" When the priest arrived the pair were crowned for the marriage. As soon as they were married they rode back to the castle. The father gave his daughter away, wishing her all the best of luck. She then got into the cart with her four bridesmaids. All the others were ready as well, both the carts and the horsemen all standing in a row. Then their host came out to them and thanked them and they set off home.
" The carts followed the track, and all the riders were abreast on the field, just alongside the carts, so that they could see each other. The famous horseman, Sosslan, was the leading rider on his little white horse; the bridegroom, with the best man, were amongst them also. When they were nearing the bridegroom's castle the best man dashed up to the famous rider, Sosslan, and asked him to show his skill in horsemanship and warn neighbours that they were almost at home. ' With great pleasure,' said Sosslan. Immediately he took his reins up short and lifted up his whip. The horse knew his master wanted him to show his mettle. All the riders were riding abreast, and Sosslan, dashing across them, stopped his steed close before their horses, making him rear and plunge. While he was doing his tricks of horsemanship the girls, looking at him from the cart, were all huddled together and terribly afraid that he would be killed."
While the Prince was telling the tale all the three brothers were listening to him very seriously. They were greatly interested to learn the Christians' customs at a rich wedding.
" Soon they arrived," continued the Prince. " The whole yard was full of people. The bride was surrounded by girls. Then they went into the castle, but the bridegroom went straight away to the best man's house.* Therefore, as soon as the riders entered the yard, all was excitement, and the young men got ready for the shooting competition. This competition is the most remarkable of its kind.
*In the Caucasus, for the first two days the bridegroom does not see his wife. On the third day, at midnight, he and his best man go to the bride's room, and after some conversation the married pair are left alone.
A long pole was fixed up between two chimneys on the top of the castle. Then they hung white balls upon it about ten or fifteen inches apart. Each shoots in turn, and if he hits one of the balls the host gives a sheep to be killed for the guests. But if he misses he has to give a box of chocolates for the girls. While the shooting was going on all the women were watching from one side, and on the other side the elderly men were sitting in the shade. The rest sat at a long table shouting and cheering if one of the riders shot well. As soon as the shooting was over, all the young girls went out into the yard, and all stood on one side, the young men on the other. Then began dancing, and so the wedding feast was continued for three days without leaving off.
" The bridegroom, after three days at his best man's house, was permitted for the first time to see his bride. With him were his best man and several other of his friends. As soon as they entered the yard the bridegroom and the best man went straight to the bride's room and the others to another room, where there was a banquet ready for them. The best man spoke laughingly to the bride, who looked distressed. The best man did not take any notice of it; then he had a short chat with the bridegroom and, wishing them good luck, left them alone and went to his other friends. She had her wedding-dress on and a veil, and was standing near the dressing-table whilst he was sitting. He began to talk to her, but she did not seem to care much what he was talking about. Then he asked her to take off her veil and she did not take any notice as if she had not heard him. He stood up and went up to her, but she moved into the corner. He saw that she had no desire for his company, but perhaps, he thought, she is shy as she had never spoken before to him. So he stopped talking and sat down again as if nothing had happened, and left her standing in the corner. He thought that it was no use to stay any longer, and about four o'clock in the morning he left her and went to his best man's house, who asked him in surprise why he had come back? Then he explained the reason why. ' Never mind ' said the best man,' don't be upset about it, I will talk to her to-morrow morning. I am sure,' he said, ' she is shy or afraid to be alone with a man for the first time in her life. To-morrow evening you shall have a better time.' Next morning the best man went straight to her room and had a long talk with her. Though she looked terribly sad, the best man did not seem to notice it, but he understood by her manner that next night she would greet her future husband better. Then he patted her shoulder saying to her, “to-night I shall be here with your husband,” and went out of the room. " At twelve o'clock the bridegroom came with the best man, and both went to the bride's room.* After a short conversation, the best man left them alone. She was just the same as on the first night, in her wedding-dress and her veil, and standing near the window. He said to her first some sweet words, while he was sitting; then he got up and stood quite close to her as she was looking from the window.
* It is the custom in the Caucasus that a bride shall not be seen by day for a fortnight.
He touched her on her shoulder, and as soon as she felt his touch, she turned quickly, and with a quiet voice said to him, ' Please do not touch me, but leave me alone.' As soon as he heard that, he bowed to her saying, ' I beg your pardon, I shall leave you alone.' He opened the door and went straight back to his best man's house. The best man was very much amazed, and did not know what to think of it. The bridegroom was quite broken-hearted. Next morning both men had a talk about it, but they could not understand what was the matter with her. However, the best man encouraged the husband, saying to him,
' Leave it to me - I will make her smile.'
