Ivan The Fool By Leo Tolstoy


The old devil grew tired of waiting for the good news which he expected
the little devils to bring him. He waited in vain to hear of the ruin of
the brothers, so he went in search of the emissaries which he had sent
to perform that work for him. After looking around for some time, and
seeing nothing but the three holes in the ground, he decided that they
had not succeeded in their work and that he would have to do it himself.

The old devil next went in search of the brothers, but he could learn
nothing of their whereabouts. After some time he found them in their
different kingdoms, contented and happy. This greatly incensed the
old devil, and he said, “I will now have to accomplish their mission

He first visited Simeon the soldier, and appeared before him as a
voyevoda (general), saying: “You, Simeon, are a great warrior, and I
also have had considerable experience in warfare, and am desirous of
serving you.”

Simeon questioned the disguised devil, and seeing that he was an
intelligent man took him into his service.

The new General taught Simeon how to strengthen his army until it became
very powerful. New implements of warfare were introduced.

Cannons capable of throwing one hundred balls a minute were also
constructed, and these, it was expected, would be of deadly effect in

Simeon, on the advice of his new General, ordered all young men above a
certain age to report for drill. On the same advice Simeon established
gun-shops, where immense numbers of cannons and rifles were made.

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The next move of the new General was to have Simeon declare war against
the neighboring kingdom. This he did, and with his immense army marched
into the adjoining territory, which he pillaged and burned, destroying
more than half the enemy’s soldiers. This so frightened the ruler of
that country that he willingly gave up half of his kingdom to save the
other half.

Simeon, overjoyed at his success, declared his intention of marching
into Indian territory and subduing the Viceroy of that country.

But Simeon’s intentions reached the ears of the Indian ruler, who
prepared to do battle with him. In addition to having secured all
the latest implements of warfare, he added still others of his own
invention. He ordered all boys over fourteen and all single women to
be drafted into the army, until its proportions became much larger than
Simeon’s. His cannons and rifles were of the same pattern as Simeon’s,
and he invented a flying-machine from which bombs could be thrown into
the enemy’s camp.

Simeon went forth to conquer the Viceroy with full confidence in his own
powers to succeed. This time luck forsook him, and instead of being the
conqueror he was himself conquered.

The Indian ruler had so arranged his army that Simeon could not even
get within shooting distance, while the bombs from the flying-machine
carried destruction and terror in their path, completely routing his
army, so that Simeon was left alone.

The Viceroy took possession of his kingdom and Simeon had to fly for his

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Having finished with Simeon, the old devil next approached Tarras. He
appeared before him disguised as one of the merchants of his kingdom,
and established factories and began to make money. The “merchant” paid
the highest price for everything he purchased, and the people ran after
him to sell their goods. Through this “merchant” they were enabled to
make plenty of money, paying up all their arrears of taxes as well as
the others when they came due.

Tarras was overjoyed at this condition of affairs and said: “Thanks to
this merchant, now I will have more money than before, and life will be
much pleasanter for me.”

He wished to erect new buildings, and advertised for workmen, offering
the highest prices for all kinds of labor. Tarras thought the people
would be as anxious to work as formerly, but instead he was much
surprised to learn that they were working for the “merchant.” Thinking
to induce them to leave the “merchant,” he increased his offers, but the
former, equal to the emergency, also raised the wages of his workmen.
Tarras, having plenty of money, increased the offers still more; but
the “merchant” raised them still higher and got the better of him. Thus,
defeated at every point, Tarras was compelled to abandon the idea of

Tarras next announced that he intended laying out gardens and erecting
fountains, and the work was to be commenced in the fall, but no one
came to offer his services, and again he was obliged to forego his
intentions. Winter set in, and Tarras wanted some sable fur with which
to line his great-coat, and he sent his man to procure it for him; but
the servant returned without it, saying: “There are no sables to be had.
The ‘merchant’ has bought them all, paying a very high price for them.”

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Tarras needed horses and sent a messenger to purchase them, but he
returned with the same story as on former occasions–that none were to
be found, the “merchant” having bought them all to carry water for an
artificial pond he was constructing. Tarras was at last compelled to
suspend business, as he could not find any one willing to work for him.
They had all gone over to the “merchant’s” side. The only dealings the
people had with Tarras were when they went to pay their taxes. His money
accumulated so fast that he could not find a place to put it, and his
life became miserable. He abandoned all idea of entering upon the new
venture, and only thought of how to exist peaceably. This he found
it difficult to do, for, turn which way he would, fresh obstacles
confronted him. Even his cooks, coachmen, and all his other servants
forsook him and joined the “merchant.” With all his wealth he had
nothing to eat, and when he went to market he found the “merchant” had
been there before him and had bought up all the provisions. Still, the
people continued to bring him money.

Tarras at last became so indignant that he ordered the “merchant” out
of his kingdom. He left, but settled just outside the boundary line, and
continued his business with the same result as before, and Tarras was
frequently forced to go without food for days. It was rumored that the
“merchant” wanted to buy even Tarras himself. On hearing this the latter
became very much alarmed and could not decide as to the best course to

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About this time his brother Simeon arrived in the kingdom, and said:
“Help me, for I have been defeated and ruined by the Indian Viceroy.”

Tarras replied: “How can I help you, when I have had no food myself for
two days?”

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