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.
"Now let us go," cried Martin; "some one may come, and then we shall suffer." They started from the castle as fast as they could. Yanek went too, and took as he was going only one piece of money from each heap, and in the third room the remnants of food which his brothers had thrown out. The brothers escaped with the money successfully, meeting no one. Yanek followed at his leisure, eating the provisions which his brothers had thrown away. When they came to the forest, the two brothers crawled into the thicket, threw their bags on the ground, and began to rest. Yanek also lay down after he had put the last bit of bread in his mouth. Here Martin remembered the provisions, but he had only ducats in his bag.
"Yanek," said he, "run back to the castle and bring us from the first chamber the provisions which we forgot there".
But Yanek answered bluntly, "I will not go".
"Why not?" asked Martin in anger.
"Because they might catch me, and I should have to suffer instead of you; besides, there is no food there, for when you threw it away I picked it up and ate it".
"Monster!" screamed Martin in rage, "I 'll teach thee to obey thy eldest brother. Mihal, give him here to me".
Mihal did not wait to be spoken to twice. They took poor Yanek between them and put so many blows on him that he was soon lying as if dead on the ground; then they took their bags on their backs and hurried home through the woods.
"That lazy-bones!" growled Martin, " let him go wherever he likes; he will not dare to teach us again." They got out of the forest quickly, and in the evening came to an inn where they refreshed themselves. Next morning they set out for home. In the neighboring town, where the king dwelt, they bought a house, brought their mother to it, and began to live like great lords.
Yanek, poor fellow, lay for a long time unconscious in the forest. At last he woke from his trance, rested his head against a tree, and fell to thinking of his condition. "Oh, cruel brothers, ye have left the forest! Who knows whether I shall find the way home? I am weak; I cannot walk far; I will go back to the castle, no matter what meets me; I will take money, too, and live like a lord".
Many a one will wonder that Yanek changed all at once; but a beating has brought many a man to new ways. So Yanek made ready and went to the castle. In the castle there was not a living soul. Yanek took off his coat, tied the sleeves at the wrist, and began to rake gold into them. He had almost finished when he heard noises at a distance like bursts of thunder. These noises grew louder and louder till at last they were so loud that the castle trembled. All at once a voice as if a fifteen-year-old bull were bellowing, called, "Hu! hu! I smell the flesh of a man!" and before Yanek could gather his wits after the fright, he saw two giants standing at the door.
"Oh, worm of the earth, thou art the one who is stealing our treasures!" howled one of the giants. "Ha, thou wilt be a nice roast for supper," added he, smacking his lips so that Yanek lost his senses. But the second giant whispered something in the ear of the first, who nodded, and said to Yanek: "Listen, worm of the earth, I grant thee life, but henceforth thou wilt watch our treasures when we are from home".
Yanek wanted to kiss the giant's hand, but he could barely reach to his knee. "Only watch well, worm of the earth," said the giant, graciously; "but so that thou shouldst not be hungry, strike on this little table three times with thy fist and call, 'Food for a king!" and thou wilt have food to thy liking".
Yanek promised everything, and from that time forth he led a very pleasant life, - he did nothing, no living soul ever came to the castle, the table was always obedient. But at last he grew tired of all this. "Watch your own treasures, lord giants," said he one day when the giants had gone out; "and thou, my good little table, come! - we will go home".
Yanek put the table on his back, stole away from the castle, and soon found himself in the forest. He strolled leisurely through the forest, and after no long time was in the open field. Here an old grandfather met him, and asked if he had not something to eat. "'T is long since I have had a bit in my mouth," lamented the grandfather.
"Then I will help thee," said Yanek; "come with me to that tree over there." They sat under the tree; Yanek put his table on the ground, and striking on it three times with his fist, said: "Food for a king!' The table was covered with the daintiest dishes.
The grandfather ate his fill, and said: "Indeed this is a very beautiful thing! But, my lad, if thou wouldst give me this little table, I would give thee something better in place of it. This pack has the virtue that at command an army will spring out of it as numerous as ever thou carest to wish".
Yanek was greedy, but only from the time that he got a beating from his brothers; he took the pack, gave the grandfather the table, and they parted. But Yanek soon felt hungry; he was in the open field, and nowhere a house to be seen. Now he was angry at himself for having given away the table so frivolously; and besides he wished to know if what the grandfather said of the pack was true. He opened the pack and commanded "two hundred hussars to the field." He had barely spoken when horses were neighing, arms rattling, and sooner than he could think, two hundred hussars stood in line before him. The officers saluted Yanek, and asked with respect what he wanted.
"About five thousand yards from here, under that tree, an old man took a table from me; ride after him, take the table, and bring it to me".
He had barely finished speaking when the hussars rode off at a wild gallop, in no long time they returned, and their leader gave Yanek the table. Yanek opened his pack and said: "Two hundred hussars in here." In a twinkle the hussars were in the pack, from the first man and horse to the last. "That is not a bad thing," said Yanek to himself as he sat at the table, struck three times with his fist, and commanded, "Food for a king".