Russian Folk-Tales/Mark the Rich

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In a country, in a kingdom far away, once upon a time there lived a merchant, Mark the Rich; and, what with all his estates and revenues, you couldn't count them. He lived, and was merry, and never suffered the poor man to come to his door, so ungracious was he.

One day he had a dream: "Make ready, Mark the Rich, and wait. God Himself will be thy Guest!" In the morning Mark got up, called his wife, and bade her make a banquet. He covered all of his courtyard with scarlet velvet and golden brocade, and at every side-path he posted journeymen and servants to keep out all the hunger-brothers and scare them outside. Then Mark the Rich came, and sat awaiting the Lord. The hours went by, and never a guest. And then the poor heard that there was a great feast at the house of Mark the Rich. They all gathered round for the hallowed gifts; but the journeymen and servants drove them all away. But one poor beggar, bent with age, and all in rags, went up to the door of Mark the Rich. And as Mark the Rich saw him from the window, he cried out in a fierce voice: "Hi, you sluggards and louts! Eyes and no eyes? Look at the beast that is traipseing up and down our courtyard: get rid of him."

And all the servants scampered up, laid hold of the poor old fellow, and rushed him out the back way. One good old woman saw him, and said: "Come to me, you poor old beggar; I will feed and rest you." She took him in, fed him, gave him to drink, and laid him to sleep; and thus Mark the Rich had never found the Lord for whom he was waiting.

At midnight the lady had a dream, and heard some one knock at the window and ask: "Old and righteous man, are you sleeping here to-night?" "Yes," said the old man. "In a village near by a poor peasant has had a son; how will you reward him?" The poor man said: "He shall be lord of all the domains of Mark the Rich!" Next day the poor old man left his hostess and went forth to roam. The old peasant woman went to Mark the Rich and told him of her dream.

Mark went to the peasant and asked for the baby. "Give him to me—I will adopt him; he shall grow up; I will teach him well; and when I die he shall have all my wealth." This was what he said, but his thoughts were quite different. He took the little boy, went home, and threw him into a snow-drift. "Lie there and freeze; that's the way to become master of Mark's wealth!" But that same night hunters, passing by, hunting for hares, found the boy, took him home, and brought him up.

Many years passed by, and much water flowed in the river, and one day Mark the Rich went out with those huntsmen, saw the young boy, heard his story, and spoke about him, and knew it was the same he had cast forth. So Mark the Rich asked the youth to go home and take a letter to his wife; but in that letter he bade her poison the boy like a dog. The poor foundling set out on his road; when on his way, he met a poor man with nothing on but a shirt; but this beggar was Christ Himself. He stopped the wayfarer, took the letter, and held it for one minute, and the letter was changed in all it said. The wife of Mark the Rich was to receive the bearer with all honour, and marry him to her daughter. It was said, and it was done.

Mark the Rich returned home; and was very wroth at seeing his new son-in-law, and said: "In the evening go to my distillery and look after the work"; whilst he secretly told the men to hunt him into the burning cauldron as soon as ever he appeared. So the boy made ready to go to the distillery; but a sudden sickness befell him, and he had to go back home. Mark the Rich waited his time, and went to see what had become of his son-in-law, and tumbled into his own distillers' clutches, into the burning cauldron!

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.