Post by Rich Ulrich Post by Mark Brader Post by email@example.com
The only snippet of that page that Google Books allows me to see does not
include the word "prices". If I search on "Tsar Taras was delighted" to
find other instances in Google Books, the only one where I am allowed to
view the entire page is corrupt and illegible.
Why not quote the passage you are asking about?"
(The merchant - )
"... he offered high prices for everything."
I see a whole page, with "price(s)" several times.
I agree that the uses of prices seem jarring. When you
set or ask a high price, you are charging the other fellow more.
Here's what I slowly managed to copy, bit by bit. (By the way, in the story, the Devil sets out to wreck the lives of three brothers, one by one - Semyon the Soldier, Taras the Big-Belly (miser, that is) and Ivan the Fool. Due mainly to the Fool, the three all become tsars before the Devil gets to work. As you might guess, the Devil has no trouble wrecking the lives of the first two.)
...he (the Devil) established a business house, began to pay out his money. The merchant began by paying high prices for every sort of thing, and all the people flocked to the merchant — to make money. And the people made so much money that they all paid their debts, and began to pay their taxes promptly.
Tsar Taras was delighted.
“Thanks to the merchant,” said he to himself, “now I shall get still more money — my life will be still better.”
And Tsar Taras endeavored to make new plans; he began to build a new palace for himself. He notified the people to bring him lumber and stone and to set to work for him; he offered high prices for everything. Tsar Taras thought that, judging by the past, the people would come to work for him in crowds for the money. But lo! they brought all the lumber and stone to the merchant, and all the working-people flocked to him. Tsar Taras raised his offer, but the merchant went still higher. Tsar Taras had much money, but the merchant still more; and the merchant's was better than the Tsar's. The Tsar's palace was at a standstill; building stopped.
A park had been laid out for Tsar Taras. The autumn came. Taras invited the people to come to him to work in the park—no one came—all the people were engaged in digging a pond for the merchant.
Winter came. Tsar Taras wanted to buy sable furs for a new shuba; he sent out to buy them — his messenger came back, saying : —
"There are no sable furs. The merchant has them all ; he gave a higher price, and he has made a carpet out of the sable skins."
Tsar Taras wanted to buy some stallions; he sent out to buy them — his agents returned, saying : —
“The merchant has all the good stallions; they are carrying water to fill up his pond."
All the Tsar's affairs came to a standstill ; no one would do anything for him, but they did everything for the merchant; and all they bring him is the merchant's money, which they pay for their taxes. And the Tsar collected so much money that he had nowhere to put it, and life became wretched. The Tsar had now ceased to make plans — his only concern was to live at all — even this was impossible. He ran short of everything. His cooks and coachmen left him and took service with the merchant. It had now gone so far that he had nothing to eat. If he sent to the bazaar to buy anything — there was nothing to be got; the merchant had bought up everything, and the people brought him only money for taxes!
Tsar Taras was angry, and banished the merchant beyond the frontier; but the ; but the merchant settled down on the very frontier and went on as before, all exactly the same; for the sake of the merchant's money they carry everything away from the Tsar to the merchant. It became utterly wretched for the Tsar ; for days at a time, there was nothing to eat; the report spread even that the merchant was boasting that he was going to buy the Tsar himself. Tsar Taras became alarmed, and did not know what to do.
That was apparently an 1899 translation.
What's odd is that when I read the story in Ann Dunnigan's "Fables and Fairy Tales" (ed. 1962, all written or retold by Tolstoy), she used "prices" pretty much the same way. (She also translated "War and Peace.") Other than that, I think her translation is the best, when it comes to those stories.