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Title: A China cup and other stories for children
Author: Vilkhovsky, Felix
Language: English
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CHILDREN ***



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                            THE CHILDREN'S
                                LIBRARY

                            [Illustration]

                              A CHINA CUP

                                  AND

                      OTHER STORIES FOR CHILDREN

                            [Illustration]

                            [Illustration]



_THE CHILDREN'S LIBRARY._


    THE BROWN OWL.
    A CHINA CUP, AND OTHER STORIES.
    STORIES FROM FAIRYLAND.
    THE STORY OF A PUPPET.
    THE LITTLE PRINCESS.
    TALES FROM THE MABINOGION.



[Illustration: "_Seizing a heavy silver candlestick, the Magnate flung
it violently at the fowl._"

                                                     PAGE 46.]



                                   A

                               CHINA CUP

                                  AND

                      OTHER STORIES FOR CHILDREN


                                  BY

                           FELIX VOLKHOVSKY


                      _ILLUSTRATED BY MALISCHEFF_


                                LONDON
                            T. FISHER UNWIN
                                 1892

                            SECOND EDITION



[Illustration]



[Illustration]



CONTENTS


                                        PAGE

     I. A CHINA CUP                        3

    II. HOW SCARLET-COMB THE COCK
        DEFENDED THE RIGHT                37

   III. THE TINY SCREW                    65

    IV. THE DREAM                         85

     V. BROWNY                           115

    VI. THE OLD SWORD'S MISTAKE          125

   VII. 'MY OWN'                         141

  VIII. THE TALE ABOUT HOW ALL
        THESE TALES CAME TO LIGHT        167



[Illustration]



A CHINA CUP


A waggon drove to the great pit dug in the clay--not common clay, but
such as china vessels are made of. A man with an iron spade jumped
from the waggon; he entered the pit and began to dig the clay. After
the first stroke of the spade a little lump fell out of the native
ground, and with a bitter, plaintive murmur rolled down. Nobody heard
the murmur; it seemed to the workman that the Lump in rolling down made
a slight noise, whereas it was groaning: it was hard to be torn away
from mother earth. 'All is over,' it whispered; 'oh, how hard it is to
live in the world!'

The workman took it up on his spade with the other clay, and threw it
into the waggon. 'Oh!' groaned the bit of clay from pain, as it fell on
the bottom of the waggon; 'not only was I torn away from my mother, but
thrown far away from her. Alas! is there any one more unhappy in this
world than I? I should like to die!'

But the Lump did not die. The workman had soon filled up his waggon,
jumped in himself, and drove away, carrying it to the china factory.
It was pretty well while they were going along an even place, but when
they went down a steep mountain-side, the horse ran fast, and our
Lump was jolted, thrown from side to side, and knocked against the
waggon. Nor did all its torments end then. As soon as it was brought
to the china factory, it was thrown with other clay into a large tub
with water in it, and it felt with horror how it began gradually to
get soft, and to be transformed into a sort of soft mud. It had no
time to recover, as it was taken out with a great ladle and poured
somewhere--it was into the funnel of the great millstones. The driver
shouted, the horses went on, pulled one end of a bar, which was
fastened by the other end to a big axle standing erect in the middle
of the great millstones; the bar again turned the axle to which the
upper millstone was fastened, and the millstones began to grind the
water-softened clay, crushing its smallest particles. Our Lump no
longer existed, but all its little particles which before formed it
were now like clay-jelly, and kept close together.

Ah, how they suffered! The awful millstone pressed upon them with
its whole weight--squeezed, flattened, ground them. They shrivelled,
groaned, cried from pain and said: 'Oh-o-o! what a torture! it is all
over with us!'

But that was not all. After the grinding the clay-jelly was poured by
means of gutters into the empty wooden tub to settle. There the hard
particles, heavier than water, sank.... On the bottom was the sand,
next the reddish clay, mixed with iron-rust, then the coarser parts of
the white clay, and finally its lightest particles, quite free from
all other mixture. All the particles of our Lump happened to be of the
same weight and to be nicely ground; they sank together and formed
again the same Lump, only soft, delicate, and free from all unnecessary
admixture. It was very nice, of course, but the little Lump was so
tired from all it suffered, so exhausted, that it did not wish to live
in the world. 'I would rather death would come!' it said.

Death, however, did not come. A workman came instead, poured off the
water which was on the surface of the clay, cut the clay to the bottom,
separated it into layers, and assorted them, so that the upper, more
delicate layer was for the best china vessels, and the lower for the
coarser plates. As our Lump was in the upper layer, it was taken to a
workman who made the finest vessels.

The workman took our Lump, put it into the middle of a round table
which turned on its centre, made this table spin round with his feet,
and at the same time pressed the clay here and there till he had made
a coarse cup without a handle. The workman then, with an instrument
like a knife, began to turn the cup, till it became a fine, fine one.
He then handed it to his neighbour, who put a nice little handle to
it. 'Well,' thought the Lump, transformed now into a cup, 'it is not
so bad. I suffered indeed, but what a beauty I am now!' ... and the
Cup looked self-contentedly around. She did not rejoice long. She was
soon put with others into one of the pots of particular form called
'muffles,' and the muffles were put into a furnace, which began to heat
the Cup by scorching degrees to make it red hot. 'Oh, how hot it is!'
stammered the poor Cup, perspiring, crying, and groaning at once. 'Oh,
what a torture! Oh, how hard it is to live in the world! I should like
to die!'

Still, she did not die. She was taken from the furnace, watered with a
certain mixture, burnt once more. A charming bouquet and garland were
then painted on her, and the Cup did not recognise herself. 'Ah, how
happy I am!' said she to herself; 'it was worth while to suffer all
that I suffered. I am the most beautiful here, and there is and will be
no one happier.'

Very soon the Cup went from the factory to the shop. She was delighted
to see the fine hall with large windows and nice glass cases. She
enjoyed the society of china cups, teapots, plates, and all sorts of
most beautiful things.

'Here,' thought she, 'they can appreciate my beauty!' and she
immediately addressed her neighbour, a big, round teapot: 'Please, sir,
have you been long here?'

'Yes,' answered the teapot gruffly, knocking with his coarse lid.

'And do you think there was ever before a cup with such fine ornament
and delicate painting as I have?'

'Ho-ho-ho-ha-ha!' ... laughed the big teapot. 'Just listen!' shouted he
to his companions, as big and coarse as himself; 'this damsel is asking
whether there is in the world a beauty like her?... O-ho-ho-ho!'

'Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!' burst all the big teapots in laughter, holding their
sides with their handles.

Our Cup was offended, and ashamed to tears.

'What are you laughing at?' whispered she in confusion.

'And how can we help laughing?' exclaimed her neighbour; 'you think too
much of yourself; and what are you good for? To spend all your life on
some nice shelf; you need cheapness and solidity to be of some use. And
as for your ornament, look to your right, on the third shelf; there are
more elegant ones there than you!'

The Cup looked to the right, and would have grown green from envy if
she could have changed colour. There were standing fine cups on small
feet; such delicate, fine cups, like white, pale, and pink rose petals!
... the beautiful bouquets, the prettiest heads, the finest gold lace,
with black and green ornamentation, were painted upon them. These cups
were also proud of their beauty, and as they were more beautiful than
their new companion, they looked at her with contempt and haughtiness.

In the china factory the Cup thought herself the most beautiful in
the world, and was quite happy; and now she was forced not only to
acknowledge that there were more beautiful ones, but to listen to the
mocking words and endure the most offensive looks. Envy, vexation,
shame, tormented her, and she would fain run away somewhere, yet she
could not move from the spot. This helplessness added still to her pain
and anger. She would like to have sunk into the earth. 'Ah,' thought
she, 'why did I not die before! Why does death not come now!'

Death did not come, however. The shop door opened, a fine lady, with a
richly-dressed young girl of about ten years of age, came in.

'We want a nice cup, not too expensive,' said the lady to the shopman
at the counter.

The shopman took our Cup and some others from the shelf and put them
on the counter. Oh, what our Cup felt at that moment! She was displayed
with half a dozen of her companions, every one of whom thought herself
more beautiful than the others, and was proud of it. Suppose these
elegant purchasers should give the preference not to her, but to one of
her conceited companions? She felt as if on burning coals. The little
girl stretched her hand to one of our Cup's neighbours, and the Cup
trembled with anxiety. But the little purchaser only touched the rival
of our Cup and finally took the latter. 'This one, mamma,' said the
child, and the mother bought her. Oh, with what a pride shone now this
plaything, and how haughtily she looked at her companions! Her beauty
is now openly acknowledged; she is preferred to others! She was bright
with happiness, and slightly trembled when the shopman took her from
the counter to wrap her in paper.

'Ah, how happy I am!' said the Cup in the evening, when fragrant tea
was poured in, and all who were sitting at the tea-table admired her;
'of course there is and will be nobody happier than I.'

Just at this moment the pretty little girl who had chosen her at the
shop came running in from the garden. She was very thirsty. She seized
the Cup and took a sip at once, notwithstanding that they cried to her
that the tea was too hot. The Cup certainly was not to blame that the
girl from her own carelessness had scalded her mouth, and the girl
treated her unjustly. 'Oh, you nasty Cup!' cried she, and threw her to
the floor.

Crash! ... and the pieces of the poor innocent Cup tinkled plaintively,
and drops of tea, like big tears, trickled on to the floor from her.
The footman came, gathered the pieces of the broken Cup and threw them
away into the backyard on the rubbish heap. There she was with the
bits of old leather, broken glass, rusty pieces of tin, and a pair of
decaying cucumbers. She shivered from contact with the dirt, which she
had never experienced since she was a nice cup, and she felt sick from
the unpleasant odour. 'Oh, how unhappy I am!' said the broken Cup. 'All
is over. I have nothing to expect from life. I have only to die!'

The Cup did not lie long in the rubbish heap. Early, early the next
morning, when all were yet asleep in the house, there came into the
backyard a poor, wrinkled, dirty, ragged, old woman. She had on her
back a bag, and a big stick with a hook on its end in her hand. She was
a rag-gatherer. She dug into the heaps with her hook, picked out of
them the bones, rags, paper, nails, pieces of glass, and such things
thrown away as seemed to the poor woman of some use. After having
filled up the bag, the rag-gatherer went home, sorted its contents,
and then took the bones to the shoeblacking maker, rags and paper to
the pasteboard maker, the iron to the dealer in old iron, and the glass
to the glass factory. All these places were far from each other and
from her lodging, and the poor woman was exceedingly tired in going
from one place to another. She gained thus a few copecks,[1] without
which neither she nor her sick granddaughter would have had anything to
eat. On the following morning the old woman went again to dig among the
heaps.

       [1] A copeck (in Russian _kopéika_) is a Russian copper; 100
       copecks form one _rouble_. A rouble is worth 2s. 0-2/5d. in
       English money.

Coming near the rubbish heap where the broken Cup was lying, the
woman began to work with her hook, seeking with her old, tearful,
short-sighted eyes something worth having. She had already dug up all
that she wanted, when her hook struck against something hard; the old
woman knew by this sound that there was something like glass in the
heap. She stooped down and took up a fragment of the Cup with a nice
nosegay on it.

'What fine flowers!' whispered she; 'I will take it home for Mary--a
nice plaything for her--I must take it.'

The good old woman smiled, as she thought of her beloved granddaughter,
called Mary. She began to search again among the rubbish, and found
that there were many fine pieces, and those not too small. 'Oh, the
pieces are all here,' said she; 'it is possible perhaps to cement them
together.' And taking all the bits she put them by themselves into the
pocket of her worn-out petticoat.

It was as dark as in a cellar in the pocket of the old woman, and as
oppressively warm as in an uncared-for hospital-room in summer; there
were besides an old onion and the crumbs of spoiled, ill-smelling
cheese. The broken Cup felt still more sick at heart than before; she
shivered; her broken pieces tinkled plaintively at every step the woman
took, and she thought, 'Oh, what suffering! I should like to die!'

She did not die. It was light when the old woman came to a large brick
house six stories high, near a market-place, in a narrow, dirty lane.
She entered through a dirty passage the courtyard, surrounded on all
sides with buildings, passed through a gloomy basement door down to the
ground-floor, where her lodging was. It was a dark, cheerless room,
with small windows high above the brick floor. In every corner of the
room there was a whole family of beggars. The old woman approached a
heap of rags, groaning, removed from her shoulder the bag with her
day's gains in it, and sat down on an old pine candle-box, turned
upside down, near the rags; she then took from her pocket all the
pieces of the Cup, and put them on another box which stood there for a
table. The first thing our Cup now heard was a harsh, noisy scolding
from the farthest corner of the room; everybody in this beggars' haunt
was so accustomed to it that nobody paid any attention. 'Oh,' thought
the Cup, 'this is too much! In what company am I! What rough people
there are! Oh, there is surely nobody in the world more unhappy than I!
I would like to die as soon as possible!'

The rags in the corner now moved; under them was lying the sick,
sallow, emaciated darling of the old woman. She looked at her
grandmother with her wearied eyes, and nothing interested her.

'Here is a piece of _pryáneek_, Mary, which I brought for you,' said
the old woman, taking out a piece of _pryáneek_, which she had bought
for a copeck.

This was a cake of white, stone-like consistency, supposed to represent
a horse, though it may be doubted whether four stumps instead of feet,
a gilded head and a crimson tail, would give a really good idea of
one. There was indeed enough flour in it, but little sweetness; still
it was a thing as much to delight the heart of a Russian child as a
gingerbread cat to rejoice the heart of an English one.

The girl looked at it, but shook her head, and did not eat it; she did
not even touch it.

'Why don't you take it, Mary? Do take it, dear, such a nice piece of
_pryáneek_; look!'

And the grandmother held up the present, turning it round to show all
its beauty. The girl looked up once more at the cake, and then at her
grandmother, without moving her head.

'I am so sore!' she whispered feebly.

'What ails you?' asked the old woman.

'Everything ails me,' said the sick girl softly, and two big tears
rolled slowly down her cheeks.

The broken Cup looked at all this, and was very sorry, and her pieces
tinkled plaintively together, and then she felt ashamed that she had
thought herself so unhappy while there was in the world plenty of
sorrow far greater than her own. The girl heard the tinkling, and
silently looked up to see what it was that was tinkling so on the box.
She noticed the beautiful flowers on the broken pieces of the Cup; her
eyes brightened by degrees, and she whispered softly:

'Give it to me, grandmamma.'

