THERE lived an old man with his old wife. They had three daughters. The youngest was such a beauty that she could neither be told of in a tale nor described with a pen. Once the old man was going to town to the fair, and he said: "My dear daughters, say what ye want; I will buy all ye wish at the fair."
The eldest said, "Father, buy me a new dress." The second said, "Father, buy me a shawl kerchief." But the youngest said, "Buy me a red flower."
The old man laughed at his youngest daughter. "Oh, little dunce! what dost thou want of a red flower? Great good in it for thee; better I'll buy thee clothes."
No matter what he said, he could not persuade her. "Buy me a little red flower, nothing but that." The old man went to the fair, bought the eldest daughter a dress, the second a shawl kerchief; but in the whole town he could not find a red flower. Only as he was coming home did an unknown old man happen in his way. The old man had a red flower in his hand. "Sell me thy flower, old man."
"It is not for sale, it is reserved. If thy youngest daughter will marry my son, Bright Finist the Falcon, I will give the flower as a gift."
The father grew thoughtful. Not to take the flower was to grieve his daughter, and to take it was to give her in marriage, God knows to whom! He thought and thought; still he took the flower. "What harm?" said he to himself; "they will come with proposals by and by. If he is not the right man, why, we can refuse." He came home, gave the eldest daughter her dress, the second her shawl, and to the youngest he gave the flower, saying, "I like not thy flower, my dear daughter; greatly I like it not." And then he whispered in her ear: "The flower was reserved, and not for sale. I took it from a strange man for the promise to give thee in marriage to his son, Bright Finist the Falcon."
"Be not troubled, father, he is so good and kind; he flies as a bright falcon in the sky, and when he strikes the damp earth he is a hero of heroes."
"But dost thou know him?"
"I know him, father. Last Sunday he was at Mass, and looked at me all the time. I talked to him--he loves me, father."
The old man shook his head, looked at his daughter very sharply, made the sign of the cross on her, and said: "Go to thy room, my dear daughter, it is time to sleep. The morning is wiser than the evening; we will talk this matter over hereafter."
The daughter shut herself up in her room, put the red flower in water, opened the window, and looked into the blue distance. Wherever he came from, Bright Finist the Falcon of Flowery Feathers wheeled before her, sprang in through the window, struck the floor, and became a young man. The maiden was frightened; but when he spoke it became one knows not how joyous and pleasant at her heart. They talked till dawn,--I know not indeed of what; I know only that when day began to break, Bright Finist the Falcon of Flowery Feathers kissed her and said: "Every night as soon as the bright little flower is placed on the window I will fly to thee, my dear. But here is a feather from my wing. Shouldst thou wish for robes, go out on the balcony and wave it on the right side; in a moment all that thy soul desires will appear before thee." He kissed her once more, turned into a bright falcon, and flew away beyond the dark forest.
The maiden looked after her fated one, closed the window, and lay down to sleep. From that time every night, as soon as she placed the little red flower at the window, the good youth, Bright Finist the Falcon, flew to her.
Well, Sunday came. The elder sisters began to dress for Mass. "But what art thou going to wear? Thou hast nothing new," said they to the youngest one.
She answered, "Never mind; I can pray even at home."
The elder sisters went to church, and the youngest sat at the window in an old dress and looked at the orthodox people going to church. She bided her time, went out on the porch, waved her colored feather on the right; and from wherever they came there appeared before her a crystal carriage, blooded horses, servants in gold, robes, and every ornament of precious stones. In one moment the beautiful maiden was dressed, sat in the carriage, and dashed off to church. The people look, admire her beauty. "It is clear that some Tsar's daughter has come," said they among themselves.
As soon as "Dostoino" was sung, she went out of the church, sat in the carriage, and was whirled back home. The orthodox people went out to look at her, to see where she would go; but nothing of the sort,--her trace had grown cold long ago.
Our beauty had barely come to the court when she waved her bright feather on the left side; in a moment the maidens undressed her and the carriage vanished. She was sitting as if nothing had happened, looking out through the window to see how the orthodox people go home from church.
The sisters too came home. "Well, sister," said they, "what a beauty was at church to-day! Just a sight, neither to be told in a tale nor described with a pen. It must be that she is some Tsar's daughter from another land, so splendidly dressed, wonderfully!"
The second and third Sundays came; the beautiful maiden mystified the orthodox people, and her sisters, her father, and her mother. But the last time when she undressed she forgot to take out of her hair the diamond pin. The elder sisters came from the church and told her of the Tsar's daughter; but when they looked at the youngest sister the diamonds were blazing in her hair.
