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Main > Czechoslovak folktale > Fairy tale "The Wood Maiden: The Story of Betushka and the Golden Birch Leaves"

The Wood Maiden: The Story of Betushka and the Golden Birch Leaves

“Come, then, let us dance together,” said the maiden. “I’ll teach you.”

With that she tucked up her skirt, put her arm about Betushka’s waist, and they began to dance. At once such enchanting music sounded over their heads that Betushka’s heart went one-two with the dancing. The musicians sat on the branches of the birch trees. They were clad in little frock coats, black and gray and many-colored. It was a carefully chosen orchestra that had gathered at the bidding of the beautiful maiden: larks, nightingales, finches, linnets, thrushes, blackbirds, and showy mocking-birds.

Betushka’s cheeks burned, her eyes shone. She forgot her spinning, she forgot her goats. All she could do was gaze at her partner who was moving with such grace and lightness that the grass didn’t seem to bend under her slender feet.

They danced from noon till sundown and yet Betushka wasn’t the least bit tired. Then they stopped dancing, the music ceased, and the maiden disappeared as suddenly as she had come.

Betushka looked around. The sun was sinking behind the wood. She put her hands to the unspun flax on her head and remembered the spindle that was lying unfilled on the grass. She took down the flax and laid it with the spindle in the little basket. Then she called the goats and started home.

She reproached herself bitterly that she had allowed the beautiful maiden to beguile her and she told herself that another time she would not listen to her. She was so quiet that the little goats, missing her merry song, looked around to see whether it was really their own little shepherdess who was following them. Her mother, too, wondered why she didn’t sing and questioned her.

“Are you sick, Betushka?”

“No, dear mother, I’m not sick, but I’ve been singing too much and my throat is dry.”

She knew that her mother did not reel the yarn at once, so she hid the spindle and the unspun flax, hoping to make up tomorrow what she had not done today. She did not tell her mother one word about the beautiful maiden.

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