“l wouldn't care to change my life for yours,” she said. “I admit mine is dull, but at least we have no worries. You live in grander style, but you must do a great deal of business or you’ll be ruined. You know the proverb, ‘Loss is Gain's elder brother.’ One day you are rich and the next you might find yourself out in the street.”
“It's true what you say,” he said. “Take me. Ever since I was a youngster I've been too busy tilling the soil to let that kind of nonsense enter my head. My only grievance is that I don't have enough land. Give me enough of that and I'd fear no one—not even the Devil himself!”
They met once, they met twice, but no progress was made: the Devil had set them at loggerheads and there was nothing they could agree upon. In the end they decided to buy the land in separate lots, each according to what he could afford.
“The land is so fertile,” he said, “that rye grows as high as a horse and it's so thick you can make a whole sheaf from only five handfuls! One peasant arrived with a copeck and only his bare hands to work with and now he has six horses and two cows.”
Then they conferred again and started arguing about something. Pakhom asked what it was and the interpreter told him, “Some of them are saying they should first consult the elder about the land. They can't do anything without his permission, but some of the others say it's not necessary.”
“Thank you for your kind words. Yes, you do have a great deal of land, but I need only a little. However, I would like to be sure which will be mine, so couldn't it be measured and made over to me by some sort of contract? Our lives are in God's hands and although you good people are willing to give me the land now, it's possible your children might want it back again.”
And then Pakhom saw that it wasn't the peasant, but the Devil himself, with horns and hoofs, sitting there laughing his head off, while before him lay a barefoot man wearing only shirt and trousers. When Pakhom took a closer look he saw that the man was dead and that it was himself.
On and on he went—but there was still a long way to go. He started running and threw away his coat, boots, flask, cap, keeping only the spade which he used for leaning on. “Oh dear,” he thought, “I've been too greedy. Now I've ruined it. I'll never get back by sunset.”
Although he feared death, he could not stop. “If I stopped now, after coming all this way—well, they'd call me an idiot!” So on he ran until he was close enough to hear the Bashkirs yelling and cheering him on.
Pakhom's workman picked up the spade, dug a grave for his master—six feet from head to heel, which was exactly the right length—and buried him.