'Take it, take it, darling! I brought it home for you.'

Mary took the pieces in her hands, trembling from weakness, and
began to turn them over and over, admiring them. She had never any
playthings, and therefore the pretty pieces seemed to her so much the
finer. The more she looked at them the more her eyes brightened, and
at last she smiled. The old woman had not for a long time seen such an
expression of pleasure on the worn-out face of her poor granddaughter,
and the feeble smile of the sick child rejoiced her to tears.

'Oh,' thought the Cup, 'I never expected to give to any one so much
pleasure after having been broken to pieces! And I am happier, indeed,
than I was in the rich house where everybody at the tea-table admired
me!'

'Mary, you know, we shall cement the cup; indeed we shall do it! It
will be a pretty cup,' whispered the old woman.

Mary became more cheerful, and the Cup thought: 'Ah, it is possible
I am really good for something! It seems to me I was in too great a
hurry to die; it is worth while living in the world.'

On the next day the old woman came home after her day's work with a
little _toóyes_, a sort of cylindrical vessel of birch bark, in which
there was a handful of curd and an egg. These she had received from
some kind-hearted cook.

'You see, Mary, we are going to cement the Cup!' said she, sitting down
on her box.

Mary had been groaning and fretting all the day and night, but now
she smiled again. The old woman broke the egg, poured it into an old
wooden basin, placed on the box some curd, mixed lime with it, and,
kneading all together with the white of egg, she made a thick cement.
Smearing the edges of the pieces of our Cup with the mixture, the old
woman pressed them together, and placed the Cup carefully in a hot
oven, that the cement might harden and become proof against water or
anything else. It was hot in the oven for the Cup--dreadfully hot! but
she was ready to suffer anything to be the same complete beautiful cup
as before. 'Oh, how happy I am!' thought she, awaiting with inward
trembling the end of her trials in the oven. 'All is going on well; I
will live again!'

Mary in the meantime grew worse: she fretted, groaned, and complained
with bitter tears.

'Oh, grandmamma, how I ache! how I ache!'

'Oh, my poor darling!' said the old woman, sobbing, while hot tears
rolled down her wrinkled, unwashed face; 'I cannot tell what to do for
you, my dear pet.'

In the same room with the old woman, in another corner, there lived a
beggar, an old discharged soldier of the time of the Russian Emperor
Nicholas, when the discipline was so inhumanly severe and the term of
service lasted a whole quarter of a century! He had been in the wars,
fought bravely, and now he was quite alone in the wide world. The
bullets were still in his body, old age prevented him from working,
and he was obliged to get by begging here and there a few copecks. He
became accustomed to sorrow; but now it grieved him to see the misery
of the old woman and the sufferings of the little girl.

'You are foolish,' said he to the old woman; 'why do you cry, as if the
child was dying? You must not do it! Go rather for the physician.'

'Will the physician come?' exclaimed the old woman. 'You are indeed
like an innocent child, _Nikítich_.[2] Will the physician come to such
a dirty place?'

       [2] Pronounce 'Neekeéteech.' The reader should rather be
       told here that the Russian fashion of calling a person, when
       addressing him or her, is not by his or her surname, but by
       the Christian name, with the addition of his or her father's
       name, somewhat altered in a way to express 'son of' or
       'daughter of' such-a-one; for example--Iván Nikítich (John,
       son of Nikíta). Among common people and among friends they
       address only in one's Christian name without the addition of
       the father's name ('_ót-chest-vo_'); but if, in addressing a
       common person, you wish to express some deference, you use
       only the 'ótchestvo,' without the person's Christian name; for
       example, 'Nikítich' instead of 'Iván Nikítich.' Such is the
       case in our tale.

'And why should he not come? One will not come, another will not come,
but some one perhaps will come at last. There, I know a physician,
Kótov, a nice gentleman! He always gives me a glass of tea and five
copecks. He will not let me go without giving me something. "How do you
do, Nikítich?" says he always to me. I tell you, go to him. Ask him;
you needn't care.'

'Yes, at his home he will receive me perhaps, but he will not come
here. No, we have nothing to do with physicians. I cannot afford to buy
medicine, and very likely they will not even let me into the house. No,
I dare not.'

'Well, if you dare not, I will go myself.'

At these words the old wounded soldier took his stick and hobbled away
to the physician's.

The physician did come. He was a very good man, only he had the
habit of speaking in an angry tone and even shouting, so that some
were afraid of him. He examined the girl a long time, put his ear to
her back and chest, tapped both with his fingers, spat in disgust,
and complained angrily of the dirt and unwholesome air of the room.
He ordered that nothing but broth be given to the girl, wrote a
prescription on a bit of paper, and said that the medicine would be
given gratuitously at the apothecary's.

In the evening the old woman brought the bottle with the medicine,
poured some into a wooden spoon and presented it to her granddaughter.
The girl shook her head feebly and turned away. She was afraid of the
medicine; she thought it was something so disagreeable, and for nothing
in the world would she take it.

'Ah me!' said her grandmother, sighing, 'why won't you take it? It's
too bad! What will the physician say? He ordered it and you will not
take it. Wait, you will see what will happen to disobedient children!'

The girl was frightened; she began to sob, and when her grandmother
offered her the spoon, she covered her mouth with her hand and hid her
face in her pillow.

In the morning the old woman took our Cup out of the oven. Oh, how glad
was our Cup when the old woman, looking all over her, said to herself,
'Oh, I see it is as good as new now!' Just at this moment Mary called
for her grandmother and asked for a drink. The old woman went with the
newly-cemented Cup for some water, and as she held her hand over the
tub, the Cup saw herself in the water as in a mirror. Alas! what did
she see there? In many places were ugly cracks; the cement, applied
by an unskilful hand, formed spots and patches. 'Oh,' groaned the
Cup--'oh, how ugly I am! It would have been better for me to perish in
the rubbish heap. Ah, now I would like to die as soon as possible!'

She did not die, however. The old woman was obliged to put her in haste
on the window-sill, for just then the physician entered the room.

'How many spoonfuls of medicine did she take?' asked he angrily.

'She did not take any at all, sir. What shall I do with her? Such an
obstinate, silly girl; she is not willing to take any; what shall I
do?' answered the old woman.

'What? How does she dare? What does she mean? Give me the spoon!' cried
the doctor.

At these words Mary screamed, her eyes opened wide from fear, and she
covered her head with the bedclothes. The doctor turned once more to
the old woman.

'And did she take the broth?' he asked.

'But, my good sir, where should we get money for the broth?' said the
rag-gatherer, with tears in her eyes.

'Well, why did you ask me to come if you did not intend to do what I
ordered?' He then took at once a crushed three-rouble bank note from
his pocket, threw it angrily on the box which served as a table, and
turned away. When he reached the door he turned his head, and, flushed
with excitement, said:

'All the medicine must be taken by to-morrow, and the broth must be
ready, and that's the end of it!'

When the old woman saw the three roubles in her hand she could hardly
realise her good fortune and believe in her happiness. Just think,
three roubles! For three years or so she had never had more than
thirty copecks at one time, and now she had three roubles!

'God grant you every happiness, our benefactor!' repeated the poor
woman over and over again.

As for Mary, she grew worse and worse. She groaned, her dilated eyes
shone with the fire of fever, her lips became parched and black.

'Oh, you little dove, do take the medicine, and you will feel better,'
entreated the old woman; but Mary obstinately refused to take any.
Seeing the sufferings of the poor girl, the rag-gatherer suddenly
clasped her gray head with her hands.

'Oh my God! what am I to do with her? what am I to do with her?' wept
she in despair. 'She will die, I am sure, through her own foolishness.
How hard it is to see her suffering just because she will not take a
little medicine.'

The Cup saw and heard all this, and once more she felt ashamed of
having thought herself unhappy for not being as beautiful as formerly.

'Is this misery?' thought she now of her own appearance; '_there_ is
misery indeed!' and the little Cup was herself ready to cry for pity.
In the meantime the poor woman dried her tears and approached her sick
grandchild.

'Do you know that I have mended the little Cup?' she said.

The face of the little girl brightened, and a faint smile played upon
it. 'Let me see it,' lisped she.

The grandmother showed her the little Cup, and Mary's face expressed as
much rapture as if she saw some masterpiece of beauty. The poor child
had seen during her life so few beautiful things, that the mended Cup
with the pretty nosegay on her transported her with delight.

'And wouldn't you take the medicine out of the Cup?' asked the old
woman, in an uncertain, coaxing tone of voice.

The girl made no reply, but smiled again.

'Well, will you take it out of the pretty little Cup?'

'I will,' answered Mary, in an almost inaudible voice.

The little Cup was standing at that moment on the window-sill, and was
trembling with joy; hitherto no one had loved her so deeply as Mary
did. Was it not for her sake alone that Mary consented to take the
medicine? Perhaps the little girl will recover; perhaps she, the Cup,
will have saved a human life. 'Oh, what a beautiful thing it is to
live,' said the Cup to herself; 'never before was I so happy!'

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a glorious summer day when Mary went the first time after her
dangerous illness to take breath in the open air. She was still thin
and pale, but her large eyes were bright, and she looked happy. She
was sitting in the nearest square, under a big green tree, with her Cup
in both her hands. The little girl was evidently eager to have the Cup
always with her; she would not part with her treasure. The Cup felt
herself also happy--nay, happier than ever--although she was now broken
and spotted with ugly cement patches. She was happy and proud to be the
best friend of the little Mary whom she had helped to restore to life
and health.



[Illustration]



HOW SCARLET-COMB THE COCK DEFENDED THE RIGHT


All this happened long, long ago, in the days when birds and beasts
could talk in human speech, and the Polish magnates went about in
long '_kountoushi_'[3]--coats embroidered with gold and silver, with
sleeves slung on behind--and possessed serfs. Perhaps you do not know
what a 'serf' was in the old times? Well, a serf was a person just like
the rest of us, only he was bound to the land by law; he had not the
right to go and live in any other place, and if the land was sold, he
was sold with it; he tilled the land, though not for his own profit,
but for the profit of the landowner. It was not only in Poland that
there used to be these serfs and landlords who owned them, but in all
countries--in ours as well as every other; and everywhere the serfs
had a hard time of it. Those landlords who had any conscience and
commonsense, and who were not in any great need of money, made their
serfs work for them a certain part of their time, and bring them eggs,
flax, etc.; the rest of their time and goods the serfs could dispose
of as they thought fit. Others regarded their peasants as beasts of
burden, belonging to them body and soul; they forced the peasants to
work for them as much as was possible, and thought they had a right to
all the peasants' property. But whether the serf-owner was personally
good or bad, it was a loathsome thing in itself that one human being
should own another.

       [3] The plural of the Polish word '_koúntoush_.'

One day a Polish '_Pan_' (nobleman) of this kind was riding through
a village on his land. The green sleeves of his bright-coloured
_koúntoush_ streamed back from his shoulders, fluttering in the breeze;
his fine dappled horse stepped impatiently under its rider, tossing
flakes of white foam from its mouth; and Pan Podliásski himself glanced
haughtily to the right and left. The wretched, bare look of the
peasants' huts and ruinous farmyards did not distress him at all; in
Pan Podliásski's opinion a serf was a serf for nothing else but to be
always ragged, dirty, and miserable. Suddenly, as he passed one of the
huts, the landlord raised his eyebrows in angry surprise; in the bare
and filthy yard stood a first-rate grindstone.

'Where did a rascally serf get such a capital grindstone?' he thought;
and turning to his steward, who was riding behind with two or three
noble retainers, he asked: 'Whose yard is this?'

'Stanislas Kogoútek's, most illustrious Pan,' respectfully answered the
steward.

'Why is the grindstone here?'

'It does not belong to the manor; we have not such a good grindstone,'
replied the steward, understanding the mistake of the magnate, who
supposed the grindstone to be his, and to have come into the peasant's
yard by chance.

'Here! _Khlop!_' (serf!), cried Pan Podliásski.

A middle-aged peasant, bareheaded, barefooted, and wearing nothing but
a shirt and trousers of coarse sacking, ran out of the hut at this
summons. He approached his master, bowing humbly, fell on his knees
before him, bowed to the ground, and, rising, kissed his stirrup, after
which he bowed again.

'Whose is the grindstone?' asked the landlord, frowning.

Kogoútek's terror increased, and his eyes glanced round in agitation;
he realised how foolish he had been not to hide the grindstone from his
master's eyes.

'Whose is the grindstone, _psia krew_?'[4] cried the magnate angrily.

       [4] A Polish term of abuse; literally, blood (or race) of a
       dog.

'Mine, most illustrious Pan,' answered Kogoútek, trembling with fear.

'How dare you, you rascal, when I myself haven't such a grindstone, the
steward says?'

'I earned it, please your honour,' stammered Kogoútek faintly.

'_Earned it_.... What next!' exclaimed Pan Podliásski, amazed at the
peasant's insolence, and reddening with anger. 'How dare you say that,
when you yourself are my property, not only all your work; do you
hear, you dog? Take it up to the manor, and give this scoundrel a good
lesson,' he added, turning to the steward.

The unfortunate peasant knew what a 'good lesson' meant, and flung
himself, with a piteous cry, at the feet of his master's horse. But
the magnate shook the reins and galloped off with his followers.

The next morning the grindstone was transferred to the manor yard, and
the wretched Kogoútek was flogged in the manor stables.

Humiliated, crushed under the sense of injustice and lacerated with the
whip, the unhappy peasant crept home and sank down on a bench with a
groan.

'What is the matter with our master?' asked the young cock,
Scarlet-Comb, of his mother, as they strolled about the yard with the
white hen Top-knot and the old cock.

'Why, didn't you see that they took away the grindstone that he had
worked so hard for, and then thrashed him for nothing besides?'

Scarlet-Comb was still a very young cock; his grand tail-feathers had
not yet grown, so he did not know how cruel and unjust people can be.
His mother's words showed him this for the first time. He spread his
wings and craned his little neck as if he would shout out what he had
just heard to all the world; but a spasm in the throat prevented him
from uttering a sound. When, however, his first burst of grief and
indignation had somewhat abated, he again appealed to his mother.

