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´╗┐Title: Verotchka's Tales
Author: Siberiak, Mamin
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Verotchka's Tales" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                    [Illustration]



                      VEROTCHKA'S
                         TALES

                         _by_

                         MAMIN
                       SIBERIAK

                     TRANSLATED BY
                     RAY DAVIDSON

                     ILLUSTRATED BY
                        BORIS M.
                      ARTZYBASHEFF


                 E. P. DUTTON & CO., INC.
                 PUBLISHERS     NEW YORK


                     Copyright, 1922,
                By E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY

                  _All rights reserved_

                 _Reprinted March, 1932_

          _Printed in the United States of America_



CONTENTS


                                                            PAGE
    HOW THEY HAPPENED                                          1

    THE STORY OF A BOLD RABBIT WITH COCK EYES
    AND A SHORT TAIL                                           3

    THE STORY OF LITTLE CACINELLA                             13

    THE STORY OF MOSQUITO LONG-NOSE AND
    FUZZY BEAR, MISHKA SHORT-TAIL                             25

    VANKA'S BIRTHDAY                                          40

    THE STORY OF MASTER SPARROW, MASTER STICKELBACK
    AND THE JOLLY CHIMNEY-SWEEP, YASHA                        62

    THE STORY OF THE LAST FLY                                 82

    THE STORY OF A BLACK-HEADED CROW AND A
    LITTLE YELLOW CANARY                                     106

    THE WISEST OF ALL                                        129

    THE STORY OF LITTLE MILK, LITTLE CEREAL
    AND GRAY KITTEN, MOORKA                                  153

    BED TIME                                                 166



VEROTCHKA'S TALES


[Illustration]



HOW THEY HAPPENED


Lulla-lullaby. Verotchka's one little eye is sleeping, the other little
eye is still open. Verotchka's one little ear is sleeping, the other
little ear is still listening. Sleep, Verotchka, sleep, my pretty one,
and father will tell you these stories. I think they are all here. The
Siberian cat, Vasca; the shaggy village dog, Postoika; the gray
mousie-gnawers; the cricket behind the stove; the iridescent starling
in the cage; and the cock, the bully.

Sleep, Verotchka, the story begins. The full moon in the heaven looks
into the window. The cock-eyed rabbit hops on his haunches and the
wolf's eyes flash yellow fire lights. The bear, Mishka, is sucking his
paw, and the old sparrow flies up to the window, pecks the pane with
his bill, and asks, "How soon, now?"

I think they're all here now, waiting for Verotchka's Tale.

Verotchka's one little eye is asleep, the other little eye is still
open. Verotchka's one little ear is asleep, the other little ear is
still listening. Lulla-Lullaby.

[Illustration]



THE STORY OF A BOLD RABBIT WITH COCK EYES AND A SHORT TAIL


This rabbit was born in the woods and was scared of everything. If a
branch cracked anywhere or a bird flew past or a lump of snow fell
from a tree, his rabbit heart went down, down, down into his furry
boots. Now this little rabbit was afraid for a day, for two days, for a
week, for a whole year. But when he was grown up, he just got tired of
being a scared rabbit.

"I am not afraid of anybody!" he shouted through the woods. "I am not
afraid at all! I am not afraid of anything or of anybody, and that's
all there is to it!"

One day, the rabbits gathered to listen to him. The little ones ran,
the old rabbits hobbled along to hear Long-Ear, Cock-Eye, Short-Tail's
boastings.

They listened and couldn't believe their own ears, for there never had
been anything like a rabbit, unafraid of anything or anybody before.

"Oh, you Cock-Eye," called one, "do you mean to say you aren't even
afraid of a wolf?"

"Not even a wolf, nor a fox, nor a bear. I am afraid of no one," said
Cock-Eye.

Now this was altogether too amusing. The little rabbits giggled,
covering their faces with their front paws. The kind old mother rabbits
laughed and even the wise old rabbits, who had had a taste of the paws
of the fox, and had felt the fangs of the wolf, smiled. So very funny
was this rabbit that suddenly everyone was seized with merriment. They
started jumping, tumbling, turning somersaults, and playing tag as if
they had all suddenly gone mad.

"What is the use of talking so much," finally shouted Cock-Eye, drunk
with his own boldness. "I tell you if I were to meet a wolf, I'd eat
him up myself."

"My, what a funny rabbit!" said the crowd. "And what a foolish rabbit,
too." They all knew he was funny and foolish; still they laughed at
him and jested with him about the wolf. And as they were speaking of
the wolf, the wolf stood right there listening, though they did not see
him.

The wolf was walking through the forest on his own wolfish business.
Then he grew hungry and began to think how fine it would be to have a
bit of fresh rabbit. Suddenly quite near by, he heard rabbits talking,
laughing and shouting his name. He stopped short, sniffed the air and
crept nearer and nearer. When he was very near the merry-making
rabbits, he learned that they were making sport of him, and that
Cock-Eye, Long-Ear, Short-Tail was laughing at him more than anyone
else.

"Eh, Brother! Just wait and I'll gobble you up," said the Gray Wolf to
himself, as he tried to spy out the boastful, bold rabbit.

Meanwhile, the rabbits, aware of nothing, made merry and merrier.
Finally, the boaster climbed up on the stump of a tree, sat on his hind
legs, and said,

"Hear, all ye cowards! Listen and look at me! Now I will show you some
tricks. I ... I ... I...."

The words were frozen on his lips, for just then he saw the wolf
looking, looking straight at him. The other rabbits did not see the
wolf, but Cock-Eye did and he didn't dare to breathe.

Then happened the most extraordinary thing. Through sheer fear, the
Boaster jumped up like a rubber ball, fell on the wide forehead of the
wolf, rolled over his back, turned a somersault in the air, landed on
his feet, and ran as if he were trying to run out of his skin.

Long, long did the unfortunate rabbit run. It seemed to him the wolf
was right behind him and that in another moment he would feel the
wolf's fangs. The poor limp rabbit ran on until he had no strength left
and finally he closed his eyes and fell under a bush, dead with
weariness.

[Illustration]

Meanwhile, the wolf was running in another direction. When the rabbit
fell on his forehead, the wolf thought he had been hit by a gun shot
and he ran away as fast as he could, saying to himself, "There are
plenty of other rabbits in the forest. This one seems quite crazy
anyway and not fit to eat."

Now for a long time the other rabbits did not realize what had
happened. Some ran into the bushes, some hid behind stumps, others
crawled into their holes. After a while they grew tired of hiding and
little by little, they crept out and looked around.

Then said one, "Our rabbit certainly scared that wolf. If it had not
been for him, few of us would have escaped alive. But where is he, our
Fearless One?"

And everyone began looking for him. They looked everywhere, but
Cock-Eye was nowhere to be found. They began to think the Gray Wolf had
eaten him up, when they discovered him, lying in a hole under a bush,
almost dead from fear.

"Good for you, Cock-Eye," shouted the rabbits all in one voice. "You
certainly frightened that wolf very cleverly. We thought you were
boasting all the time, when you were telling us you were not afraid of
anything or anybody."

At once the bold rabbit came to life. He crept out of the hole, shook
himself, squinted his eyes, and said:

"And what did you think, you cowards?"

And from that day, the bold rabbit was convinced that he was really not
afraid of anyone.

[Illustration]



THE STORY OF LITTLE CACINELLA


I

How and where little Cacinella was born, no one knows. It happened one
sunny day in spring. Little Cacinella looked around and said, "Very
nice." She stretched her tiny wings, rubbed one little thin leg against
the other, looked around again and said:

"How very, very nice! How warm the sun! How blue the sky! How green the
grass! How very, very nice! and all this is mine!"

Rubbing one little leg against the other once more, little Cacinella
began to fly. She flew and looked around and rejoiced. Beneath her, the
grass was green, and hidden in its bosom, was a crimson flower.

"Little Cacinella, come to me," called the flower.

Cacinella came down to the ground, climbed into the flower and sipped
its sweet nectar.

"How kind you are, little flower," said Cacinella, rubbing her mouth
with one of her little thin legs.

"Yes, I may be kind, but I cannot walk," complained the flower.

"Still, the world is lovely," said little Cacinella, "and it is all
mine, too."

She had hardly finished, when a hairy drone flew down upon the flower
with a loud buzz.

"Buzz! Buzz! Who dares to get into my flower? Buzz! Buzz! Who dares to
sip my sweet nectar? Buzz! Buzz! Oh, you nasty little Cacinella, get
away from here! Buzz! Buzz! Get away or I'll sting you to death."

"I say, what does this mean?" piped little Cacinella. "Everything is
mine."

"Buzz! Buzz! No, it's mine."

Little Cacinella was barely able to escape from the angry drone. She
crept into the grass, licked her thin little legs, sticky with flower
nectar, and said angrily:

"How rude that drone was! It's quite amazing! He even tried to sting
me to death! Why, aren't they all mine, the sun and the grass and the
flower!"

"No, pardon me. They are all mine," said a fuzzy Caterpillar, crawling
along a blade of grass. Little Cacinella realized that a caterpillar
cannot fly, so she grew bold.

"Pardon me, Mr. Caterpillar. You are mistaken. I do not interfere with
your crawling. Don't argue with me."

"Very well. Pray don't touch my grass. To tell you the truth, I don't
like it. So many of you fly about here. You are all such light-minded
creatures; while I, Caterpillar, am a serious person. To be frank,
everything is mine. I crawl along a blade of grass and I eat it up. I
get into a flower and I eat that up. Good day."

[Illustration]


II

In a few hours, little Cacinella learned many things. She learned that
besides the sun, the blue sky and the green grass, there are angry
drones, serious caterpillars, thorns on flowers--all of which made one
sad. Little Cacinella had thought that everything belonged to her and
was especially created for her. Now it hurt her to discover that others
thought that everything had been made especially for them. Something
was wrong.

Little Cacinella flew further and she came to a pool.

"Now, this is surely mine," she piped gaily. "My water. I am so happy.
Here are also grass and flowers."

Then she met other cacinellas.

"Hello, sister," they called.

"Hello, dears. I'm so glad I met you. It was getting very lonely flying
about alone. What are you doing here?"

"We are playing, sister. Come along with us. We are very happy. When
were you born?"

"Just to-day. A drone almost stung me to death and I also met a
caterpillar. I thought everything belonged to me. They said everything
was theirs."

The little cacinellas calmed their guest and invited her to play with
them. Then they swarmed in a thick cloud over the pool, playing tag,
flying and squeaking.

Our little Cacinella was almost overcome with joy and completely forgot
the angry drone and the serious caterpillar.

"Oh how nice," she gurgled with delight. "It's all mine--the sun, the
grass, the water. I cannot understand why the others were so angry. It
is all mine, but I don't interfere with anybody's life. I let them fly
and buzz and be happy. It doesn't bother me."

Little Cacinella played a while and then sat down for a rest among some
reeds. Sitting there, little Cacinella watched the other cacinellas
playing, when suddenly a sparrow flashed by, no one knew whence, and
dropped like a stone among them.

"Oh! Oh!" cried the little cacinellas, scattering in all directions.

When the sparrow flew away, many little cacinellas were missing from
the flock.

"The thief," scolded the older cacinellas. "He ate about fifteen or
more of us."

"That's worse than the drone," thought little Cacinella, and growing
frightened, she hid with the other cacinellas deeper among the reeds.
But there too, they found enemies. Two of them were eaten by a small
fish and two more by a frog.

"What's all this?" wondered little Cacinella. "This is not a bit nice.
It is almost impossible to live. They are perfectly horrid!"

It was a good thing that there were many little cacinellas. Those that
disappeared were hardly missed; many new ones were always coming,
flying about and squeaking, "It's all ours! It's all ours!"

"No, it's not," called our little Cacinella to them. "There are,
besides us, angry drones, serious caterpillars, horrid sparrows, fishes
and frogs. Take care, sisters! Take care!"

When night came, all the little cacinellas hid in the rushes. Stars
sprinkled the sky. The moon rose and reflected everything in the
water.

"My moon, my stars," thought little Cacinella; but she did not dare to
say it aloud. Some one might take them away from her.


III

Summer passed quickly for little Cacinella. There was so much to make
her happy, but there were sad times, too. Twice she was almost
swallowed by a swift marten. Once a frog crept up to her unawares and
nearly gobbled her up. A little cacinella has many enemies, you know.

Our little Cacinella had her own joys. One day, she met another little
Cacinella with long hairy moustache, who said:

"You are so pretty, little Cacinella. Let us be friends and live
together."

And they did. And they were very happy. They were always together;
wherever one went, the other followed.

Summer passed before they were aware of it.

Rainy days came; nights grew cold. Our little Cacinella laid many eggs.
She hid them in the thick grass, murmuring, "How tired I am."

No one saw how or when little Cacinella died. She may not have died at
all. She may have only fallen asleep quietly for the winter, to wake up
in the spring and be happy once more.

[Illustration]



THE STORY OF MOSQUITO LONG-NOSE AND FUZZY BEAR, MISHKA SHORT-TAIL


I

It happened at noon, when all the mosquitoes hid in the marsh to escape
the heat.

Mr. Long-Nose settled under a leaf and fell asleep. His sleep was
disturbed by a despairing shout.

"Wow! Wow! Help! Help!"

