Instantly she flew at the old man in a storm of rage. “What have you done to my children, my little red cherries, my little pigeons? I will kill you with the oven fork! I will break your head with the poker!”
The old man listened till she was out of breath and could not say another word. That, my dears, is the only wise thing to do when a woman is in a scolding rage. And as soon as she had no breath left with which to answer him, he said,—
“My little daughter got riches for soft words, but yours were always rough of the tongue. And it’s not my fault, anyhow, for you yourself sent them into the forest.”
Well, at last the old woman got her breath again, and scolded away till she was tired out. But in the end she made her peace with the old man, and they lived together as quietly as could be expected.
As for Martha, Fedor Ivanovitch sought her in marriage, as he had meant to do all along—yes, and married her; and pretty she looked in the furs that Frost had given her. I was at the feast, and drank beer and mead with the rest. And she had the prettiest children that ever were seen—yes, and the best behaved. For if ever they thought of being naughty, the old grandfather told them the story of crackling Frost, and how kind words won kindness, and cross words cold treatment. And now, listen to Frost. Hear how he crackles away! And mind, if ever he asks you if you are warm, be as polite to him as you can. And to do that, the best way is to be good always, like little Martha. Then it comes easy.
* * * * *
The children listened, and laughed quietly, because they knew they were good. Away in the forest they heard Frost, and thought of him crackling and leaping from one tree to another. And just then they came home. It was dusk, for dusk comes early in winter, and a little way through the trees before them they saw the lamp of their hut glittering on the snow. The big dog barked and ran forward, and the children with him. The soup was warm on the stove, and in a few minutes they were sitting at the table, Vanya, Maroosia, and old Peter, blowing at their steaming spoons.
There were once upon a time an old peasant and his wife, and they had three sons. Two of them were clever young men who could borrow money without being cheated, but the third was the Fool of the World. He was as simple as a child, simpler than some children, and he never did any one a harm in his life.
Well, it always happens like that. The father and mother thought a lot of the two smart young men; but the Fool of the World was lucky if he got enough to eat, because they always forgot him unless they happened to be looking at him, and sometimes even then.
But however it was with his father and mother, this is a story that shows that God loves simple folk, and turns things to their advantage in the end.