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Russian fairy tale
Translated by Bernard Isaacs
Illustrated by A.Savchenko
Once there was a peasant and his wife and they had a little girl and a little boy.
"Daughter," said the Mother to her Little Girl, "we are going out to work, so look after your Little Brother. If you are a good girl and do not run out into the street we shall buy you a new kerchief."
Father and Mother went away, and Little Girl never stopped to think about what she had been told. She seated Little Brother on the grass under the window, ran out into the street and began to play with her friends, forgetting all about everything.
Suddenly a flock of Swan-Geese came flying up. They swooped down, caught up Little Brother and carried him off on their wings.
Little Girl came home, she looked, but alas!—Little Brother was gone. She ran here and there, but not a sign of him did she find.
She began calling him, and she wept and sobbed, crying that she would catch it from Father and Mother, but Little Brother did not reply.
She ran out into the open field but there was nothing she could see save some Swan-Geese flying beyond the dark forest. She knew then that it was they who had carried off her brother: folks said the Swan-Geese were wicked birds who stole little children.
So away ran Little Girl after the birds. She ran and she ran till she came to an Oven.
"Oven, Oven, tell me where the Swan-Geese have flown."
"Eat one of my rye cakes and I will tell you," said the Oven.
"What, me eat a rye cake? At home we do not eat even wheaten cakes!"
So the Oven did not tell her. Little Girl ran on a bit farther and saw an Apple-Tree.
"Apple-Tree, Apple-Tree, tell me where the Swan-Geese have flown."
"Eat one of my wild apples and I will tell you," said the Tree.
"At home we do not eat even garden apples!"
So the Apple-Tree did not tell her. Little Girl ran on till she came to Milk River with Jelly Banks.
"Milk River with Jelly Banks, tell me where the Swan-Geese have flown."
"Have some of my jelly with milk and I will tell you."
"At home we do not eat even jelly with cream."
So Milk River did not tell her.
Little Girl ran about the fields and woods for a long, long time. And now day was giving way to evening, and there was nothing for her to do but go home. All at once, what should she see but a hut on hen's feet, very tidy and neat, turning round and round without a sound.
The hut had one window, and inside the hut sat Baba-Yaga, the witch, spinning tow. And on the bench sat Little Brother playing with silver apples.
Little Girl went in.
"Good evening. Granny!"
"Good evening, lass. What brings you here?"
"In the fields and woods have I walked all day, over marshes and swamps have I made my way. My frock is wet through, so I've come to you to get warm."
"Sit down then and spin some tow."
Baba-Yaga gave Little Girl the spindle and herself went out. And Little Girl sat there spinning when all of a sudden a Mouse ran out from under the stove and said to her:
"Lassie, lassie, give me some porridge and I will tell you something."
Little Girl gave it some porridge, and Mouse said:
"Baba-Yaga has gone to light a fire in the bath-house. She will steam you and wash you, roast you in the oven and eat you up, and then roll around on your bones."
Little Girl sat there more dead than alive, and she wept and sobbed, but Mouse went on:
"Make haste, take Little Brother and run away, and I will spin the tow for you."
So Little Girl took Little Brother in her arms and ran off. Baba-Yaga came up to the window every once in a while and asked:
"Are you spinning, lass?"
And Mouse would answer: "Yes, I am, Granny."
Baba-Yaga made a fire in the bath-house and came for Little Girl. But the hut was empty.
Baba-Yaga cried: "Off you go, Swan-Geese, fly and catch them! Little Girl has carried off Little Brother!"
Little Girl ran until she came to Milk River, and what should she see but the Swan-Geese coming after her and Little Brother.
"Milk River, Milk River, hide me, do!" cried Little Girl.
"Eat some of my plain fruit jelly."
Little Girl ate some and said thank you. So Milk River hid her and her brother in the shadow of its Fruit-Jelly Banks.
And the Swan-Geese never saw them and flew past.
Little Girl ran on again. But the Swan-Geese turned back and flew straight towards her. At any moment they might see her.
What was Little Girl to do? On she ran and she came across the Apple-Tree.
"Apple-Tree, Apple-Tree, hide me, do!"
"Eat my wild apples."
Little Girl ate one quickly and said thank you, and the Apple-Tree hid her and Little Brother among its leaves and branches.
The Swan-Geese never saw them and flew past.
Little Girl picked up her brother and ran on again. She ran and she ran and she had almost reached home when the Swan-Geese caught sight of her. They honked and flapped their wings, and in another minute would have torn Little Brother out of her arms.
Little Girl ran up to the Oven.
"Oven, Oven, hide me, do!"
"Eat one of my rye cakes."
Little Girl popped a piece of cake into her mouth and herself crawled into the Oven with her brother.
The Swan-Geese flew round and round screaming and honking, but after a while they gave it up and flew back to Baba-Yaga.
Little Girl said thank you to the Oven and ran home with her brother.
And before long Father and Mother came home too.
Author: Russian fairy tale; illustrated by Savchenko A.
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