Mosquito Long-Nose jumped out from under the leaf and called:

"What happened? Why are you screaming?"

A whole swarm of mosquitoes flew about, buzzed and shrieked--apparently
for no reason at all.

"Oh, my! Just think what happened! A bear came into our marsh,
stretched himself out full length and fell asleep. And as he lay down,
he crushed five hundred of us; and as he opened his mouth, he swallowed
a hundred of us. Some trouble, brothers. We hardly escaped being
crushed to death ourselves."

Mosquito Long-Nose grew furiously angry--angry at the bear and at the
foolish mosquitoes, who were shouting to no purpose.

"Stop your squealing!" shouted he. "It's all very simple. I will go
and chase the bear away. Your noise is foolish."

Mosquito Long-Nose grew even more angry and flew away. He reached the
marsh and there lay the bear in the very thickets where the mosquitoes
had lived from the beginning of time.

The Bear lay stretched full length, snoring and whistling like a
trumpeter.

"The beast! Grabbed the place that doesn't belong to him ... killed off
so many mosquitoes ... and now he sleeps so soundly! It's outrageous!"

"Hey, Uncle, what are you doing?" shouted Mosquito Long-Nose through
the forest. He shouted so loudly that he grew afraid of himself. Fuzzy
Mishka opened one eye and saw nothing. Then he opened the other eye and
all he could see was a mosquito hovering over his nose.

"What do you want, Comrade?" grumbled Mishka, getting angry, and
justly so. There he was all ready for a nap when along comes this
good-for-nothing squealing at him and waking him up.

"Hey, Uncle, get away! Get up and go away in a friendly fashion!"
advised Long-Nose.

Mishka opened his eyes, looked at Mr. Impudence, snorted and grew
furiously angry.

"What do you want, you good-for-nothing?" growled Mishka.

"Leave our quarters or I'll eat you up, fur coat and all."

The bear was very much amused. He turned over on the other side,
covered his face with his paw and fell asleep, snoring immediately.


II

Mosquito Long-nose returned to the flock, shouting across the entire
marsh, "I certainly did frighten him! He will never come again."

The mosquitoes wondered. They were perplexed and asked, "But what about
Mishka? Where is he now?"

"I don't know, brothers. He surely got scared when I told him I'd eat
him up, if he did not go away. You know I don't like to jest, so I just
said, 'I'll eat you up,' I'm afraid he perished from fear while I was
coming back here. Well, it's his own fault."

The mosquitoes buzzed loudly. They were discussing how to deal with an
invading bear. There never had been such a noise in the marsh before.
They buzzed and hissed and finally decided to chase the bear away from
their domain.

"Let him go home into his forest and sleep there. The marsh is ours.
Our fathers and our grandfathers lived in this very marsh. It is ours."

One sensible old mosquito advised them to leave the bear alone. "Let
him have his sleep," said she, "when he wakes up, he will leave the
marsh of his own accord."

But the rest of the flock just flew at her. The poor old thing was glad
to get away and hide.

"Come on, brothers!" shouted Mosquito Long-Nose, louder than the rest.
"We will show him who we are!"

The whole flock followed Mosquito Long-Nose. They came to the spot
where Mishka was lying as still as death.

"Didn't I say he died of fright?" boasted Mosquito Long-Nose. "It's a
pity! He was a fine, strong bear!"

[Illustration]

"Brothers, he is only asleep," piped a tiny mosquito, flying close to
Mishka's nose and being almost blown to pieces by the wind from the
bear's nostrils.

"The shameless rascal!" squealed the Mosquitoes in chorus. "He crushed
five hundred of us ... swallowed another hundred ... and now he sleeps
as if nothing had happened."

But shaggy Mishka slept soundly as if nothing had really happened. He
was whistling through his nose.

"He is pretending to be asleep," said Mosquito Long-Nose. "I'll show
him who I am. Hey, Uncle, enough of this make-believe!"

And with this, Mosquito Long-Nose flew at the bear, aimed at his black
nose and pierced it with his mosquito-sting. Mishka fairly jumped,
grabbing his nose with his paw; but Mosquito Long-Nose was already too
far away.

"Well, Uncle, you did not seem to like that," squealed Mosquito
Long-Nose. "Go away or it will be the worse for you. I'm not alone.
With me, is Grandfather, Mosquito Longer-Nose, and my younger brother,
Mosquito Longest-Nose. Better go away, Uncle."

"I will not go away!" shouted the bear, sitting down on his haunches.
"I'll crush you all to death!"

"Oh, uncle, you're boasting foolishly."

Once more, Mosquito Long-Nose flew at the bear and this time he aimed
at his eye. Mishka groaned with pain, and slapped his paw over his
face, trying to catch the mosquito. Again he failed and he only
scratched his face in the effort. Mosquito Long-Nose was meanwhile
buzzing by close to his ear and threatening Mishka, "I'll eat you up,
Uncle."


III

Mishka grew angry and angrier. He grabbed a birch tree and tore it up
by the roots, aiming it at the mosquitoes. He waved it and waved it
until he grew very tired, but he did not succeed in killing a single
mosquito. They just swarmed and buzzed a little beyond his reach. Then
Mishka took a huge stone and hurled it at the Mosquitoes, but all in
vain.

"Well, Uncle," squealed Mosquito Long-Nose, "I'll eat you up after
all."

The battle raged between Mishka and the mosquitoes. There was much
noise; one could hear the bear's growling from afar.


IV

He tore up many trees, he dug up many stones. He always aimed at
Mosquito Long-Nose, who seemed to be right over his ear. But the bear's
paw always missed its aim, while his face was scratched and bleeding
from his own claws.

Finally, Mishka was overpowered. He sat on his haunches and snorted and
thought of a new trick, which was to roll in the grass and crush the
whole mosquito kingdom. Mishka rolled and rolled but nothing happened.
He only grew more tired. Then he hid his face in the moss, but that was
even worse because the mosquitoes clung to his bear tail. Mishka became
furious.

"Just wait, I'll show you!" he howled so loudly that he could be heard
for miles around. "I'll show you some trick! Aiy! Aiy! Aiy!"

The mosquitoes flew aside and waited to see what would happen. Now
Mishka climbed a tree like an acrobat, sat on the thickest bough and
roared:

"You just dare to come near to me and all your noses will be broken!"

The mosquitoes laughed in their shrill voices and flew at the bear,
full force, squealing, swarming and attacking him. Mishka beat them off
again and again. Without intending, he swallowed a hundred of them,
choking. He coughed and the bough broke under the strain. Down fell
Mishka. But he was up again, patting his bruised sides and saying:

"Who is the winner? You see how skillful I am at jumping from trees."

The mosquitoes laughed in their thin, shrill laughter. And Mosquito
Long-Nose just trumpeted, "I'll eat you up! I'll eat you up! I'll eat
you up!"

Completely exhausted, Mishka knew that he was beaten, but he was
ashamed to leave the marsh. He sat on his haunches, but all he could do
was to blink his eyes.

He was saved from further shame by a Wise Frog. She came hopping along
from under a bush and seeing Mishka in such difficulty, she said:

"Why do you bother yourself needlessly, Master Mishka? Don't waste your
time with these nasty little mosquitoes. They aren't worth it."

"They really are not," cried the bear joyfully. "I was only fooling a
bit. Just let them visit my lair, then I'll ... I'll ... I'll...."

In a flash, Mishka turned and ran from the marsh. But Mosquito
Long-Nose flew right after, shouting:

"Catch him, brothers! Catch him! Hold him!"

The mosquitoes gathered in meeting and decided, "It isn't worth while.
Let him go. The marsh is left. It did not go away."

[Illustration]



VANKA'S BIRTHDAY


I

Beat, drum! Rub-a-dub-dub! Blow, trumpets! Toot-a-toot-too!

This is Vanka's birthday. Let's have music. All are welcome. Come, let
us gather. Rub-a-dub-dub! Toot-a-toot-too! Vanka is strutting about in
his new red blouse, exclaiming:

"Brothers, you are welcome. There is plenty to eat. The soup is made of
the freshest shavings; the cutlets of the very best and cleanest sand;
doughnuts of different-colored papers; tea of the finest boiling water.
You are all welcome. Music, play! Rub-a-dub-dub! Rub-a-dub-dub!
Toot-a-toot-too!"

The room was crowded with visitors. The first to arrive was the bulging
Wooden Top.

"Z-z-z! Z-z-z! Where is the birthday child? Z-z-z! Z-z-z! I am very
fond of making merry in good company."

The next to arrive were two Dolls; one, blue-eyed Anya with a slightly
damaged nose; the other, black-eyed Katya with one arm missing. Both
came in very modestly and sat down on the toy couch.

"Let us see the treat Vanka has for us," said Anya, "I think he boasts
too much. The music isn't bad, but I have my doubts about the treat."

"Anya, you are always grumbling," said Katya, chidingly.

"And you are always ready to argue," said Anya.

The Dollies had a little argument and were just about to quarrel, when
a much worn Clown hobbled in on one leg, and made peace.

"Ladies, patience! Everything will be very nice and we will have a good
time. Of course, I have only one leg, but Top isn't any better off than
I am. See him spin on his one leg. Hello, old Top!"

"Z-z-z! Z-z-z! Hello! Why does one of your eyes look as if someone had
punched you?"

"Nonsense! I fell off the couch. Worse things than that happen."

"Oh, I know that. Spinning, I sometimes strike my head against the wall
full force."

"It's a good thing your head is empty," said Clown.

"All the same, it hurts. Z-z-z! Just try it and you'll find out."

Clown only clapped his brass cymbals in answer. He was really a very
light-minded fellow.

Then came Petrooshka, bringing along with him a crowd of visitors: his
own wife, Matryona Ivanovna; the German doctor, Carl Ivanovitch; and a
huge-nosed Gypsy, riding on a three-legged horse.

"Now, Vanka, receive your visitors!" said Petrooshka gaily, tapping his
own nose. "They're all fine. Look at my own wife, Matryona Ivanovna!
Isn't she splendid? She is as fond of tea as a duck is of water."

"We will find some tea for her, Master Petrooshka, and we are always
glad to see good company," said Vanka. "Please sit down, Matryona
Ivanovna. Carl Ivanovitch, pray be seated."

Then came Mr. Bear with Mr. Rabbit, Gray Billy Goat and Waddling
Duckling, Mr. Rooster and Mr. Wolf. There was plenty of room for
everyone.

The last to arrive was Verotchka's Slipper with Verotchka's Broom. They
looked around and found all seats occupied.

"Never mind. I'll stand in the corner," said Broom.

Slipper said nothing, but crept silently under the couch. She was a
venerable old Slipper, very much worn. She was slightly embarrassed by
the tiny hole near her toe, but she hoped that under the couch no one
would notice that.

"Music, start!" ordered Vanka. "Drum, beat! Rub-a-dub-dub! Trumpets
toot! Toot-a-toot-too!"

Immediately the guests became merry and gay.


II

At the beginning, the party was splendid. Drum did his own beating, and
Trumpet his own tooting. Top buzzed, Clown beat his cymbals and
Petrooshka squealed with all his might. It was merry and gay.

"Friends, be happy!" called Vanka, smoothing his flaxen curls.

Anya and Katya laughed in their shrill voices, clumsy Bear danced with
little Broom, Gray Billy Goat strutted about with Waddling Duck, Clown
tumbled about, showing off his tricks, and Dr. Carl Ivanovitch,
chatting with Matryona Ivanovna, asked:

"Does your stomach ache, Matryona Ivanovna?"

"Why, no, Carl Ivanovitch," replied Matryona Ivanovna, offended. "What
makes you think that?"

"Just show me your tongue," insisted the Doctor.

"Leave me alone, please."

"I'm here," rang the thin voice of Silver Spoon, with which Verotchka
ate her cereal. She had been lying quietly on the table until the
Doctor spoke of showing a tongue. Then she jumped up, for she knew that
the Doctor always needed her help when he looked at Verotchka's
tongue.

"Oh, no! Not that!" piped Matryona Ivanovna, waving her arms comically,
as if she were a windmill.

"Very well. I will not burden you with my services," said little Spoon,
very much offended. She was growing angry, when little Top came
spinning up to her and invited her to dance. Top hummed. Little Spoon
rang.

Little Slipper could resist no longer. She crept out from under the
couch and whispered to little Broom:

"I love you very much, little Broom."

Little Broom closed her eyes softly and sighed: she loved to be loved.
She was such a modest little Broom, never boasting as others do,--for
instance, Matryona Ivanovna, Anya, and Katya. These dollies always
liked to make fun of other people's failings, saying:

"Clown has but one leg. Petrooshka's nose is too long. Carl Ivanovitch
is bald. Gypsy is like a firebrand."

But Vanka, the birthday child, was criticized most of all.

"He is too much of a moujik," Katya said.

"And he boasts too much," added Anya.

After dancing and making merry, they all sat down at the table and the
real feast began. The dinner passed as a real birthday dinner should;
not without a few mishaps, however. Bear almost ate Rabbit, mistaking
him for the cutlet. Top nearly came to blows with Gypsy about little
Spoon. You see, Gypsy wanted to steal little Spoon and he tried to put
her into his pocket. Petrooshka, a well-known squabbler, quarrelled
with his wife over nothing at all.