'Well, and what will happen now, mother?'

'What? Why, nothing. Pan Podliásski will have the grindstone, and our
poor master will have his bruises--that's all.'

'What! And no one will stand up for the right?'

'Oh, my child, how recklessly you talk!' hurriedly whispered the old
hen. '_Supposing_ any one should overhear you, what then? Why, they
would think you a rebel!... What is the use of talking about "right"
and "standing up" when Pan Podliásski is a great lord, with fifty
horses in his stables, and hundreds of servants at his bidding, while
our master is a poor peasant, wearing himself out with work!'

'Well, then, _I_ will take our master's part! _I_ will get justice
done!' cried Scarlet-Comb.

'Hush, you silly child!' answered his mother more anxiously than ever,
and gently seizing his comb with her bill. 'What else do you imagine
you can do? You would like to set the whole world to rights, no doubt!'

'The thing is impossible!' cried Scarlet-Comb, and turning to the old
cock, he added: 'Am I not right, father?'

The old cock majestically raised his head, stood on tiptoe, flapped his
wings, and shouted at the top of his voice: 'Cock-a-doodle-doo-oo!...'
then stooped down, and betook himself, with a hurried business walk, to
the other end of the yard, where he stopped beside a squashed worm.
Every one could interpret his expression of opinion according to their
personal taste: the mother was convinced that he was setting their son
an example of thrift and good sense; the son, that the patriarch's
martial air and cry were intended to spur him on to prowess. Without
any further question Scarlet-Comb flew across the fence, and made
straight for the castle of Pan Podliásski.

Pan Podliásski was not alone. As he had to send to several very
distinguished neighbours invitations for the next day's banquet, and
as, like most of his peers in those days, he could not read or write,
and considered it humiliating to do anything for himself, he had sent
for his chaplain, and commissioned him to write the invitations. The
chaplain had finished writing the letters, and it only remained to
stamp upon them, instead of a signature, the crest of the house of
Podliásski. The magnate took off his signet-ring, which he wore hung
round his neck by a gold chain, and handed it to the chaplain to be
pressed upon the wax. At that moment there appeared in the open window,
from which the magnate and his chaplain were divided by a large table,
an ugly little cock.

'Pan, give back the grindstone!' he cried.

Reddening with anger, the magnate raised his eyes to the insolent fowl,
and seizing a heavy silver candlestick, flung it violently at him. All
happened so quickly, that before Scarlet-Comb had time to understand
anything, his wings had carried him from the window and his quick
little legs from the garden.

When he came to his senses, Scarlet-Comb was quite ashamed. 'Can it be
that I was frightened?... it is impossible!' he thought. But the fact
was plain; he had lost his head and run away from the landlord.

'Well, and what of that?' said the cock, consoling himself; 'the
important thing is not to stand like a log while things are thrown at
you that may smash your head, but to get justice done!'

And Scarlet-Comb once more made his way to the castle.

Pan Podliásski was standing on the front terrace among his retainers
and domestics, giving orders for to-morrow's banquet, when he suddenly
heard the already familiar words:

'Pan, give back the grindstone!'

Scarlet-Comb was standing perched upon the nearest post, to which
several horses were tied.

The magnate became positively frantic, clenched his fists, and shouted
to his servants to set all the hounds upon the insolent bird. The
cock, terrified, rushed with all his might out of the garden. On he
ran, helping himself along with his wings, and hearing how one dog was
gaining on him.... Now it was quite near ... snap! and tore the very
best feathers out of the cock's tail. In his desperation Scarlet-Comb
made one last effort, flew up as high as he could, and perched on a
tree by the wayside. The dog stood underneath, barking and whining,
but, fortunately, the hunting-horn blew, calling back the scattered
dogs, and his persecutor was obliged to go to kennel.

Meanwhile a discussion was going on in the yard between the servants
and noble retainers.

'What a plucky little cock!' said some; 'wasn't afraid to tell the Pan
himself the truth to his beard!'

'If I had him, I'd show him what truth is--with white sauce,' said the
under-cook, laughing.

'Just think,' remarked another; 'if a silly little chicken like that
can see that a Pan shouldn't take away a poor man's things, it must be
a bad business after all.'

'Yes, it's a mean trick,' muttered one of the nobles, frowning.

Early next morning Pan Podliásski's guests began to arrive. Dear
me, how gorgeous they all were! Satin, velvet, brocade, in the most
brilliant colours, simply dazzled your eyes on their _kountoushi_,
_zhoupány_ (doublets), and trunk hose. Their elegant caps were bordered
with valuable furs; both lords and ladies were adorned with ostrich
feathers, pearls, gold, silver, and precious stones. Magnificent horses
of all colours pranced under their graceful riders, who surrounded
the clumsy but richly-decorated coaches in which the fair ladies sat.
Often, on the way, the gallants would bend towards them and exchange
merry jests. The innumerable apartments of the castle were thrown open
for the crowd of guests.

For dinner all the visitors put on other still more gorgeous dresses. A
gallant was placed at the right hand of each lady. At the head of the
table sat the host, beaming with pleasure and satisfaction.

The long dinner was almost ended. The guests had feasted upon a wild
boar, which Pan Podliásski had killed in the chase, and which the cook
had roasted whole and cunningly arranged standing erect upon a silver
dish. The dessert was already finished; the noble retainers in their
gala dress had carried round to the guests old mead of the finest
quality, and German and Hungarian wines. The company was lively and
merry. A handsome young nobleman stood up at the foot of the table. He
had lately returned from France, where, at the king's court, he had
grown accustomed to refined manners and courtly ways. Raising a golden
goblet of wine in his right hand, and glancing round, he addressed the
company:

'It is not the gratitude of a guest which persuades me to lift this
goblet, nor even the courtesy of a Pole. No; I lift it in honour of
our well-beloved host, because by his virtues Pan Joseph Podliásski is
an ornament to the ranks of the Polish nobility. Courageous in war,
generous and hospitable in time of peace, he is incapable of any action
unworthy of his noble standing.'

Every one listened to the orator with evident pleasure. Pausing a
moment for breath he would have continued, when suddenly an ugly little
cock appeared at one of the open windows of the banqueting-hall, and
cried aloud:

'Pan, give back the peasant's grindstone!'

The guests, startled and confused, sat whispering to one another. The
young orator hesitated whether to continue his speech or not. The host
grew first white, then red, and turned to his servants.

'Why do you stand staring?' he cried. 'Do you suppose that is what
I maintain you for, that village fowls or cattle should disturb the
pleasure of my guests?'

Then, turning back, Pan Podliásski tried to put on an airy manner.

'Excuse us, dear guests,' he said; 'the country is the country after
all. We are not in Cracow, where fowls appear at noble banquets only on
silver dishes or in the soup. Still, one can be as merry in the country
as in Cracow, and I hope we shall prove it to be so.'

For all that, the magnate did not really feel at all so merry as he
tried to appear; the guests, too, were no longer quite at ease.

'What's that about a grindstone?' many of them asked their neighbours;
and those who had already heard from their servants about the
persistent fowl related the history of the grindstone in a few words.
A contemptuous expression appeared on many of the faces; and those
magnates who disliked Podliásski went so far as to remark that it was
unworthy of a great lord to soil his hands for a miserable grindstone.

All this did not escape the eyes of Pan Podliásski, and his blood
boiled. Seizing a favourable moment, he beckoned to his most
trustworthy servant, and, in a whisper, ordered him to find the cock,
alive or dead. For that matter the servants had already been hunting
the whole court and garden, but nothing came of it; the cock had long
ago made his escape; and, hiding in the foliage of the highest tree in
the neighbouring forest, waited till the danger was over.

The guests left earlier than they had intended. Pan Podliásski,
standing on the great terrace to take leave of them, tried to conceal
his annoyance under an affable manner. As soon, however, as the last
rider disappeared from sight, his face grew dark, and he turned to the
crowd of servants.

'Where is Doubinétzki?' he asked.

'Here I am, most illustrious Pan,' replied a warrior with gray
moustaches, stepping forward.

'Look here, my faithful Ignatius; you have served me long and well; do
me one more good service. Shoot that tiresome cock that gives me no
peace.'

The honest face of the old nobleman, seamed with the scars of war,
lighted up with an ironical smile, and his daring eyes flashed.

'Probably the Pan Voevoda has had too much to drink at dinner that he
gives me such commands,' said he. 'How am I, Ignatius Doubinétzki, who
have fought in fifty battles against Tartars, Turks, and Swedes; who
last year, without assistance, drove away a whole marauding band of
Tartars, and who in honourable combat have cut off the head of Akhmet
Khan himself,--how I am now to go to war against barn-door fowls? No; I
am a poor nobleman, and the Pan is a great magnate; but our honour is
the same. Indeed, since it has come to speaking truth, perhaps I have
more in the way of honour than the Pan; with all my poverty I would
have been ashamed to covet a peasant's grindstone. And if you want a
word of honest advice from old Doubinétzki, here it is: Leave that sort
of thing alone, Pan Voevoda; it's not an honourable business.'

For some minutes Pan Podliásski could not believe his ears. But at the
close of the old man's speech he turned white with rage, drew his sword
from its sheath, and made a dash forward at Doubinétzki.

'Seize him! bind him! cut the rebel down!' he shrieked in frenzy. But
it had all happened so suddenly that for a moment no one obeyed the
magnate, or could decide what to do; all the more so as every one loved
old Doubinétzki, and knew what a glorious fire-eater he was.

Old Ignatius, meanwhile, in his turn unsheathed his sword, sprang on to
his horse, which stood ready saddled beside the gate, and galloped away
unharmed. He was a free gentleman and a first-rate warrior, and any
magnate would be glad to take him into his service.

Utterly beside himself with fury, Pan Podliásski went into the
castle, and shut himself up in his bedchamber. He paced up and down
with long strides, brooding over all that had passed. The thought
that a good-for-nothing little fowl could embitter his life made him
frantic. He was ready to instantly call up all his retainers, and give
them strict commands to secure the cock, alive or dead. But then he
remembered the whispering of his guests at dinner, the furtive glances
of his servants, and the open rebellion of Doubinétzki. What was the
use of commanding? Would he not be exposing himself to new failures,
to new humiliations? And all this was the work of that cock!

Pan Podliásski felt as if he were stifled in the room, and went out
into the garden. The barrels of pitch which had illuminated it during
the banquet were almost burnt out; the pathways and arbours were
deserted. Pan Joseph walked along several avenues, and then lay down
upon a bench.

'Pan, give back the grindstone!' suddenly resounded over his head the
hated voice of Scarlet-Comb.

Pan Podliásski started up as if he had been stung, drew the pistol from
his belt, and fired upwards at random in the direction of the voice.
Directly afterwards he heard a piteous shriek from the cock, and a warm
drop of blood fell on to his hand.

'Ah! ah!' cried the magnate in angry delight; 'now you will leave off
embittering my life, you loathsome little brute!'

Satisfied and triumphant, he peered about in the dark to find the
cock; but seeing nothing, lay down again upon the bench, and soon fell
asleep. Before half an hour had passed, however, the magnate sprang
to his feet with a fearful cry, clasping his hands over his left eye.
He was conscious of an intolerable pain, and something wet and warm
and sticky was trickling down his face and hands. Dazed and blind, the
Voevoda rushed headlong to the castle. Suddenly behind him there rang
out the well-known cry:

'Pan, give back the grindstone! give back the peasant's grindstone!'

'Holy Virgin! The creature has pecked out my eye,' thought the
landowner in horror, and it was only then he vaguely understood that he
had not killed, but merely wounded, his persecutor.

Pan Podliásski did not confide to any one the manner in which he had
lost his eye. He said that he had struck against a branch in the dark.
He further declared that during his illness every noise disturbed him,
and on this pretext he commanded all the windows in the castle to be
tightly fastened, and placed sentinels at all the outer doors, with
orders not only to admit no one, but even to let no one and nothing
approach, neither dog, cat, nor bird. In reality the magnate was
terribly afraid that Scarlet-Comb would peck out his right eye too.

The autumn set in. The stone castle was damp, cold, empty, and dreary.
Its master, with a bandage over his left eye, sat in the huge dining
hall, with its richly-carved oak walls, and warmed himself at the
great open hearth where the embers lay smouldering and the fire still
flickered in the remains of two logs. Suddenly, from somewhere in the
distance, he heard a muffled but familiar cry:

'Pan, give back the grindstone!'

In an instant the Voevoda started up as though he had been scalded,
and shrieked frantically for his servants.

'Search the castle and everywhere round it instantly,' he ordered.
'There's a cock somewhere that sets my teeth on edge with his crowing.'

Fifty Cossack retainers of the magnate, led by three nobles and about
forty servants under the leadership of the steward, rushed to fulfil
the Pan's commands. But though they ransacked all the rooms, corridors,
and doorways,--though they carefully searched the garden and the
courtyard, they came back and reported to their illustrious master that
not the slightest sign of any bird at all was anywhere to be found.
This was not surprising; it did not occur to anybody to climb up on to
the roof; and there, beside the chimney, sat Scarlet-Comb.

'It must have been my fancy,' thought Pan Podliásski, and sat down
again before the fire. But just at the moment when he was half falling
asleep, there suddenly tumbled down the chimney into the fireplace
something small and black, which instantly hopped out on to the floor
with singed feathers, and cried:

'Pan, give back the grindstone!'

The Voevoda shrank away from the fowl in horror. Scarlet-Comb, taking
advantage of his stupefaction, ran through the rooms, and succeeded in
slipping past the sentinels and making his way right to the village.

The magnate stood breathless. 'One's not safe from him anywhere,' he
thought; and a sense of dread fell upon him. He clapped his trembling
hands, and ordered the servant who came in to fetch the steward
instantly.

'Give the peasant Kogoútek his grindstone back again at once,' said Pan
Podliásski, avoiding the steward's eyes; 'and give him ten ducats for
compensation.'

The steward would have replied, but the Voevoda looked at him with
such an expression that the words died on his lips.

That very day the grindstone was returned to Stanislas Kogoútek's yard.
Thereupon the little cock, Scarlet-Comb, although badly scorched, with
blisters on both claws, with his tail-feathers gone and his wing shot
through, jumped up on to the gate and, proudly raising his little head,
shouted to all the world:

'Cock-a-doodle-doo! the Pan has given back the peasant's grindstone!'



