The Golden Mountain
Once upon a time a merchant’s son had too much fun spending money, and the day came when he saw himself ruined; he had nothing to eat, nothing to drink. He took a shovel and went to the market place to see if perchance somebody would hire him as a worker.
A rich, proud merchant, worth many, many thousands, came along in a gilded carriage. All the fellows at the market place, as soon as they perceived him, rushed away and hid themselves in the corners. Only one remained, and this one was our merchant’s son.
“Dost thou look for work, good fellow? Let me hire thee,” the very rich merchant said to him.
“So be it; that’s what I came here for.”
“And thy price?”
“A hundred rubles a day will be sufficient for me.”
“Why so much?”
“If too much, go and look for some one else; plenty of people were around and when they saw thee coming, all of them rushed away.”
“All right. To-morrow come to the landing place.”
The next day, early in the morning, our merchant’s son arrived at the landing; the very rich merchant was already there waiting.
They boarded a ship and went to sea. For quite a long time they journeyed, and finally they perceived an island. Upon that island there were high mountains, and near the shore something seemed to be in flames.
“Yonder is something like fire,” said the merchant’s son.
“No, it is my golden palace.”
They landed, came ashore, and look there! the rich merchant’s wife is hastening to meet him, and along with her their young daughter, a lovely girl, prettier than you could think or even dream of.
The family met; they greeted one another and went to the palace. And along with them went their new workman. They sat around the oak table and ate and drank and were cheerful.
“One day does not count,” the rich merchant said; “let us have a good time and leave work for to-morrow.”
The young workman was a fine, brave fellow, handsome and stately, and the merchant’s lovely daughter liked him well.
She left the room and made him a sign to follow her. Then she gave him a touchstone and a flint.
“Take it,” she said; “when thou art in need, it will be useful.”
The next day the very rich merchant with his hired workman went to the high golden mountain. The young fellow saw at once that there was no use trying to climb or even to crawl up.
“Well,” said the merchant, “let us have a drink for courage.”
And he gave the fellow some drowsy drink. The fellow drank and fell asleep.
The rich merchant took out a sharp knife, killed a wretched horse, cut it open, put the fellow inside, pushed in the shovel, and sewed the horse’s skin together, and himself sat down in the bushes.
All at once crows came flying, black crows with iron beaks. They took hold of the carcass, lifted it up to the top of the high mountain, and began to pick at it.
From Folk tales from the Russian, by Verra de Blumenthal.
Chicago, New York, London: Rand, McNally and Company, 1903.