THE KING OF THE GOLDEN MOUNTAIN. 353
a moment, the father with terror remembered his promise, and knew now what his written agreement would cost him.
But on finding that his chests and coffers were still empty, he thought after all it might only be a joke on the part of the little man. A month, however, passed, and one day, when he again went out to try and dissipate the old sad thoughts about money, he saw lying on the barn-floor a large heap of gold. Now he was again all right, and able to trade so well with the money that he became after a time a richer merchant than before.
In the meantime the children grew tall as well as clever and good; but when the end of the twelve years approached, the merchant became so full of care that it shewed itself on his countenance to every one.
One day his little son asked him what was the cause of his being so sad. At first his father would not tell him, but day after day he so persisted in his questions, that at length he told him what he had done.
" I wrote down my promise and sealed it." he said, " and, therefore, when the twelve years are at an end, I shall lose you."
" Oh, father." said the boy, " do not allow yourself to be uneasy; it will be all right. The little black man will have no power over me."
The boy, however, went to a clergyman, and asked him for his blessing, and, when the hour came, the father and son went to the field, and stood at the spot where the promise had been made. Then the boy made a cross on the ground, placed his father and himself on it, and waited.
Presently the little black man appeared, and said to the father : " Have you brought me what you promised ?" but he did not reply.
Then said the son : " What do you want here ?"
The dark man replied: " I am here to speak to your father, not to you."
" You have betrayed and misled my father !" answered the boy, fearlessly ; "give up the bond !"
" No," he replied, " I will not give up my right to any one !"
They talked together for a long time, and at last it was arranged that the son, who by inheritance was an enemy to the dark man, and yet did not any longer belong to his father, should place himself in a little ship, and that his father should with his own foot upset it, that the boy might be lost in the water. 23