THE MAGIC RING
Whereupon his mother became very angry, and abused him roundly. He ought to be ashamed of himself, when there was scarcely a handful of meal in the house, to have spent the money on a useless brute like that. On the following day she sent him back to the town, saying, ' Here, take our last hundred florins, and buy provisions with them. I have just emptied the last grains of meal out of the chest, and baked a bannock; but it won't last over to-morrow.'
Just as Martin was entering the town he met a rough-looking peasant who was dragging a cat after him by a string which was fastened round the poor beast's neck.
' Stop,' cried Martin ; ' where are you dragging that poor cat ? ' 'I mean to drown him.' was the answer. ' "What harm has the poor beast done ? ' said Martin. ' It has just killed a goose,' replied the peasant. ' Don't drown him, sell him to me instead,' begged Martin. ' Not for a hundred florins,' was the answer. ' Surely for a hundred florins you'll sell it ? ' said Martin. ' See ! here is the money;' and, so saying, he handed him the hundred florins, which the peasant pocketed, and Martin took possession of the cat, which wTas called Waska.
When he reached his home his mother greeted him with the question:
' Well, what have you brought back ? ' (I have brought this cat, Waska,' answered Martin. ' And what besides ? '
'I had no money over to buy anything else with,' replied Martin.
' You useless ne'er-do-weel !' exclaimed his mother in a great passion. ' Leave the house at once, and go and bog your bread among strangers ; ' and as Martin did not dare to contradict her, he called Schurka and Waska and started off with them to the nearest village in search of work. On the way he met a rich peasant, who asked him where he was going.
' I want to get work as a day labourer,' he answered. ' Come along with me, then. But I must tell you I engage my labourers without wages. If you serve me faithfully for a year, I promise you it shall be for your advantage.'
So Martin consented, and for a year he worked diligently, and served his master faithfully, not sparing himself in any way. When the day of reckoning had come the peasanl led him into a