"Oh, sister, what is this?" cried they; "why just such a pin was in the hair of the Tsar's daughter to-day. Where didst thou get it?"
The beautiful maiden was confused, and ran to her chamber. There was no end of guesses and whispers, but the youngest sister said nothing and laughed in secret. The elder sisters began to watch her and to listen in the night at her chamber; and they overheard one time her conversation with Bright Finist the Falcon, and saw with their own eyes at daybreak how he sprang from the window and flew off beyond the dark forest.
The elder sisters were clearly malicious. They planned to put hidden knives for the evening on the window of their sister's room, so that Bright Finist the Falcon might cut his colored wings. They did this straightway; the youngest sister knew nothing of the matter. She put her red flower on the window, lay down on the couch, and fell asleep soundly. Bright Finist the Falcon flew to the window, and as he was springing in cut his left foot; but the beautiful maiden knew nothing of this; she was sleeping so sweetly, so calmly. Angrily did Bright Finist the Falcon rise to the sky and fly beyond the dark forest.
In the morning the maiden woke up. She looked on every side; it was daylight already, and the good youth was not there. She looked at the window, and on the window were two sharp knives across each other, and red blood was dripping from them to the flower. Long did the maiden shed bitter tears, many sleepless nights did she pass by the window of her chamber. She waved the bright feather in vain; Bright Finist the Falcon flies no longer himself, and sends not his servants.
At last she went to her father with tears in her eyes and begged his blessing, gave orders to forge three pairs of iron shoes, three iron staves, three iron caps, and three iron Easter cakes; she put a pair of shoes on her feet, the cap on her head, took a staff in her hand, and went toward that point from which Bright Finist the Falcon had flown to her. She goes through slumbering forests, she goes over stumps, over logs. One pair of iron shoes are trodden out, one iron cap is worn off, one staff is breaking up, one cake is gnawed away, and the beautiful maiden walks on, walks all the time, and the forest grows darker, grows denser.
All at once she sees standing before her an iron hut on hen's legs, and it turns without ceasing.
"Hut, hut!" said she, "stand with thy back to the forest, thy front to me."
The hut turned its front to her. She entered the hut, and in it was lying a Baba-Yaga from corner to corner, her lips on the crosspiece, her nose in the loft.
"Tfu-tfu-tfu! in former days nothing of Russia was seen with sight nor heard with hearing; but now the odor of Russia goes through the wide world in visible seeming, runs to one's nose. Where dost thou hold thy way, beautiful maiden? Art flying from labor, or seekest labor?"
"Oh, grandmother dear, I had Bright Finist the Falcon of Flowery Feathers; my sisters did harm him! Now I am seeking for Bright Finist the Falcon."
"Oh, my child, thou hast far to go; thrice nine lands must yet be passed! Bright Finist the Falcon of Flowery Feathers lives in the fiftieth kingdom in the eightieth land, and is now betrothed to the daughter of a Tsar."
The Baba-Yaga nourished and fed the maiden with what God had sent, and put her to bed. Next morning, when the light was just coming, she roused her, gave her a present for the road,--a small golden hammer and ten little diamond nails,--and said: "When thou comest to the blue sea, the bride of Bright Finist the Falcon will come out on the shore to walk; take the golden hammer and drive the diamond nails. She will try to buy them of thee; but, beautiful maiden, take no pay, only ask to see Bright Finist the Falcon. Now go, with God, to my second sister."
Again the fair maiden goes through the dark forest, goes farther and farther; the forest is darker and deeper, the tree-tops wind up to the sky. Now almost the second pair of shoes are trodden out, the second cap worn away, the second iron staff breaking, the iron cake gnawed away; before the maiden is an iron hut on hen's legs, and it turns without ceasing.
"Hut, oh, hut!" said she, "stop with thy back to the trees and thy front to me, so that I may creep in and eat."
The hut turned its back to the trees and its front to the maiden. She entered. In the hut lay a Baba-Yaga from corner to corner, her lips on the crosspiece, her nose in the loft.
"Tfu-tfu-tfu! in former days nothing of Russia was seen with sight or heard with hearing; but now the odor of Russia goes through the wide world. Whither dost hold thy way, fair maiden?"
"Grandmother, dear, I am seeking Bright Finist the Falcon."
"Oh! he is going to marry; they have the maiden's party to-night," said the Baba-Yaga.
