"What will you do?"

"I shall not tell you this time!"

"Well, if evil is to be, it will come."

Nicholas thought, and again went to the peasant, told him to buy two tapers, one big and one small, and gave him instructions.

Next day Elijah the Prophet and St. Nicholas were out together in the guise of wanderers, and the peasant happened to meet them, carrying two waxen candles-one big one that cost a rouble, and a little one that cost a copek.

"Where are you going to, peasant?" St. Nicholas said.

"Oh, I am going to light the rouble taper to the Prophet Elijah; he has been so charitable to me. My field was ravaged by hail, so he intervened, bátyushka, and gave me a crop twice as good."

"For whom is the farthing dip?"

"Oh, for St. Nicholas!" the peasant said, and pursued his way.

"There you are, Elijah," said St. Nicholas: "you said I gave everything away to the peasant; now you see what the truth is."

And with this the dispute was ended: Elijah the Prophet was reconciled, and ceased persecuting the peasant with hail-storms, so that he lived a merry life from that day and honoured both name-days equally.


This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.