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.
As he travelled and journeyed, he came to a great wild wood; and having grown hungry, he said: "Grind, my dear mill." Straightway the table was spread, not for one, but for two persons. The mill knew at once that the poor man would have a guest; for that moment, wherever he came from, a great fat man appeared, who without saying a word, took his seat at the table. When they had enjoyed God's blessing, the great fat man spoke, and said:
"Listen, poor man. Give me that mill for this knotty club; for if thy mill has the power of accomplishing all thy desires [the fat man knew this already], my knotty club has this power, that thou hast need but to say, 'Strike, my club,' and the man thou hast in mind is the son of Death".
What was the poor man to do? Thinking if he did not give it of his free will the fat man would take it by force, he exchanged the mill for the knotty club; but when he had it once in his hand, he said in a low voice, for he was commanding the knotty club, "Strike, my dear club." And it so struck the fat man behind the ears that he gave forth not a sound; he did n't move his little finger. Then the poor man continued his journey homeward at his ease; and when seven years had passed he was able to say: "Here we are!"
His wife who was weeping by the hearth, mourning over her dear lost lord and the two lean cows, scarcely knew the poor man, but still she knew him. His two sons had become large, and had grown out of their long clothes. When the poor man put his foot in his own house he set the mill down in the chimney-corner, loosed his mantle from his neck, hung it up on a nail, and only then did they know him.
"Well, father," said his wife, "thou hast come; God knows 't is time. I never expected to see thee again; but what didst thou get for Bimbo and Csako?"
"This mill," answered he with many "see here's" and "see there's".
"If that's the case, the palsy strike thy work," cried the woman; "better for thee to have stayed at home these seven years, and swung thy feet around here, than to have dragged that good-for-nothing mill from such a distant land, just as if thou hadst eaten the crazy-weed!"
"Oh, my sweet wife, something is better than nothing; if we have no grain to grind for ourselves, we can grind for other people, if not in streams at least in drops".
"May a cancer eat thy mill! I have n't a thing to put between my teeth, and still - "
"Well, my sweet wife, if thou hast nothing to put between thy teeth thou 'It soon have. Grind, my dear mill".
At these words, so much meat and drink appeared on the poor man's table that half of it would have been enough. It was only then that the woman regretted her tongue rattling. But a woman is a woman; beat her with a stone, only let her talk.
The poor man, his wife, and two sons sat down at the table, looking at the food like an army of locusts. They ate and drank to their hearts' content. Whether from wine or some other cause, a desire to dance came to the two sons; and they jumped up and danced, so it was pure delight to look at them. "Oh," said the elder one, "if we only had a gypsy!" That moment a band of gypsies by the chimney struck up their music, and played away with such variations that the poor man too wished to dance, and so whirled his wife around that better could not be asked for. The neighbors knew not what to think of the affair. How was it that music was sounding in the poor man's house?
"What is this?" said they one to another, coming nearer and nearer, till they came up to the door and the windows. Only then did they see that a band of gypsies were fiddling away with might and main, and the old man, his wife, and their two sons were dancing, while the table was bending under loads of rich meat and drink.
"Come in cousin! come in friend! come in brother-in-law, bring thy wife! come in brother!" and there was no end to the invitations of the poor man. Guests collected unceasingly, and still the table was spread. "Ton my soul," said the poor man, "it 's a pity my house is n't larger; for all these guests could scarcely find room in a palace." At these words, instead of the poor man's cabin such a magnificent palace appeared, with chambers, twelve in a row, that the king himself had n't the like of it.
A multitude of grand people with the king in the midst of them were out walking just at that time. "What's this? what's this?" asked they of one another. "There has always been a poor man's cabin here, now there's a king's palace, and besides, music is sounding, and gypsies are fiddling. Let's go and have a look".
The king went in front, and after him all the grand people, - counts, dukes, barons, and so on. The poor man came out and received the king with the great personages very kindly, and conducted them all to the head of the table as their fitting place. They ate, drank, and caroused, so that it was like a small wedding.
While they were enjoying themselves at the best, a great sealed letter came to the king. When he had read it, he turned yellow and blue, because it was written therein that the Turk-Tartar was nearing his kingdom with a great army, destroying everything with fire and sword, and sparing not the property of innocent, weeping people, whom he puts to the point of the sword; that the earth is drinking their blood; their flesh is devoured by dogs.
From great joy there was great sorrow.
Then the poor man stood forth and asked the king: "If 't is no offence, may I ask a question?"
"What may it be, poor man?"
"Would thy Highness tell me the contents of that great letter received just now?"
"Why ask, poor man? Thou couldst not mend the affair".
"But if I can?"
"Well, know then, and let the whole kingdom know, that the Turk-Tartar is moving on our country with a great army, with cruel intent; that he spares not the property of innocent, weeping people, puts them to the sword, so that the earth drinks their blood, and their flesh is devoured by dogs".
"And what will be the reward of him who drives the enemy out of the country?" asked the poor man.
"In truth," said the king, "great reward and honor await him; for if he should have two sons, I would give them my two daughters in marriage, with half the kingdom. After my death they would inherit the whole kingdom".
"Well, I 'll drive out the enemy all alone." But the king did not place much confidence in the poor man's promise; he hurried together all his soldiers, and marched with them against the enemy. The two armies were looking at each other with wolves' eyes, when the poor man went between the camps and commanded the club: "Strike, my dear club." And the club pommelled the Turk-Tartar army so that only one man was left to carry home the tidings.
The poor man gained half the kingdom and the two beautiful princesses, whom he married to his two stalwart sons. They celebrated a wedding which spoke to the seven worlds; and they are living now if they are not dead.