The Wood Maiden: The Story of Betushka and the Golden Birch Leaves
Betushka was very happy now and she thought to herself on her way home: “Since she is so good and kind, I’ll dance with her again if she asks me. Oh, how I hope she does!”
She sang her merry little song as usual and the goats trotted cheerfully along.
She found her mother vexed with her, for she had wanted to reel yesterday’s yarn and had discovered that the spindle was not full.
“What were you doing yesterday,” she scolded, “that you didn’t spin your stint?”
Betushka hung her head. “Forgive me, mother. I danced too long.” Then she showed her mother today’s spindle and said: “See, today I more than made up for yesterday.”
Her mother said no more but went to milk the goats and Betushka put away the spindle. She wanted to tell her mother her adventure, but she thought to herself: “No, I’ll wait. If the beautiful lady comes again, I’ll ask her who she is and then I’ll tell mother.” So she said nothing.
On the third morning she drove the goats as usual to the birch wood. The goats went to pasture and Betushka, sitting down under a tree, began to spin and sing. When the sun pointed to noon, she laid her spindle on the grass, gave the goats a mouthful of bread, gathered some strawberries, ate her luncheon, and then, giving the crumbs to the birds, she said cheerily:
“Today, my little goats, I will dance for you!”
She jumped up, folded her arms, and was about to see whether she could move as gracefully as the beautiful maiden, when the maiden herself stood before her.
“Let us dance together,” she said. She smiled at Betushka, put her arm about her, and as the music above their heads began to play, they whirled round and round with flying feet. Again Betushka forgot the spindle and the goats. Again she saw nothing but the beautiful maiden whose body was lithe as a willow shoot. Again she heard nothing but the enchanting music to which her feet danced of themselves.
They danced from noon till sundown. Then the maiden paused and the music ceased. Betushka looked around.