[Illustration]



THE TINY SCREW


On the watchmaker's bench, which was covered with white paper, so that
all the little things needed for his trade should be easy to see, were
spread out various small pincers, gimlets, screwdrivers, tiny hammers,
watchkeys, files, and other delicate instruments. Under a glass case
lay watches and clocks taken to pieces. There were some open boxes
filled with cog-wheels, and some watch-glasses, in which lay some wee
screws. Among these was a very pretty one, of blue, finely-tempered
steel, but so tiny that he could not be seen properly without a
magnifying-glass. He looked round the workroom quite frightened at all
his new surroundings. Until now he had lain in a dark, closed box and
hardly had ever seen the light; now the watchmaker, Karl Ivánovich,
had taken him out of the box and laid him in a watch-glass, evidently
intending to use him. And now the little blue mite peered round,
wondering and frightened.

Indeed, what wonder! Round the walls, in shallow cupboards with glass
doors, in flat cases with sloping glass lids, on the large table, on
the benches--everywhere, hung or lay or stood watches and clocks of all
kinds and sizes, and most of them were moving and ticking like live
things. The cheap clocks with tin or china faces, decorated with rather
clumsily-painted roses, wagged their pendulums hastily backwards and
forwards, as though hurrying to work or to business. The huge clocks in
wooden and glass cases, on the contrary, swung their pendulums with a
hardly perceptible motion, as though they feared to compromise their
dignity by any haste. All sorts of wonderful things were on the table.
There was a clock in the shape of a great fallen tree-trunk, across
which a log was thrown, with boys sitting on the ends of it, swinging
in time to the ticking of the clock. Another represented a gray hare
squatting on his haunches, holding the dial between his forefeet and
moving his ears in time as the clock ticked. But our tiny Screw was
most impressed by a large clock, standing at one corner of the shop in
a huge glass case. The clock itself represented an Indian temple with
a dome, all carved in black wood. Inside the temple was the dial, also
black, with gold letters; the hands were gold snakes. Under the dial,
a little in front, sat a gray-haired magician in a long robe and high
cap, holding in his right hand a silver hammer. The old man, with
his grave expression of face, was so well carved that he looked quite
alive. But the most wonderful thing of all was that he never stopped
slowly turning his eyes from side to side, keeping time with the
solemn, hardly audible ticking of the clock; he seemed as if watching
to see that all was in order in his kingdom of time. At his right hand
stood a shining silver bell on a tall and slender pedestal; and at his
left a black cat was sitting on a cushion; it had real fur, and its
green eyes glittered as if alive.

Our little Screw gazed intently at the magician in his Indian temple,
at his cat and bell--he gazed upon them with involuntary reverence and
awe--and finally decided that the enigmatic old man must be the ruler
of time, and that all the clocks in the place must be in his service.
He was still meditating upon this, when suddenly the black clock
began to hiss, the magician raised his left hand with the forefinger
extended, as if commanding attention, and began slowly striking the
silver bell with his hammer. He struck it ten times, and every time the
cat opened its mouth and mewed at each stroke of the hammer.

The moment the magician had finished, an indescribable confusion arose
in the shop: in three clocks, which represented houses, windows opened;
from each window a cuckoo jumped out and called 'cuckoo' ten times. The
other clocks, with the tin, china, and copper dials, all began striking
in emulation of each other. Some struck rapidly and with a thin sound,
others slowly and heavily; the first jarred on the ear with their harsh
notes, while the others had a mellow ring; but all struck at once, as
though trying to catch one another up. The brass alarum, which stood on
the table, rattled long and mercilessly, as if it were determined to
silence all the others with its deafening noise; then, when the other
clocks had finished striking, it too struck ten. After that all the
clocks continued busily ticking, just as if nothing had happened.

All this ringing, banging, and noise made our Screw quite dizzy; the
poor little fellow lay in his watch-glass trembling all over. But
when he recovered from his agitation, he was overwhelmed with silent
ecstasy. He understood for what purpose clocks exist. He knew that
they show to man the divisions of time, thus helping him in both his
intellectual work and his ordinary life. Two men, however far apart
from one another, can, if only they have good watches, come at the
same moment to a particular spot, or do whatever they may have agreed
upon--even the height of mountains is determined by means of watches.
The little Screw understood all this, and his wee frame thrilled all
over with enthusiasm. 'How useful they all are!' he thought. This set
him involuntarily thinking of himself, and he grew sad--sad even to
tears. How tiny he was! how insignificant and pitiable compared with
all these clocks! If you were to hang up even the worst of them in a
house where there was before no clock at all, there would at once be in
that house more order, more reason and utility. But he! wherever you
were to put him, it would make no difference.

Our Screw was very unhappy; he tried so long to be of use to some
one, and he felt that he was fit for nothing! Once more he looked
attentively round the bench. There were a great number of little
axles, wires, pendulums, pinions, and springs. He did not understand
for what they could be used, but he saw one thing--that every one of
these little objects was _larger_ than himself. 'Oh dear!' he thought,
'even if all these little things are useless in themselves, still,
something useful can be made out of them. But what can be made of such
a non-entity as I am--I, who cannot even be seen with the naked eye?
Nothing, absolutely nothing!...' And all the tiny person of the Screw
quivered with grief.

At that moment there ran into the workshop a little boy and girl, the
children of Karl Ivánovich. Their father had gone to fetch his pipe;
his assistant, Yegór,[5] had also left the shop, and the children had
a chance to enjoy a peep at the wonders of the workshop, into which
Karl Ivánovich generally would not let them come. The boy ran up to his
father's bench and began quickly examining the things lying upon it.

       [5] _Yegór_ means George in Russian.

'Look, look at the little Screw!' he said to his sister in a loud
whisper, turning to take the blue steel Screw from the watch-glass.

'Don't touch! Don't touch; you'll drop it!' whispered the little girl,
half frightened, but also looking inquisitively at our Screw.

'What next! Drop it!' repeated the boy, mimicking her. 'We're not all
such butter-fingers as you!' and in a fit of obstinacy he picked up the
Screw. But the Screw was so small that the boy could scarcely hold him
with the tips of his fingers.

'Indeed, you'll drop it!... Papa will be cross!...' continued the
little girl in the utmost anxiety.

Suddenly they heard the creaking of Karl Ivánovich's boots in the next
room, and he blew his nose as loud as if it were a trumpet. The boy
started, and dropped the Screw from his fingers on to the floor.

'Aha! aha! There, you see! I told you so!' whispered the girl again.

'Hush!' answered her brother, also in a whisper, stooping down to
look for the Screw. But it was too late; Karl Ivánovich came into the
workshop, and in his presence the boy was afraid to show what he had
done.

Our Screw, meanwhile, lay on the floor, and did not grieve over what
had happened.

'It is all the same,' he thought,--'to be crushed under somebody's
foot, or to go through a whole life such a feeble and useless creature
as I am!'

Just at that moment Karl Ivánovich came into the workshop, puffing
at his pipe. He was a thorough German, with a flat, red face, and an
embroidered cap with a tassel. Although he had lived in Russia for
about thirty years, and owed his good fortune to Russian people, yet
he had not learnt Russian properly, and thought even that it was a
merit not to know it. He was of the opinion that the Russians were mere
cattle; and when he contrived to gain 50 per cent in selling some watch
to a Russian, this was in his eyes one proof more how right he was to
think contemptuously of the nation. He therefore always spoke German
in his domestic life.

'_Kinder, fort! fort!_' said Karl Ivánovich sternly. But observing at
once from the frightened faces of the children that something must be
amiss, he frowned still more severely, and going up to the bench, began
inspecting it closely.

'What mischief have you been up to here, eh?' asked the watchmaker.

The children hung their heads in silence.

Karl Ivánovich once more carefully examined his bench, and suddenly his
attention was caught by the watch-glass in which he had laid the wee
blue steel Screw.

'Where's the Screw? Who has taken the Screw?' shouted Karl Ivánovich at
the top of his voice.

The little girl got frightened for her brother and began to cry
bitterly; the boy remained silent.

'Well, are you going to speak or not?' cried the watchmaker, still
louder.

'It's on the floor,' whispered the girl.

'That was you dropped it, I'll be bound!' said the watchmaker, shaking
his finger before his little son's face. The boy still held his tongue,
and only hung his head lower and lower.

'_Oh, welch ein wilder Bube!_' cried Karl Ivánovich in a fury. 'Do you
understand what you've done? It was the only screw of that kind that I
had left, and the new order has got delayed on the journey here. How am
I to mend the chronometer from the telegraph station now, eh?'

'Papa, it was _so_ tiny,' said the little girl through her tears; she
wanted to say something in her brother's defence and did not know what
plea to put forward.

'_Oh, du dummes Ding!_' cried the angry watchmaker. 'Do you suppose
because the Screw is small it's of no consequence? Why, can't you
see the value of it is just that it's so small; nothing else will
go into the hole. Without it I can't screw the pieces together in
the chronometer, and how long do you think it will go without being
screwed? Can't you understand that, you little goose?'

Ah! with what joy our little Screw listened to this speech as he lay
on the floor beside the bench. He was not ill-natured, and felt very
sorry for the children when Karl Ivánovich scolded them so; but how
could the little creature help rejoicing when his dearest wish was thus
suddenly fulfilled? He had been grieving because he was so small, had
been ashamed of his weakness, and had believed himself utterly useless.
He had so longed to be useful--even as useful as any lump of metal that
has not been made into anything; but he had thought himself incapable
even of that.... And now it appeared that he, small as he was, could
be as useful as a first-rate chronometer! Yes, for without him, the
tiny Screw, the chronometer itself would not keep time properly.

The Screw was wild with joy; he positively choked with delight!

Soon, however, his rapture was changed into terrible anxiety. Karl
Ivánovich made the children look for the lost Screw, called his
assistant to look too, and finally, straddling his short legs apart,
and leaning his red hands on his knees, stooped down himself with a
magnifying-glass at his eye, and began carefully inspecting the floor.
But all their searching was in vain: the whole four of them looked,
crawled over the floor, felt about with their hands quite close to the
Screw, and could not find him.

'Oh dear!' thought the poor little fellow, 'what if they don't find me
after all? That would be terrible!'

It would indeed be terrible; after passing through such bitter
moments, to be at the very point of reaching the utmost possible
happiness, and then after all to miss it and be crushed under a dirty
boot! He would have cried out, 'Here I am! here!' but did not know how
to do that in human speech.

In his extremity the little Screw looked up at the mighty magician who
ruled over all the clocks. As before, the magician was gravely turning
his eyes from side to side, watching over his kingdom.

'Oh great, good magician! king of time! benefactor of men! surely thou
wilt not let me perish here for no cause, when I too might be of use?
Help me, oh help me, to be found!' entreated our wee friend.

The magician glanced benevolently down on the poor little Screw, and
instantly raising his left hand to command attention, began striking on
his bell with the hammer he held in his right; the cat at once began
to mew.

A ray of sunshine fell through the window straight upon the magician.
When he raised and dropped his hammer, the ray flashed on its smooth
surface and was reflected from it right on to the Screw. The Screw
glittered like a spark of fire, and Karl Ivánovich's little girl cried
out joyfully, 'I've found it!'

Karl Ivánovich instantly picked up his recovered treasure with a
pair of small pincers and laid him again in the watch-glass. Then he
sat down at his bench and set to work at the telegraph chronometer.
Presently came the turn of our Screw; the watchmaker picked him up
again with the pincers, placed him in a hole in one part of the
chronometer, and screwed him tight with a delicate little screwdriver.

On finishing his work Karl Ivánovich wound up the watch, held it to
his ear and listened. It was ticking away merrily, and our Screw sat
firmly in his place and held the pieces together as a conscientious
screw should. Then the watchmaker hung up the chronometer in a glass
case to be tested.

One morning, about a fortnight afterwards, the outer door of Karl
Ivánovich's shop opened, and the director of the telegraph station came
in.

'Good morning, Karl Ivánovich,' he said; 'what about my watch?'

'It's ready--quite ready.'

'And goes well?'

'Goes perfectly. There was just one screw wanting, and I've put it in.
That was the whole matter.'

The telegraph director opened the inner lid of the watch and looked
at our Screw; then he shut the lid again and put the chronometer into
his waistcoat pocket. It ticked bravely, and the little blue steel
Screw sat in his hole, saying to himself joyfully: 'And I, too, am of
use!'



[Illustration]



THE DREAM


There once lived a little boy called Basil. He had a good mamma,
who worked hard to educate her child. They lived alone: they had no
relatives, no servants. His mamma tried never to leave Basil alone in
the evening; when she had some work to carry to her employer she always
tried to do it in the daytime.

A friend once presented Basil's mamma with a ticket for the theatre.
This took place in her absence. When she returned home Basil met her
with great joy. 'Mamma dearest, _Petr Petróvich_ (Mr. Peter) has
been here and left a ticket for you. You shall go to hear the opera
to-night. You like the opera, don't you?'

'But, my dear boy, what shall I do with the ticket? I cannot go.'

'And why, mamma?'

'Why, I can't leave you all alone at home; if we had two tickets we
could both go; but without you I can't go.'

'No, no, you must go, mamma,' insisted Basil.

'No, my darling, I can't leave you,' said his mother, sighing; 'you
would be afraid, and something might happen to you.'

'You might ask Mrs. _Lookina_ to stay with me.'

Mrs. Lookina was their neighbour, living on the same landing in the
same large house.

'It is hard to be under an obligation to any one, my dear; the last
time when I had to take home some hurried work I asked Mrs. Lookina to
stay some time with you. I cannot do so too often; she has work of her
own.'

'Then I shall stay alone, and will not be afraid,' answered Basil; 'and
if anything happens, I shall call Mrs. Lookina; and if nothing happens,
I shall not call her.'

Basil's mother saw very well that the boy wished her to go to the
theatre. She was much pleased; she kissed him tenderly, but did not say
what she intended to do. But by the glance she cast at the ticket, the
way she put it aside, the sigh which followed, Basil understood all
very well; his mamma would very much like to go to the opera, and it
was hard for her to deprive herself of so rare a pleasure, which she
could now have for nothing; but yet she could not decide to go. Basil
was so disappointed that tears were ready to fall.

