The Golden Fish
"This," said old Peter, "is a story against wanting more than enough."
Long ago, near the shore of the blue sea, an old man lived with his old woman in a little old hut made of earth and moss and logs. They never had a rouble to spend. A rouble! they never had a kopeck. They just lived there in the little hut, and the old man caught fish out of the sea in his old net, and the old woman cooked the fish; and so they lived, poorly enough in summer and worse in winter. Sometimes they had a few fish to sell, but not often. In the summer evenings they sat outside their hut on a broken old bench, and the old man mended the holes in his ragged old net. There were holes in it a hare could jump through with his ears standing, let alone one of those little fishes that live in the sea. The old woman sat on the bench beside him, and patched his trousers and complained.
Well, one day the old man went fishing, as he always did. All day long he fished, and caught nothing. And then in the evening, when he was thinking he might as well give up and go home, he threw his net for the last time, and when he came to pull it in he began to think he had caught an island instead of a haul of fish, and a strong and lively island at that—the net was so heavy and pulled so hard against his feeble old arms.
"This time," says he, "I have caught a hundred fish at least."
Not a bit of it. The net came in as heavy as if it were full of fighting fish, but empty —.
"Empty?" said Maroosia.
"Well, not quite empty," said old Peter, and went on with his tale.
Not quite empty, for when the last of the net came ashore there was something glittering in it—a golden fish, not very big and not very little, caught in the meshes. And it was this single golden fish which had made the net so heavy.
The old fisherman took the golden fish in his hands.
"At least it will be enough for supper," said he.
But the golden fish lay still in his hands, and looked at him with wise eyes, and spoke—yes, my dears, it spoke, just as if it were you or I.