"Nay, little soul," she answered. "I hear no sound of the waves lapping on the sand. The water is deep beneath us. If thou dost stretch we shall be drowned."
The chest floated on and on, and at length its bottom began to scratch against hard pebbles. Then the little boy said: "We touch something, little mother. May I stretch myself ?"
She gave him pemmission, and he began to stretch himself, and so strong and sturdy was he that the iron bands broke asunder and the chest fell to pieces. Looking about them, they saw that they were on an island, which had a high hill, sloping down to a green field, surrounded by a forest. The mother and her son crossed the field and entered the forest, searching for a path that should lead them to some habitation. They found none, however, and were about to retum wearied to the meadow, when Tzarevich Guidon came upon a purse lying on the ground.
Opening it, they found a flint and steel, and were glad, thinking that with a fire they could protect themselves against cold and wild beasts. Tzarevich Guidon struck the flint and steel together, when instantly there appeared a sharp axe and a huge hammer.
" Here we are, Master," said the axe and hammer. " By God's blessing, by the Order of the Pike, what command wilt thou be pleased to lay upon us ?"
" Build us a Palace to live in," answered Guidon, " and fetch us food and drink."
At once the axe flew at the trees and began to chop, square, and sharpen them, and the hammer to pound them into the earth for a foundation; and while the Tzaritza and the Tzarevich watched, there began to rise on the edge of the forest a Palace of white stone, with battlemented walls, more splendid than has ever been seen in any Tzardom, richer than can be guessed or imagined, whose like can neither be told in a tale or written with a pen. They entered it, and found therein whatever the soul could ask.
Now, before many days it befell that a ship came sailing that way, and the shipmen wondered greatly to see there, on what had been an uninhabited island, a stately Palace, with golden domes and walls of white stone, and they landed to see this marvel.
The Tzaritza met them and made them her guests, giving them food and drink to their hearts' desire.
" O merchants," she said, " in what trade are ye concerned, and whither sail ye from here ?"
They answered: " We have traded in the skins of sables and black foxes in foreign marts; now we sail to the east, to the Tzardom of Tzar Saltan the Glorious."
" A happy voyage to you," said the Tzaritza, " and give a greeting from me to Tzar Saltan."
The merchants re-embarked and sailed to the Tzardom of Tzar Saltan, who called them to be his guests; and they came before him, where he sat sad-faced on his golden throne, with his new wife and her sister by his side. As they sat at table the Tzar said: "O merchants and tradesmen! Have ye voyaged far, and to what lands went ye ? Is it well or ill across the blue sea-ocean ? And what new wonder is there in the white world ?"
The shipmen replied: " O Tzar's Majesty ! We travelled over all the world, and were on our way hither when we saw a new wonder more marvellous than any. There has been of old time in the sea-ocean an island, without inhabitants, save they were wizards or wild beasts. It had a great flat meadow on which grew a single oaktree, and about it was a dense forest. So hath it always been; yet but now, as we came to it, we found there a splendid Palace, with towers whose tops were golden, and with green gardens about it. In it dwells a beautiful Tzaritza and a Tzarevich, and the Tzarevich has legs golden to the knee, and arms silver to the elbow, and in his hair are little stars.
We landed there, and the Tzaritza entertained us royally, and sent a greeting to thee."
Tzar Saltan wondered greatly to hear, and said: " As God lets me live, I will visit this wonderful island and see it with my own eyes." But his wicked wife and her younger sister, not wishing him to go, began to sneer.
"A Palace on an island! What is that to be compared to a marvel of which I can tell thee ?"
"What marvel is that ?" asked the Tzar.
She answered: " Across three times nine countries, in the thirtieth Tzardom, there is a green garden, and in the garden is a mill which grinds of itself: It winnows the grain and throws the chaff a hundred versts away. By the mill stands a golden column, and up and down the column climbs a learned cat. As it goes up it sings songs, and as it comes down it tells stories."
Hearing of this new wonder, the Tzar gave up his purpose to visit the island.