'Oh mamma! you often said that we must help one another, and not find
it difficult. You made a collar for Mrs. Lookina.... And if you do not
go to the theatre I shall cry,' he added, quite unexpectedly beginning
to weep.

'Don't, dearest, don't cry,' said his mother, taking her boy on her lap
and kissing him; but the child wept, repeating continually:

'Poor mamma, you never can go to the theatre--you would so much like to
go; I know it.'

'Well, well, I will go; only don't cry.'

Then his mamma went to Mrs. Lookina and asked her to give Basil some
tea, put him to bed, and stay with him until her return. When she was
dressed she kissed her boy and set off.

Soon it was tea-time. Mrs. Lookina never before had had to give Basil
his tea, and did not know that he took very weak tea. She poured him
out some strong tea, and as the boy liked it very much, he took more of
it than usual. Basil well remembered what his mamma said, and did not
wish to tire Mrs. Lookina, so he told her he would undress himself and
go to bed, and she might lock the door from the outside and go home.

'I shall not be afraid,' concluded he; 'and if anything happens, I
shall knock like this.'

'But why, my boy? I can stay with you,' answered the neighbour.

'No, no, you have some work at home,' said Basil, and wrapping himself
up in his quilt with decision, he closed his eyes and said: 'There, I
am asleep already.'

'Very well, my boy,' said Mrs. Lookina, smiling; 'but you must promise
me to knock as soon as you need anything.'

'Yes, yes; I shall knock this way,' and kneeling up on his bed, Basil
showed how he would knock.

Mrs. Lookina left him. Basil heard her leaving their lodging, taking
the candle with her; heard her locking the door. And now Basil was
alone. All was quiet around. He opened his eyes; all was dark. Basil
felt uneasy, to tell the truth, but he tried not to think about it; he
again closed his eyes, and turned his back to the wall. A long time he
lay thus, and the strong tea he had taken kept him awake. He began to
rock himself slightly in his bed and sing--

    'Sleep, sleep, come to me.
    Sleep, sleep, take me now.
    Sleep, lull me into sleep.'

Basil repeated these words several times, and all at once it seemed
to him as if the room were not as dark as before. He opened his
eyes wide, and was lost in astonishment. The room was full of pale
light--something like moonlight--and not far from his bed Basil noticed
a queer little being. It was a tiny little old man, not more than six
inches high. He wore a short jacket made of red corn-poppy petals;
his trousers were of the same material; his arms and legs were very
thin, like poppy stems, and he wore green stockings; his shoes and
gloves were composed of green poppy leaves. But the Old Man's head was
the most interesting part of his little person. It was a little round
head, perfectly bald and brown, just like the dried fruit of a poppy.
On his head there was a crown such as you see in the poppy. His face
was brown also; it was calm and kind. He smiled fondly as he looked on
Basil. Above the Little Man's head trembled a bluish flame, from which
spread an agreeable light about the room. This flame did not touch the
Old Man's head, but it followed him. When the Little Man stooped, the
flame stooped also; when he rose, it rose with him.

[Illustration: "_Not far from his bed Basil noticed a queer little
being._"]

'You called me?' asked he of Basil. His voice was so agreeable, and
sounded so like that of an old acquaintance.

'I--I--don't know,' stammered the child.

'But you could not fall asleep, and you kept repeating--

    '"Sleep, sleep, come to me.
    Sleep, sleep, take me now.
    Sleep, lull me into sleep."'

'Yes, Mr. Old Man, I have been repeating all this, but I did not mean
to disturb you; it is hard to be under an obligation to any one. I am
not afraid to be alone, Mr. Old Man.'

'Oh!' said the Old Man, smiling, 'where did you learn such words; of
all things, as _to be under an obligation_? He! he! he!'

'No, no, Mr. Old Man; you see, I told Mrs. Lookina to go home. Why
should I disturb you? You have your own business.'

'Ho! ho! ho!' laughed the Old Man. 'What a sensible young man you are!
But don't trouble yourself about this. My duty consists in being where
people want to sleep, so you only help me to do what I ought to do. You
want to sleep, don't you?'

'Yes, Mr. Old Man.'

'And so I will put you to sleep if you like, soundly.' Then the Little
Old Man began to blink with evident enjoyment, and to yawn slowly and
loudly. Somebody immediately yawned in answer, and Basil, who had also
a great desire to yawn, looked around. He saw to his great astonishment
that at the foot of his bed sat a new old man. It was he who had yawned
in answer to the first Old Man.

This Old Man much resembled the other, only he was a little smaller.
His jacket and trousers were made of lilac poppy petals instead of red
ones, and he had no light on his head.

'Listen, Basil,' said the little lilac-coloured creature, and with a
gentle voice, like a mother telling fairy tales to her child, he began
to speak:

'A gnat was born on the moors. It stood on its thin little legs, it
spread its wings, and thought to itself: "It is time to fly after some
booty! If I meet a man or a bull, I will eat him up."

'The gnat flew away, spread its little legs in the wind, and vanished.
Hardly anybody would notice it--so small, and thin, and weak it was.
Nevertheless, as it flew, it blew its own trumpets--

    '"Fi-fo-fum!
    Here I come!
    I will slay
    Man and beast!
    I will feast
    All the day!"

'Whether the gnat flew for a long or a short time no one knows. Anyhow
it came to a reddish mound. This was a heap of bricks. Some time ago a
hut stood here, but the hut had been burnt down; its brick stove had
fallen to pieces, and now stood in view--a heap of fragments. The gnat
looked at the mound and thought: "This is a fine portion; it will just
suit my appetite." It flew with all its might, settled on a brick, then
flew on to another, and tried to drive its proboscis into it. The gnat
held the brick fast, and fought with its proboscis the best it could;
but it found it hard. Brick was brick, you know; it was not soft stuff.
The gnat raced from place to place. It tried the brick in every way,
but without avail.

'"No," thought the gnat, "this does not please me; it is not worth
while troubling about." It moved on again, and flew away. It flew on
and blew its own trumpets--

    '"Fi-fo-fum!
    Here I come!
    I will slay
    Man and beast!
    I will feast
    All the day!"

'Presently the gnat came across something large and high, surmounted
by a sharp-pointed deep-green dunce's cap. It was a fir-tree with resin
oozing out.

'The gnat thought: "This is more in my line; this will suit my
appetite; I will begin at this yellow spot."

'It flew towards the resin, and, settling down, drove its proboscis
into it. Oh, wonder! It was bitter and sticky. The gnat after a great
effort dragged its proboscis out, and then tried to free its legs. It
tugged and tugged, and managed to free five, but could not succeed with
the sixth.

'The gnat got angry. "Let go," he called to the fir-tree; "I know a
trick worth two of that." But the fir-tree held the leg tight. The gnat
got still angrier; dashed about until its leg came off, and then flew
away with only five legs; the sixth had remained in the resin. It flew
on, and again blew its own trumpets--

    '"Fi-fo-fum!
    Here I come!
    I will slay
    Man and beast!
    I will feast
    All the day!"

'A tale is quicker told than actions can be done.

'Our gnat flew over hill and vale, furrowed fields, green meadows,
quick flowing rivers, and whispering woods. It flew along roads, past
cornfields. Nowhere did it find anything profitable. In the meantime
some fine raindrops began to fall. The gnat was not dejected; it
hurried on. Suddenly it met a whole herd of cattle; the young calves
went on in front and the large oxen behind. The gnat's eyes glistened.
It wished to settle on the first calf and fix its proboscis into it,
but it bethought itself: "I see you are small, little calf; it is
better to eat a big ox." He began to examine the oxen. The herd went on
and the gnat still looked around. This one seemed too thin--that one,
though stout, yet not big enough; then came one that looked worse than
the preceding ones. Thus all passed by, and the gnat had not made a
choice.

'It suddenly flew after the herd, for the purpose of settling down
on the first it could reach. But now it met with a new misfortune.
The rain soaked its wings and made them heavy; it could not fly any
farther, and got angry and began to scold the rain: "So you intend to
wet my wings? you cannot find another place to drop on? Beware! do you
think to take me in with your tricks?" The gnat had hardly spoken thus,
when a large drop of rain fell on its back and maimed it; it was choked
by its last word, and fell head over heels on to the grass.

'Nobody knows how long the gnat remained there. Anyhow, when the bright
sun peeped out from the clouds and shone upon the earth, the gnat
contrived to creep out of the grassy thicket and to dry itself. Then it
flew on farther, and again, flying, it blew its trumpets--

    '"Fi-fo-fum!
    Here I come!
    I will slay
    Man and beast!
    I will feast
    All the day!"

Suddenly it perceived before it, at some distance, a mare harnessed to
a cart, moving on slowly. A peasant was sitting in the cart.

'The gnat rejoiced: "Now I can eat my fill; when I shall have dined
off the man I'll taste the horse." So it flew straight on to the man's
forehead, and stung with all its force.

'The peasant passed the palm of his hand over his forehead, crushed the
gnat, and threw it behind the cart, and all was over with it.'

The Lilac Old Man had finished his tale.

'Basil, are you not asleep?' asked the first Old Man.

'Not yet, Mr. Old Man,' answered Basil.

'Do you wish to sleep?'

'I do.'

'Aaa!' yawned the Red Old Man.

'Aaa!' yawned after him the Lilac Old Man.

'Aaa!' yawned after them Basil.

'Aaa!' yawned yet another near them. When Basil looked round he saw
that a third old man sat on his pillow, looking exactly like the two
others; the only difference was that his coat and trousers were of
white poppy petals. The White Old Man smiled caressingly, laid his hand
on Basil's head, and Basil could not refrain from closing his eyes and
smiling back at him. Meanwhile the new old man gently rocked himself.
Basil heard him sing a little song in a very soft and lulling voice:

    'Gentle dreams with pinions light
    By the window did alight,
    Whisp'ring through their tresses bright:
    'Has sweet sleep been here to-night?"
    Wearied out a sick man lies
      Tossing on a fever bed,
    Gazing with wide, hopeless eyes
      Through the darkness thick and dread.
    Fairy dreams come trooping, shining,
      Hand in hand with quiet sleep,
    And their tresses, intertwining,
      Softly o'er his pillow sweep,
    Till his eyelids sink and close
      While their song around him flows:
            "Sleep, oh sleep!
            Night and rest
            From thee keep
            Sprites unblest!
            When to-morrow
            Sunbeams peep,
            Be thy sorrow
            Laid asleep!"

           *       *       *       *       *

    'Gentle dreams with pinions light
    By the window did alight,
    Whisp'ring through their tresses bright:
    "Has sweet sleep been here to-night?"

    'See! A haggard seamstress, bending,
      Bloodless cheek and aching head,
    O'er the toil that, never ending,
      Hardly gives her children bread.
    Cometh sleep, and from her fingers
      Steals away the half-turned seam,
    And with noiseless footstep lingers,
      Weaving many a joyous dream,
    Till her eyelids sink and close,
    While their song around her flows:
            "Work is over!
            And we hover
            Round thee lightly,
            Bringing nightly
            Short relief,
            Till thy grief
            Again is born
            With each new morn!"

           *       *       *       *       *

    'Gentle dreams with pinions light
    By the window did alight,
    Whisp'ring through their tresses bright:
    "Has sweet sleep been here to-night?"

    'No! I hear a baby crying,
      Though the curly little head
    Long ago should have been lying
      Cradled in a cosy bed.
    Fairy dreams come round him flocking,
      And on many a snowy arm
    Lift and bear him, softly rocking,
      Covering with kisses warm,
    Till his eyelids sink and close,
      While their song around him flows:
            "Hush, my sweetest!
            Shut thine eyes
            Till thou greetest
            Fair sunrise,
            Till dawn's hour
            Laughs again;
            Like a flower
            After rain!"'

The White Old Man had long finished singing, but Basil was still
listening, longing for more; it pleased him so much.

'Basil, are you asleep?' suddenly asked the Red Old Man, in a low voice.

'Not yet, Mr. Old Man,' answered Basil.

'Do you wish to sleep?'

'I do.'

Here the Red Old Man yawned again very loudly; then the Lilac one
yawned; and the White one did the same. Basil also yawned. But then
it seemed as if he heard another yawn still louder than the others
very near to him, somewhere above. Basil looked round and saw on the
side rail of his bedstead, above his head, a fourth old man, who was
dangling his legs. He much resembled the Lilac and White Men, but he
was dressed in many colours.

The old man smiled, and strewed, as if in fun, many, many poppy petals
on Basil.

Basil felt so very sleepy that he hardly could keep his eyes open; yet
he wished very much to look at the new old man.

'Shut your eyes, and I will show you my pictures,' whispered the
Many-Coloured Old Man, and poured a whole handful of poppies on Basil.

The boy closed his eyelids gladly, and at once saw a beautiful street
in which mamma never allowed Basil to walk alone.

Now Basil went along with both his hands in his pockets. One pocket was
full of apples, the other full of pears. Basil took them out by turns,
first one and then the other, and ate to his great content. When he
got tired of the fruit he felt nuts in his pockets instead of apples,
and dates and dried figs instead of pears. After a while he could not
help thinking of sweets. And as soon as he did so the nuts turned into
chocolate, and the dates and figs into sugar-candy.

Besides this, at every curbstone stood a prettily-dressed girl, very
like those who served Basil at the confectioner's when _Petr Petróvich_
took him there and offered him some choice morsel.

One regaled him with grapes, another with ice cream, a third with
pineapple, a fourth with strawberries, and a fifth with apricots; and
so on.

Basil walked on gaily, looking around on all sides, and taking a good
piece from each plate. What was the most wonderful was that he never
suffered after it.

