“And what is the name of your little river?” says the Tzar.
“It is the little river Volkhov that flows by Novgorod,” says Sadko; “but your daughter is as fair as the little river, and I would gladly marry her if she will have me.”
“It is a strange thing,” says the Tzar, “but Volkhov is the name of my youngest daughter.”
He put Sadko’s hand in the hand of his youngest daughter, and they kissed each other. And as they kissed, Sadko saw a necklace round her neck, and knew it for one he had thrown into the river as a present for his sweetheart.
She smiled, and “Come!” says she, and took him away to a palace of her own, and showed him a coffer; and in that coffer were bracelets and rings and earrings—all the gifts that he had thrown into the river.
And Sadko laughed for joy, and kissed the youngest daughter of the Tzar of the Sea, and she kissed him back.
“O my little river!” says he; “there is no girl in all the world but thou as pretty as my little river.”
Well, they were married, and the Tzar of the Sea laughed at the wedding feast till the palace shook and the fish swam off in all directions.
And after the feast Sadko and his bride went off together to her palace. And before they slept she kissed him very tenderly, and she said,—
“O Sadko, you will not forget me? You will play to me sometimes, and sing?”
“I shall never lose sight of you, my pretty one,” says he; “and as for music, I will sing and play all the day long.”
“That’s as may be,” says she, and they fell asleep.
And in the middle of the night Sadko happened to turn in bed, and he touched the Princess with his left foot, and she was cold, cold, cold as ice in January. And with that touch of cold he woke, and he was lying under the walls of Novgorod, with his dulcimer in his hand, and one of his feet was in the little river Volkhov, and the moon was shining.
“O grandfather! And what happened to him after that?” asked Maroosia.
“There are many tales,” said old Peter. “Some say he went into the town, and lived on alone until he died. But I think with those who say that he took his dulcimer and swam out into the middle of the river, and sank under water again, looking for his little Princess. They say he found her, and lives still in the green palaces of the bottom of the sea; and when there is a big storm, you may know that Sadko is playing on his dulcimer and singing, and that the Tzar of the Sea is dancing his tremendous dance down there, on the bottom, under the waves.”
“Yes, I expect that’s what happened,” said Ivan. “He’d have found it very dull in Novgorod, even though it is a big town.”
The children, in their little sheepskin coats and high felt boots and fur hats, trudged along the forest path in the snow. Vanya went first, then Maroosia, and then old Peter. The ground was white and the snow was hard and crisp, and all over the forest could be heard the crackling of the frost. And as they walked, old Peter told them the story of the old woman who wanted Frost to marry her daughters.