ONCE there was a young man by the name of Sharau. He became restless, and one day told his mother that if he had a small sum of money he would go out into the world and make a great deal more. His mother gave him what he asked for, and he started out to begin life. On the road he met an old man with a cat under his arm.
"Where are you going with that cat?" asked the young man. "I am taking it away to kill it," replied the man; "for it fights my dog and scratches him."
"Don't kill the cat; sell him to me," said Sharau.
"Very well, but what will you give me for him?"
"Will you take a hundred rubles?"
The man could hardly hide his joy, but said, "Yes," very grudgingly, and gave the foolish young man the cat.
Then, as he had no money, Sharau started toward home, but he had not gone far when the cat sprang out of his arms and ran away.
When he reached home his mother asked, "What have you done with your money?"
"I have bought a fine storehouse full of grain," replied the young man. "If I had a hundred rubles more I could do as well again."
His mother gave him the hundred rubles, and he started out with the intention of being very wise this time. When only a short distance from his mother's yurta he met a man with a dog. "Where are you taking that dog?" asked the young man.
"I am taking him out to kill him," replied the man. "He fights my cat, and takes her food from her; I have no peace."
"Do not kill the dog; sell him to me. I will give you all the money I have." He was afraid that the hundred rubles would not be enough to buy the dog, for he had paid that much for a cat.
"I will give you a hundred rubles for him."
The man was glad to part with the worthless hound for such a
big sum of money, and the young man started toward home; but the dog bit and jumped, and pulled so badly at the leash that at last Sharau lost patience and turned him loose. The dog ran away at once.
When the young man got home his mother asked what he had done with his money.
"I bought much fine grain," replied he; "now I wish to marry. In a kingdom not far away lives Sazrai Khan (Magpie Khan); he has a daughter Sarung-gohung (another kind of bird). I would like to marry her."
The mother went to Sazrai Khan and said: "I have a fine young son; you have a beautiful daughter. Let us become relatives."
"How can that be?" asked Sazrai. "The father of your son was a merchant, and I am a khan. If your son will build a silver bridge from my yurta to yours I will give him my daughter. If he does not build the bridge I will have his head."
The mother went home crying. "What are you crying about?" asked Sharau.
"You must find some one else for your bride," sobbed the mother. "Sazrai Khan says you are a merchant's son and cannot marry his daughter till you build a silver bridge from his yurta to ours, and if you do not build this bridge he will cut your head off."
"Then I had better run away and keep my head," said the young man, and he started off at once. He went far, went until he came to a dense forest. In this forest he met the dog whose life he had saved.
"Oh, dog!" cried Sharau, "I saved your life; now do you help me. I must build a bridge of silver for Sazrai Khan, and I know not how to do it, for I am a poor man."
"Take this ring," said the dog. "Go home, look at the sun, make three circles with your hand, and say while turning around, 'Let a bridge of silver be built to-night from my yurta to that of Sazrai Khan."
This the young man did, and when he woke the next morning there was the silver bridge. He went to it, took an axe and began to work, as though he were just finishing a difficult task. The
khan came to look at the bridge, was much surprised, but only said, "Why are you so long at the work; were not all the hours of the night sufficient?"
"I have built it in one night," said Sharau. "If any man can build it in a shorter time he may have my claim to your daughter."
"We will have the wedding in seven days," said the khan.
After the wedding the khan's daughter went to live with her husband, but she grew dissatisfied, and complained bitterly.
"How is this?" asked she. "You can build a bridge of silver, and yet you live in this wretched old yurta."
The young man said nothing about the ring, hid it very carefully. At night he slept with it in his mouth. One night he coughed and the ring blew out and fell to the floor, but he grasped it quickly.
"What is that? What do you keep in your mouth?" asked his wife; and when he refused to tell she teased him both day and night until, weary of her teasing, he told her that it was a ring with such magic power that if he looked at the sun and made three circles with his hand while turning around he would get his wish, whatever it might be.
"Let me keep the ring for you," begged Sarung-gohung; "you may lose it." She teased him a whole week, teased until he gave it to her.
Now Sarung-gohung had a lover in a kingdom beyond the sea, and that very night while her husband was sleeping she determined not to wait, but to rise with the sun, and try the power of the ring. So at sunrise she made the circles, wished, and that moment she was with her lover.
When Sharau woke and found his wife gone he went to the khan and said, "See what a wife I have. She has gone away and left me."
"I gave you my daughter," said the khan; "if you haven't her now you have killed her."
Straightway he seized Sharau, bound him, and threw him into a dungeon. Then he said to him, "I will wait seven days. If my daughter does not return by that time she is dead, and I shall have your head cut off."
The young man sat in the dungeon a day and a night. He had nothing to eat, and wondered what he could do to save his life. The second day he heard a noise, and saw a cat coming toward him. "You are a fool," said the cat. "You should not have told about the ring. Your wife is in another kingdom, and has married her lover. The dog and I have counseled, but can think of no way to help you. How long are you to sit in this dungeon?"
"Seven days," answered the young man. "On the eighth day I shall be killed."
"If the dog and I cannot get the ring back within the seven days you are lost," said the cat. "But be of good courage; you saved our lives, we will try to save yours."
The cat went to the dog and they counseled again. At last the dog said, "Get on my back, we will go to that kingdom beyond the sea."
When they came to the place where the wife was the cat caught a mouse that lived in the yurta. "If you do as I tell you," said the cat to the mouse, "I will let you go; otherwise I will crush and eat you."
"I am without offence," replied the mouse. "Why destroy me? Do not crush or eat me; whatever you wish I will do."
"This is what you must do. In the mouth of the woman in whose yurta you live is a gold ring; get it for me."
The mouse worked all night at making a hole into the room where the woman was sleeping, and was there just at daybreak. He sprang on to the bed, crept up to her face, and tickled her nose. The woman sneezed once, and a second time, and the ring fell from her mouth. The mouse snatched the ring and was out through the hole that minute.
The cat went back to the dog, sat on his back, and they started for their own kingdom. The dog wanted to carry the ring, but the cat said:
"No, you have a large mouth, and always keep it open. Whoever saw a dog running with his mouth closed? My mouth is small. I will carry the ring." The cat wished; there was a boat. They were halfway across the sea when the cat sneezed, and the ring dropped into the water.
"The man is as good as dead," said the dog; "for we can never get the ring from the bottom of the sea."
They came to land, caught fish, and were eating them when the cat found the ring in a fish she was gnawing.
"We must hurry!" said the dog. "Hold as tight as you can!" And he ran as never dog ran before. When daylight came the dog looked at the sun, wished, and they were at the dungeon. The cat went to the young man.
It was the afternoon of the seventh day, and Sharau had lost hope of rescue.
"Take the ring," said the cat, "make the circles toward the west, and, though the sun is not shining in this dungeon, you will get your wish."
Sharau wished himself out of the dungeon and in the khan's palace. He was there, and said to his father-in-law, "My wife is living with a man in a kingdom across the sea. I want you to get her back."
"You have killed your wife," replied the khan. "If not, bring her here yourself and I will spare your life."
The young man looked at the sun, made three circles with his hand, and wished his wife and her lover to be there before him. They appeared immediately. "Now," said the young man to his father-in-law, "what are you going to do?"
"I will do to them what I was going to do to you to-day," said the khan; and he had their heads cut off.