"Matryona Ivanovna, be calm," urged Carl Ivanovitch.

"Petrooshka is really kind. Perhaps your head aches. I have wonderful
powders for headaches."

"Doctor, do leave her alone," said Petrooshka. "She is an impossible
woman. I love her very much. Come Matryona Ivanovna, let us kiss and be
friends."

"Hurrah!" shouted Vanka. "That's much better than quarreling. I hate to
see people quarrel. Just look ..."

Then something quite unexpected happened, something so horrible, it's
dreadful to relate.

Drum beat--rub-a-dub-dub! Trumpets blew--toot-a-toot-too. Clown clanged
his cymbals. Little Spoon laughed in her silver voice. Top hummed.
Rabbit shouted merrily, "Bo! Bo! Bo!" Porcelain Dog barked loudly.
Rubber Cat meowed gently. Bear stamped his feet with such force that
the floor shook. Gayest of all was Gray Billy Goat. He was the best
dancer. And he shook his beard so comically and bleated "Baa! Baa!
Baa!" in his cracked voice.


III

How did it all happen? That is hard to tell because of all the guests
only Verotchka's Slipper remembered just what had transpired. She was
the only sensible one. She crept away under the couch just in time.

This is how it all happened. First the Wooden Blocks went up to Vanka
to congratulate him. No-No-NO. That isn't how it started. The Blocks
really did go up to Vanka, but the real cause of the trouble was
Katya. Yes, it was all her fault. This pretty little rascal, towards
the very end of the dinner, whispered to Anya:

"Anya, who do you think is the prettiest of all here?"

It was quite a simple question to ask, but Matryona Ivanovna,
overhearing it, grew frightfully offended and asked Katya:

"Do you think my Petrooshka is ugly?"

"Nobody thinks that," answered Katya, trying to defend herself. But it
was too late.

"Of course, his nose is too big," continued Matryona Ivanovna, "but
that is hardly noticeable, if you look at him sideways. I know he has a
bad habit of squealing and squabbling with people but he is really very
kind. And as for brains ..."

She was unable to finish because the Dolls began to argue with so much
heat that they attracted everybody's attention. The first to interfere
was, of course, Petrooshka himself.

"It's true, Matryona Ivanovna," said he, "I am the handsomest here."

Then the men were all offended.

"Just listen to this conceited Petrooshka!" said they. "It's
disgusting!"

Clown was not much of a talker, so he was silently offended. But Dr.
Carl Ivanovitch almost shouted:

"Does that mean that the rest of us are monsters? Gentlemen, I
congratulate you!"

There was great noise and confusion. Gypsy shouted something in his own
language. Bear growled. Wolf howled. Gray Billy Goat bawled. Top
hummed. They all shouted their offense.

"Gentlemen, stop!" pleaded Vanka. "Please pay no attention to
Petrooshka. I am sure he was only jesting."

It was all in vain. Carl Ivanovitch was noisier and more excited than
the rest. He even pounded his fist on the table and shouted:

"Gentlemen, this is a fine treat, I must say! We were invited here only
to be told that we are monsters!"

"Ladies and gentlemen!" shouted Vanka, trying in vain to be heard. "If
monsters are under discussion, there is but one monster here. It is I!
Now are you satisfied?"

Then, let us see what happened next....

Carl Ivanovitch completely lost control and flew at Petrooshka, with a
threatening fist.

"If I were not an educated man, knowing how to behave properly in
decent society, I would say to you, 'Master Petrooshka, you are quite a
fool.'"

Knowing Petrooshka's squabbling disposition, Vanka tried to get between
him and the Doctor, but on his way, his fist caught Petrooshka's long
nose. Petrooshka thought that it was not Vanka, but the doctor who had
struck him. And that's how it all began.

Petrooshka clutched at the doctor. Gypsy, seated at one side, began
without any provocation to pummel Clown. Bear threw himself with a
growl upon Wolf. Top hit Billy Goat with his empty head. In a word,
there was a row. Dolls squealed in their shrill voices and all three
fainted with fright.

"I'm fainting," screamed Matryona Ivanovna, falling off the couch.

"Gentlemen! What does all this mean?" pleaded Vanka. "Gentlemen! Is
this not my birthday? Gentlemen! This is rude!"

[Illustration]

It was a real fight. The confusion was so great that it was impossible
to tell who was beating whom. Vanka tried to separate the fighters, but
it ended in his beating anybody and everybody who came within his arm's
reach. And as he was the strongest, his guests came off pretty badly.

"Help! Help! Heavens' help!" cried Petrooshka, loudest of all, trying
to strike the Doctor.

"They are murdering Petrooshka! Help! Help!"

Slipper was the only one who escaped the fight. She crept under the
couch just in time. She closed her eyes in fear. Rabbit, seeking
safety, hid inside Slipper.

"Where are you going?" grumbled Slipper.

"Keep still! They might hear us and then both of us would get it,"
pleaded little Rabbit, peeping through the tiny hole in Slipper's toe.
"What a rascal that Petrooshka is! He beats everyone and shouts loudest
of all. He's a fine guest, I must say! You know I hardly got away from
Wolf. My! it's horror, just to think of it! Just see Duckling with her
tiny legs up. Poor thing! She must be dead."

"How foolish you are, little Rabbit," said Slipper. "All the dolls have
fainted and so has Duckling."

They fought and fought and fought until Vanka drove away all the guests
except the Dolls.

Matryona Ivanovna, tired of lying in a faint, opened one eye and asked:

"Where am I? Doctor, will you see if I am still alive?"

No one answered her and Matryona Ivanovna opened her other eye. The
room was empty except for Vanka, who stood in the center looking
around, much astonished. Anya and Katya also revived and they, too,
were amazed. Something horrible must have happened.

"You're a fine birthday child, I must say!" simultaneously exclaimed
the Dolls, addressing Vanka, who did not know what to answer.

Someone hit him; he hit someone. Why? Wherefore? He did not know.

"I really do not know how it all happened," said Vanka. "The thing that
hurts most is that I love them all. All without exception."

"We know how it all happened," called Slipper and Rabbit from under the
couch. "We saw it all."

"It is all your fault," said Matryona Ivanovna, accusing little Slipper
and Rabbit. "Of course, it is you who are to blame. You started the
row and then you ran away and hid."

"They're to blame! They're to blame!" screamed Anya and Katya in
chorus.

"Now I see it all," cried Vanka, joyfully. "Get out, you rascals! You
only visit people to start quarrels."

Slipper and Rabbit were barely able to make their escape through the
window.

"I'll teach you a lesson," threatened Matryona Ivanovna, following in
their wake. "There are some nasty people in this world! Even little
Duckling will agree with me."

"Yes, yes," said little Duckling. "I saw them hide under the couch."
Duckling always agreed with everybody.

"Let the guests return," said Katya. "We can still have a jolly time."

The guests were all glad to come back. Some had black eyes; some
limped. Petrooshka's long nose had the worst of it.

"The rascals!" all repeated in chorus, blaming Rabbit and Slipper for
everything. "Who would have thought it of them!"

"Oh, I am so tired! My hands are all sore," complained Vanka. "But let
us forget it and bear no grudge. Let's have music."

Once more, drum beat--rub-a-dub-dub! Trumpets blew--toot-a-toot-too!
And Petrooshka shouted with all his might:

"Hurrah for Vanka!"

[Illustration]



THE STORY OF MASTER SPARROW, MASTER STICKELBACK AND THE JOLLY
CHIMNEY-SWEEP, YASHA


I

Master Sparrow and Master Stickelback were great friends. In summer,
Master Sparrow came daily to the river, calling:

"Hello, brother! How are you?"

"Pretty well. Managing to keep alive," answered Stickelback. "Come to
visit me. The deep pools are fine. The water is quiet. And it's just
full of water grass. I will treat you to frogs' eggs, worms and water
bugs."

"Thank you, brother, I would come with pleasure, only I am afraid of
the water," said the Sparrow. "You better visit me on my roof. I'll
treat you to berries--I have a whole garden full--and we will rummage
for some bread crusts, some oats, a bit of sugar and live mosquitoes.
You like sugar, don't you?"

"What does it look like?" asked Stickelback.

"It is white."

"Like the pebbles in my river?"

"Exactly. But when you take it into your mouth it's sweet. One can't
eat pebbles, you know. Come, let us fly to my roof."

"No, I can't fly. And I suffocate in the open air," said the Fish. "Let
us have a swim together in my river. That's much better. I will show
you all sorts of things."

Master Sparrow tried to get into the water. He jumped in up to his
knees; then fear seized him--fear of drowning. Heretofore, all that the
Sparrow had ever done was to get a drink of clear river water and to
take a bath in the shallowest part on a hot day. Then he would shake
his feathers out and return to his roof.

Nevertheless, the two were great friends. They liked chatting together
about all sorts of things.

"Don't you ever get tired of staying in the water," Sparrow would say,
wondering. "It is so wet. Aren't you afraid of taking cold?"

Master Stickelback in his turn would wonder at Master Sparrow:

"Don't you ever get tired of flying? Isn't it too warm to be out in the
sun? It would just suffocate me. It is always cool where I live. I swim
as I like. When summer comes, my river is crowded with bathers. But who
ever visits your roof?"

"Oh, I have plenty of visitors. I have one great chum, the
Chimney-Sweep, Yasha. He often visits me. He is such a jolly
Chimney-Sweep, always singing. He cleans the chimneys, singing away.
When he rests, he sits on the very edge of the roof, eats his piece of
bread for lunch, while I pick up the crumbs. We are great friends. I
also like to be jolly sometimes."

The Sparrow and the Fish had many troubles in common. Winter was very
hard on both. Poor Master Sparrow almost froze to death. The days were
so bitter cold. His very soul seemed to freeze within him. He would
puff himself up, tuck his legs underneath him and sit on his roof,
waiting for the sunshine. There was only one other warm place for him
and that was the chimney, but even here it was hardly safe.

Once, Master Sparrow almost perished. It was the fault of his best
friend, the Chimney-Sweep. One day, Yasha came to clean the chimney.
His brush, with the weight attached, came down the chimney and almost
smashed Master Sparrow's head. Covered with soot, Master Sparrow
escaped from the chimney. He was even blacker than Yasha.

"I say! What do you mean, Yasha? You almost killed me," scolded Master
Sparrow.

[Illustration]

"How was I to know you were sitting in the chimney?" asked Yasha.

"You must be more careful," said Master Sparrow. "It isn't very nice to
be hit by such a heavy weight. I am sure you wouldn't like it."

In winter, Stickelback's life was not very pleasant. He crawled
somewhere deep, deep into the river and dozed there for days. It was
dark and cold and he had no desire to move. Occasionally he came up to
the ice-hole to chat with his friend.

When Master Sparrow came to the ice-hole for a drink, he would call,
"Hey, Master Stickelback! Are you still alive?"

"I am," Master Stickelback would answer sleepily. "But I want to stay
asleep all the time. It isn't very nice here. Everybody is asleep."

"It isn't much better where I live," said Sparrow. "But we must be
patient. At times the wind is very cruel. There is no sleep then. I
hop along on one leg to keep warm, while people watching me say, 'What
a gay little sparrow!' If only warm days would come! Brother, I believe
you are asleep again."

Summer brought with it its own troubles. Once a hawk chased Master
Sparrow for two miles. Sparrow barely escaped by hiding in the sedge
near the river.

"My! I am glad to get off alive," complained Master Sparrow to Master
Stickelback, scarcely able to catch his breath. "That rascal almost
caught me then."

"He must be something like our pike," said Stickelback, consolingly.
"Not long ago I, too, barely escaped the pike's fangs. That pike was as
quick as lightning. One day, as I was swimming out with some friends, I
mistook him for a log, he lay so still, and he chased me. Will you
tell me why there are pikes in the world? I have often wondered, but I
cannot understand."

"Neither can I," said Master Sparrow. "Do you know, I sometimes think
that a hawk must at one time have been a pike and a pike must have been
a hawk. Anyway, both are rascals."


II

Thus lived Master Sparrow and Master Stickelback, freezing in winter,
joyous in summer; while jolly Chimney-Sweep, Yasha, cleaned his
chimneys and sang his songs. Each had his work, his joys and his
troubles.

One summer day the Chimney-Sweep walked down to the river to wash. He
walked along, whistling, when suddenly he heard a terrific noise. What
had happened?

Whirling above the river was a crowd of birds, ducks, geese, swallows,
snipe, crows and pigeons, shouting with laughter, for no apparent
reason.

"I say! What has happened?" asked the Chimney-Sweep.

"This is what happened," piped a bold Bluebird. "It is too funny for
words. Just see what Master Sparrow is doing. He seems quite mad."

The Bluebird piped in her thin, high voice, flicked her tail and soared
above the river. When Chimney-Sweep drew nearer, Master Sparrow just
flew at him. He was frightful to behold. His beak was open, his eyes
wild, his feathers all ruffled.

"Master Sparrow, what is all this about? Why are you making all this
noise?" asked the Chimney-Sweep.

"No! I'll teach him a few things!" shouted Master Sparrow, fairly
choking with rage. "He doesn't yet know who I am! I'll teach that
confounded Stickelback! He'll have cause to remember me! The rascal!"

