34 THE THREE WONDERFUL BEGGARS
' He will have to lie there till he has thrown up the twelve ships of Mark the Rich which he swallowed. Then he may pluuge back into the sea and heal his back.'
And the Serpent King closed his eyes, turned round on his other side, and began to snore so loud that the windows rattled.
In all haste the lovely girl helped Vassili out of the chest, and showed him part of his way back. He thanked her very politely, and hurried off.
When he reached the strait the whale asked: 'Have you thought of me?'
' Yes, as soon as I am on the other side I will tell you what you want to know.'
When he was on the other side Vassili said to the whale : ' Throw up those twelve ships of Mark's which you swallowed three years ago.'
The great fish heaved itself up and threw up all the twelve ships and their crews. Then he shook himself for joy and plunged into the sea.
Vassili went on further till he reached the ferrv, where the old man asked : ' Did you think of me? '
' Yes, and as soon as you have ferried me across I will tell you what you want to know.'
When they had crossed over, Vassili said: ' Let the next man who comes stay in the boat, but do you step on shore, push the boat off, and you will be free, and the other man must take your place.'
Then Vassili went on further still, and soon came to the old oak tree, pushed it with his foot, and it fell over. There, at the roots, was more gold and silver than even Mark the Rich had.
And now the twelve ships which the whale had thrown up came sailing along and anchored close by. On the deck of the first ship 6tood the three beggars whom Vassili had met formerly, and they said: ' Heaven has blessed you, Vassili.' Then they vanished away and he never saw them again.