The Violet Fairy Book
The Story Of Three Wonderful Beggars
There once lived a merchant whose name was Mark, and whom people called 'Mark the
Rich.' He was a very hard-hearted man, for he could not bear poor people, and if he
caught sight of a beggar anywhere near his house, he would order the servants to drive
him away, or would set the dogs at him.
One day three very poor old men came begging to the door, and just as he was going to
let the fierce dogs loose on them, his little daughter, Anastasia, crept close up to him and
'Dear daddy, let the poor old men sleep here to-night, do--to please me.'
Her father could not bear to refuse her, and the three beggars were allowed to sleep in a
loft, and at night, when everyone in the house was fast asleep, little Anastasia got up,
climbed up to the loft, and peeped in.
The three old men stood in the middle of the loft, leaning on their sticks, with their long
grey beards flowing down over their hands, and were talking together in low voices.
'What news is there?' asked the eldest.
'In the next village the peasant Ivan has just had his seventh son. What shall we name
him, and what fortune shall we give him?' said the second.
The third whispered, 'Call him Vassili, and give him all the property of the hard-hearted
man in whose loft we stand, and who wanted to drive us from his door.'
After a little more talk the three made themselves ready and crept softly away.
Anastasia, who had heard every word, ran straight to her father, and told him all.
Mark was very much surprised; he thought, and thought, and in the morning he drove to
the next village to try and find out if such a child really had been born. He went first to
the priest, and asked him about the children in his parish.
'Yesterday,' said the priest, 'a boy was born in the poorest house in the village. I named
the unlucky little thing "Vassili." He is the seventh son, and the eldest is only seven years
old, and they hardly have a mouthful amongst them all. Who can be got to stand
godfather to such a little beggar boy?'
The merchant's heart beat fast, and his mind was full of bad thoughts about that poor little
baby. He would be godfather himself, he said, and he ordered a fine christening feast; so
the child was brought and christened, and Mark was very friendly to its father. After the
ceremony was over he took Ivan aside and said:
'Look here, my friend, you are a poor man. How can you afford to bring up the boy? Give
him to me and I'll make something of him, and I'll give you a present of a thousand
crowns. Is that a bargain?'