"Don't listen to him," shouted Stickelback from his river. "It's all
lies."

"Who is lying?" shouted Master Sparrow. "Who found the worm? I'm lying?
Indeed! A nice fat worm that I myself dug up on the bank. I worked
hard, too. I finally got him and was just about ready to take him home
to my nest--I have a family, you know, that has to be fed. No sooner
did I get above the river, the worm in my mouth, than that abominable
Stickelback (I hope the pike swallows him) shouted, 'Hawk! Hawk!' I
screamed with fright and the worm dropped out of my mouth into the
water and Master Stickelback swallowed him. I call this cheating. There
was no hawk in sight."

"It was only a little joke of mine," said Stickelback, defending
himself. "That worm was really delicious."

All kinds of fish were gathered about Stickelback, minnows, carp and
perch, listening and laughing at the story.

"Yes, that was a fine trick Master Stickelback played on his old
friend. But funnier still was to see Master Sparrow fighting Master
Stickelback, flying at him again and again and getting nothing."

"I hope my worm chokes you! I'll dig up another," shouted Master
Sparrow. "What hurts me most is that Stickelback fooled me and now he
laughs at me. I was even inviting him to visit me on my roof. A fine
friend he is, I must say! Here's our Chimney-Sweep, Yasha. He will
agree with me, I'm sure. He's my good friend. At times, we even eat
together. Yasha eats his bread and I pick up the crumbs."

"Wait, brothers! This affair needs a judge," announced Yasha. "Just let
me wash myself and I shall deal with the whole thing fairly. And you,
Master Sparrow, just calm yourself a bit."

"I know I am right. I have nothing to worry about," shouted Master
Sparrow. "I only want to show Stickelback that I shall not stand for
his jokes."

Chimney-Sweep Yasha sat down on the bank, put his lunch near him,
washed his face and hands, and said:

"Now, brothers, let us get at the bottom of this trouble. You, Master
Stickelback, are a fish. And you, Master Sparrow, are a bird. Am I
right?"

"Yes, yes," shouted the birds and fishes in chorus.

"Let us go on," said Yasha. "A fish must live in water, a bird in the
air. Am I right? Well then, a worm lives in the ground. Very well. Now
let's see."

The Chimney-Sweep opened his lunch, a piece of wheaten bread, and laid
it on a stone, saying:

"Now look! What is this? Bread, isn't it? I earned it and I shall eat
it. And with it, I shall have a drink of water. All this means that I
have earned my dinner without harming anyone. A fish and a bird also
want their dinner. Each of you has his own food. Why quarrel? Master
Sparrow dug up the worm, therefore the worm was his. He earned it."

"Wait, Uncle," piped a thin voice in the crowd. The birds moved apart
to allow a little snipe to come forward. Standing on his thin little
legs close to the Chimney-Sweep, the snipe said:

"It isn't true, Uncle."

"What isn't true?" asked Yasha.

"About the worm," said the snipe. "I found it. You can ask the ducks.
They saw me. I found the worm and Master Sparrow snatched it away from
me."

Chimney-Sweep Yasha was puzzled. This was quite a different story.

"Let me see," he murmured, trying to gather his thoughts together.
"Hey, Master Sparrow! What do you mean by lying to me?"

"I'm not lying. The snipe is. He and the ducks made that story up."

"Well, brothers, something is wrong. Of course, a worm isn't anything,
but to steal it, is not nice. And he who steals must lie. Am I not
right?"

"Right! You are right!" shouted all in chorus. "All the same, you have
to be the judge between Master Stickelback and Master Sparrow."

"Which of those two is right?" asked Yasha. "Both made a noise. Both
fought and stirred up everybody else. Who is right? Oh, the two of you,
Master Stickelback and Master Sparrow, the two of you are rascals. I
will punish both of you as an example. Now, both of you make up
quickly."

"That's right," shouted the crowd in chorus. "Let them make up."

"As for the snipe who worked to get the worm, I will feed him with my
crust," decided the Chimney-Sweep. "Then everybody will be satisfied."

"Splendid!" all shouted their approval.

The Chimney-Sweep made a move to offer his crust to the snipe, but the
crust had disappeared. While Yasha was talking, Master Sparrow grabbed
the crust and flew away with it.

"The rascal! The scamp!" shouted the birds and the fishes indignantly,
starting in pursuit of the thief.

The crust was heavy and Master Sparrow could not fly far with it. He
was caught just beyond the river. Birds, large and small, threw
themselves upon the thief. It was a real battle. They were all tearing
the bread to bits and the crumbs fell into the river. These the fishes
grabbed. Then followed a battle between birds and fish. The crust was
broken into tiny crumbs. The crumbs were eaten up. When it was all
over, everybody grew thoughtful. They felt ashamed. While chasing the
thief to recover the crust, they had grabbed it up themselves.

The jolly Chimney-Sweep, Yasha, sat on the bank, watching and laughing.
The whole affair had turned out to be so funny. They were all gone.
There remained only the Sandy Snipe.

"Why don't you fly along with the others?" asked the Chimney-Sweep.

"I would, Uncle, only I am too small. The big birds might peck me to
death."

"Well, maybe you are right, little Snipe. Both of us are left without
our dinner. Evidently, we haven't worked hard enough for it."

Then came Verotchka to the river bank and asked the jolly Chimney-Sweep
what had happened. How she laughed when she heard the story!

"How foolish they all are, the fish and the birds," said Verotchka. "I
could divide everything right, and no one would quarrel. Not long ago
I divided four apples. Father brought four apples and said, 'Divide
these between you and Lisa and me evenly.' I divided them into three
parts. I gave one apple to father, one apple to Lisa, and I took two
apples for myself."

[Illustration]



THE STORY OF THE LAST FLY


I

Summer-time is a merry time for flies. It is hard to tell just how it
all happened. There were so many flies; thousands of them, gaily flying
and buzzing.

When Little Fly was born, she straightened out her wings and
immediately felt happy,--so happy that one really cannot tell it in
words. It was all so interesting. The doors and windows leading to the
porch were thrown wide open in the morning, and Little Fly flitted in
and out as she pleased.

"How kind human beings are!" exclaimed Little Fly, astonished, flying
in and out of the windows. "The windows were made for us, and they are
open for us. It is so nice to be alive and feeling so happy."

She flew in and out of the garden many times. Sitting on a blade of
grass, she admired the blooming lilacs, the delicate leaves of the
budding poplars, and the different flowers in their beds. The gardener,
still unknown to her, had taken care of everything. What a kind
gardener! Little Fly was not born yet and he had already prepared
everything she might need. It was all the more amazing since he himself
was not only unable to fly, but he even walked about with great
difficulty, trembling all over at times, and muttering to himself.

"I wonder where these nasty flies come from?" grumbled the kind
gardener.

The poor dear probably said this from sheer envy because all he could
do was to dig beds, set out and water flowers. He couldn't fly. Little
Fly liked to buzz around the gardener's red nose, which annoyed him
very much.

[Illustration]

People were usually very kind, providing all kinds of pleasures for
flies. For instance, when Verotchka had her bread and milk in the
morning, she always asked Aunt Olga for a piece of sugar. This she did
just to give Little Fly a chance to have a bit of sugar, a few crumbs
of bread, and a few drops of milk.

"Now tell me, is there anything more delicious than this treat after
working busily all morning?" said Little Fly.

Cook Pascha was even kinder than Verotchka. Every morning she would go
to market and bring such wonderful things, especially for the
flies--meat, fish, cream and butter. Pascha was the kindest woman in
the whole house. Though, like the gardener, she could not fly, she knew
perfectly well every need of a fly. She was the kindest woman in all
the world.

And Aunt Olga--oh, that wonderful woman!--seemed to live only for the
flies. With her own hands she would open all the windows every morning,
so that the flies might come and go at will. When it rained, or it was
cold, she closed the windows to keep their little wings dry and
prevent them from catching cold. Then Aunt Olga noticed that flies
liked sugar and berries. So every day she cooked berries and sugar. The
flies knew at once why she did this, and to show their gratitude, they
crawled right into the pans of jam.

Verotchka was also very fond of jam, but Aunt Olga would only give her
one or two teaspoonfuls, because she did not wish to deprive the flies
of their share. As the flies could not eat all the jam at once, Aunt
Olga put away the jam in jars (to keep it away from mice who were not
entitled to jam) ready to serve to the flies each day at tea time.

"Oh, how kind and good everybody is!" exclaimed Little Fly, flitting in
and out of the window. "It is even good that people cannot fly, for
they would turn into big, greedy flies, grabbing up everything. It's
fine to live in this world!"

"But people aren't at all as kind as you think," remarked an old fly
who liked to grumble occasionally. "It only seems so to you. Have you
ever noticed the man they call Papa?"

"Oh, yes. He is a very strange gentleman. You are perfectly right, good
old fly. Why does he smoke that pipe? He knows very well I do not like
tobacco smoke. It seems to me sometimes that he does it just to spite
me. And he doesn't like to do anything for flies. You know, once I
tasted that ink with which he is forever writing, and I almost died. It
was awful. I once saw with my own eyes two pretty, inexperienced young
flies drown in his ink. It was a dreadful sight to see how he pulled
them out with his pen, put them on his paper, making a splendid blot.
Just think of it! Then he blames us and not himself. Where is justice?"

"I think this Papa has no sense of justice, although he has one good
quality," answered the old, experienced fly. "He drinks beer after
dinner. That isn't at all a bad habit. To tell the truth, I like a
taste of beer myself, though it does make me dizzy."

"I also like beer," confessed Little Fly, blushing slightly. "I become
quite gay after having some, although my head aches the next day.
Perhaps Papa does not do anything for flies because he does not care
for jam and puts all of his sugar into his tea. One really cannot
expect much of a man who does not eat jam. There is nothing left for
him but his pipe."

The flies knew people very well, although they interpreted them in
their own fashion.


II

The summer was hot. Each day brought more and more flies. They fell
into the milk, crawled into the soup and into the ink-well, they buzzed
and they whirled and annoyed everyone. Our Little Fly grew up into a
big fly. On several occasions she almost perished. The first time her
legs stuck in jam and she was just able to free herself. The second
time she flew sleepily against a burning lamp and almost scorched her
wings. The third time she was almost crushed by a closing window. On
the whole, she had many adventures.

"There is no living with these flies about," complained Cook. "They act
like mad--crawling into everything. They must be done away with."

Even our Fly decided that there were altogether too many flies,
especially in the kitchen. At night the ceiling was black with them.
They seemed like a moving net. When the provisions were brought, the
flies threw themselves upon them--a live mass, pushing, jostling,
quarrelling. The best morsels fell to the lot of the bold and the
strong. The rest had the remains.

Pascha, the cook, was right. There were too many flies. Then something
horrible happened. One morning, Pascha brought along with the
provisions a package of very tasty papers--that is, she made them
tasty, when she spread them out on plates, by moistening them with warm
water and sprinkling sugar over them.

"There is a fine treat for the flies," said Pascha, putting the plates
where they could be seen. Without Pascha's saying anything, the flies
knew at once that this was a special treat for them. Buzzing gaily,
they threw themselves upon the new dainty. Our Fly tried to get into a
plate, but she was pushed rudely aside.

"No pushing, please," said she, offended, "I'm not one of those greedy
ones, you know. You are quite rude."

Then something quite terrible happened. Thousands of flies died. The
greediest were the first to succumb. They crawled about as if drunk and
then fell to the ground, dead. In the morning, Pascha swept up a large
plate full of dead flies. Only the most sensible ones remained alive.
Among these was our Fly.

"No papers for us," buzzed the surviving flies. "We don't want them."

The next day the same thing happened. Of all the sensible flies only
the most sensible remained alive. But Pascha still complained, "There
is no living with these flies about."

Then the gentleman they called Papa brought home three very pretty
glass bowls and filled them with beer. This time even the most sensible
flies were caught. It turned out that these bowls were nothing but
fly-catchers. The flies, attracted by the smell of beer, were caught in
the bowls and perished.

"That's good," said Pascha approvingly. She had turned out to be the
most heartless of women, rejoicing at others' misfortunes.

"There isn't anything good about that," said Little Fly. "If people had
wings like flies and someone were to set a fly-catcher as big as a
house, they, too, would be caught."

Our Fly, learning from the bitter experiences of the sensible flies,
ceased to trust people. They only seem kind, these people; while, in
reality, they are busy with just one thing--to cheat poor trusting
flies. To tell the truth, human beings are the slyest and crudest of
animals.

Through all these misfortunes the number of flies decreased
considerably. Then followed another calamity. Suddenly summer was gone.
Rains began to fall. Cold winds blew. The weather was very
disagreeable.

"Is summer really gone?" asked the few remaining flies. "How could it
have passed so quickly. It doesn't seem quite fair. We have hardly had
time to live and autumn is already upon us."

This was worse than poison paper or glass fly-catchers. There was only
one escape from the coming bad weather--to seek shelter with one's
bitterest enemy, Master Man. Alas, now the windows were closed all day
long and only the ventilators were occasionally open! The very sun
seemed to shine just to deceive the trustful house flies.

