The Story of Little Tsar Novishny, the False Sister, and the Faithful Beasts
”––“Well, that’s true,” said the gimlet, “I never thought of that. Thou mayst take hold of me if thou wilt, and draw me out of the top of the hut, near the front gable; and wherever I fall into the marshy ground, there set to work and dig with me!”
The Devil did so, and began digging at the spot where the gimlet fell out on the marshy ground till he had dug out the children. Now, as they had been growing all along, they were children no more, but a stately youth and a fair damsel; and the serpent took them up and carried them off. But they were big and heavy, so he soon got tired and lay down to rest, and presently fell asleep. Then the Tsarivna sat down on his head, and the Tsarevko sat down beside her, till a horse came running up. The horse ran right up to them and said, “Hail! little Tsar Novishny; art thou here by thy leave or against thy leave?”––And the little Tsar Novishny replied, “Nay, little nag! we are here against our leave, not by our leave.”––“Then sit on my back!” said the horse, “and I’ll carry you off!” So they got on his back, for the serpent was asleep all the time. Then the horse galloped off with them; and he galloped far, far away. Presently the serpent awoke, looked all round him, and could see nothing till he had got up out of the reeds in which he lay, when he saw them in the far distance, and gave chase. He soon caught them up; and little Tsar Novishny said to the horse, “Oh! little nag, how hot it is. It is all up with thee and us!” And, in truth, the horse’s tail was already singed to a coal, for the serpent was hard behind them, blazing like fire. The horse perceived that he could do no more, so he gave one last wriggle and died; but they, poor things, were left alive. “Whom have you been listening to?” said the serpent as he flew up to them. “Don’t you know that I only am your father and tsar, and have the right to carry you away?”––“Oh, dear daddy! we’ll never listen to anybody else again!”––“Well, I’ll forgive you this time,” said the serpent; “but mind you never do it again.