The Story of Little Tsar Novishny, the False Sister, and the Faithful Beasts
Then the little Tsar poured water into the cauldron, and put fire under it. But the wood that he had cut was rotten and very very dry, so that it burned most fiercely, and he took and sprinkled it with water, and sprinkled it again and again, so that it might not burn too much. And when he went out into the courtyard for more water, the starling said to him, “Not so fast, not so fast, little Tsar Novishny, for thy dogs have gnawed their way through four doors!” As he was returning to the hut his sister said to him, “That water does not boil up quickly enough! Take the fire-shovel and poke the fire!” So he did so, and the faggots blazed up, but when she had gone away he sprinkled them with water again, so that they might burn more slowly. Then he went into the courtyard again, and the starling met him and said, “Not so fast, not so fast, little Tsar; be as slow as thou canst, for thy dogs have gnawed their way through six doors.” Then he returned to the hut, and his sister again took up the shovel and made him poke up the fire, and when she went away he again flung water on the burning coals. So he kept going in and out of the courtyard. “’Tis weary work!” cried he; but the starling said to him, “Not so fast, not so fast, little Tsar Novishny, for thy dogs have already gnawed their way through ten doors!” The little Tsar picked up the rottenest wood he could find and flung it on the fire, to make believe he was making haste, but sprinkled it at the same time with water, so that it might not burn up too quickly, and yet the kettle soon began to boil. Again he went to the forest for more wood, and the starling said to him, “Not so fast, not so fast, little Tsar, for thy dogs have already gnawed their way through all the doors, and are now resting!” But now the water was boiling, and his sister ran up and said to him, “Come, boil thyself, be quick; how much longer art thou going to keep us waiting?” Then he, poor thing, began ladling the boiling water over himself, while she got the table ready and spread the cloth, that the serpent might eat her brother on that very table.