Czech Folk Tales/The Knight Bambus
THE KNIGHT BAMBUS
There was a poor gamekeeper once, who had suffered from hard times all his life, so as he grew older, he wanted to get rich. He was only an under-forester. One day the forester said: "Near those old ruins, you know the ones I mean, a fax or a roe, or some creature of that sort, often crosses my path, and I can never manage to hit it, though I have shot at it a hundred times. If you happen to be going in that direction, look out for it."
When the gamekeeper heard this, the first thing he did was to go to the ruins. Just as he got there, a huge fox appeared with a rustling noise. The gamekeeper felt uneasy, but the fox disappeared at once, so he sat down, put five big charges in his gun, and waited. It wasn't long till the fox appeared again, and this time he was carrying a young fawn in his mouth. The gamekeeper shot at him—boom! The fox cried out, and ran off into the bushes. But the gamekeeper saw that the fawn had run away and hidden itself in a cave. He thought: "The fox cried out, so he has some of my shots in his fur coat. I'll get him some other time."
So he went into the ruins through the gate. Within, there was a courtyard all deserted, and with its wall fallen down. So the gamekeeper passed through the courtyard and came into a spacious cellar. There he saw three lamps burning, and looking round, he was filled with amazement. But all this was as nothing, for in the corner were three glittering heaps of golden coins and one heap of big gold pieces. The gamekeeper reflected: "If I had all that, I should give up gamekeeping and have a splendid time."
No sooner had he said this than a grey old man appeared and asked: "What are you looking for, gamekeeper?"
"Well, I shot at a fox and he ran in somewhere here, and so I'm wandering about looking for him."
"You won’t get the fox you're looking for, for I am he."
"And why are you here in a fox's shape? What's the reason of that?"
"l am the Knight Bambus, and all these forests belong to this castle. l was a robber-knight, and so as a punishment I have to keep watch here now."
"And how long is it to last?"
"When three poor people come here, and each of them takes away two sackfuls of gold, I shall be delivered. I am bound to give all this gold away for nothing. Already I have outlived three generations of my kinsmen here."
Then he bade him fetch two leather sacks from the other room and collect the gold into them, filling them up to the brim. He must keep it all for himself and must not tell any one what he had seen. The gamekeeper promised that he wouldn't even tell his wife, Hátička, how he had got the money. So he filled the two sacks up to the brim, and the old man helped him to hoist them on to his shoulders and saw him out of the door. All the time he kept warning him to keep his mouth shut: "For what a woman knows all the world knows; that's gospel truth, sure enough."
So the gamekeeper left the castle, carrying those two sacks, and the man shook hands with him before he left. At the border of the forest, near a beech-tree, his wife, Háta, was standing looking for him. She ran up to him.
"Great Heavens, Florian! where have you been all this long time? I have been looking everywhere for you for three days."
Now Florian was delighted that his wife had come to meet him, so he blurted out: "Hátička, wife, Count Bambus has given me these two sacks of gold pieces. Have a look here—see what heaps of the stuff there are!" and he let one of the sacks fall on the ground. But behold! instead of gold there were only rustling leaves in it. Then he remembered that he was not to say anything about it. He frowned, and his wife burst into tears; and they had to spend the rest of their life, until they died, in poverty just as before.