' I cannot fight any longer,' said the bridegroom, ' but I would like to find out what is the matter with her. If she would tell me the reason why she does not want to be my wife then I would help her any way because I love her so dearly, but she even won't let me see her face.' The best man went again to see her, and this time he had a very serious talk with her.
' If you had no sympathy towards my friend why did you marry him? I am sure nobody forced you, but it was your own choice, so you must forget all and also remember where you are and your high position, and be his wife and let the world know your happiness.' She asked him,
' Did you ever hear that a girl in this country has any freedom of choice or is asked by her parents whether she likes the man who is proposing for a marriage or not?
' No, I never heard it’ said he, ' but so far as I am concerned it is the parents' duty to choose a husband for you and to make you happy.'
' Oh, no,' she said, ' it is altogether wrong; let me make my own choice.' However, the best man was delighted that he had now a little idea of her trouble, so after the conversation he went home and said to the bridegroom smilingly that everything was settled and to-night she will be more kind to you. ' I sincerely hope so’ said the bridegroom.
" Just when both men were ready to visit the bride again, the best man advised the bridegroom to be this time the master. ' She is a very shy girl. You don't expect that she will sit upon your knee without your asking her. Be master and you will see that she will yield’
" ' I am sure ' said the bridegroom ' her smile means to me more than anything in the world. It is full of immortal delicious-ness and passion, but if her heart is somewhere else I will not force her to return it '.
" They went straight to the bride's room again, and the best man, after wishing them happiness, left them alone.
" The bride was still dressed in her wedding-dress and veiled. He looked at her for a moment and said, ' I wish you would take off your veil and let me see your face, which I never have seen; then we can sit down and have a talk. I know your long heavy tresses under the veil are pulling your head back, and it makes you tired’
" She didn't say a word to him, neither was she prepared to accept his desire. He noticed it, and went to her nearer and asked her once more in a gentle and smooth way to take off the veil. She refused absolutely to do so. Then he lost his temper for a moment and seized her with both arms and shook her and said, ' Can you understand or not what a pure and moral love means? Realize and think what you are doing. I cannot tolerate any longer your cruel treatment towards me, and I demand you to tell me at once what is the matter with you? Or do you mean to say I don't deserve you? The fates brought us together for a moral love for lifelong, so I ask you once more to be my wife.'
First of all she was very afraid, but when she realized it that there was no other way but to defend herself, she got free of him, and took off quickly her veil and said to him, ' I admit you can be my dictator as my husband, but you cannot control my mind, so what is the use when my deep thoughts are somewhere else instead of with you. I know a man likes to fight for a love; either it is a pure one or not, he simply loves to fight for it. But the greater part of men soon get tired of the woman, and his pure love towards her gradually dies and only his letters remain. In them he swears faithfulness before God, and afterwards falls into sin and soon forgets his promises, so I therefore do not believe in love at all. I have no heart for it, but I have a soul and heart for one thing only and it is my word, my oath which I expressed before God since my early childhood, and it means to me something more sacred than anything else in the world, and it is therefore a duty to me to fulfill it.'
" ' Tell me,' said the husband, ' all about it; I have no fear. What is it? If it is anything I can do for you I shall assist you.' Then she said to him with a breathless voice, ' Do you know the famous horseman, Sosslan?'
" ' Yes,' he said, ' I do know him; he is a good friend of mine, but unfortunately he is very poor and it is a duty to assist him sometimes in money matters and to help him to get married, but tell me why you ask if I know him? '
" ' I have sworn,' she said, ' before God that no man in the world shall come near to me but Sosslan.' As soon as he heard it he almost fainted, as he never thought that he would hear such an incredible thing.
Do you really mean it ?' asked he, as it was unbelievable to him.
" ' Yes' she replied, ' I do mean it.'
" ' But if you do mean it really, then you have already disgraced me, both of our famous family names and also our society.'
" ' Exactly,' said she, ' if it were for a sentimental feeling or a great love, but it is for the people to judge whether I am right or wrong in keeping my oath before God, and if you say one more word against me,' (and holding in her hand a pair of scissors) ' then I will cut my throat before you.'
" He was afraid that she might really do so. Directly he saw there was nothing else to be done, he said no more and promised her his help.
