The axe and hammer disappeared and next day, when he arose, the Tsarevich found all done as he had commanded. He bade them build a summer-house of crystal for the squirrel to live in, and the golden shells and emeralds he put into the Palace treasury till the wealth could not be reckoned.
It befell at length that the merchants' ship returned from its voyage and cast anchor at the island. The Tzaritza met and welcomed them, giving them to eat and drink till for rich feasting they scarce remembered their names. " O shipmen and merchants," she said, " what merchandise do ye bear and whither fare ye from here ? "
They answered: " We are laden with steel swords and with precious armour which we have traded through the whole world, and our way is eastward, to the Tzardom of Tzar Saltan the Magnificent."
" A fair wind to you," said the Tzaritza. " Carry my greeting, and that of my son Guidon, to Tzar Saltan."
So they sailed on to the Tzar's dominions and a third time were summoned to his presence and feasted; and before they left him he said: " O merchants and travellers, in all your wayfaring what new sights have ye seen ? And is there any fresh marvel in the white world?"
" O Tzar's majesty!" they replied. " We told thee before of the island with its Palace, its selfgrinding mill, its golden column and its learned cat, On this voyage also we visited it and were entertained right royally. And now, in addition to the other wonders we recounted, there is there a firtree, on which sits a squirrel, cracking with its teeth nuts, whose shells are gold and whose kernels are emerald. The squirrel lives in a crystal summerhouse and the gold and emeralds are piled in the Palace treasury till it overflows with such riches that the like is surely not to be seen in the whole world. The noble Tzarevich Guidon showed us these things, and we bear to thee a greeting from him and from the Tzaritza, his mother."
The Tzar was astonished to hear of this and said to his wife: " In truth, the wonders of which thou hast told me are all to be found in this surpassing island. Canst thou recall any marvel to match this ? "
She answered spitefully: " That is not so hard. There is in a dense forest, under a crooked oaktree, a great flat stone which covers an underground room, and in the room are six Tzareviches, more beautiful than can be told. Each has legs golden to the knee, arms silver to the elbow, and in his hair are little stars. A witch keeps them hidden, and there lives in the white world no man clever enough to find them out or to learn who they are."
Tzar Saltan, hearing, was silent, thinking of his dead wife and of her promise to bear him such hero-sons. He dismissed- the merchants with rich gifts and they bought goods to fill their ships and sailed away again on the wide sea-ocean.
In time they touched at the island of Tzaritza Marfa, and being entertained, recounted to her their visit to Tzar Saltan's Court and told how, for a third time, he had purposed to voyage thither, until his wife had told of the underground room, and of the six Tzareviches with legs golden, arms of silver, and with stars in their hair.
When the shipmen had departed on their way, Tzaritza Marfa told Tzarevitch Gsuidon the story of her life with Tzar Saltan and what she had suffered at the hands of her wicked sisters.
"These six Tzareviches," she said, " whom the witch hides in the forest, are surely none other than my own dear sons and thy little brothers. Let us depart to search for them."
So the Tzarevich struck together his flint and steel and bade the axe and hammer build a ship which would fly either on land or sea and which should take them to the witch's forest. Next morning all was ready, and they straightway embarked and sailed over the sea-ocean, and over the open steppe to the edge of the forest, where the Baba-Yaga had hidden the stolen Princes.
Whether the journey was long or short, whether it took a twelvemonth or a day, they found the crooked oak-tree and the Tzarevich lifted the great flat stone and they entered the underground room. They looked here and there and presently saw six little soiled shirts lying on chairs. The Tzaritza took them, washed them clean, rinsed, wrung and hung them to dry. Six little plates sat on a table unwashed. She washed them all and dried them and swept the floor. Hearing a noise outside, she said: " Someone is coming. Let us hide behind the stove."
They hid themselves, and the six Tzareviches entered, all with legs golden to the knee, arms to the elbow, and with little stars in their hair. They saw how the room had been swept and the plates and shirts made clean, and were glad. " Show thyself," they cried, "thou who hast washed and tidied our house. If thou art a beautiful girl, thou shalt be our little sister, and if thou art a Tzaritza, thou shalt be our little mother!"
Then Tzaritza Marfa showed herself, and the six Tzareviches ran to her, and she took them in her arms and kissed and caressed them and told them who they were - that she was indeed their mother and Tzarevich Guidon their little brother. She brought them from the forest to the magic ship, and it sailed with them like a white swan, over the open steppe and the blue sea-ocean to the Tzaritsa's island, to her Palace of white stone, and there they began to live happily together.
Now when its voyage was finished, the ship of the merchants came back from the ends of the world and put in at the island.
The Tzaritza welcomed them and she and her seven sons gave them such feasts and amusements that for delight they would have remained there for ever. "O merchant-travellers," she asked them, " in what cargoes do ye traffic, and whither go ye from here ?"
" We have sailed about the whole world," they answered, " with goods of every sort that tradesmen carry, and from here our course lies eastward to the Tzardom of Tzar Saltan the Splendid."
"Fair weather to you," she said, ``and take a greeting to Tzar Saltan from me and from these my seven sons."
The ship departed, and when it was come to the Tzardom of Tzar Saltan, he made the merchants yet again his guests. And as they ate and drank and made merry, he said to them: " O tradesmen and farjourneying adventurers, ye have sailed to the uttermost lands. 11Vhat strange thing have ye seen, and is there any new wonder in the white world ?"
"O great Tzar Saltan !" they replied, "thou didst hear from us before of the island in the blue sea-ocean, of its Tzaritza and her Tzarevich, and their Palace of white stone, with the marvels there to be seen.
On our way hither we again stopped there, and now the lady hath with her not one Tzarevich but seven, so handsome that we know no words to tell thee of them, and each has legs golden to the knee, and arms silver to the elbow, and in their hair are little stars set close together. And when we departed the Tzaritza sent to thee greeting from herself and these seven sons."
When the merchants spoke thus the wicked wife of Tzar Saltan opened her mouth to speak, but the Tzar rose up and silenced her.
" Tell me no more of thy marvels," he said to her. " What am I, a Tzar or a child ?" And having dismissed the merchants with presents, he sent for his Ministers and Boyars and bade a fleet to be prepared, and that same day set sail for the island.
Tzarevich Guidon, sitting with his brothers at the window, saw the ships of Tzar Saltan coming over the blue sea-ocean, and called to his mother, " See, our little father is coming!" He went to meet him and brought him into the Palace to the Tzaritza.
Seeing her, Tzar Saltan recognized her, and his breath stopped and his face flowed with tears. He kissed her and embraced his seven sons and all began to weep and rejoice together.
When they had spent some days in such happiness, they went aboard the ships and sailed back to Tzar Saltan's realm. He summoned his Ministers and Boyars, his Princes and Judges, and they condemned his evil wife, and she and her sister were put into a chest barred and bound with iron, and the chest was thrown into the sea-ocean. But God did not protect them as He had protected the Tzaritza and her son, for they sank at once into the lowest abyss and were drowned.
But Tzar Saltan and Tzaritza Marfa, with the seven Tzareviches, lived always together in brightfaced joy, and increased in all good things. And Tzaritza Marfa was as beautiful in her old age as she had been in her youth.
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