For instance, what do you think of this picture? It is morning. The sun
is gaily peeping into all the windows as if inviting the flies into the
garden. You would think summer was returning. And what happens? The
trustful flies fly through the ventilator into the garden. True, the
sun is shining, but it gives no heat. They try to return to the house
but the ventilator has been closed. Thus many flies perished in the
cold autumn nights.

"No, I no longer believe," said our Little Fly, "I have no faith in
anything. Since even the sun deceives me, I believe in nothing."

It is understood that with the coming of the fall all flies experienced
the same unhappy moods. They became very disagreeable. Not a sign of
their former gayety remained. They became gloomy, indolent and
dissatisfied. Some of them even began to bite, which they had never
been known to do before.

Our Fly's disposition became so bad she didn't know herself. She had
always been so sorry for other flies. Now when they perished, she
thought only of herself. She was even ashamed to speak the thoughts
that were in her mind, "Let them perish, then there will be more left
for me." In the first place, there were not many warm corners where a
decent fly could spend the winter. In the second place, the other flies
were very annoying, always in the way, snatching from under her nose
the very best tidbits, and behaving badly in general. Besides, it was
time for them to rest.

The flies seemed to understand the cruel thoughts of our Fly and they
fell by the hundreds. They didn't seem to die--just to fall asleep.
With each day their number grew smaller and smaller. There was no
longer any need of poison paper or glass fly-catchers. But all this was
not enough to satisfy our Fly. She wanted to be the only fly left in
the world.


III

There came a very happy day. One morning our Fly woke up quite late.
She had felt a curious weariness for a long time and preferred to
remain immovable in her corner under the stove. And now she felt that
something unusual was going to happen. She flew to the window. The
first snow had fallen! The ground was covered with a brilliant, white,
shining sheet.

"Oh, this must be winter!" Our Fly knew at once. "Winter is all white,
like a piece of sugar."

Then our Fly noticed that all the other flies had disappeared. The poor
things could not survive the first frost and dropped off to sleep
wherever they happened to be. In former days, our Fly would have felt
very sorry for them. But now she thought, "This is splendid. Now I am
really the only one. No one will eat my jam, my sugar, my crumbs. This
is fine."

She flew through all the rooms to convince herself that she was the
only fly left. Now she could do anything she pleased. It was so nice.
The house was so warm. Winter was there, out of doors; but inside the
house it was bright, warm, and cozy, especially in the evening when the
candles and lamps were lighted. A slight misfortune occurred when the
first lamp was lighted. Our Fly once more flew against it and was
almost scorched to death.

"This must be the winter fly-trap," said our Fly, rubbing her burnt
legs. "Now you can't fool me. I know too much. You wish to burn the
Last Fly, do you? Well, that's the last thing that I want. There is
also a hot stove in the kitchen. Don't I know that, too, is a
fly-catcher?"

The Last Fly was happy for a few days only. Then suddenly she felt
lonely, so lonely, so very lonely. Of course, she was warm and there
was plenty to eat, but still she was unhappy. She flew and rested and
ate. She flew again, but she felt lonelier than ever.

"Oh, how lonely I am!" she buzzed in a thin, pitiful voice, flying from
one room to the other. "If there were only one other fly here! The
meanest, the worst of them, but only one fly!"

No one seemed to understand the complaints of the Last Fly and this of
course made her cross. She flew about like one mad, alighting on this
one's nose, on that one's ear, or back and forth in front of people's
eyes.

"Heavens, can't you understand? I am quite alone in the world and I am
very, very lonely," she would buzz at every one. "You don't even know
how to fly. How can you know loneliness? If someone were only to play
with me! But no, how can they? What can be clumsier and heavier than a
human being? The ugliest creatures I have ever met."

The Last Fly annoyed the dog and the cat and everybody else. She was
most hurt when she heard Aunt Olga say, "Please don't touch the Last
Fly. Leave her alone. Let her live through the winter." This was
insulting! It sounded as if she was not even considered a fly. "Let
her live." What a kindness!

"But I am so lonely! Maybe I don't want to live. That's all there's to
it."

The Last Fly was so angry at everybody that she grew frightened at
herself. She flew, she buzzed, she squeaked, she squealed. The spider
in the corner finally took pity on her and said:

"Dear fly, come to me. See how pretty my web is!"

"Thank you very much," said the Last Fly. "Are you my new friend? I
know what your pretty cob web means. You were probably a human being at
one time who is now pretending to be a spider."

"You know I wish you well," said the spider.

"Oh, you ugly creature!" said the Fly. "To eat the Last Fly means to
wish me well, hey?"

They had a great quarrel. Nevertheless, it was lonely, too lonely for
words to tell. The Fly was bitter against everybody. She grew weary and
in a loud voice announced:

"Since all of you refuse to understand how lonely I am, I will sit here
in the corner the whole winter through. That's all there is to it! Yes,
I will stay in the corner and nothing will make me leave it. So there!"

When she returned to her corner she cried, thinking of last summer's
gladness. There had been so many merry flies. How foolish she had been
to desire to be left alone. That had been a great mistake.

The winter seemed endless and Last Fly was beginning to think that
summer would never return. She wished to die and she wept quietly.
Surely human beings invented winter. They always seemed to think of
things that harmed flies. Perhaps it was Aunt Olga who had hidden away
the summer, as she did sugar and jam. Last Fly was almost dead with
despair when something unexpected happened.

One day she was sitting in her corner, as was her custom, when she
suddenly heard, "Buzz! Buzz!" She couldn't believe her own ears at
first and then she thought that someone was fooling her. And
then--heavens!--what was that? A real live fly! A Fly, very young, flew
past. It was just born and it was glad.

"Spring is coming! Spring is coming!" it buzzed.

How glad the two were to see each other! They embraced and kissed, and
licked each other's feelers. The Last Fly talked for days, telling her
new friend what an awful winter she had spent and how lonely she had
been. The young fly only laughed in her thin little voice. She couldn't
understand how anyone could be lonely.

"Spring! Spring!" she joyfully repeated.

When Aunt Olga ordered the winter windows removed and Verotchka leaned
out of the first open window, Last Fly knew what was happening.

"Now, I know it all," buzzed Last Fly, flying out of the window. "We
flies make the summer."

[Illustration]



THE STORY OF A BLACK-HEADED CROW AND A LITTLE YELLOW CANARY


I

The Black-Headed Crow sat in a birch tree, pecking at a twig. Peck!
Peck! She cleaned her bill, looked around, and suddenly cawed, "Caw!
Caw!"

The drowsy cat, Vaska, sitting on a fence, almost fell off with fright
at the noise and growled:

"What is the matter with you, Blackhead? The Lord has given you some
voice! What are you happy about?"

The Crow answered, "Leave me alone. Don't you see I'm busy? Caw! Caw!
Caw! So much to do, so much to do."

"You poor thing," laughed Vaska.

"Keep still, you lazy thing. Your sides must be all worn out with lying
about, forever baking in the sun; while I know no rest from early
morning. Look at me. Just see what I've done today. I perched on ten
roofs, flew over half the town, peeped into every corner and hole there
is, and now I must fly up the church steeple, visit the market, and dig
a little in the garden. But I'm really wasting time talking to you.
Too busy! Too busy! Caw! Caw! Caw!"

The Crow pecked her beak for the last time against the twig, shook her
feathers out and was just ready to fly off when she heard a terrible
noise. A flock of sparrows was noisily chasing a tiny little yellow
bird.

"Catch her! Catch her!" squawked the sparrows.

"What's happened? Whither away?" cawed the Crow, following the
sparrows.

The Crow flapped her wings ten times and caught up with the sparrows.
The tiny yellow bird, completely exhausted, dropped into the little
garden overgrown with bushes of lilacs, currants and syringa, to hide
from the pursuing sparrows. The little yellow bird hid under a bush and
there was the Crow.

"Who are you?" cawed the Crow.

The sparrows scattered over that bush like a handful of peas. They were
furious with the little yellow bird and wanted to peck her to death.

"What do you want with her?" asked the Crow.

"Why is she yellow?" peeped the sparrows in chorus.

The Crow looked at the little yellow bird. She certainly was all
yellow. He jerked his head and said:

"Oh, you mischiefs! Why, it isn't a bird at all! There never was a bird
like this! However, all you clear out. I must speak with this curiosity
that pretends to be a bird."

The sparrows piped, chatted, and were very angry, but they had to clear
out. Conversations with a Crow are always very brief. He can peck you
to death, you know.

After chasing the sparrows, the Crow questioned the little yellow bird
that was breathing heavily and looking pitifully at him with her little
black eyes.

"Who are you?" asked the Crow.

"I am a canary."

"No fooling now, or you will get the worst of it. Remember, if it had
not been for me, the sparrows would have pecked you to death."

"But I am a canary."

"Where do you come from?" asked the Crow.

"I lived in a cage. I was born in a cage. I grew up in a cage. But I
always wanted to fly about like other birds. The cage hung near the
window and I always watched other birds. They looked so happy and my
cage seemed so small. Well, one day when the little girl, Verotchka,
brought my cup of water, she left the door open and I flew out. I flew
about the room first and then I flew out through the open window."

[Illustration]

"What were you doing in a cage?" said the Crow.

"I am a singer, you know."

"Just sing for me, then," said the Crow.

The Canary sang. The Crow, with his head tilted to one side, listened
and wondered.

"You call this singing?" he exclaimed. "Ha! Ha! Ha! How foolish were
your masters to feed you for such singing. If they fed anyone, why
should it not have been a real bird like me? Just a while ago I cawed
and that rascal Vaska almost fell off the fence. That's what I call
singing."

"I know Vaska, a most awful beast! Many a time he softly crept to my
cage, his green eyes burning, his claws out."

"To some, he seems fierce, but not to others. That he is sly, is true,
but there is nothing fierce about him. However, we can talk about this
later, for somehow I cannot yet believe that you are a real bird."

"But, Aunty, I am a bird. I am a real bird. All canaries are birds, you
know."

"Very well. We shall see. How do you expect to make a living?"

"I don't need very much, really. A few seeds, a bit of sugar and a bit
of toast. That is all."

"What a lady you are! A bit of sugar indeed! You can do without sugar.
As for seeds, those might be found. On the whole, I like you. Do you
want to live with me? I have a splendid nest in the birch tree."

"Thank you. But how about the sparrows?"

"If you live with me, no one will dare to touch you. Not only the
sparrows, but even sly Vaska knows my character well. I don't like
fooling."

The Canary at once took courage and flew off with the Crow. Yes, the
nest was fine. If there were only some toast and a wee bit of sugar!


II

So the Canary and the Crow lived together in one nest. Although the
Crow liked to grumble occasionally, on the whole she was not unkind.
Her chief fault was that she envied everybody and very often considered
herself abused.

"Will you tell me why the foolish hens are better than I? Just see how
they are cared for, fed and watched," she would complain to the Canary.
"Then look at the pigeons. Of what use are they? and still look at the
handfuls of oats they get. They are so foolish. Yet whenever I come
near I am chased from every corner. Is this just? And I'm scolded, too.
Haven't you noticed that I'm nicer than other birds and much prettier,
too? However, one should not say such things about oneself. Don't you
think so?"

The Canary agreed with everything.

"Yes, you are a big bird," she would say.

"Here you are. They keep parrots in cages and look after them. Can you
see why the foolish parrot is better than I? He only knows how to
scream and chatter and no one can really understand what he says."

"I know. We had a parrot that every one grew tired of," said the
Canary.

"Yes, one can think of many birds that live, no one knows why. For
instance, the starling; it comes like a mad thing no one knows whence,
stays through the summer, and flies away again. There are also the
swallows, the bluebirds and nightingales, but one can't really count
all this rubbish. There isn't a single really desirable bird. Why, just
as soon as there is a cold breeze, all of them seem to fly away, the
Lord knows where."

In reality, the Crow and the Canary did not understand each other. The
Canary could not understand a life of freedom; the Crow could not
understand a life of captivity.

"Aunty, has no one ever thrown you a bit of seed," wondered the Canary,
"not a single grain?"

"How foolish you are to talk of seeds, when I have to dodge sticks and
stones. People are very cruel."

With this, the Canary could never agree, because people had always
been kind to her. She thought that the Crow imagined these things, but
the Canary was soon to see the cruelty of people. Once, perched on a
fence, she heard a heavy stone whizz over her very head. Some school
boys walking past the fence saw the Crow and couldn't resist throwing a
stone at her.

"Now, have you seen for yourself?" asked the Crow, climbing upon the
roof. "People are always like that."

"Perhaps you have done something to annoy them, Aunty."

"Nothing at all. They are just cruel and all of them hate me."

The Canary felt very sorry for the poor Crow whom no one loved. It must
be very hard to live under such circumstances.

On the whole, there were many enemies. For instance, Vaska, with his
oily eyes, watching the birds and always feigning sleep. The Canary saw
with her own eyes how he caught a young inexperienced sparrow; one
could only see the feathers flying, and hear the bones crackling.
Horrible! Horrible! Then the hawks, too; very fine to watch them as
they sail up into the air, but suddenly you see them, like a heavy
stone dropping to the ground, and before you know it, a chick is in
their claws.

All this the Canary saw. The Crow, however, was not afraid of either
cats or hawks. She often had a notion to have a taste of a young bird
herself. At first, the Canary could not believe this, but she really
did see this with her own eyes. A flock of sparrows were chasing the
Crow, chattering and screaming.

