"Little hut! little hut! Stand the way thy mother placed thee, With thy back to the wood aIld thy front to me!"
And immediately the hut turned about facing him and stood still.
Tzarevich Ivan climbed up one of its hens' legs and entered the door, and there he saw the oldest of the Baba-Yagas, the bony-legged grandmother of all the witches, lying on a corner of the stove on nine bricks, with one lip on the shelf, her nose (which was as long as the Perevitzky Bridge) thrust up the chimney, and her huge iron mortar in the corner.
"Poo!" she cried, gnashing her teeth, "who is this comes to me? Until now I have neither seen with my eyes nor heard with my ears the spirit of any Russian; but to-day it is a Russian who enters my house! Well, Tzarevich lvan, camest thou hither from shine own wish, or because thou west compelled?"
"Enough by my own will and twice as much by force," answered Tzarevich Ivan. "But for shame, thou, that thou hast not offered me to eat and to drink, and prepared me a bath!"
Then the Baba-Yaga, being pleased with his spirit, gave him food and drink and made ready a bath for him; and when he had refreshed himself, he related to her the whole a~Tair just as it had been. And when she learned that Wassilissa the Wise was in truth his wife, she said: "I will indeed render thee this service, not for love of thee, but because I hate her father. The fairy flies across this forest every day, bringing messages for her father, and stops in my house to rest. Remain here, and as soon as she enters, seize her by the head. When she feels herself caught, she will turn into a frog, and from a frog to a lizard, and from a lizard to a snake, and last of all she will transform herself into an arrow. Do thou take the arrow and break it into three pieces, and she will be shine for ever! But take heed when thou hast hold of her not to let her go."
The Baba-Yaga concealed the Tzarevich behind the stove and scarcely was he hidden when in flew Wassilissa the Wise. Ivan crept up noiselessly behind her and seized her by the head. She instantly turned into a great green frog and he laughed with joy to see her in the form he knew so well. When she turned into a lizard, however, the cold touch of the creature was so loathsome that he let go his hold, and immediately the lizard darted through a crack in the floor.
The Baba-Yaga upbraided him. "How shouldst thou win back such a wife," she said, "thou who canst not touch the skin of a creeping lizard? As thou couldst not keep her, thou shalt never again see her here. But if thou likest, go to my sister and see if she will help thee."
Tzarevich Ivan did so. The ball rolled a long way and it rolled a short way, across a mountain and into a deep ravine, and here he came to a second wretched little hovel turning round on hens' legs. He made it stand still and entered it as before, and there on the stove, with one lip on the shelf and her nose propping the ceiling, was the skinny grand-aunt of all the witches.
To her he told his story, and for the sake of her sister the Baba-Yaga also agreed to help him. "Wassilissa the Wise," she said, "rests in my house too, but if this time thou lettest go thy hold, thou mayest never clasp her more." So she hid Tzarevich Ivan and when Wassilissa came flying in, he sprang upon her and seized her and did not flinch even when she fumed into a lizard in his hands. But when he beheld the lizard change to a fierce and deadly snake, he cried out in alarm and loosed his hold, and the snake wriggled through the doorway and disappeared.
Then was Tzarevich Ivan exceeding sorrowful, so that he did not even hear the reproaches of the old witch. So bitterly did he weep that she pitied him and said: "Little enough cost thou deserve this wife of shine, but if thou chooses", go to my younger sister and see if she will help thee. For Wassilissa the Wise stops to rest also at her house. So, plucking up heart somewhat, Tzarevich Ivan obeyed.
The ball rolled a long way and it rolled a short way; it crossed a broad river, and there on the shore he came to a third hut, wretcheder than the other two put together, turning round on hens' legs, and in it was the second grand-aunt of all the witches. She too consented to aid him. "But remember," she said, "if this time thy heart fails and thy hand falters, never again shalt thou behold thy wife in the white world!"
So a third time Tzarevich Ivan hid himself, and presently in came flying Wassilissa the Wise, and this time he said a prayer to God as he sprang out and seized her in a strong grasp. In vain she turned into a frog, into a cold lizard and into a deadly, writhing snake. Ivan's grip did not loosen. At last she turned into an arrow and this he immediately snatched and broke into three pieces. At the same moment the lovely Wassilissa, in her true maiden shape, appeared and threw herself into his arms. "Now, Tzarevich Ivan," she said, "I give myself up to thy will."
The Baba-Yaga gave them for a present a white mare which could fly like the wind, and on the fourth day it set them down safe and sound at the Tzar's Palace.
He received them with joy and thankfulness, and made a great feast, and after that he made Tzarevich Ivan Tzar in his stead.
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