The merchants, having loaded their ship with other goods, sailed on a second voyage, and, passing the Tzaritsa's island, cast anchor, and were again entertained; and they recounted there how Tzar
Saltan had desired to sail thither till his wife had told him of the mill, the golden column, and the story-telling cat.
As soon a~s they had made their farewells and sailed away, Tzarevich Guidon took from the purse the flint and steel, and struck them sharply together, and immediately the axe and the hammer appeared, saying: " Here we are, thy servants ! By God's blessing, by the Order of the Pike, what I dost thou bid us do ?"
" I will have, near this Palace," said the Tzarevich, a mill which grinds and winnows of itself and throws the chaff a hundred versts away. By it must be a column of gold on which climbs a cat, telling tales and singing songs."
At once the axe and hammer disappeared, and, next morning, when he went to his balcony, the Tzarevich saw that the garden, the mill, the golden column, and the clever cat had all been brought as he had commanded.
He caused his servants, the axe and hammer, to build by the column a crystal summer-house, in which the cat should live, and each day the Tzaritza and Tzarevich Guidon amused themselves by listening to its songs and stories.
Time passed, and again the ship returned from her voyage, and the merchants wondered to see the new marvels. They landed, and the Tzaritza, meeting them, bade them enter and taste of her hospitality. She gave them honey to eat and i milk to drink, and treated them so handsomely that they scarce knew themselves for pleasure. " O tradesmen," she asked them, " what do ye barter, and whither sail ye from here ?"
" We have bartered carpets and stallions from the Don around the whole world," they answered. " Now we sail to the eastward, to the Tzardorm of Tzar Saltan the Mighty."
"A good journey to you," said the Tzaritza. " Bear to Tzar Saltan greeting from my son, Tzarevich Guidon."
The merchants spread sail and voyaged to the Tzardom of Tzar Saltan, and a second time he summoned them to bear him company. And as they ate and drank in his sumptuous hall, he asked them: " O tradesmen and mariners, doubtless ye have traversed the whole earth. What have ye seen, and what news do ye bear ? And is there any new marvel in the white world ?"
They answered: " O mighty Tzar Saltan !
we have truly visited many countries and seen many strange things, but the most wonderful is this. When we were thy guests before, we told thee of an island on which, bare and uninhabited of old, we found a splendid Palace with a beautiful Tzaritza and a brave Tzarevich. On this sailing we passed again that way and put in at the island, and now beside the Palace of white stone there is a green garden with a mill that grinds and winnows of itself and casts the chaff a hundred versts away. Beside it is a golden column on which a cat climbs continually up and down, singing songs and telling tales. And there is a summer-house of crystal in which the cat lives. The Tzaritza showed us these wonders and her son the Tzarevich Guidon sends a greeting to thee."
When Tzar Saltan heard this, again was he seized with a desire to see the island, but, as before, his evil wife and her sister sneered and the wife said:
" A rare thing in truth! Thinkest thou the mill and cat are so wonderful ? What, indeed, are they beside a marvel of which I know ?"
" What is that?" asked the Tzar.
She answered: " Across three times nine lands, in the thirtieth Tzardom, there is a wood and in the wood a fir-tree. On the tree lives a squirrel, cracking nuts with his teeth. These are not ordinary nuts, for their shells are of gold and the kernels of emerald. He who owns this wonder is the richest Tzar in all the world, for his wealth never ceases to increase until it cannot be reckoned."
And, deeming this an even greater marvel, Tzar Saltan again laid by his purpose to visit the island.
The merchants filled their ship with new merchandise and set sail for distant lands and, passing the island again, were welcomed by Tzaritza Marfa and Tzarevich Guidon, to whom they recounted their visit to Tzar Saltan. Nor did they fail to tell how he had purposed to sail thither until he had heard of the fir-tree, the squirrel and the nuts of gold and emerald.
When they had departed, Tzarevich Guidon struck together his flint and steel, and the axe and hammer, appearing, said: "Master, we are here! By God's blessing, by the Order of the Pike, what wilt thou that we accomplish ?"
" Plant me here," said the Tzarevich, " a fir-tree. On it let there be a squirrel which cracks wit