"Let her go! Let her go!" screamed the sparrows, beside themselves,
flying over the Crow's nest in a frenzy. "This is awful! This is real
robbery!"

The Crow hid deep in her nest and the Canary saw with horror a bleeding
sparrow, dead.

"Aunty, what are you doing?"

"Keep still!" said the Crow.

Her eyes were horrible. They seemed to burn. The Canary had to shut her
own eyes for fear she would see the Crow gobbling up the poor little
victim.

"Some day she may even eat me," thought the Canary.

Having satisfied her hunger, the Crow grew kinder and kinder. She
cleaned her bill, perched comfortably and fell into a sweet slumber.
The Canary noticed that the Crow was very greedy and not very
particular as to what she ate.

Sometimes she would carry a piece of bread, a bit of decayed meat, or
some leavings found in a dump hole. The dump hole the Crow liked best,
but the Canary could never understand the pleasure of digging in such
places.

In fact, it was hard to blame the Crow. She alone ate in one day food
enough for twenty canaries. The Crow had only one care--food. Perched
on some roof, she was always on the lookout for food.

When the Crow was too lazy to search for food, she would resort to
slyness. If she saw a flock of sparrows tearing at something, she would
fly right over to them, pretending she was just passing by, cawing with
her whole might, "Caw! Caw! I'm busy! I'm busy!"

She would then swoop down, grab the booty, and that was the end of it.

"But it isn't a bit nice to take food away from others," once remarked
the indignant Canary.

"Isn't it? But what if I am hungry?"

"Others are hungry, too," said the Canary.

"Well, let them look out for themselves. It is easy enough for you, the
pets, cuddled in cages. We have to get our own food. You and the
sparrows--how much do you need? A few grains and you are satisfied for
the whole day."


III

Summer passed unnoticed. The sun seemed to grow colder, the day
shorter. Rains began to fall. A cold wind blew. The Canary felt herself
a most unfortunate bird, especially when it rained. But the Crow did
not seem to mind it.

"What if it does rain? It will stop," said the Crow.

"But it is so cold, too cold, Aunty," said the Canary.

It was especially hard at night. The little wet Canary would shiver
with cold and the Crow would scold at her.

"Oh, you baby! What will you do when the real frost comes and the snow
falls?"

The Crow was puzzled. "What sort of bird is this that is afraid of
rain, wind and cold?" And she began to doubt once more whether the
Canary was a real bird, after all. "Surely she must be pretending."

"Truly, Aunty, I am a real bird," the Canary would assert with tears in
her eyes, "even if I do feel cold sometimes."

"Look out, now! It always seems to me that you are only pretending to
be a bird," said the Crow.

"Honestly, Aunty, I'm not pretending."

Sometimes the Canary would try to think about her future. Perhaps it
would have been better to have stayed in the cage, after all. There it
was warm and one always had plenty to eat.

Several times she flew up to the window, where her old cage hung. Two
new canaries looked out at her and envied her.

"Oh, how cold it is!" pitifully piped the freezing Canary. "How I would
like to be in there with you."

One morning the Canary looked out of the Crow's nest. She was
astonished at the dreary sight. Over night, the ground had been covered
with the first snow. Everything was white, but, saddest of all, the
snow covered all the grains on which the Canary fed. There remained
only the mountain ash berry, but she couldn't possibly eat that! It
was too sour! As for the Crow, she ate that, saying, "Very fine!"

After starving two whole days, the Canary was in despair.

"What is going to happen to me? I will die of hunger," thought the
Canary.

The next day the Canary sat wondering when suddenly she saw coming into
the garden the very same boys who had thrown stones at the Crow. They
spread a net on the ground and covered it with very tasty bird seed
then went away.

"These boys aren't so bad," said the happy Canary, looking at the
seeds. "Look, Aunty, the boys have brought me some food."

"Very fine food, I must say," croaked the Crow. "Don't you dare stick
your bill in there! Do you hear me! If you try to get that seed, you
will be caught in the net."

"And what will happen then?" asked the Canary.

"Why, they will put you into a cage again," said the Crow.

The Canary grew thoughtful. She wanted food, but she did not want a
cage. Of course, it was cold and at times there was little to eat.
Still, life in freedom was better, especially when it did not rain. For
several days the Canary was strong. But hunger was stronger. Finally
she just had to yield to her longing for food. She was caught in the
net.

"Help! Help!" piped the Canary pitifully. "I will never do it again. It
is better to die of hunger than to live in a cage."

The Canary now thought that there was nothing in the whole world nicer
than the Crow's nest. Of course, it was cold and occasionally one had
no food. But there was freedom. One could fly about wherever one
pleased. She wept, waiting for the boys to come to put her into the
cage. But as luck would have it, the Crow passed by that very moment
and spied the Canary in difficulty.

"You are foolish," scolded the Crow. "Didn't I tell you not to touch
those seeds?"

"Aunty, I'll never do it again."

The Crow was just in time. The boys were already on their way to fetch
their victim. The Crow tore the net quickly with her beak. The Canary
was free.

The boys chased the Crow, throwing sticks and stones and scolding her
for some time.

"How nice it is to be free," chirped the glad Canary, finding herself
once more in the Crow's nest.

"Of course, it's nice. You'd better take care if you want to stay
free," scolded the Crow.

The Canary, safe in the Crow's nest, started life anew. Never again did
she complain of either cold or hunger.

One day, the Crow flew away in search of food and stayed all night in
the field. When she returned she found the little Canary lying in the
nest with her little legs up--cold and stiff.

The Crow tilted her head to one side and looking very closely at the
Canary, she said:

"Well, I told you you were not a real bird."

[Illustration]



THE WISEST OF ALL


I

Turkey Gobbler awoke as usual before any one else. It was still dark.
He woke up his wife and said:

"Am I not the wisest of all?"

Turkey Hen was not quite awake. She coughed and then answered:

"Oh, you are very wise. Khe! Khe! Khe! Who does not know that? Khe!
Khe! Khe!"

"No, it isn't enough to say 'wisest of all,'" said Turkey Gobbler.
"There are plenty of wise birds, but the wisest of all is one, and that
is I."

"The wisest of all! Khe! Khe! Khe! The wisest of all! Khe! Khe! Khe!"

"That's right," said Turkey Gobbler.

A little cross, Turkey Gobbler added in a voice that other birds might
hear:

"Do you know, I think that I am not respected enough."

"You only imagine that. Khe! Khe!"

Turkey Hen calmed him, at the same time smoothing her feathers that had
ruffled over night.

"You only think that, for one could not imagine a wiser bird than you.
Khe! Khe!"

"What about the Gander? Oh, I see everything. Of course, he is silent
most of the time, never saying anything directly, but I feel that
silently he does not respect me."

"Don't pay any attention to him," said Turkey Hen. "He isn't worth it.
Khe! Khe! Haven't you noticed how foolish he is?"

"Any one can see that," said Turkey Gobbler. "It is written all over
his face, 'Foolish Gander,' and nothing else. But it isn't really the
Gander, for, after all, can one be angry with a fool? The Rooster, for
instance. The most ordinary Rooster. Did you hear him scream at me the
other day? He screamed so loudly that all the neighbors heard him. It
seemed to me he was saying I was foolish or something like that."

"How strange you are," said Turkey Hen, astonished. "Don't you know why
Rooster screams?"

"Why?" asked Turkey Gobbler.

"Khe! Khe! Khe! It's very simple and everybody knows it. You're a Cock
and he's a Cock. Only he is a very, very common Cock, while you are a
real beyond-the-sea Indian Cock. That's why he screams with envy. Every
bird wishes to be an Indian Cock. Khe! Khe!"

"But that's hard to be, mother. Ha! ha! ha! Some ambition for a common
little Rooster to become a Turkey Gobbler! No, sir. That never can be!"
said Turkey Gobbler.

Turkey Hen was a very modest, kind bird. She was always worried when
Turkey Gobbler quarreled with anyone.

This morning, he was hardly awake when he was thinking with whom to
pick a quarrel and fight. He was a restless bird, though not unkind.
Turkey Hen was often hurt when other birds made sport of Turkey
Gobbler, calling him, "Old Stuck-Up" or "Chatterbox" or "Empty-Head."
They were partly right, of course. But then, there are no birds without
faults. That's why it is pleasant to find in another bird even the
tiniest shortcomings.

The birds, now awakened, proceeded from the poultry house into the
barnyard, and at once there arose a horrible clatter. The hens made the
most noise; they ran around the yard, they climbed on the kitchen
windows, and they screamed, beside themselves,

"Cut-a-cut! Cut-a-cut! Cut-a-cut! We are hungry! Cook Matryona must
either be dead or she wants to starve us to death."

"Ladies and gentlemen, have patience!" remarked Gander, standing on one
leg. "Look at me. I, too, am hungry, but I don't shout in the way you
do. If I were to open my mouth and scream, 'Quack! Quack!' or louder,
'QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!'..."

Gander quacked so loudly that Cook Matryona awakened immediately.

"It's easy for him to talk of patience," grumbled a Duck. "His throat
is like a megaphone. If I had a neck as long as his, and a bill as
strong as his, I'd also preach patience. I would also have my food
before any one else, and preach patience to the others. We know Master
Gander's patience."

Rooster, supporting Duck in this, screamed, "Yes, it's easy for Gander
to talk of patience. Who pulled out two of my finest tail feathers
yesterday? It is dishonorable to grab hold of a bird's tail. Of course,
we quarreled slightly and I won't deny that I intended to pick Gander's
head, but then I was to blame, not my poor tail. Am I not right, ladies
and gentlemen?"

Hungry birds, like hungry people, become unjust--just because they are
hungry.


II

Turkey Gobbler, through sheer pride, never scrambled for food like
other birds. He always waited patiently for Matryona to chase some
greedy bird away and to call him.

It was the same this morning. Turkey Gobbler strutted along the side of
the fence, pretending to be looking for something.

"Khe! Khe! I am so hungry," complained Turkey Hen, stepping along
behind her husband. "Cook Matryona has already strewn the oats and now,
I think, the leftover cereal of yesterday is coming. Khe! Khe! Oh, how
I do love cereal! I think I could eat nothing but cereal the rest of my
life. I even dream of cereal sometimes."

Turkey Hen liked to complain when she was hungry and she demanded
sympathy from Turkey Gobbler. Compared with other birds, she looked
like an old woman, humping her back and coughing. She even walked with
a broken gait, as if her legs didn't belong to her.

"Yes, it would be nice to have some cereal," said Turkey Gobbler,
agreeing with her. "But a wise bird never scrambles for food. Am I not
right? If my master does not feed me, then I die of hunger. Just let
him find another Turkey Gobbler like me!"

"There is not another like you," said Turkey Hen.

"Of course not," said her husband.

"In reality, cereal is nothing. It is not a question of cereal, but of
Matryona. Am I not right? As long as there is Matryona there will be
cereal. Everything in the world depends upon Matryona--oats, cereal,
grains and crusts of bread."

In spite of these discussions, Turkey Gobbler began to feel the pangs
of hunger. He became very sad indeed.

All the birds had been fed, and still Matryona did not call him. Could
she have forgotten him? That would be no joke.

Then something happened which caused Turkey Gobbler to forget his
hunger.

A young hen, walking near the barn, began to call, "Cut-a-cut!
Cut-a-cut! Cut-a-cut!" All the other hens took up the call at once,
screaming with all their might, "Cut-a-cut! Cut-a-cut!" Loudest of all
was Rooster, of course, with his "Cock-a-doodle-doo! Who's there?"

Attracted by the noise, all the birds ran toward the barn. There they
saw a most unusual sight. Close to the barn, in a hole, lay something
gray and round and all covered with sharp needles.

"Just an ordinary stone," said one.

"It's moving," exclaimed Little Hen. "I also thought it was a stone,
but it moved when I came close, and it seems to me that I saw eyes.
Stones have no eyes, you know."

[Illustration]

"A foolish hen can see anything if she is frightened," remarked Turkey
Gobbler. "Perhaps it ... it ..."

He was interrupted by Gander, who screamed:

"It's a mushroom. I have seen mushrooms just like this, only they had
no needles."

Everybody laughed loudly at the Gander.

"It looks more like a hat," someone ventured to say, but this remark,
too, met with laughter.

"A hat has no eyes."

"Let us waste no time in empty conversation. Let us act," decided the
Rooster for everybody. "Hey, you thing full of needles, you speak for
yourself! What sort of beast are you? I like no fooling. Do you hear?"

As there was no answer, the Rooster felt insulted, and threw himself
upon the unknown offender. He tried to peck him once or twice but
stepped aside, abashed.

"It is nothing but a huge pine cone," he said. "Nothing tasty about it.
Would someone like to try?"

Everybody chattered, saying the first thing that occurred to him.

There was no end to the different opinions. Turkey Gobbler was the only
silent one. All the others chattered while he listened to their
foolishness. They clattered and chattered for a long time, until
someone shouted:

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are wasting time, and needlessly tiring
ourselves, when we have Turkey Gobbler with us. He knows everything."

"I do, indeed!" said Turkey Gobbler, spreading his tail and puffing out
his red wattles.

"If you do, then tell us who is this strange creature."

