There once lived fat-bellied Ruff Ruffson, who dwelt in a fine house and was forever telling tales about his fellows! He came upon hard times and drove off to Lake Rostov in a miserable sledge drawn by a three-legged nag. There Ruff Ruffson cried out in a loud voice: "Oh, fish of the lake, both large and small, burbot and sterlet, carp, chub and roach, the last among you all! Let me, Ruff Ruffson, into your lake, I pray. Not for a whole year there to stay, but just to feast for one brief day, eat from your table and listen to your prattle." So the fish of the lake, both large and small, burbot and sterlet, carp, chub and roach, the last among them all, agreed to let him into the lake for a day. Then Ruff Ruffson went on the rampage, harassing the poor fish everywhere, driving them into the slime and up to the weir. The fish of the lake grew angry and complained about Ruff Ruffson to Peter Sturgeon the Just: "Oh, Peter Sturgeon the Just! Why does Ruff Ruffson harass us? He asked to come into our lake for a day, then started chasing us all away. Hear and pass judgement, Peter Sturgeon." Peter Sturgeon the Just sent the gudgeon, a little fish, to fetch Ruff Ruffson. The gudgeon hunted for him in the lake, but could not find him. So Peter Sturgeon the Just sent the pike, a middling fish, to look for him.
With a splash of her tail, the pike dived into the lake and found the ruff under a snag. "Hello, Ruff Ruffson!" "Good-day, Pikey! What brings you here?" "I have come to summon you to Peter Sturgeon, who is to pass judgement; a complaint has been made against you." "By whom?" "By the fish of the lake, both large and small, burbot and sterlet, carp, chub and roach, the last among them all, even she has complained about you, and the catfish too, a simple fellow, with lips so thick he can hardly speak. So let's go to the court, Ruff Ruffson, and see that justice is done." "Oh, no, Pikey, dear! Now just listen here. Come along with me, and we'll go on a spree." The pike refused to go with Ruff Ruffson, and tried to take him to court so that he would get his just deserts. "Sharp as you are of tooth and scale, you won't catch Ruff Ruffson by the tail! Today is Saturday, Pikey. The lasses will gather at my father's house and there will be feasting and carousing. Let's go and have fun, eh, and tomorrow, though it be Sunday, we'll go to the court: at least our bellies will be full." So the pike agreed and went on a spree with Ruff Ruffson. He made her drunk, lured her into a barn, locked the door and she was heard of no more.
They waited and waited for Ruff Ruffson to appear in court. At last Peter Sturgeon sent the big catfish to fetch him. With a splash of his tail, the catfish dived into the lake and found the ruff under a snag. "Good-day, son-in-law!" "Hello, father-in-law!" "Come with me to court, Ruff Ruffson. A complaint has been made against you." "By whom?" "By the fish of the lake, both large and small, burbot and sterlet, carp, chub and roach, the last among them all!" Ruff Ruffson was the catfish's son-in-law, so there was nothing left for him but to go. "Why have you called me here, Peter Sturgeon the Just?" asked Ruff Ruffson. "Why have I called you indeed! You asked to be let into Lake Rostov for a day, then began chasing all the fish away. They were greatly angered by this; so the fish of the lake, both large and small, burbot and sterlet, carp, chub and roach, the last among them all, complained to me about you and asked me to pass judgement on the matter!" "Well, now hear my complaint too," replied Ruff Ruffson. "It is they who have wronged me by splashing about and washing away the banks. I was driving past in a hurry and fell into the lake! Summon the king's fishermen, Peter Sturgeon the Just, cast fine nets and drive the fish into the weir, then you will see who is right and who is wrong. For the one who is right will get out of the plight and leap free out of the net."
Peter the Sturgeon heard his request, summoned the king's fishermen and drove all the fish into the weir. Ruff Ruffson got caught in a net. He began twisting and thrashing, with eyes a-popping, and was the first to leap free. "Now do you see who was right and who was wrong, Peter Sturgeon the Just?" "I see that you were right, Ruff Ruffson; go back to the lake and swim at your ease. No one will vex you now, unless the lake dry up and the crows drag you out of the mud." So Ruff Ruffson went down into the lake, boasting for all to hear: "Now fish of the lake, both large and small, burbot and sterlet, carp and chub, you're all in trouble. Nor shall I forgive the roach, the last of them all. Or the fat-bellied catfish. Too thick-lipped to speak, but he knows how to complain! I'll get even with the lot of you!" Up came Akim and didn't like this bragging; up came Innokenty with stakes a-plenty; up came Maxim and drove the stakes in; up came Gleb and spread out a net; up came Demian and caught the ruffian; then up came Ustin and Ruff slipped free.