I would never have let the beggars in through the door. I would have let dogs loose on them, but my little daughter, Anastasia, crept up to me and begged me to let the poor old men sleep in the house.
I could not refuse her so we let the three beggars in and gave them the loft. My daughter heard them talking in the night and she told me what she had overheard. The strange old fellows were discussing the peasant Ivan whose wife had just delivered their seventh son. They must have been godfathers because they named the boy Vassili and granted him a fortune. My fortune!
The next morning, I went to the village and asked the parish priest to tell me if a boy had been born. The priest said, “Yes, he is the seventh son of Ivan and he has been called Vassili.”
I went to Ivan’s house and told him that I would give him a thousand crowns for the child. He took the money and gave me the boy. When I had driven some miles away, I carried the child to the edge of a steep precipice and threw it over. “There,” I muttered, “Now try to take my property!”
Mark the Rich in The Three Wonderful Beggars, Violet Fairy Book. Illustration by H.J. Ford.