"And if I don't want to tell you? Just refuse to tell you?" said Turkey
Gobbler.

Then all the birds began to beg him to tell them.

"You are our wisest bird, Turkey Gobbler. Please tell us. It will cost
you nothing."

Turkey Gobbler plumed himself for a time and finally said:

"Very well. I will. Yes, I will tell you. But first you must answer
me--what do you think of me?"

"Who doesn't know? You are the wisest of all!" they answered in chorus.
"Isn't there a saying, 'As wise as a Turkey?'"

"Then you do respect me?" asked Turkey Gobbler.

"Of course we do. All of us respect you."

Turkey Gobbler plumed himself some more, puffed up his red wattles,
strutted around the strange beast three times and finally said:

"This is.... So you want to know what this is?"

"We do! Please tell us! Don't torture us any longer!" said the others.

"This ... but it is creeping!" said Turkey Gobbler.

The fowls felt like laughing at him when a giggle was heard and a thin
little voice said:

"There is the wisest bird of all! He! He! He!" And from under the
needles appeared a black snout and two tiny black eyes. The tiny black
snout sniffed the air and said:

"Hello, everybody! Is it possible that you do not recognize
Porcupine--Porcupine Gray? Pardon me ... but what a funny Turkey
Gobbler you have! I really do not know how to say it politely ... but
your Turkey Gobbler is stupid."


III

Everybody was horrified at this insult that Porcupine hurled at Turkey
Gobbler. Of course, Turkey Gobbler did say a foolish thing just now,
but it does not mean that Porcupine has any right to insult him.

It is very rude to enter a house and then to insult the master. You
must admit that a Turkey Gobbler is a very dignified and imposing bird.
There is surely no comparison between him and a Gray Porcupine.

Suddenly, everybody sided with Turkey Gobbler and there arose a
terrific clatter.

"Porcupine probably thinks that all of us are foolish," said Rooster,
flapping his wings.

"He insulted all of us! If any one is foolish, it is surely the
Porcupine himself," said Gander, stretching his neck. "I noticed that
at once."

"How can mushrooms be foolish?" answered Porcupine.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are wasting time talking to him," shouted
Rooster. "He will not understand us, anyway. If, instead, you, Mr.
Gander, were to grab his needles on one side, and Master Gobbler and I
on the other side, we would at once know who is the wiser, for you
cannot hide brains under foolish needles."

"I am ready," replied Gander. "It would be better still if I were to
grab his needles in the back and you, Master Rooster, pecked his
snout. Then, ladies and gentlemen, it will be seen who is the wisest."

Turkey Gobbler was silent all this time. At first, he was overwhelmed
by the Porcupine's impudence and he did not know what answer to make.
Then Turkey Gobbler grew so angry, so angry that he was horrified at
himself. His first wish was to throw himself upon the offender and tear
him into tiny bits. Then would the world see and be convinced what a
strict and serious bird a Turkey Gobbler is. He even started in
Porcupine's direction, blowing himself up more and more, and just as he
was about to throw himself upon Porcupine everybody began shouting and
scolding the stranger. Turkey Gobbler stopped and waited patiently to
see the end of it all.

When Rooster suggested that they grab Porcupine's needles and drag him
in different directions, Turkey Gobbler stopped his ardor.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said he, "perhaps all this can be settled
amicably. Yes, it seems to me there is a little misunderstanding here.
Leave the whole thing to me."

"Very well. Let us wait," agreed the Rooster, unwillingly. He was eager
to fight Porcupine. "I know nothing will come of it."

"This is my affair," answered Turkey Gobbler calmly. "Just stay around
and hear what I say."

All the birds formed a ring around Porcupine and waited.

Turkey Gobbler walked around the stranger, coughed and said:

"Listen, Mr. Porcupine. Let us have a serious explanation. In general,
I do not like domestic troubles."

"Heavens! How wise! How wise he is!" thought Turkey Hen, listening to
her husband, silent with admiration.

"First of all, I want you to understand that you are in respectable,
well-behaved society," said Turkey Gobbler, "and that means something.
Yes, you may consider it an honor to get into our company."

"True! True!" shouted several.

"But this is between ourselves. The main thing is not ..." here Turkey
Gobbler stopped, was silent a moment for better effect, then continued,
"Yes, the main thing is--did you really think that we had no idea what
a Porcupine was? I have no doubt that Gander was only joking when he
took you for a mushroom. And I can say the same of what Rooster and
the others said. Am I not right, ladies and gentlemen?"

"You certainly are, Turkey Gobbler," shouted the fowls in a voice so
loud, that poor Gray Porcupine tucked in her little black snout.

"Oh, how wise he is!" thought Turkey Hen, beginning to understand what
her husband was driving at.

"You see, Master Porcupine," continued Turkey Gobbler, "we all like our
little jokes. I will not speak for myself. Why not have a little joke?
And as I see it, you, Mr. Porcupine, seem also to be of a merry
disposition."

"And you guessed right," admitted Porcupine, once more showing his
little black snout. "I have such a merry disposition that I cannot
sleep at night. Many cannot stand that, but sleeping bores me."

"You will probably agree best with our Rooster, who crows like mad all
night," said Turkey Gobbler.

Everybody suddenly became gay. They all felt Porcupine was there to
complete their happiness.

Turkey Gobbler was triumphant at so cleverly getting out of an awkward
situation caused by Porcupine's laughing in his face and calling him
stupid.

"Now Mr. Porcupine," said Turkey Gobbler, winking, "confess that even
you were joking when you said that I was not a wise bird."

"Of course, I was joking," said Porcupine, reassuring him. "I have a
merry disposition. I love to joke."

"Yes, yes, I was quite sure of that. Ladies and gentlemen, have you
heard him?" asked Turkey Gobbler.

"Of course, we did. No one could doubt it. He was joking."

Turkey Gobbler bent close to Porcupine's ear and whispered:

"I want to tell you a horrible secret. But only on one condition--don't
breathe it to a soul. It is true ... I am a little ashamed to talk
about myself ... but how can I help it? I am the wisest bird! At times,
it even embarrasses me, but as the wise Russians say, 'You can't hide
an awl in a sack.' Please not a word of this to anyone!"

[Illustration]



THE STORY OF LITTLE MILK, LITTLE CEREAL AND GRAY KITTEN, MOORKA


I

It was wonderful. It was wonderful that it happened every day. As soon
as Cook placed the pot of milk and the earthenware oatmeal pan upon the
stove, it would all begin. At first, there was silence; then
conversation.

"I am Little Milk."

"And I am Little Cereal."

At first, conversation was carried on in whispers. But gradually both
Little Cereal and Little Milk would grow more and more excited.

"I AM LITTLE MILK!"

"AND I AM LITTLE CEREAL!"

The cereal was generally covered with an earthenware cover and she
grumbled away in her pot like an old woman. When she grew angry, there
came to the top a bubble that burst and said:

"Still, I am Little Cereal. Puff!!"

This boasting was offensive to Little Milk.

"My what a wonder! As if one had never seen oatmeal cereal before!" and
Little Milk would grow more and more excited until rising to the top
in a foam, she tried to get out from the pot. No sooner would Cook turn
her head away than Little Milk would run all over the hot stove.

"Oh, this milk," complained Cook every time it happened. "No sooner do
I take my eyes off it than it runs over."

"I can't help my fiery temper," would reply Little Milk, defending
herself. "It doesn't make me happy to be angry and to hear the
boastings of Cereal, 'I'm Cereal! I'm Cereal! I'm Cereal!' To see her
sitting there in her pan and grumbling makes me angrier and angrier."

It happened sometimes that, in spite of the cover, Little Cereal would
escape from her pan and creep along the stove, forever repeating:

"I'm Cereal! I'm Cereal! I'm Cereal! Z-h-h! Z-h-h!"

Of course, this did not happen every day, but it did happen, and each
time, Cook in despair would say:

"Oh, this Cereal! It is amazing how it will not stay in the pan."


II

As a rule, Cook was excited. Of course, there were plenty of reasons
for her agitation. For instance, there was Kitty Moorka. He was a very
beautiful cat and Cook loved him very much. In the morning, Moorka
would follow at the Cook's heels and meow so pitifully that it would
melt a heart of stone.

"Isn't your belly ever filled?" asked Cook, astonished, chasing the
cat. "Just think of all that liver you ate last night."

"But that was yesterday," answered Moorka, astonished in his turn.
"To-day, I am hungry again. Meow."

"Why don't you catch mice if you're hungry? Lazy! That's what you are!"

"Talking is very easy. I'd like to see you catch a mouse," Moorka
defended himself. "However, I always try hard. Who caught a mouse last
week? Who had a scratch the full length of his nose? That's the kind of
rat I almost caught. Then she grabbed hold of my nose. It's easy to
talk of catching mice. Indeed!"

After eating his liver, Moorka would sit somewhere near the stove where
it was warm, close his eyes and doze sweetly.

"I hope you're full, now," said Cook. "Even your eyes are squinting.
Well, you lie-on-your-side cat? Always meat, meat, meat!"

"I'm no vegetarian, you know. I can eat meat!" said Moorka, opening
just one eye. "You know I like fish too. It is really pleasant to eat
fish, and up to this moment, I can't say which I like better, liver or
fish. Out of politeness, I like both. If I were a man, I'd be either a
fishman or the butcher-boy who brings us the liver. I'd feed all the
cats from every corner of the earth, and I myself would always have my
fill."

After eating, Moorka would grow interested in things going on around
him, just by way of amusement. He would sit on the window where the
starling's cage hung. It was pleasant to watch the foolish bird,
hopping back and forth.

"I know you, you old rascal!" the starling would call to him. "You
don't have to be watching me!"

"Perhaps I would like to make your acquaintance," said Moorka.

"Yes, I know how you make friends," said the starling. "Didn't I see
you eat a real live baby sparrow? You disgusting brute!"

"I'm not at all disgusting. On the contrary, everybody loves me," said
Moorka. "Come to me. I'll tell you a fairy tale."

"Oh, you rascal!" said the starling. "I know what a fine story-teller
you are. Haven't I seen you tell stories to a roasted spring chicken
stolen from the kitchen? I know you! You're a fine one!"

"Just as you like," said Moorka. "I was thinking only of your pleasure.
As for that roasted spring chicken, I did eat him. But anyhow, he
wasn't good for anything else."


III

Every morning, Moorka would sit near the stove and listen patiently to
the quarreling of Little Milk and Little Cereal. He could never
understand what it was all about and only blinked his eyes.

"I am Little Milk!"

"I am Little Cereal! Cereal! Cereal!"

"I can't understand a word of it. No, I don't understand it. Why are
they angry? If I were to repeat, 'I'm a Cat! I'm a Cat! I'm a Cat!'
could any one take offense at it? I can't understand it at all.
However, I must confess I prefer Milk, especially when she isn't
angry."

When they quarreled, Little Cereal and Little Milk would become so
heated, they ran all over the stove. Then there arose a horrible smell.
Cook would rush in, wringing her hands, and crying:

"Whatever shall I do now? I can never turn my head away without having
something happen."

Setting Milk and Cereal aside, Cook went to market for provisions.
Moorka at once made the best of this. He sat down close to Little Milk
and said:

"Mistress Milk, please don't be angry."

[Illustration]

Little Milk grew calmer as the cat watched her. Moorka walked around
the spot several times, fixed his whiskers very gently and said:

"Listen, folks! It isn't nice to quarrel. Choose me for your judge and
I'll settle your affairs very quickly."

The black roach, sitting in the crack of the wall, almost choked with
laughter.

"A judge indeed! I must say! Ha! Ha! Ha! It took you to think of it,
you old rascal."

But Little Milk and Little Cereal were very glad to have someone settle
their quarrel at last, for they really did not know why they were
quarreling or what it was all about.

"Very well. Very well. I'll unravel this," said Kitty Moorka. "And
I'll do it honestly. Let us begin with Milk."

He walked around the pot several times, touched Little Milk gently with
his paw, blew upon her again and started lapping her up.

"Help Help!" shouted the black roach. "He will lap up all the milk and
I will be blamed for it."

When Cook returned from market and looked for the milk, the pot was
empty. Cat Moorka was sleeping sweetly near the stove as if nothing had
happened.

"You good-for-nothing!" scolded Cook, pulling his ear. "Tell me, who
drank the milk?"

It was very painful, but Moorka pretended not to understand anything.
He had suddenly become speechless! Then he was thrown out of the
kitchen.

Behind the door, he shook himself, smoothed his ruffled fur, curved
his tail and said:

"If I were Cook, all the cats would drink milk day and night. However,
I am not angry with my Cook, because this is something she can never
really understand!"

[Illustration]



BED TIME


I

Little Verotchka's one little eye is falling asleep. Verotchka's one
little ear is falling asleep.

"Father, are you here?"

"Yes, dear child."

"You know, father, I want to be a Queen."

Verotchka sleeps. She smiles as she sleeps.

There are so many flowers. All of them are smiling. They surround
Verotchka's little bed; they whisper and laugh in their thin little
voices.

There are crimson flowers, blue flowers, yellow flowers, azure, pink,
scarlet, white, as if a rainbow, falling, struck the earth and
scattered its living sparks into many-colored lights.

