THE THREE WONDERFUL BEGGARS 29
ner very much. They dressed Vassili in fine clothes and next day he was married to Anastasia.
In due time, Mark returned from his travels. His wife, daughter, and son-in-law all went out to meet him. When Mark saw Vassili he flew into a terrible ras;e with his wife. 'How dared you marry my daughter without my consent?' he asked.
' I only carried out your orders,' said she. ' Here is your letter.'
Mark read it. It certainly was his handwriting, but by no means his wishes.
' Well,' thought he, 'you've escaped me three times, but I think I shall get the better of you now.' And he waited a month and was very kind and pleasant to his daughter and her husband.
At the end of that time he said to Vassili one day, ' I want you to go for me to my friend the Serpent King, in his beautiful country at the world's end. Twelve 3Tears ago he built a castle on some land of mine. I want you to ask for the rent for those twelve years and also to find out from him what has become of my twelve ships which sailed for his country three years ago.'
Vassili dared not disobey. He said good-bye to his young wife, who cried bitterly at parting, hung a bag of biscuits over his shoulders, and set out.
I really cannot tell you whether the journey was long or short. As he tramped along he suddenly heard a voice saying : ' Vassili! where are you going ?'
Vassili looked about him, and, seeing no one, called out: 'Who spoke to me?'
' I did ; this old wide-spreading oak. Tell me where you are going.'
' I am going to the Serpent King to receive twelve years' rent from him.'
' When the time comes, remember me and ask the king: "Rotten to the roots, half dead but still green,