The Hut in the Forest
Then he took a great saucepan full of soup, that was simmering on the stove, and emptied it into a big wooden bowl. Then he went to the wall where, on three nails, hung three wooden spoons, deep like ladles. There were one big spoon, for old Peter; and two little spoons, one for Vanya and one for Maroosia.
And all the time that old Peter was getting supper ready he was answering questions and making jokes—old ones, of course, that he made every day—about how plump the children were, and how fat was better to eat than butter, and what the Man in the Moon said when he fell out, and what the wolf said who caught his own tail and ate himself up before he found out his mistake.
And Vanya and Maroosia danced about the hut and chuckled.
Then they had supper, all three dipping their wooden spoons in the big bowl together, and eating a tremendous lot of black bread. And, of course, there were scraps for Vladimir and a bone for Bayan.
After that they had tea with sugar but no milk, because they were Russians and liked it that way.
Then came the stories. Old Peter made another glass of tea for himself, not for the children. His throat was old, he said, and took a lot of keeping wet; and they were young, and would not sleep if they drank tea too near bedtime. Then he threw a log of wood into the stove. Then he lit a short little pipe, full of very strong tobacco, called Mahorka, which has a smell like hot tin. And he puffed, and the smoke got in his eyes, and he wiped them with the back of his big hand.
All the time he was doing this Vanya and Maroosia were snuggling together close by the stove, thinking what story they would ask for, and listening to the crashing of the snow as it fell from the trees outside. Now that old Peter was at home, the noise made them feel comfortable and warm. Before, perhaps, it made them feel a little frightened.
"Well, little pigeons, little hawks, little bear cubs, what is it to be?" said old Peter.
"We don't know," said Maroosia.
"Long hair, short sense, little she-pigeon," said old Peter.