" ' Very well,' said he, ' you shall be the winner and I shall be the loser, and I will help you to fulfill your oath.' He opened the door and went straight to the stable, and two of his horses were put into harness and got the cart ready. Then he went back to the room and said to her, ' Come along, the cart is ready and I shall drive you directly to Sosslan's house; it is only ten miles away.'
" She went out and got into the cart. She had still her wedding-dress on and her veil. Then he also jumped into the cart and drove her away. He drove as fast as he could; the road was terribly rough, and zig-zagged up and down the hills. At last he reached the house, and dropped her just before the gate. It was rather dark, and from Sosslan's little window was seen a light.
"' Can you see the light?' said the husband.
" ' Yes,' she said. ' I will go right in; he must be in if there is a light.'
" While she was still standing at the main gate he turned the horses back and left her alone in the darkness. The house was about a hundred yards from the main gate.
" When he reached home he unharnessed the horses and put them in the stable. Nobody had seen him and nobody knew of his great sacrifice. He went into his room terribly distressed and sad. Then he took his gun from the wall and loaded it and decided to shoot himself; it was far better than tomorrow morning to be questioned by his parents and to face his friends. He then sat down to write some farewell letters to his friends and parents.
" Left all alone, the Princess was naturally-very uneasy. However, she walked along to the house. She peeped first into the window to make sure if Sosslan was in, and she saw him sitting on a chair and playing a homemade violin and singing a melancholy song. At first she did not want to disturb him, but she stepped closer to the door to hear all the wonderful passionate words. When he had finished the song, he hung the violin on the wall. She knocked at the door; he looked astonished, and could not understand such a late visitor. But when the second knock came then he took first his gun from the wall and opened the door, and he saw standing before him a most beautiful woman. The moment he saw her he was greatly astonished.
" ' Permit me to come into your room' she said.
" ' You are welcome,' he said, and she stepped in and took off her veil.
" ' I suppose you don't know me, do you?' ' No,' he said in a nervous voice,' I am afraid I don't.'
" ' How strange,' she said, ' although you have never seen me near I still thought you knew who I was. I am the Princess of Biaslantt.' He could not believe it, and said to her, ' It is quite impossible for me to believe you because she has just been married, but perhaps you are her spirit but not herself.'
" However, she assured him that she was the girl and not to be afraid. Still he could not believe it. At last, after great difficulty, she made him believe that there was nothing wrong whatever.
" ' How did you come up here? '
" ' My bridegroom drove me.'
" ' What are you crying for? ' said he.
" ' Your melancholy song made me cry,' she answered.
" Then she explained to him her difficulty. ' May I hold your right hand? ' he said. ' Certainly' she answered. Then he took her hand and turned up the sleeve right to the elbow and kissed her arm.
" ' I am quite sure' said he, ' no man in the world has kissed you so far? '
" ' No' she said,' I have not even shaken hands with a strange man.'
"' You have now fulfilled your oath before God, and you must go back to your husband as soon as possible' said Sosslan
'"It is impossible' she said; 'everything is now over with him, and he will not let me go back.'
"' You can tell him all that has passed between us, and I am sure he will let you go back, do not be afraid.'
" Then he went out to the stable and harnessed his cart to drive her back, while it was still dark, so that nobody should see them. He called the Princess and put her in the cart and drove her back again. He dropped her at the gate without a word, turned round his cart and left her standing there.
" The Princess, when she opened the gate, saw in the yard two strange men leading two horses from the stable and coming towards the gate. At once she saw that they were horse thieves and was afraid to go further. The thieves also were frightened and did not know what to do. One said to the other ' get your gun ready’ Directly she heard it she got more frightened and said, ' Don't fire, please, I am the master's wife.' They could not believe it, as they knew that the master had just been married; besides, how could the master's wife be out alone so late with her wedding-dress on. So the other one said,' I am sure she is not a human being; she must be a ghost.'
" ' Please’ she said, ' do not fire; I am nothing of the kind, but I shall explain to you the matter’ and so she told them her trouble. Therefore when they were satisfied by her explanation, one said to the other ' We had better leave the yard as quickly as possible.'
" ' Well, lady, thank you for the explanation’ said the men. ' You can go now and tell your husband to put the horses in the stable.' Then they left the yard hurriedly. She walked along to her husband's door and knocked. He was just at that moment writing his last letter. He opened the door, and was surprised to see her standing there. First he did not want to have anything more to do with her. Then he could not understand how she got so quickly back as Sosslan had no cart horses. Then she explained all that had happened to her.