She gave her to eat and drink, and put the maiden to sleep. At daybreak next morning she roused her, gave her a golden plate with a diamond ball, and enjoined on her most firmly, "When thou comest to the shore of the blue sea, roll the diamond ball on the golden plate. The bride of Bright Finist the Falcon of Flowery Feathers will try to buy the plate and ball; but take nothing for it, only ask to see Bright Finist the Falcon. Now go, with God, to my eldest sister."
Again the fair maiden goes through the dark forest, goes farther and farther; the forest grows darker and deeper. Now are the third pair of shoes almost trodden out, the third cap is wearing off, the third staff is breaking, and the last cake is gnawed away. On hen's legs stands an iron hut and turns about.
"Hut, oh, hut!" cried she, "stand with thy back to the trees and thy face to me; I must creep in and eat bread."
The hut turned. In the hut lay another Baba-Yaga from corner to corner, her lips on the crosspiece, her nose in the loft.
"Tfu-tfu-tfu! in former times nothing of Russia was seen with sight nor heard with hearing; but now the odor of Russia goes through the wide world. Where, beautiful maiden, dost thou hold thy way?"
"Grandmother, dear, I am seeking Bright Finist the Falcon."
"Oh, fair maiden, he has married a Tsar's daughter! Here is my swift steed; sit on him, and go, with God."
The maiden sat on the steed and shot away farther. The forest grew thinner and thinner.
Behold, the blue sea is before her; broad and roomy is it spread, and there in the distance, like fire, burn the golden summits above the lofty, white-walled chambers. That is the kingdom of Bright Finist the Falcon. She sat then on the movable sand of the shore, and hammered with hammer the diamond nails. All at once the Tsar's daughter goes with her nurses and maidens and trusty serving-women along the shore; she stops, and wants to buy the diamond nails and the golden hammer.
"Tsar's daughter, let me but look at Bright Finist the Falcon, I will give them for nothing," answered the maiden.
"Bright Finist the Falcon is sleeping at present, and has ordered that none be admitted; but give me thy beautiful nails and hammer, I will show him to thee."
She took the hammer and nails, ran to the palace, stuck into the clothes of Bright Finist the Falcon a magic pin, so that he should sleep more soundly and not wake; then she commanded her nurses to conduct the beautiful maiden through the palace to her husband, and went herself to walk.
Long did the maiden struggle, long did she weep over her dear one; she could not wake him in any way. When she had walked to her pleasure, the Tsar's daughter came home, drove her away, and pulled out the pin.
Bright Finist the Falcon woke. "Oh, how long I have slept! Some one was here," said he, "and wept over me all the time, talking the while; but I could not open my eyes, I felt so heavy."
"Thou wast only dreaming," said the Tsar's daughter; "no one was here."
Next day the beautiful maiden sat again on the shore of the blue sea, and was rolling a diamond ball on a golden plate.
The Tsar's daughter went out to walk; she saw them, and said, "Sell them to me."
"Let me look at Bright Finist the Falcon, and I will give them for nothing."
The Tsar's daughter agreed, and again she pierced the clothes of Bright Finist the Falcon with a magic pin. Again the fair maiden wept bitterly over her dear one, but could not rouse him.
The third day she sat on the shore of the blue sea, so sad and sorrowful, she was feeding her steed with glowing coals. The Tsar's daughter, seeing that the steed was eating fire, wanted to buy him.
"Let me look on Bright Finist the Falcon, and I'll give the steed for nothing."
The Tsar's daughter agreed, ran to the palace, and said to her husband, "Let me look in thy head." She sat down to look in his head, and stuck the pin in his hair; straightway he was in a deep sleep. Then she sent her nurses for the beautiful maiden.
The fair maiden came, tried to wake her dear, embraced him and kissed him, crying bitterly, bitterly herself; he wakes not. Then she began to look in his head, and out fell the magic pin.
Bright Finist the Falcon woke all at once; he saw the fair maiden and was glad. She told him everything as it was,--how her malicious sisters had envied her, how she had wandered, and how she had exchanged with the Tsar's daughter. He loved her more than before, kissed her on the sweet lips, and gave command to call without delay boyars, princes, and people of every degree. Then he asked: "What is your judgment: with which wife should I spend my life,--with her who sold me, or her who bought me?"
All the boyars, princes, and people of each degree decided in one voice to take the woman who had bought him; but the one who had sold him, to hang on the gate and shoot her. Bright Finist the Falcon of Flowery Feathers did this.