"Verotchka wants to be a Queen," gaily proclaimed the Field Bluebells,
swaying on their thin, green stems.

"Oh, how comical she is!" whispered the modest Forget-me-nots.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this affair needs serious discussion," said the
yellow Dandelion pertly.

"What does it mean to be a Queen?" asked the blue Cornflower. "I grew
up in a field and I cannot understand your city ways."

"It's very simple," said the pink Carnation. "It is so simple it
requires no explaining. A Queen is ... is ... is.... You don't seem to
understand.... How strange you are! A Queen is like a flower, as pink
as I am. In other words, Verotchka wants to be a pink Carnation. Isn't
that simple?"

Everybody laughed gaily. Only the Roses were silent. They were much
offended.

"Who doesn't know that the Queen of Flowers is a Rose--delicate,
fragrant, marvellous? And suddenly a mere pink Carnation calls herself
a Queen. It's all nonsense."

Finally one Rose grew angry and, turning scarlet, she said: "Pardon me.
Verotchka wants to be a Rose. A Rose is the Queen because everybody
loves her."

"Oh, that is nice," said Dandelion, growing angry. "If that's the case,
where do I come in?"

"Dandelion, please don't be angry," pleaded the Wood Bluebells. "It
spoils your temper and it is very ugly to be angry. Look at us. We are
silent, although we know perfectly well Verotchka wants to be a Wood
Bluebell."


II

There were many flowers and they all talked calmly without arguing.

All the field flowers, Lilies-of-the-Valley, Violets, Forget-me-nots,
Bluebells, Cornflowers, Field Clovers, were so very modest; while the
cultivated flowers, like the Roses, Tulips, Lilies, Narcissuses, put on
airs like rich children in their Sunday clothes.

Verotchka loved the modest field flowers best. Of these, she would make
wreaths and bouquets for the table. They were all so nice.

"Verotchka loves us very much," whispered the Violets. "We are the
first to arrive in spring. We come here as soon as the snow melts."

"And we, too," said the Lilies-of-the-Valley. "We are also spring
flowers. We are not exacting; we come direct from the woods."

"It is not our fault that it is too cold for us to grow in the fields,"
complained the fragrant curly Stocks and Hyacinths. "We are only
visitors here. Our native land is far away, in a warm country where
there is no winter. Oh, it is so nice there! We are always longing for
our native land. Your north is so cold. Verotchka loves us, and very
much, too."

"It is also very nice here," argued the Field Flowers. "Of course, it
is very cold at times, but it is healthy. The frost kills our bitterest
enemies, worms and bugs of all kinds. If not for frost, life would be
very difficult."

"We also like cold," said the Roses.

The Azaleas and Camelias agreed with this. They all liked the cold when
they were through blooming.

"Ladies and gentlemen, let us talk about our native countries,"
suggested White Narcissus. "It will be so interesting. Verotchka will
listen, because she loves us all."

Then they all talked together. Roses, with tears, remembered the Vale
of Shiraz in Persia; the Hyacinths recalled Palestine; the Azaleas,
America; the Lilies, Egypt; the flowers gathered there were from all
corners of the earth and each one could tell many wonderful stories.
Most of them came from the South, where there is no winter and much
sunshine.

There it is lovely--the summer is eternal. The south is full of
enormous trees, wonderful birds, many butterflies, beauties, resembling
flying flowers, and flowers resembling butterflies.

"We are only visitors here in the North. At times, we feel very cold,"
whispered all these southern flowers.

The native Field Flowers felt sorry for them. Really, it must take a
good deal of patience to stand the cold north wind, the cold rain and
the falling snow. Of course, the spring snow melts quickly, but it is
snow, nevertheless.

"You have one great fault," exclaimed the Cornflower, after listening
to all these stories. "I don't deny you are, at times, more beautiful
than we, simple Field Flowers. I readily admit that, and then you, too,
you are our dear visitors, but your main fault is that you grow only
for the few rich, while we grow for everybody. In that we are kinder
than you. For example, look at me! You will find me in the hands of
every country child. Just see how much pleasure I give to the children
of the poor! No one has to pay money to buy me. It takes only a walk in
the woods to get me. I grow among the wheat, the rye, and the oats."


III

Little Verotchka listened and wondered at these stories of the flowers.
She longed to see everything for herself--all the wonderful countries
of which the flowers spoke.

"If I were only a Swallow I would fly thither at once," said Verotchka.
"Why haven't I wings! Oh, it would be so nice to be a bird!"

She had hardly finished speaking when a little Lady Bug crept up to
her,--a real Lady Bug all red with tiny black spots, a little black
head, thin little black feelers and thin little black legs.

"Let us fly, Verotchka," whispered Lady Bug, twitching her feelers.

"But I have no wings, Lady Bug," said Verotchka.

"Get on my back."

"How can I? You are so small, Lady Bug."

"Just watch me," said Lady Bug.

Verotchka watched and wondered more and more. Lady Bug stretched out
her strong upper wings and doubled in size; then she opened her thin
cobwebby lower wings and grew still larger. She grew under Verotchka's
very eyes and she became so large--large enough for Verotchka to sit
comfortably upon her back between her red wings.

"Are you comfortable, Verotchka?" asked Lady Bug.

"Very," said Verotchka.

"Then hold on tight," said Lady Bug.

Then they flew. At first Verotchka was afraid and closed her eyes. It
seemed to her that it was not she who was flying, but as if cities,
woods, rivers and mountains were flying beneath her. Then it seemed as
if she had grown small--as small as a pin head and as light as the down
of Dandelion.

Lady Bug flew fast and faster, so fast that the air whistled through
her wings.

"Look down, Verotchka," said Lady Bug.

Verotchka looked down and clapped her hands.

"Oh, how many Roses--red, yellow, white, pink," exclaimed Verotchka.
The world seemed to be covered with a carpet of swaying Roses. "Let us
descend," begged Verotchka of the Lady Bug.

They descended and Verotchka grew big again, as big as she was before,
and Lady Bug grew tiny again.

For a long time Verotchka ran about in the rose-field and gathered a
huge bunch of Roses. How beautiful they were! Their perfume made one
faint. If one could only carry the rose-field to the North, where Roses
were mere visitors!

"Now, let us go further," said Lady Bug, stretching out her wings
again. Again, Lady Bug grew large and larger and Verotchka grew small
and smaller.


IV

Again they flew. It was all so nice. Above, the sky so blue; beneath,
the water still bluer. They flew over a steep rocky shore.

"Will we really fly across the sea?" asked Verotchka.

"Yes. But you must sit still and hold me tight," said Lady Bug.

At first, Verotchka was afraid, but after a while she wasn't. There was
nothing but sky and sea. On the sea sailed ships like huge birds with
white wings. The little boats looked like flies.

Everything was lovely--so nice. Way yonder was the shore, low, yellow,
sandy. It was the mouth of some huge river and near it gleamed a city
all white, as if built of sugar. Still beyond, one saw a dead desert,
where stood the Pyramids. Lady Bug descended upon the bank of the
river. Upon it grew tall Papyrus and among them were Lilies, wonderful,
delicate.

"Your home is very lovely," said Verotchka to the Lilies. "Does winter
never come here to you?"

"What is winter?" asked the Lilies, wonderingly.

"Winter is the time snow falls," said Verotchka.

"And what is snow?" asked the Lilies.

The Lilies even laughed at Verotchka. They thought the little northern
girl was making fun of them. It is true that every fall huge flocks of
birds from the North visited them and told them about the winter. But
these birds had never really seen winter. They were only repeating what
they had heard and Verotchka could not believe that there was no
winter, for that meant no need of warm coats or warm shoes.

[Illustration]

They flew further. Verotchka wondered no longer at the blue sea, the
mountains, the sun-kissed desert and the Hyacinths.

"I'm too warm," complained Verotchka. "You know, Lady Bug, I don't
think it's nice to have summer all the time."

"It all depends upon what one is accustomed to," said Lady Bug.

They flew towards high mountains, the tops of which were always white
with snow. There it wasn't so warm. Beyond the mountains, stretched
deep, dark forests. Under the forest trees, it was dark, for the rays
of the sun never penetrated beyond the thick tree tops. Monkeys swung
from bough to bough. The woods were full of birds--green, yellow,
blue. But the most wonderful of all were the flowers growing directly
from the tree trunks. There were flowers like fire, flowers of all
colors, flowers that looked like birds and butterflies. The whole
forest seemed to blaze with many-colored living fires.

"These are Orchids," explained Lady Bug.

Here it was all a tangle. It was impossible to walk.

They flew further. Beneath them, a huge river spread between green
banks. Lady Bug alighted upon a huge white flower that grew in the
water. Verotchka had never before seen a flower so large as this.

"This is a holy flower," explained Lady Bug. "It is called 'Lotus.'"


V

Little Verotchka had seen so much that she finally grew tired and
wanted to go home. Home is best.

"I love white snow," said Verotchka. "It isn't nice without winter."

Again they flew. The higher they flew, the colder it grew. Soon there
appeared beneath them white fields and only the pine woods were green.
Verotchka was so happy when she saw the first fir-tree.

"Little Fir-Tree! Little Fir-Tree!" called Verotchka.

"Hello, Verotchka," answered the Little Fir-Tree beneath her.

This was a real Christmas tree. Verotchka knew her at once. That dear
Christmas tree! Verotchka bent down to tell her how lovely she was and
all of a sudden she felt herself going down, down, down.

It was frightful. She turned somersaults in the air several times, and
then fell right into the soft white snow. Verotchka closed her eyes
with fear and didn't know whether she was dead or alive.

"How did you get here, Little One?" asked somebody.

Verotchka opened her eyes and saw a bent, old man, all gray. She knew
him at once. It was the same old man who brought Christmas trees and
golden stars, boxes of candy and wonderful toys, to the good children.
He was so kind, this old man; he picked her up in his arms and covered
her with his fur coat, asking her again:

"How did you come here, Little Girl?"

"I travelled on Lady Bug's back, and I saw so much, Grandfather!"

"So, so."

"I know you, Grandfather. You bring Christmas trees to children."

"Yes, yes. I'm fixing one now." And he pointed to a tall pole that
didn't look like a Christmas tree at all.

"What sort of Christmas tree is that, Grandfather? It's nothing but a
long stick."

"Wait and see," said Grandfather.

Grandfather carried Verotchka into a tiny village almost buried in
snow. Only the roofs and chimneys were visible. The country children
were all waiting for the old grandfather. They jumped and shouted, when
they saw him.

"Christmas tree! Christmas tree!"

They came to the first hut. Grandfather got an unbroken sheaf of oats,
tied it to the end of the pole and stuck the pole on the roof.
Immediately the tiny birds that do not go away for the winter flew
upon it from all sides and began pecking the seeds.

"It is our Christmas tree," they shouted.

Suddenly, Verotchka felt very happy. That was the first time she had
seen a Christmas tree made for the winter birds.

"What a kind old grandfather!"

One little Sparrow, bustling about more than the others, recognized
Verotchka and called out!

"Why, this is Verotchka! I know her very well. Many, many times has she
scattered crumbs for me."

Other Sparrows also recognized her and piped noisily with joy.

Then came another Sparrow that turned out to be the squabbler. He began
pushing everybody aside and snatching the best seeds. This was the same
Sparrow who had quarreled with Stickelback. Verotchka knew him at
once.

"Hello, Master Sparrow!" she said.

"Is that you, Verotchka? Why, hello!"

Sparrow Squabbler hopped on one leg, winked knowingly with one eye and
said to the old man:

"Why, this is Verotchka, who wants to be the Queen. I myself heard her
say that."

"Do you want to be a Queen, Little One?" asked the Old Man.

"Yes, very much, Grandfather," said Verotchka.

"Very well," said the wise old man. "There is nothing simpler. Every
Queen is a woman and every woman a Queen. Now go home and tell that to
all the other little girls."

Lady Bug was very glad to get away. She was afraid that the
quarrelsome Sparrow would gobble her up.

So Verotchka and Lady Bug flew home. Faster and faster they flew. At
home, all the flowers were waiting for Verotchka. They had been
wondering what is a Queen all the time she was away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lulla-lullaby. Verotchka's one eye is sleeping; the other little eye is
open. Verotchka's one little ear is sleeping; the other ear listens.

Now everybody gathered about Verotchka's bed. Bold Rabbit, Bear Mishka,
Squabbling Rooster and Sparrow, Black-headed Crow, Stickelback and
tiny, tiny Cacinella. They were all there near Verotchka.

"Father, I love them all," whispered Verotchka. "I love even the Black
Roach, Father."

Verotchka's other eye is asleep. The other little ear is also asleep.
Near Verotchka's bed, the green spring grass grows gaily, the flowers
are smiling--many flowers, blue, pink, yellow, azure and scarlet. The
green birch bends over Verotchka's bed and whispers something,
lovingly.

The sun is shining, the sand is yellow, and the blue sea waves beckon
to Verotchka to come to them.

Sleep, Verotchka, and grow strong!

Lulla-Lullaby.

[Illustration]


THE END



       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's Notes:

Illustration locations on p.9, p.31, p.55, p.85, p.139, p.161, and
p.179 changed slightly to match text.

Missing, extra, incorrect, and misplaced punctuation corrected.

P.157--"mice if your're" changed to "mice if you're"





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