THE MAGIC RING
O NCE upon a time there lived an old couple who had one son called Martin. Now when the old man's time had come, he stretched himself out on his bed and died. Though all his life long he had toiled and moiled, he only left his widow and son two hundred florins. The old woman determined to put by the money for a rainy day; but alas! the rainy day was close at hand, for their meal was all consumed, and who is prepared to face starvation with two hundred florins at their disposal ? So the old woman counted out a hundred of her florins, and giving them to Martin, told him to go into the town and lay in a store of meal for a year.
So Martin started off for the town. When he reached the meat-market he found the whole place in turmoil, and a great noise of angry voices and barking of dogs. Mixing in the crowd, he noticed a stag-hound which the butchers had caught and tied to a post, and which was being flogged in a merciless manner. Overcome with pity, Martin spoke to the butchers, saying:
' Friends, why are you beating the poor dog so cruelly ? '
'We have every right to beat him,' they replied; 'he has just devoured a newly-killed pig.'
' Leave off beating him,' said Martin, ' and sell him to me instead.'
'If you choose to buy him,' answered the butchers derisively ; ' but for such a treasure we won't take a penny less than a hundred florins.'
' A hundred!' exclaimed Martin. ' Well, so be it, if you will not take less; ' and, taking the money out of his pocket, he handed it over in exchange for the dog, whose name was Schurka.
When Martin got home, his mother met him with the question :
' Well, what have you bought ? '
' Schurka, the dog,' replied Martin, pointing to his new possession.