Basil walked on and on in the happiest frame of mind. Nevertheless
he could not help noticing that the street was somewhat long. He had
hardly thought this when he perceived that the street had vanished,
and he stood in the middle of a toy-shop. Goodness me! what beautiful
things he saw there! Drums, swords, guns, mechanical dogs, balls,
furniture, rocking-horses, loto, pictures--a regular furnished
house.... But no! let us stop enumerating. It would be impossible
to remember all the splendid things displayed in the shop. Basil's
eyes were simply dazzled at the cupboards and shelves. After a good
while, when he had surveyed all these treasures, his attention became
attracted by a crossbow with a steel spring, a capital bowstring,
and the butt end well polished. Next to the crossbow was a quiver
attached to a strap with all sorts of arrows. For a long time Basil had
longed for such a bow. With this bow you might hit any mark, and you
might even, if on the watch, shoot the raven that was in the habit of
stealing small chickens from the yard. Basil had seen just such a bow
at a little friend's house. How easy it was to shoot with it! Basil had
asked his mamma to buy him such a bow, but his mamma said she could
not afford it; it cost five roubles.[6] And now Basil saw his pet bow
in the shop. Suddenly the door creaked, and Basil's mamma entered.
She paid down the money, took the bow and the quiver, and walked out.
Basil was so overjoyed that he nearly jumped out of his bed; but at the
same moment the shop vanished from his sight, and in its place stood
a shoemaker's workshop, where his mamma used to order her boots. How
happy he was walking with her and holding his bow in his hands. He
looked around on all sides, and thought all other people were happy to
see him with his beautiful bow. Suddenly he perceived how greatly he
was mistaken, for he saw the master of the workshop, a rather short,
square-built man, standing before his apprentice, scolding him, and
preparing by his gestures to thrash him. The unhappy boy cried hard,
trembled with fear, and begged for mercy, but the master was angry, and
did not listen to him. Seeing some visitors, the master in a moment put
on an amiable expression, turned to them, and threw away the strap. The
trembling apprentice drew back towards the door. Basil pitied the boy
dreadfully. He went up to the poor fellow and asked in a whisper, 'What
does he want to beat you for?' The boy did not answer, and drew back
towards the door with downcast eyes. Basil went after him and asked
again: 'Did you do anything?'

       [6] About twelve shillings.

'I've done nothing, and I'm not guilty,' answered the apprentice, after
a long silence.

'What does he want to beat you for then?'

'Peter informed about me.'

'Which Peter?'

'The son of my master.'

'Tell me all.'

'My master bought Peter a bow--a beautiful bow like yours--and told
him to take care of it; and he broke it, and he pretended I had broken
it; and I swear I didn't.' (Here the boy made the sign of the cross in
token of his innocence.) 'The master is going to beat me,' he added in
a whisper, and the tears flowed from his eyes.

'Now, don't cry,' said Basil, taking the apprentice by the hand. He
pitied the boy dreadfully, but he did not know how to console him.

'It's all very well for you to say, Don't cry. If you felt his strap
you wouldn't talk like that; my master has a heart of stone.'

Basil looked at his own bow; the bow was beautiful, and Basil had not
even had time to shoot with it. He sighed and turned away; it would be
too hard for him to part with his bow. But when the unhappy boy began
to cry again Basil could not bear it. He took him by the hand, and
said: 'Here you are; if you wish I'll give you my bow; you can give it
to your master, so that he won't beat you.'

'How?' asked the apprentice, hardly believing that Basil would give up
his toy, and after looking at him attentively, added: 'Won't you be
sorry to give it up? It is such a beautiful bow. I know what to do: let
him beat me--I'm not afraid. Better keep it and allow me to shoot with
it. Peter never allowed me to shoot, but you will. I'm not afraid.'

Basil pitied the boy still more, and called out: 'No, no, I don't
want it; take it;' and Basil put the bow in the apprentice's hands.
Immediately after the boy and the bow and the workshop vanished. The
Many-Coloured Old Man left off showing pictures, and at the same time
the Red Man asked in a well-known voice: 'Basil, are you asleep?'

'No, Mr. Old Man,' answered Basil, with great difficulty.

'With what Old Man are you talking?' asked the same voice, laughing.
Basil opened his eyes; it was already morning. The sun shone brightly
through the red cotton curtains at the window, and his mamma stood at
his bedside.

'Mamma?' asked Basil, with wonder. 'Then it was all dream?'

'What?'

'The Little Old Man?'

'Why, certainly it was;' and the mother tenderly kissed her boy.



[Illustration]



BROWNY

(A POPULAR OUKRAÏNÏEN TALE)


A certain peasant had a dog called Browny. So long as the dog was young
and strong his master fed him; but when he grew old, and the master saw
that he was no longer fit for a watchdog, he began to grudge him his
food, and turned him out of doors. Browny went out into the fields and
wandered on, not caring where--on and on he went, weeping bitterly.

A wolf came up to him and asked: 'Why do you cry so?'

'I have something to cry for,' answered the dog. 'So long as I was
strong, and could feed myself, I served my master truly and faithfully,
and now, when I have grown old in his service, he says: "Be off with
you!" Where am I to go now? I have not even the strength to catch a
hare.'

'Ah, that's too bad!' said the Wolf. 'Now, look here: we wolves are
supposed to be downright robbers, because we have to procure our food
in some way or other. Yet I wouldn't do such a meanness as your master
did. Well, if he does not remember your faithful service, there is
another way of making him give you the food that you have honestly
deserved from him.'

'Oh! if you could manage that, some day I would repay you for it!'
exclaimed poor Browny, licking his lips at the very thought of a good
dinner.

'We'll manage it,' said the Wolf. 'When your master comes out into the
field with his family to reap the corn, his wife will lay down the
baby under a rick; you keep close by, so that I may know which is their
field. I will seize the child and run off; you rush after me and make
believe to snatch the child away from me, and I will let it go as if I
were afraid of you. Then everything will go as you wish.'

No sooner said than done. At harvest-time the man came out into the
field with his family to reap. His wife laid down the baby under a
rick, took a sickle, and went with her husband to reap. Suddenly the
Wolf rushed up, snatched the baby, and ran off. Browny sprang out of
the corn and after him. The baby's father and mother were dreadfully
frightened: the father tore along, shouting, 'Catch him, Browny--bite
him! bite him!...' And Browny did his best: he caught up the Wolf, took
the child from him, and brought it to his master.

'Good dog, Browny!' said the master. 'Oh you good dog! I thought he
wasn't fit for anything now, and see what a plucky fellow he is!' and
he took half a loaf and a piece of lard out of his bag and gave them to
Browny.

In the evening the peasants went home, and Browny with them. When they
got in, the man said to his wife: 'Light the fire and make us some
buck-wheat dough-dumplings, with plenty of lard.'

Browny's mistress made the dumplings--capital dumplings--so nice that
they would make your mouth water to look at them! The master gave
Browny a seat at the table as if the dog were his best friend, and
sat down beside him. Browny, on his part, made an agreeable face, and
expressed by his whole appearance that he would know how to behave
himself, even if he were the _starosta_ (elder) of the village.

'Now, wife,' said the man, 'turn the dumplings out into the bowl, and
let us have supper!'

The wife filled the bowl, and the husband put a helping for Browny into
a smaller bowl, and blew it a long time, so that Browny should not burn
his muzzle. He had become such an important person all of a sudden!

Browny lived in peace and plenty, but he did not forget his benefactor,
the Wolf. He used to think: 'Perhaps the Wolf is wandering about the
steppes now, starving!' Then he would grow quite melancholy, and shake
his head, sighing.

Meanwhile, Carnival came round, and the peasant began making wedding
preparations--his daughter was to be married. Then Browny shook off
all his melancholy. He went far away from the village, and called the
Wolf. When the Wolf came up, they hardly recognised one another: Browny
had grown fat and glossy, while as for the unhappy Wolf, he was thin,
worn-out--nothing but skin and bones; his fur hung in ragged tufts, and
his teeth chattered from hunger. When Browny looked at his friend his
heart ached for pity.

'Come on Sunday evening, brother, to my master's garden-plot,' said the
Dog to the Wolf; 'I'll give you such a feast as you have not had in all
your life!'

Now a good dinner was a rare thing to the poor Wolf; his eyes shone
with delight, and he felt quite sick with hunger.

On Sunday evening the Wolf came to the place agreed upon. That very
evening was the wedding feast in the house of Browny's master. Browny
came out to his friend, and, seizing a moment when there was no one in
the cottage, led him in and hid him under the table. The feast began.
When the food was put on the table, Browny instantly snatched a big
hunch of bread and the best slice of roast meat and carried it under
the table. The guests shouted at him; some wanted to strike him; but
the master of the house stopped them, saying: 'Don't touch him; that
dog is allowed to do anything he likes; he saved my child, and I will
keep him till he dies!' That was just what Browny wanted: he pulled
all the best things off the table, and gave them to his friend--pies,
everything, even a bottle of _horílka_.[7] The _horílka_ made the Wolf
tipsy, and he said to Browny:

       [7] Oukraïnïen whisky.

'I want to sing a song!'

'Heaven forbid!' answered Browny; 'there'll be the devil to pay here!
I'll bring you a bottle of _nalívka_,[8] only hold your tongue!'

       [8] _Nalívka_--sweet pleasant Oukraïnïen liquor made of whisky
       and fruit.

But after drinking the _nalívka_, the Wolf grew merrier than ever.

'You can do as you like,' said he; 'but now I am going to sing.' He
lifted up his muzzle, and such a howl as he set up under the table!

Every one was terrified. Some ran right out of the cottage, some caught
up sticks and spades and wanted to kill the Wolf there and then.
Browny, seeing that it was a bad job, flew at his friend as if to
strangle him. Then the host called out to his guests: 'Don't hit the
Wolf, or you will kill my Browny. Let them alone; Browny will settle
the Wolf by himself.'

The dog, meanwhile, struggling and pretending to bite, managed to get
his friend first out of the cottage, then out of the garden and right
across the fields. Then he stopped.

'There, brother,' said he to the Wolf; 'you did me a good turn, and
I've done you one. Good-bye!'

'Thank you!' said the Wolf. 'Good luck to you!'

And so they parted.



[Illustration]



THE OLD SWORD'S MISTAKE


Once upon a time there was a steel sword, whose blade was forged and
tempered in a most excellent manner. The handle was of precious wood,
with beautiful inlaid work of mother-of-pearl and gold. From his very
birth the Sword was in the service of a gallant knight; and a sturdy,
faithful sword he was. He fought for the sake of truth and of every
fair lady, and against all oppressors of the weak. All who, even by
word or glance, injured a lady dreaded the steel weapon: there was no
man, no arms in the world, whom the steel warrior feared. But the
valiant knight was killed in a hard fight, and the Sword remained lying
on the battle-field. There the wind blew sand upon him, and leaves,
fallen during the autumn from the neighbouring bushes, covered him.
And many long years he lay there buried and unseen, until a peasant
proposed to clear the ground, and his plough ran by chance against the
Sword. The first thing that the ploughman did was to utter an oath, for
his coulter, in striking against the stout weapon, received a notch.
Then the Sword was dug out, taken to town, and sold to an old curiosity
shop. The shopman hung the Sword on a nail.

From his lofty resting-place the old warrior, in glancing about the
shop, saw in the corner of the hall a white lady of astonishing beauty.
She was clad only in a loose-fitting garment about her fair form.
Her neck, arms, and feet were bare; her hair was all combed back,
then caught up by a diadem, from which it hung down in a shower of
curls. She stood erect, and did not move. On her fair lips played an
enigmatic smile, while her beautiful arms hung loose beside her, and
her whole form seemed to breathe with free, powerful peace. One thing
alone appeared to the steel warrior somewhat strange: the fair one was
all white; her cheeks, eyes, hair; her hands and feet; her garments
and diadem,--all were like fresh snow. But this seemed only to give a
new charm to her beauty. The longer the old Sword gazed at the white
unknown woman, the brighter grew his blade, the more merrily danced all
the rainbow tints in his mother-of-pearl inlaid work, and the stronger
grew his wish to fight as of old for truth's and a lady's sake--nay,
for this very lady.

The steel warrior longed to speak to the white beauty, but he did not
venture. 'I am so old,' he thought; 'so notched; even somewhat rusty
... while she is so fair!... No, no, it would not do. Methinks she
would not even mind me or look at me.'...

Now the old Sword glanced at the lady in the corner, and she gazed at
him, smiling enigmatically....

'Oh,' thought the sturdy warrior, 'if only I could do something for
her!' But there seemed no chance of being of use to the fair creature.
The Sword could no longer bear such suspense. He summoned up all his
courage, and uttered in a faltering clang: 'Queen of my soul! tell
me what you desire. Only tell me, and I will do it; at least I will
attempt anything for you!' But the White Beauty remained speechless,
and only smiled enigmatically as before.

'Why does she keep silence?' This was the question that tormented the
old Sword, and he looked at the fair lady with anguish. Oh how much
she might say if she would but speak! What power breathes through her
apparent calm! And her smile! what a rich soul it hides! Nay, if this
heavenly creature does not speak it is certainly only in consequence of
some spell laid upon her! And the old fighter looked around, pondering
over the question, Who could be the malicious sorcerer? It could not be
the gigantic snake, stuffed with tow, that stood in an opposite corner,
for its eyes were but glass, and though they say snakes fascinate birds
and little animals, they need living eyes for the purpose. Nor could it
be yonder ivory-headed cane near the shelf; it had the shape of an old
man's head in a nightcap, with saucy, black goggle eyes. The insolent
creature smiled, it is true, very mockingly, and was capable, as it
seemed, of any rude trick; but he was so placed as not to be able even
to see the White Lady. Somewhat higher than the Sword, hung on the same
wall a red-nosed man, with a mass of tangled hair upon his head. He
had a wine-glass in his hand, and he looked straight at the beauty with
winking, roguish eyes. But that fellow could not have bewitched the
lady either; he was too commonplace and good-natured for such a thing.
The old Sword had seen scores of such fellows in old times, when his
knight was banqueting in some wayside inn, or carousing in some friar's
cellar, after the conquest of a town. Revellers of those days were clad
differently, but they were evidently birds of the same feather. The
Sword even felt some special interest in the old toper--he seemed to be
a clever fellow.

'Look here, old boy,' said the old warrior in a whisper to his
neighbour, 'who do you think has bewitched the lady in the corner?'

'And why do you imagine the girl to be bewitched?' retorted the
red-nosed one, in a hoarse, loud bass voice, making no scruples about
the matter, though his companion evidently wished to speak in an
undertone.

'H'm, h'm ... well, well!' said the old Sword; 'hold your peace!
indeed you speak too loud.... One must be more discreet in delicate
matters.... As to the spell, it is evident: have you not noticed the
lady to be absolutely silent?'

