This section is from the book "Myths And Folk-Tales Of The Russians, Western Slavs, And Magyars", by Jeremiah Curtin. Also available from Amazon: Myths and Folk-Tales of the Russians, Western Slavs, and the Magyars.
IN a certain kingdom there lived a wifeless, unmarried king, who had a whole company of sharpshooters. They went to the forests, shot birds of passage, and furnished the king's table with game. Among these sharpshooters was one named Fedot, who hit the mark and almost never missed; for this reason the king loved him beyond all his comrades.
Once while shooting in the early morning, just at dawn, Fedot went into a dark, dense forest, and saw a blue dove sitting on a tree. He aimed, fired, struck her wing, and she fell to the damp earth. The sharpshooter picked her up, was going to twist her neck and put her in his bag, when the blue dove spoke: "Oh, brave youth, do not tear off my stormy little head, do not send me out of the white world! Better take me alive, carry me home, put me on the window, and watch. As soon as sleep comes upon me strike me that moment with the back of thy right hand, and thou wilt gain great fortune".
Fedot marvelled. "What can it mean?" thought he; "in seeming a bird, but she speaks with a human voice. Never has such a thing happened to me before".
He brought the bird home, placed her on the window, and stood waiting. After a short time the bird put her head under her wing and fell asleep. The sharpshooter struck her lightly with the back of his right hand. The blue dove fell to the floor, and became a soul-maiden so beautiful as not to be imagined nor described, but only told about in a tale. Such another beauty could not be found in the whole world.
Said she to the young man, the king's sharpshooter: "Thou hast known how to get me; now know how to live with me. Thou wilt be my wedded husband, and I thy God-given wife. I am not a blue dove, but a king's daughter".
They agreed. Fedot married her, and they lived together. He is happy with his young wife, but does not forget his service. Every morning at dawn he takes his gun, goes out into the forest, and shoots game, which he carries to the king's kitchen.
His wife sees that he is wearied from this hunting, and says: "Listen, my dear. I am sorry for thee. Every God-given day thou dost wander through forests and swamps, comest home wet and worn, and profit to us not a whit. What sort of a life is this? But I know something so that thou wilt not be without gain. Get of roubles two hundred, and we will correct the whole business".
Fedot rushed around to his friends, got a rouble from one, and two from another, till he had just two hundred. "Now," said his wife, "buy different kinds of silk for this money".
He bought the silk; she took it, and said: "Be not troubled; pray to God and lie down to sleep: the morning is wiser than the evening".
He lay down and fell asleep; his wife went out on the porch, opened her magic book, and two unknown youths appeared at once. "What dost thou wish? Command us".
"Take this silk, and in one single hour make a piece of such wonderful tapestry as has not been seen in the world; let the whole kingdom be embroidered on it, with towns, villages, rivers, and lakes".
They went to work, and not only in an hour, but in ten minutes they had the tapestry finished, - a wonder for all. They gave it to the sharpshooter's wife, and vanished in an instant just as if they never had been. In the morning she gave the tapestry to her husband. "Here," said she, "take this to the merchants' rows, sell it, but see that thou ask no price of thy own; take what they give".
Fedot went to the merchants' rows; a trader saw him, came up, and asked: "Well, my good man, is this article for sale?"
"What's the price?"
"Thou art a dealer, name the price".
The merchant thought and thought, but could not fix a price. Now a second, a third, and a fourth came; no one could set a price on the tapestry. At this time the mayor of the palace was passing by and saw the crowd; wishing to know what the merchants were talking about, he jumped out of his carriage, came up to them, and said: "Good morning, merchants, dealers, guests from beyond the sea; what is the question?"
"Here is a piece of tapestry that we cannot value".
The mayor looked at the tapestry and marvelled himself. "Look here, sharpshooter," said he, "tell me in truth and sincerity where didst thou get such glorious tapestry?"
"My wife made it".
" How much must one give for it?"
"I know not myself; my wife told me to set no price on it, but what people would give, that would be ours".
"Well here are ten thousand for thee".
Fedot took the money and gave up the tapestry. The mayor was always near the person of the king, ate and drank at his table. When he went to the king's to dine he took the tapestry. "Would it not please your Majesty to see what a glorious piece of work I have bought to-day?"
The king looked; he saw his whole kingdom as if on the palm of his hand. He opened his mouth in amazement.
"This is indeed work; in all my life I have never seen such cunning art. Well, mayor, say what thou pleasest, but I shall not give this back to thee." Straightway the king took twenty-five thousand out of his pocket, placed the money in the mayor's hand, and hung the tapestry in the palace.
"That's nothing," thought the mayor; "I will order another still better." Straightway he galloped to find the sharpshooter, found his cottage, went in; and the moment he saw Fedot's wife he forgot himself, his errand, knew not why he had come. Before him was such a beauty that he would not take his eyes off her all his life; he would have looked and looked. He gazes on another man's wife, and in his head thought follows thought: "Where has it been seen, where heard of, that a simple soldier possessed such a treasure? Though I serve the king's person and rank as a general I have never beheld such beauty!"
The mayor came to his mind with difficulty, and went home, gainst his will. From that hour, from that time, he was not his own. Sleeping or waking, he thought only of the beautiful woman; he could neither eat nor drink, she was ever before his eyes. The king noticed the change, and asked: "What has come upon thee, - some grief?"