The Three Languages (Три языка)
THERE once lived in Switzerland an old Count, who had an only son;
but he was very stupid, and could learn nothing.
So his father said to him:
‘Listen to me, my son.
I can get nothing into your head, try as hard as I may.
You must go away from here, and I will hand you over to a renowned Professor for a whole year.’
At the end of the year he came home again, and his father asked:
‘Now, my son, what have you learnt?’
‘Father, I have learnt the language of dogs.’
‘Mercy on us!’
cried his father, ‘is that all you have learnt?
I will send you away again to another Professor in a different town.’
The youth was taken there, and remained with this Professor also for another year.
When he came back his father asked him again :
‘My son, what have you learnt?’
‘I have learnt bird language.’
Then the father flew into a rage, and said:
‘Oh, you hopeless creature, have you been spending all this precious time and learnt nothing?
Aren’t you ashamed to come into my presence?
I will send you to a third Professor, but if you learn nothing this time, I won’t be your father any longer.’
The son stopped with the third Professor in the same way for a whole year, and when he came home again and his father asked, ‘My son, what have you learnt?
‘ he answered –
‘My dear father, this year I have learnt frog language.’
Thereupon his father flew into a fearful passion, and said :
‘This creature is my son no longer.
I turn him out of the house and command you to lead him into the forest and take his life.’
They led him forth, but when they were about to kill him, for pity’s sake they could not do it, and let him go.
Then they cut out the eyes and tongue of a Fawn, in order that they might take back proofs to the old Count.
The youth wandered about, and at length came to a castle, where he begged a night’s lodging.
‘Very well,’ said the Lord of the castle.
‘If you like to pass the night down there in the old tower, you may;
but I warn you that it will be at the risk of your life, for it is full of savage dogs.
They bark and howl without ceasing, and at certain hours they must have a man thrown to them, and they devour him at once.’
The whole neighbourhood was distressed by the scourge, but no one could do anything to remedy it.
But the youth was not a bit afraid, and said:
‘Just let me go down to these barking dogs, and give me something that I can throw to them;
they won’t do me any harm.’
As he would not have anything else, they gave him some food for the savage dogs, and took him down to the tower.
The dogs did not bark at him when he entered, but ran round him wagging their tails in a most friendly manner, ate the food he gave them, and did not so much as touch a hair of his head.
The next morning, to the surprise of every one, he made his appearance again, and said to the Lord of the castle, ‘The Dogs have revealed to me in their own language why they live there and bring mischief to the country.
They are enchanted, and obliged to guard a great treasure which is hidden under the tower, and will get no rest till it has been dug up;
and how that has to be done I have also learnt from them.’
Every one who heard this was delighted, and the Lord of the castle said he would adopt him as a son if he accomplished the task successfully.
He went down to the tower again, and as he knew how to set to work he accomplished his task, and brought out a chest full of gold.
The howling of the savage Dogs was from that time forward heard no more.
They entirely disappeared, and the country was delivered from the scourge.
After a time, he took it into his head to go to Rome.
On the way he passed a swamp, in which a number of Frogs were croaking.
He listened, and when he heard what they were saying he became quite pensive and sad.
At last he reached Rome, at a moment when the Pope had just died, and there was great doubt among the Cardinals whom they ought to name as his successor.
They agreed at last that the man to whom some divine miracle should be manifested ought to be chosen as Pope.
Just as they had come to this decision, the young Count entered the church, and suddenly two snow-white doves flew down and alighted on his shoulders.
The clergy recognised in this the sign from Heaven, and asked him on the spot whether he would be Pope.
He was undecided, and knew not whether he was worthy of the post;
but the Doves told him that he might accept, and at last he said ‘Yes.’
Thereupon he was anointed and consecrated, and so was fulfilled what he had heard from the Frogs on the way, which had disturbed him so much — namely, that he should become Pope.
Then he had to chant mass, and did not know one word of it.
But the two Doves sat upon his shoulders and whispered it to him.