Three brothers lived. I cannot tell who they were, whether Russian or Yakut. They lived in a wild place, somewhat after the manner of Lamut nomads. Two of the brothers used to go on hunting trips. The third one stayed at home. None of them knew whether they ever had had father, mother, or sister, or even so much as a relative. The two elder brothers
would come home for a day or two, and then leave again for six or seven days. They used to bring home costly peltries, also reindeer and elk carcasses. They gave everything to the third brother, and they did not even care what happened to their game. They never asked him,, "What are you doing with all these things? Do you store them away, or simply throw them away as rubbish?"
One day these two brothers prepared for a longer trip than usual. So they said to the housekeeping brother, "Perhaps we shall not be back for a long time. Stay at home, and eat of the meat we have brought." After that they left. One evening, the brother who kept house was singing songs for his own recreation. Then he heard a noise without. He hurried to the entrance; but at this moment entered a man, tall of stature, carrying in his hands a bear lance inlaid with silver. He was clad in beautiful garments embroidered with silk. It was the bad merchant. The young man was much frightened, and receded to a remote corner; but the visitor said gruffly, "Help my workman unload the pack-horses!" The house master hurried out, and saw a man busying himself with nine pack-horses. He helped him take off the loads. While doing this, he heard somebody cough. He looked back, and saw a woman wrapped up in fox garments. He approached her, and asked her with much gentleness to enter the house. Then he opened the door and showed her the way. As soon as she was inside, he helped her lay off her garments. She was middle-aged, but very strong and pretty. The Bad Merchant looked at his doings with much scorn. He sat before the fire, warming his back. All the time he held in his hands the big bear lance inlaid with silver.
After a while the Bad Merchant asked the house master with still more gruffness, "Do you not know of some good pasture here for horses?" "Yes, I know of one." "Then help my workman to take the horses there." They had a meal and drank their tea. After that they took the horses to the pasture. When they were going back, the house master asked of the workman, "And who are you, this visitor and the woman?"--"Do you not know him? He is the Bad Merchant. I thought he would kill you at first sight. He has a very bad temper. No house did he ever pass that he did not kill somebody. It is your special luck that you have been spared so far." The young man ceased asking, and kept his thoughts to himself. They entered the house. The Bad Merchant was sitting, as before, near the fire, lance in hand. The house master hurried to his back room and threw out a great number of furs, sables, gray foxes, black foxes, bears, all kinds of peltries that exist in the world. He threw all this at the feet of the Merchant. The latter, seeing such riches, put the lance on the floor and bent over the heap. The young man, with an innocent face, picked up the
lance. "What a beautiful lance!" said he, "and what a shaft! Strong like iron. Even against a bear such a shaft would hold out and never break." Then he poised it in his hands. Together with the shaft it weighed no less than one pud. 1 He took the lance by the iron and lifted it, shaft upward, and all at once struck the Bad Merchant on the neck. The woman seized a knife and tried to stab him; but he struck her with the shaft, and she fell down senseless. Then he cried to the workman, "Bring those elk-hide lines there in the corner!" With them he bound him securely. The woman came to herself, but he violated her. Then he said to the workman, "You accompanied him on his travels, and were compelled by him to do his work, and he paid you with blows. You might have expected a violent death at almost any hour. Now that God has brought you here to me, I restore you to freedom. Take his horses and go wherever you wish!" The workman stayed there, however, for five days more. After that the elder brothers came, and saw the Bad Merchant in bonds. The woman was bound likewise. So the elder brothers said, "Ah! it is you! We have heard much about you. So many people of these parts complain of your doings. This time God has given us occasion to overcome you. Now the complaints of the people will cease. They turned to their brother and thanked him heartily: "It is you who caught him and liberated the country." I do not know, however, what they did to the prisoners. Probably they tortured them to death. That is all.
Told by Nicholas Kusakoff, a Russian creole, in the village of Pokhotsk, in the Kolyma country, summer of 1895.
81:1 This story refers perhaps to some real incident. Events like this still happen in northeastern Siberia. However, the manner in which it is told corresponds to the style of local Russian folklore.--W. B.
83:1 Thirty-six pounds avoirdupois.