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.
"But where art thou going?" inquired one of the brothers.
"To see the world," answered Jalmir.
"We too," cried the others; "so thou must go with us".
Jalmir bowed to them, and in silence agreed with a nod. But his brothers all gave him their hands, and soon began to tell him. how delightfully they had passed the previous day. Jalmir did not, however, find much that was pleasant in it, and frowned.
"Art sorry that thou wert not there?" asked one of the brothers. "Never mind, we can have such days yet without number".
With that they came to an inn. The innkeeper, seeing through the window so many lords, ran out and took the horses. When he took the white steed, Jalmir asked: "Hast thou a stable apart?"
"Yes; and such a one!" boasted the innkeeper.
"Then put my horse in it alone," said Jalmir, "for he is very vicious".
Then he followed his brothers to a room where they were already seated at a table, and calling with terrible uproar on the innkeeper for wine. In a short time the innkeeper brought all that he had, and the brothers drank, sang, shouted, and rioted till the inn trembled; but Jalmir barely drank for one, because he was sick from the action of his brothers. But how grieved was he when one of the brothers said: "This is a different life from being at home with that grumbling father and that sickly brother".
Gradually one after the other dropped under the table, overcome by wine. When all were asleep Jalmir said to the innkeeper: "Be careful that no harm comes to them; I will sleep a little too".
Then he was going to lie on a bench near the fire. "Do not," said the innkeeper; "I have a bed ready for thee. Come with me".
Jalmir, after useless refusals, followed him at last; but before he lay down he visited the white steed to see if he had plenty of oats and water.
When the brothers woke in the morning they looked for Jalmir with a great outcry: "It would have been a nice thing if he had run away from us!" cried one to another. "Who would pay? - for I have no money".
Soon Jalmir came to the room and told them to travel farther; all was settled.
"Thou art ours," said they. All embraced him, - 't is a wonder they did not suffocate him. Escaping from the brothers, Jalmir went to his horse. The brothers followed his example, and soon the inn was far behind.
"Listen," said the white steed to Jalmir, when the brothers had gone ahead. "In the evening we shall come to a castle, in which lives a sorceress with her seven daughters; they will take your horses, and lead you to a chamber. The sorceress will bring you wine after supper, but drink not. What will take place later, thou wilt see".
"Why loiter so?" called one of the brothers suddenly to Jalmir.
"I am coming," answered he; and the white steed soon galloped so that in a few moments he was ahead of the brothers.
"Slower or thou wilt leave us!" cried the brothers; and the white steed waited for them of his own accord. Soon they entered a forest, rode and rode, but there was no end to the forest; only in the evening did they come out on a plain. In the middle of the plain was a beautiful castle. "Oh, now we are in luck," said the brothers, and they began to rejoice.
They galloped into the court of the castle, and were still more rejoiced when seven princesses came forth to meet them. They sprang from their horses in a moment to give a courteous salute; but how did they wonder when the princesses took their horses by the bridles and led them to the stable. Jalmir begged the youngest princess, who had taken his steed, to put the horse in a stable apart, for he was very vicious".
She did as he wished; he saw this, and only then did he go to the supper chamber, where his brothers and the six princesses were already sitting at a great table, covered with the daintiest dishes. He came to them with the youngest princess, but ate very little, though she urged him continually; but when the vile old woman who served them brought wine and poured it to each one in a golden goblet, Jalmir seized his goblet eagerly, but did not drink the wine. He poured it out on one side.
By degrees the brothers began to doze; at last one after another they fell asleep. Jalmir suspected that the old woman had drugged them, - which was true, - and that she had no good thoughts regarding them; therefore he feigned sleep so that in the hour of need he might aid his brothers. Soon after the old woman came and put away each brother with his partner on a couch, of which there were seven in the adjoining chamber; then she went out, but returned straightway with a great broom, and began to strike the brothers. First she struck the eldest, but he moved not; when she had finished with the six she came to Jalmir, and said to herself: "If six are asleep, so is the seventh." She went out, but soon returned with sulphur in her hand, and burned it under the nose of each brother. She began with the eldest, and as not one of them moved, she said when she reached Jalmir: "If six are asleep, so is the seventh".
She went out, but came back bringing pitch, which she burned on the breast of each brother. She began with the eldest, and as none of them sighed, she said when she reached Jalmir.: "If six are asleep, so is the seventh; now I may cut off their heads without fear".
Jalmir quivered; and when the old woman went out, he sprang quickly from the couch, put each of his brothers in the place of a princess and did the same with himself. The old woman returned with a sword, but without a light, and cut off the heads of the seven princesses; then she went out. Jalmir sprang up in a moment and tried to rouse his brothers, but in vain. What anguish the poor fellow suffered; only towards morning did the brothers wake and look in terror at the dead bodies of the princesses. But Jalmir exclaimed in a voice of despair: "Let us flee!" and rushed forth; the brothers followed him. In the stable they untied their horses, and springing on them hurried in a wild chase from the castle and across the broad plain.