That evening when all went to bed, the girl set the flower on the window-sill, and in a moment Finist the Falcon came flying in and was transformed into the handsome Prince, and they caressed one another and talked together till the dawn began to break.
Now the elder sisters were filled with malice and spite and they listened at the attic door hoping to find where she had hidden the diamond pin, and so heard the voices. They knocked at the door, crying: "With whom cost thou converse, little sister ?"
"It is I talking to myself,"she answered.
"If that is true, unlock thy door,"they said.
Then Finist the Falcon kissed her and bade her farewell, and turning into a falcon, flew out of the window and she unlocked the door.
Her sisters entered and looked all about the room, but there was no one to be seen. They went, however, to their father and said: "Sir, our sister hath a shameless lover who comes at night into her room. Only just now we listened and heard them conversing."He paid no heed, however, but chided them and bade them better their own manners.
Each night thereafter the spiteful pair stole from their beds to creep to the attic and listen at the door, and each time they heard the sound of the loving talk between their sister and Finist the Falcon. Yet each morning they saw that no stranger was in the room, and at length, certain that whoever entered must do so by the window, they made a cunning plan. One evening they prepared a sweet drink of wine and in it they put a sleeping powder and prevailed on their sister to drink it. As soon as she did so she fell into a deep sleep, and when they had laid her on her bed, they fastened open knives and sharp needles upright on her window-sill and bolted the window.
When the dark fell, Finist the Falcon same flying to his love, and the needles pierced his breast and the knives cut his brilliant wings, and although he struggled and beat against it, the window remained closed. "My beautiful dearest," he cried, "hast thou ceased so soon to love me". Never shalt thou see me again unless thou searches"through three times nine countries, to the thirtieth Tzardom, and thou shalt first wear through three pair of iron shoes. and break in pieces three iron staves, and gnaw away three holy church-loaves of stone. Only then shalt thou find thy lover, Finist the falcon !" But though through her sleep she heard tbese bitter words, still she could not awaken and at last the wounded Falcon, hearing no reply, shot up angrily into the dark sky and flew away.
In the morning, when she awoke, she saw how the window had been barred with knives set cross-wise, and with needles, and how great drops of crimson blood were falling from them, and she began to wring her hands and to weep salt tears. "Surely," she thought, "my cruel sisters have made my dear love perish !' When she had wept a long time she thought of the bright feather, and ran to the porch and waved it to the right, crying: "Come to me, my own Finist the Falcon !" But he did not appear, and she knew that the charm was broken.
Then she remembered the words she had heard through her sleep, and telling no one, she went to a smithy and bade the smith make her three pair of iron shoes, and three iron staves, and with these and three church - loaves of stone, she set out across three times nine countries to the thirtieth Tzardom.
She walked and walked, whether for a short time or a long time the telling is easy but the journey is not soon done. She wandered for a day and a night, for a week, for two months and for three. She wore through one pair of the iron shoes, and broke to pieces one of the iron, staves, and gnawed away one of the stone church-loaves, when, in the midst of a wood which grew always thicker and darker, she came to a lawn. On the lawn was a little hut on whose door-step sat a sour-faced old woman.
"Whither cost thou hold thy way, beautiful maiden ?"asked the old woman.
"O grandmother,"answered the girl, "I beg for thy kindness ! Be my hostess and cover me from the dark night I am searching for Finist the bright Falcon, who was my friend."
"Well," said the dame, "he is a relative of mine; but thou wilt have to cross many lands still to find him. Come in and rest for the night. The morning is wiser than the evening."
The old woman gave the girl to eat and drink, a portion of all God had given her, and a bed to sleep on, and in the morning when the dawn began to break, she awoke her. "Finist, who flies as the falcon with coloured feathers,"she said, "is now in the fiftieth Tzardom of the eightieth land from here. He has recently proposed marriage to a Tzar's daughter. Thou mayest, perhaps, reach there in time for the wedding-feast. Take thou this silver spindle; when thou usest it, it will spin thee a thread of pure gold. Thou mayest give it to his wife for a wedding gift. Go now with God across three times nine lands to the house of my second cousin. I am bad-tempered but she is worse than I. However, speak her fair and she may direct thee further."