'Well, what can she say if she has nothing to say? Ha! ha! ha!'

'What!' roared the Sword, and was about to teach the reveller
politeness in his own way, but the latter checked his ardour with these
words--

'Listen to what I am going to tell you, old fellow: if you do not
intend to hear me quietly, why then do you ask my opinion?'

This remark seemed to the Sword to be reasonable, therefore he
restrained himself and resumed his speech, though not without anger.

'You have drowned your reason in wine, that's all. How can it be that
such a woman as this has nothing to say? Just look at her smile!'

'But perhaps she does not know anything but how to smile enigmatically.'

But such things the old warrior could no longer endure. Indeed, he
would have made a cut at the toper's red nose had he not been taken
down at that moment by the owner of the shop to show to some customer.

'Very good indeed,' said the latter; 'but it is not to my taste. I like
this far better.' And the customer pointed to the White Beauty.

'Ha! ha! ha!... I should think you do,' laughed the shopman merrily.
'It is my luck she cannot speak, else she would have been married long
ago, and I should have lost instead of gained by her.'

'Ah!' thought the old Sword, 'here is the sorcerer; I might have
guessed it long ago. The owner of the shop is the mightiest here; he
may do with us what he will. And that hideous man intends to sell that
heavenly woman! But he shall smart for it.'

The old Sword broke loose from the nail, and, flashing dreadfully with
his blade, struck the shopkeeper's shoulder. No doubt the man would
have been wounded had the blade been sharp.

'Dear me,' cried the shopman, rubbing the injured spot, 'such a heavy
old fool! How did those knights in old times fight with such cudgels?'

All of a sudden there arose a stir in the house. Along the passages and
staircases people were heard running to and fro, shouting 'Fire! fire!'
The owner of the old curiosity shop and his customer were rushing up
and down about the hall, not knowing what to do. At last one of them
seized a pot of withered geranium, and the other his rubbers, and both
hurried out. The White Lady stood near one of the windows with her
usual quiet smile, whilst on the window-sill there sat a pretty little
naked bronze boy. For many long years he had carried on his back a
basket, into which a candlestick was to be put. Though the boy, as I
have said, was only a child, he knew very well what 'fire' meant: he
knew it from the time when the bronze of which he was formed was melted
in a blast furnace. A deadly fear overspread his lovely face, and in a
tender, tinkling voice he addressed his pretty neighbour: 'Pray ... oh
pray ... throw me down into the street.... The fall can do me no harm,
I know ... but the fire will melt me.... Do, I beseech you; you have
only to raise your arm.'

But the White Beauty remained silent and motionless. She continued to
smile in a most winning and most promising manner, but made no gesture,
uttered no sound.

The old Sword also knew what 'fire' meant. How many times had he
witnessed in old times the conflagration of whole cities taken by
assault! He saw how unhappy citizens and desperate artisans fled from
their homes; how women sobbed and lamented when they saw the ruins,
and when their little ones were slaughtered or burnt. All this the old
Sword now remembered, and his steel blade ached at the thought: 'What
will happen to the White Lady?'

The old curiosity shop was situated on the third floor, and the window,
near which stood the beautiful woman who charmed the Sword, was only a
few feet distant from the neighbouring roof. The old Sword collected
all his strength, swung on his nail, and flung himself through the
window, placing his handle on the sill and his point on the cornice of
the neighbouring house.

'Queen of my soul, hasten! Pass along, treading upon me, and you will
be safe,' so he rang out in a trembling voice. The beauty smiled in
her enigmatic, winning manner, but did not utter a word or make a
motion. 'Make haste, I beseech you!' rang once more the anxious Sword.
'As soon as the fire reaches our hall my handle will be burnt, I shall
fall down, and your escape will be impossible.'

But these words made on the lady as little impression as his previous
ones: she remained motionless and dumb, but smiling in a bewitching
manner. Suddenly several firemen hurried in and began to seize
everything that their eyes fell upon, and to fling it through the
windows without any distinction. First went the sardonic, goggle-eyed
old man on the cane, and, without injury, tumbled headlong down. Then
came the red-nosed old toper, smiling as usual, his wine-glass still
in his hand; he dashed against a broken stool, and the canvas on which
he was painted was torn to pieces. Scores of solid and fragile things
followed.... One of the firemen seized the Sword and threw him into
the courtyard below. The jagged fighter made several somersaults in
the air, and plunging into the earth stood upright. A few moments
he shivered and made a dull sound. But one thought overpowered him
now: 'What would be the fate of his lady?' All of a sudden he noticed
something white falling from the window, and ... recognised his
goddess: it was she! The old Sword uttered a groan.

'Oh, why did she not speak? Why did she not avail herself of his
devotion? Why did she answer all his entreaties only by an enigmatic
smile? O Heavens, why?' At this very moment the White Lady fell down
upon the pavement and broke in two, just where men have a heart....

Many a time the old Sword had pierced men's hearts, and then their
hot blood flowed along his blade. He therefore cast a shuddering and
anxious look upon the fracture, expecting to see it bleed. He saw,
however, nothing but stone; the whole beauty consisted of marble....
The marble was white as snow; it was irreproachably fair, but yet it
was only marble, and nothing more.



[Illustration]



'MY OWN'

(A Siberian Fairy Tale)


The banks of the Vagaï are beautiful--very beautiful[9]--in some
places at least. Steep, almost overhanging, and high as the walls of
a fortress bastion, they rise frowning above the river sternly; yet
they are fair with the rich verdure of the forest that crowns their
heights. This forest is of many kinds. The century-old fir-trees, with
trunks that three men could not gird with outstretched arms, rise in
straight, dark-red columns, so high that to look up at even the lowest
branches you must throw your head back till your hat falls off; beside
them the gray-barked aspens quiver in every leaf, as if frightened
at the twisted, snaky black trunks of the bird-cherry--the tree that
smells so sweet in early spring when the white blossoms cover it like a
sheet of snow. The gentle rowan is not noticeable for its height; its
feathery leaves are the only thing that could attract your attention.
But wait till autumn comes; then it is hung all over with clusters of
scarlet berries, and brightens up the forest. The mighty cedar, with
its long, grand sweeps of feathery needles, towers up higher even than
its comrade the fir; here and there beneath the trees is scattered
about an undergrowth of young pines, almost branchless, like bristles
or long sticks standing up out of the earth. But the commonest trees
in this forest are certainly silver birches. The trunks of these
birches stand out sometimes straight and slender, with delicate heads
of foliage, looking like cadets in their white shirts; sometimes
gnarled, branchy, knotted, with the air of a burly peasant, rugged with
labour.

       [9] The _Vagaï_ is one of the largest tributaries of _Irtýsh_,
       a mighty stream, which flows into one of the most gigantic
       rivers of Siberia, the Obi.

Underneath, at the base of all these tree-trunks, so different in
thickness, height, and colour, all the ground is covered with masses
of bright flowers, and a carpet of grass that buries you waist-deep
when you walk. And the longer you look upon this forest scene the
more varied, the more exquisite, it appears to you. There are so many
beautiful shades of green--pale and delicate on the birch-trees, dark
on the cedars, almost black on the _pikhta_. Here the trees cluster
together on the river-bank, pressing one against the other, forming an
impassable barrier,--there they draw back, as if wearied of following
the course of the river, and leave a wide, open space, where you can
see the edge of the nearest bank, and the barren precipice of the
opposite one, also crowned with glorious green forest; and if you
advance to the edge you can see, far below, the torrent itself, swift
and mighty.

Ah yes, the Vagaï is beautiful! And not only is it beautiful, but it
is a merry life there--in any case it is a merry life for the birds
who live there. So many joys are theirs! The woodpeckers can find in
the bark of the trees (especially the old stumps of fallen trees)
fat caterpillars and beetles; for the snipe and woodcocks there are
endless strawberries, bilberries, cranberries, thick clumps of wild
oats and other edible grasses. The great cones, with their juicy nuts,
cluster on the branches of the pines and giant cedars, like candles
on a Christmas-tree, then late in autumn they fall to the ground.
The clear, fresh water of the Vagaï seems to call you to bathe and
drink. And then the bright sunshine, the transparent, fragrant air, the
green carpet of the forest, the joyous company of comrades, with whom
one can sing, chirp, hop, dart about, and fly like an arrow on light
wings. What more can heart desire? Living such a life, should one not
rejoice in this bright world, fling away all envy and malice, and share
together with one's fellow-creatures all the delights which our common
mother, Nature, gives?

So thought all the birds of the forest tract we are speaking of, and so
they lived. Early, very early, in the morning, when the first scarlet
flush shone in the sky to herald the golden sunbeams, one little bird
would wake up and open its eyes, and there beside it another would
have begun fluttering its wings, drinking the bright dewdrops from the
leaves, pecking seeds from the grasses. Then the first bird would look
at its friend, thinking, 'There's plenty for all;' and it, too, would
begin chirruping, delighted to have a companion with whom to share
both its labour and its rest. And both together would dart off and
fly to the Vagaï to bathe. So the little birds lived happily, neither
quarrelling nor disagreeing, helping one another in their work and
dangers, and sharing together all that the bright world gave them.

But this way of living and thinking did not suit a certain
broad-beaked, ponderous cedar-crow,[10] who had taken up her abode in a
huge cedar.

       [10] A rather large brown bird, with white spots, belonging to
       the crow family. Its Latin name is _Nucifraga Caryocatœ_.

This cedar stood apart in a glade, and the Cedar-crow liked it just on
account of its separate position.

'I will settle here; this shall be _my_ estate. I don't want any one
else's property, and no one shall touch _mine_! It's comfortable and
private and nice!' The clumsy bird flew all round the cedar, and, being
satisfied with it, settled there.

The Cedar-crow stopped there a day, two days ... the other birds darted
past, chirping, flying races, playing with one another, rejoicing
together in the good gifts of their mother-earth, the bright sun, and
the Vagaï, and the delights of companionship; but the thick-billed
Cedar-crow dared not leave her tree; there she sat watching that no
other bird should touch her private nuts. When a woodcock did but pass,
she flew to him in anxiety, crying out: 'Go away!--go away! There's
nothing here for you; go back where you came from! I don't touch your
things; you let _mine_ alone.'

'But do you suppose the rest of the forest is only _ours_?' said the
Woodcock. 'You can have them too; of course any one may take as much
as they want. There's enough for every one.'

'Yes, I dare say. _You_ can do as you like. But _I_ feel safer when I
have something of my _own_.'

'Why, you foolish one!' exclaimed a thrush, which had flown up to them,
'we always live in whole companies--thousands together--and never cut
up things into "mine" and "thine"; and yet no harm happens to us.'

'Yes; so long as there is plenty for all, but afterwards there's no
saying what will happen,' thought the Cedar-crow, though she did not
say so aloud. 'If the land is divided between all of us, how much will
each one have? Now I've got the whole of this huge cedar to myself; it
will last my time, and I can leave it to my children and grandchildren;
there will be more for them than for your fledglings....'

'You're just gone silly with greediness,' said the other birds, and
flew away, chirruping and darting after one another in the air. But
the Cedar-crow, the forest landowner, seeing that she was alone, pulled
a cone from her cedar, and began picking out the nuts. She ate as much
as she could, and then returned to the work of guarding her estate.
She sat and looked about her, and occasionally flew round the tree,
constantly afraid that some one was touching her property.

The time for nest-building came. All the birds paired and got to
work: one carried a feather, another a straw; each one wove in its
contribution properly; then they would hop about, chirp to one another,
and fly off together to fetch more material.

The Cedar-crow became more anxious than ever. 'There!' she thought;
'they will lay eggs and hatch new fledglings, and they, too, will all
want to eat and drink; they will simply ravage my cedar. I shall have
nothing left!'

She even left off going down to the Vagaï to drink. Yet she was
tormented with thirst: her tongue hung out; her eyes distended; she
could hardly breathe; and still she dared not leave her tree. She
endured it till nightfall. At night all the birds settled down to rest
sweetly after their day's work; only here and there an owl with great
round eyes would flit past. But the Cedar-crow could not go to sleep;
she had to fly to the river and drink; and this misery was not only
once--at dawn to-morrow it would begin again!

At last the envious bird could bear it no longer. Clearly she could not
manage alone. She began thinking how to get out of the difficulty. It
occurred to her that it might be better to take another cedar-crow into
partnership with her, and build a nest; certainly it would be another
mouth to feed, but then the two of them together could guard their
property, and not lose a single cone. And even if they had fledglings,
it would still be better than now: in the first place, she would feel
safer; in the second place, with so many to keep watch, not a single
nut would be lost, let alone a cone. And the cedar was very big; it
would be enough for five, even ten families.

The Cedar-crow polished her beak, pecked off a cone, glancing about her
as she did so, flew round the cedar, and settled herself to look out
for a mate. There, just opposite her, on a neighbouring fir-tree, sat
another cedar-crow, large and heavy, with a great strong beak. It sat
looking at the cedar; evidently it wanted some nuts.

The forest landowner flew across to it, and began to explain: 'This is
my estate; no one has a right to touch it; but, if you like, I will
take you into companionship, if you will help me to guard our cedar
from intruders.' The male looked at the cedar-tree, and saw that it was
a fine one. 'You won't get such a cedar every day.'

'All right,' said he; 'if one lets every one in to share in God's
blessings one will just starve. I've seen enough of these fools that do
nothing and lay by nothing: just fly in coveys, peck everything bare,
and there's not a thing left. I myself was just looking for a good
cedar, to take possession of it, and let no one come near.'

They paired, and set to work to build their nest; one would bring the
materials, or go down to drink, while the other guarded the estate.

Well, some time passed, and behold their little fledglings peeped out
of the nest. The old Cedar-crows were more anxious than ever about
their property; formerly they had only watched over the cones, now they
let no one so much as fly past the cedar-tree.

But how were they to prevent the birds from ever flying past, when
forests and meadows and water alike swarm with them? The greedy birds
drove away their comrades day after day and the whole day long; by the
evening they could hardly move their wings for weariness. At last they
got worn out. What were they to do? They thought and thought, and at
last an idea struck them.

The male Cedar-crow flew to the Plover. 'Call a meeting of all the
birds,' said he; 'on business.'

'What business?' asked the Plover.

'Well, that doesn't matter. Important business.'