"' So now you know,' she said, ' how I got back, and you may go out to the yard and put your horses into the stable.' So while he was busy with the horses putting them in the stable she was reading all the letters which he was writing to his friends and one to his father over her trouble.
" Dear Father,
" I am taking this wrong and serious step, because of my very unhappy marriage. My wife does not love me but loves another, and made an oath to be faithful to him, so I am taking my life as I cannot live without her because my love is too strong, so please forgive your very unworthy son.
" After reading the letter to his father, she was very sad and surprised to find how good and true a man could be to a woman who loved another. So she made up her mind to be a true and faithful wife to him, and afterwards they lived a very peaceful and happy life together."
Then one of the brothers asked the Prince what became of the famous horseman. " I suppose he had better fortune in his future days."
" No," said the Prince. " After some years he had a very sad ending, as sad as the song that he had sung. He had an accident, was wounded in his knee and could never ride again.
" Now I have finished my story and I am sure you were all the time listening to it with great interest? "
" Quite so," said one of them, " we were."
" Very well, then," said the Prince. " Now I want to know your opinions separately. Who was the most gallant of the three people? The rich man who married the Princess, or the famous horseman, or the Princess? "
After a little silence the brothers looked at each other, and then the elder one, Bel-Merza, got up and said, " I choose the rich man. The girl was known as a most beautiful soul, and he married her for a pure love and to spend the rest of his life with her. When she refused to be his wife and told the reason, he at once agreed to it, though he knew perfectly well he would shock everybody, but as his love was stronger towards her than all else in the world, he was quite willing to let her carry out her innocent oath before God. I think no other man in the world could be more generous to a girl than he was. He had a soft heart, but nerves of steel." Then the next one, Temer-Bolat, got up and said, " I choose rather the famous horseman, Sosslan. It is quite a common expression to say a famous horseman, but so few deserve the title, as Sosslan did. He was as poor as a man could be, but those who did not know him and could see him on his white horse would take him for a wealthy man. A rich, young and beautiful Princess falls in love with him, even gives her oath that she wants to be his wife. He never dreamed of such great fortune, and yet the fortune came to him straightway without asking for it. The girl offered to be his wife and to make him as happy as a man could be. He knew that through her he would have been a made man for life. He refused ; he valued a name and reputation more than the whole world's wealth."
Then the third one, Kaz-Jerrey, got up and said: " The story altogether is marvelous. All the three people were so wonderful that it is very hard to choose the best one of them; but there is one thing which I cannot understand. My own opinion is that the two horse stealers were quite stupid fools. If I had been in their place I would not have bothered about the horses, but as soon as I saw the Princess I would have dropped them and stolen her." As soon as he had spoken the Prince stopped him further talking, and said to his brothers, " This is the traitor. You have condemned yourself out of your own mouth by what you said about the girl." Then Kaz-Jerry admitted his unfair action to his brothers.
They were delighted at the Prince's clever stratagem, and both shook hands with him, congratulating him for his amusing tale.
" But we want now your further advice," said one of them, " and it is - shall we divide the estate or is it to be carried on as it is now? "
" My advice to you," said the Prince, " is that the estate shall be carried on as usual. It is an old saying," he said, " ' when the hurricane tears up a great tree by the roots, you never can put it in the same spot again.' Therefore all you have got to do is this. As soon as you reach home, go all three of you straight to the cellar and all the iron boxes which you have there full of gold coins, put them on the floor, and also the third one as well, if there is any gold left in it, and every one of you take a shovel in his hand, and mix up all the gold coins together; then fill the three boxes up again. Then no doubt the gold will keep you bound to one another."
So by the Prince's good advice they agreed to do so. Then the Prince asked them to shake hands and live in peace with one another. So on the following morning their horses were ready to ride back home. They mounted cheerfully, and all the Prince's family went out to the main gate to say good-bye to them. All were in good spirits, and waved their handkerchiefs as they left the Prince's castle. As soon as they got home they went to the cellar and mixed up the coins as the Prince had advised them to do.
30th June 1926.
From Ruslan Kuchity.
Agube Gudsow (Gudsatty, Gudsov) was the first Ossetian professional circus horse rider. He became a very famous equestrian, performing first in Russia and since 1909 in many European circuses. He died in London in 1959.
Additional information (in Russian) at
The grammar and the style of the story are kept unchanged, as the book was published in 1926.