The girl thanked the old woman and bidding her farewell, set out again, though with a heavier heart, on her journey. She walked and walked, whether for a short time or a long time, across green steppe and barren wilderness, until at length, when a second pair of iron shoes were worn through, a second staff broken to pieces and a second stone church-loaf gnawed away, she came one evening, on the edge of a swamp, to a little hut on whose doorstep sat a second old woman, sourer than the first.
"Whither goest thou, lovely girl?"asked the dame.
"O grandmother,"she answered, "grant me thy kindness. Be my hostess and protect me from the dark night. I seek my dear friend, who is called Finist the Falcon, whom my cruel sisters wounded and drove from me."
"He is a relative of mine,"said the old woman, "but thou wilt have to walk many versts further to find him. He is to marry a Tzar's daughter and to-day is her last maiden feast. But enter and rest. The morning is wiser than then evening."
The old woman put food and drink before her and gave her a place to sleep. Early on the morrow she woke her. "Finist the Falcon,"she said, "lives in the fiftieth land fro~n here. Take with thee this golden hammer and these ten little diamond nails. When thou usest them, the hammer will drive the nails of itself. If thou chooses"thou mayest give them to his wife for a wedding-gift. Go now with God to the house of my fourth cousin. I am crabbed but she is more ill-tempered than I. However, greet her with politeness and perhaps she will direct thee further. She lives across three times nine lands, beside a deep river."
The girl took the golden hammer and the ten little diamond nails, thanked the old woman and went on her way. She walked a long way and she walked a short way, and at last, when the third pair of iron shoes were worn through, and the third iron staff broken to pieces, and the third stone church-loaf gnawed away, she came, in a dark wood where the tops of the trees touched the sky, to a deep river and on its bank stood a little hut, on whose door-step sat a third old woman, uglier and sourer than the other two put together
"Whither art thou bound, beautiful girl ?"asked the dame.
"O grandmother,"she answered, "grant me a kindness. Be my hostess and shield me from the dark night! I go to find Finist the Falcon, my dearest friend, whom my sisters pierced with cruel needles and knife-blades, and drove away bleeding."
"He is a relative of mine,"said the old woman, "and his home is not very far from here. But come in and rest this night; the morning is wiser than the evening."
So the girl entered and ate and drank what the old woman gave her, and slept till daybreak, when the other woke her and said: "Finist the Falcon with coloured feathers is now in the next Tzardom from here, beside the blue sea-ocean, where he stays - at the Palace, for in three days he is to marry the Tzar's daughter. Go now with God and take with thee this golden saucer and this little diamond ball. Set the ball on the plate and it will roll of itself. Mayhap thou wilt wish to give them as a wedding-gift to his bride."
She thanked the old woman and started again on her way, and in the afternoon she came to the blue sea-ocean spreading wide and free before her, and beside it she saw a Palace with high towers of white stone whose golden tops were glowing like fire. Near the Palace a black serving-wench was washing a piece of cloth in the sea, whose waves it tinged with red, and the girl said: "What is it thou dost cleanse ?"
The servant answered: "It is a shirt of Finist the Falcon, who in three days will wed my mistress, but it is so stained with blood that I can by no means make it clean." The girl thought, "It is a garment my beloved wore after he was so cruelly wounded by the knives in my window!" And taking it from the other's hands, she began to weep over it, so that the tears washed away every stain and the shirt was as white as snow.
The black serving-woman took the shirt back to the Tzar's daughter, who asked her how she had so easily cleansed it, and the woman answered that a beautiful maiden, alone on the sea-sand, had wept over it til