'But still, I must know why to call the birds to a meeting; may be you
want to disturb them for some trifle?'

'Not for a trifle at all; we want to give up our claim to the forest.'

'How do you mean "Give up your claim"?'

'Why, simply to give it up! We are worried out of our lives. And all
because every one considers that we are their comrades, and that they
can poke their beaks into our place as if it were their own.'

The Plover saw that there was something very strange, and not only
strange, but dismal. The more he thought of it, the worse it seemed
to him. However, there was nothing for it but to call a council. 'All
right,' he said; 'come again at this time to-morrow.'

The next day the Plover flew over fields, pastures, and forests,
wailing more mournfully than ever: 'Pity! Pity! Pity!...'

The birds, wondering at the melancholy cry, flew down in countless
numbers to the Vagaï; on all sides resounded chirruping and twittering.
Here the mellow call of the cuckoo predominated; there the elaborate
whistle of the goldhammer. The Cedar-crow, the forest landowner, was
there waiting. She came forward and made her speech--

'It is a custom among you, respected birds, to live together and hold
everything in common. That is your own affair; but we cannot live so.
We have children, and are bound to think of them and have something to
leave them. Among you every one snatches the food from his neighbour's
beak, and robs his neighbour without any question; and we find that
all this ends in nothing but anxiety. We don't want things that belong
to others, and we feel it hard when others give us no peace. So we
have resolved to announce to you that we want no part in your communal
forest, and will not touch it; we will not take from it a single seed
or stalk; but you, on your side, agree together that no one shall peck
our nuts, or perch on our cedar, or fly across our glade. This is our
request to you, respected birds.'

When the Cedar-crow left off speaking there was silence: the birds sat
with their bills wide open, and could not utter a word for amazement.

The first to recover himself was a starling. 'Why--you--idiot!' he
cried. 'Think yourself what a fool you are! All the wide world is here
before you, and you want to give it up for one little glade!'

'Oh, the world! The world is not _mine_--it's _every one's_--not much
of it will fall to my share; it's all very well to be so sure! but
the cedar, if it is small, at least it's _mine_!' That is what the
Cedar-crow thought; but aloud she only said: 'Well, if you think it
better to possess the whole world in common than one little glade
separately, what is there to argue about? The world remains to you, so
it must be a good bargain for you; and there's nothing more to be said.
Then give us our glade, leave us in peace, and that is all we ask.'

'You foolish creature!' exclaimed the other birds; 'he spoke for your
advantage; of course, your glade will be no loss to us; but it's
piteous to see a creature so blind! He only wanted to bring you to your
senses.'

'You must have a lot of good advice to spare if you can give away so
much of it without being asked,' replied the Cedar-crow, polishing her
broad beak.

Seeing that the Cedar-crow was hopelessly wrong-headed, the birds
talked the matter over, and decided that she and her mate should be
left in undisturbed possession of their cedar glade, and that no one
should approach within twenty fathoms of it.

The Cedar-crows were delighted. Now, they thought, at last we shall be
at peace! And so they were. No one ever came near; they had no longer
any need to guard their cedar, or to do anything but eat, drink, and
sleep. The rest of their time they spent in gazing at one another, and
comparing who had the longest beak. Once it chanced that a nightingale,
coming from a far country to seek her lost mate (he had been trapped by
bird-catchers), flew to the cedar. She did not know of the agreement
among the birds of the Vagaï concerning the cedar glade, and she flew
into it. The Cedar-crows were so bored that they were almost glad to
see her! They flew out, however, and entered into a polite explanation.

'You probably do not know of the agreement concerning this glade. No
one has the right to fly within twenty fathoms of it, because it is
_ours_. We have renounced our claim to all the rest of the forest, and
do not take a single seed or stalk from it; but this glade belongs to
us.'

'Whatever is that for?' asked the Nightingale, in amazement. 'Why,
supposing there's a bad harvest on your cedar, what will become of you
then?'

It was the first time that such a question had been put to the
Cedar-crows, and they did not know what to answer.

'A bad harvest!' Indeed it was possible. It often happens that in
one place the harvest fails, and close by, or very near, such a
quantity ripens that it goes to waste. But the young birds reassured
their parents: on that cedar they had been hatched, and had grown up;
they had always lived upon its fruits; they had always seen it the
same--mighty and burdened with cones--could they imagine it different?

'A bad harvest! What do you mean?' they cried in chorus. 'The harvest
cannot fail on our cedar!'

'Of course it can't!' echoed the parent birds in delight.

The Nightingale shook her little gray head, but made no further comment.

'Then it is forbidden to fly here?' she said. 'I beg your pardon, I did
not know.'

'Oh, we are not angry; indeed, as you are on a journey, we shall be
glad to offer you some refreshment,' replied the female Cedar-crow,
glancing at her mate; and she laid before the Nightingale a single nut.

'Thank you,' said the Nightingale, and flew away without touching the
nut.

The Cedar-crows settled down again to their ordinary life, and there
is no saying how long they would have gone on in the same way if a
runaway tramp had not happened to make a bonfire in the _taïgá_.[11] It
was a long time since he had enjoyed a hot drink, and he was thirsty.
He made some tea, drank it, and was just going to start on again,
when he heard bells, then a rustling sound and footsteps. The poor
fellow was terrified: 'The _Ispravnik_!'[12] he thought. 'I shall be
caught!' He rushed into the thicket, not stopping even to scatter the
burning brands or stamp out the embers. In the meantime a light wind
rose, the embers glowed, the dry pine-needles caught fire, and soon
the flames were creeping on from one fallen trunk to another--farther
and farther, wider and wider, licking the trees, curling round whole
thickets--and the _taïgá_ was on fire. That is a common thing in
Siberia.

       [11] Virgin forest in Siberia.

       [12] A police-officer, acting as chief of the district.

For some time the Cedar-crows had noticed that the air was of a milky
colour. For some time the sun had been dull-red by day, and by night
they could see a far-off crimson glare in the sky. Now the smell of
burning was in the air, and still the Cedar-crows could not believe
that their estate was in danger of fire. It disturbed them far more
that innumerable birds began flying past their glade to the Vagaï; the
beasts, too, hurrying to the river, ran straight by the cedar.... Soon
it grew difficult to breathe, yet still the Cedar-crows could not bear
to part from their estate; they still dreaded lest some other birds
or beasts might take possession of their glade. At last, though, they
could bear it no longer; they were forced to go. But when, after all,
they made up their minds to leave the cedar, it was too late. The fire
attacked their glade from all sides at once, and when they attempted
to fly upwards they dropped, stifled with smoke, on to the ground. The
cool, green grass refreshed them, and, in desperation, they struggled
again to reach the river. But all around them rose terrible fiery
pillars, and the unhappy birds, scorched and half dead, sank again to
the ground, and rose no more.

Presently rain began to pour in torrents, and put out the fire within
a few yards of the glade. That glade was now a dismal scene of ruin:
the tall grass was burnt brown, the mighty cedar was a charred and
naked corpse. All around stood the trees--aspens, birches, limes, and
bird-cherries--burnt to skeletons, or with dead and shrivelled leaves
hanging from them here and there. Mournfully they raised their barren
branches towards the heavens, as though praying for mercy; and thus,
with lifted hands, they perished.

But beyond that bare skeleton thicket stood in the distance the fresh
and untouched forest. The female Cedar-crow, lying helpless on the
ground, gazed upon it despairingly. Beside her lay her fledgling--the
only one left alive. He was feebly fluttering his scorched wings and
uttering piteous cries.

'Oh, if only some of the birds would come to us!' thought the unhappy
mother; 'surely they would have pity on my child, and would carry him
down to the waterside and feed him. He would recover there; he would
not die of hunger and thirst!...'

But no one came near the glade. All the birds remembered the general
agreement: not to disturb the Cedar-crows in their seclusion, and not
to approach within twenty fathoms of their estate. And not one of the
birds knew what had happened to the Cedar-crow family.

When the bright sun rose next morning no one of that family saw
it--they were all dead....

Meanwhile the other birds, leaving the fire-ravaged places for other
parts of the forest that were still fresh and green, rejoiced as
formerly in the fair world, sharing everything together; and far along
the clear Vagaï the air was filled with their joyous and friendly
twittering.



[Illustration]



THE TALE ABOUT HOW ALL THESE TALES CAME TO LIGHT


In our times, but not in this country, there lived a little girl, with
a pair of brown eyes that shone like two big radiant stars. Every time
that she looked with those eyes on her father or her mother, and a
sweet smile beamed on her countenance, the father's and mother's souls
brightened, and it seemed to them as if music, which nobody heard
except themselves, resounded in their hearts.

Very often on such occasions the father took his beloved girl on his
lap, kissed her tenderly, and asked what she would like.

'I should like you to tell me a fairy tale,' invariably answered the
little girl, pressing her rosy face to her father's breast.

'That is in our hands. We can afford that,' answered her father.

Then he tried to recall what he had ever read or heard from his
grandmother or other old folk, and related some story, while the little
girl listened attentively. Her big eyes became still larger; they
beamed like a pair of evening stars, and she now and then slightly and
slowly nodded, taking to heart everything that happened in the story.
If her father told of some evil, unjust person, she exclaimed: 'I do
not like him!' But if the story ran about some one kind-hearted and
good, she was very glad of it, and said: 'That is good!'

And again it was as if beautiful music resounded in her father's soul.
He saw that his little one was grieved with other people's grievances
and rejoiced in other people's happiness. He saw how she pondered over
what he said, and he thought of the time when they, the father and
mother, will grow old, while their little one will become a grown-up
girl. They will live together, as to-day, in mutual love and thorough
friendship. Yet then it will be she, their sweet daughter, that will
take care of them and feed them, as they now take care of her and feed
her. And the father again pressed his lips on his beloved pet's head.

As for the mother, she was never weary of caressing her child and doing
everything for her. But as she had to take care also of the father
and of our girl's baby-sister, who had a pair of eyes like two little
suns, she very often was quite exhausted towards the close of the day.
Therefore when the little girl with starlike eyes went to bed, and,
clasping her mother by the neck with both her hands, asked her to tell
some fairy tale, her mother could not recall any.... Still the little
girl repeated her request again and again....

Then the father said to the mother she should go and rest, while he sat
down at the child's bedside and tried to narrate something.

At last there came a day when all the stories he ever knew were at an
end, while the little girl still entreated for one. The father looked
in his girl's big, starlike eyes and saw that she could not sleep. He
looked also at the mother, who was worried out of her senses by daily
work; and now sat mending the baby's socks. It was evident some story
ought to be told. But what story? What about?

The father looked around. A china cup was standing on the table. It was
half-broken, and he could not help thinking that it had had a trying
life. It had surely had its story. Well, what kind of a story was it?

And after having pondered a little, the father told to his girl the
story of the cup, as he imagined it, and as you have found it in this
very little book.

When he finished the little girl rose in her bed, with her starlike
eyes shining more than usual, and asked: 'Where did you get that story,
father? Did you read it somewhere?'

'No; I just told it out of my head.'

Then the little girl clasped her little hands around her father's neck,
kissed him most enthusiastically, and seemed to be very happy.

Since that time father heard only too often the little girl ask him:
'Father, do tell me some tale of your own.'

And so he did. But as he repeated his stories again and again he now
and then altered them, as he could not remember everything as he told
it the first time. And if the alterations were happy, the little
girl was pleased, but if he omitted anything, she said: 'You told it
differently the other day,' and would not be happy until he recalled
all the exact words and details of his best narrative.

Then it became clear that the father should write his stories down.
After having written some new story he now read it to the girl with
a pair of stars instead of eyes, and sometimes she most emphatically
objected to some turn of the story.

'You wrote it wrongly,' she said on such occasions; 'you must alter it
thus and thus.'

And indeed the father altered until she said it was all right.

One morning a little boy came to visit our little girl, his great
friend. They ran about and played together all the forenoon; but in
the afternoon, when her father lay down on a couch to take a moment's
rest, he was struck by the general stillness which was reigning in the
house. To tell you the truth, the boy was a real mischievous monkey,
and there was little hope to have any peace in the house as long as he
was in it. Still, the fact was that everything was quiet, and only in
the neighbouring room the star-eyed girl's voice sounded in an even,
moderate tone.

The father got up, and went on tiptoe to the next room to look what all
this meant. He saw his little girl sitting on a footstool; her visitor
was beside her on a box, and was all attention.

... 'A-a-a! yawned the Little Old Man, ...' related the little hostess,
showing to the boy how the old man did yawn....

At this moment she perceived her father on the threshold.

'I am telling him your fairy tale about the little old men, you know,'
she said to her father, and then there was a pause, with a lingering
smile on her face.

'Well, go on,' said the boy, pulling her by the sleeve.

The father returned to his couch, and there was a smile on his face
too. He saw clearly that there was something in his stories which made
little folk breathe with indignation, compassion, or joy, when they
heard them. He well knew what it was. He put a good deal of his soul
into his tales, and this soul, coming into contact with those little
souls of his readers, made them bound with delight, or long for redress
of some injustice. Was it not a joy for him too? And if the little
girl with a pair of stars instead of eyes, and the boy, her friend,
found pleasure in his fairy tales, should not the other children have
an opportunity to try the same pleasure? Why should he not print his
stories?

Thus he decided to print them. He sent them into a printing-office, and
before long a little volume came out of the press in many copies. The
little girl with starlike eyes read and re-read the book. Her little
friends, with blue, black, brown, or gray eyes, read and re-read it.
And when, after all that reading and all the chatter about it, bright
sparks of delight and animation appeared in those eyes, these sparks
found their way into his heart and warmed it up, and he too felt happy.

Now, I did not tell you that all this happened in Russia, a far-away
country, and that when the man who wrote the stories came afterwards
to England, together with his daughter, he was sorry to find that he
had left all those children's sparkling eyes, shining with emotion when
reading his tales, behind.

But then he was struck by the thought that in England there were as
many little souls and hearts as in Russia, nay, he has had already some
friends among these little souls both in England and in America; and
thus, perhaps, if he put his stories into English, he might see as many
smiling faces and radiant eyes after the book was read as he did in his
native country? He decided to try at once, and now here is the volume
before you. We will see whether the man was right. He would like to
hear something about it from you.


                                THE END


                _Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, _Edinburgh_



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