THE MAN IN THE BEARS SKIN.
At that moment he heard a rustling sound, and looking round, he saw a strange man standing before him ; he wore a green coat, and looked rather stately, but had a very ugly cloven foot " I know very well what you want," said he to the soldier, "and money and possessions you shall have, as much as you can spend, however extravagant you may be. But I must discover first whether you are a coward, that my money may not be thrown
" A soldier and afraid ! who can put those two words together?" he replied. " You can try me if you like."
"Willingly," answered the man ; "now just look behind you."
The soldier turned and saw an immense bear, who was growling, and trotting towards him. " Oho," cried the soldier; " I will tickle your nose for you presently, my friend, and stop your growling;" and, raising his gun, he shot the bear in the head so surely that he fell all of a heap on the ground, and moved no more.
"I see clearly," said the stranger, "that you are not wanting in courage; but there is one more condition you must agree to."
"If it does not harm me in the future," replied the soldier, who knew well who he was talking to, "I don't care what I promise to do."
"You can tell for yourself whether the conditions are likely to injure you in the future," was the reply; " they are these: you must neither wash yourself, nor comb your hair, nor cut your nails nor beard, nor say your prayers, for the next seven years, and I will give you this coat and cloak, which you must wear the whole time. Should you die during the seven years, you are mine; but if you live beyond that time, you will be rich and independent for the rest of your life."
The soldier sat for some minutes thinking of the great poverty in which he then was, and how often he had faced death without fear, and at last decided to accept the stranger's conditions.
The wicked old demon immediately took off the green coat, and, offering it to the soldier, said, " Whenever you have that coat on your back, you will find plenty of money in the pocket, if you put your hand in it." Then he pulled off the skin of the dead bear, and, giving it to him, said, " This is to be used by you as a cloak and a bed, you must not, for the whole seven years, dare to