“Now,” says the witch baby, “we shall see.”
And she made herself bigger and bigger and bigger, till she was as big as she had been when she sat and sucked her thumb in the hall of the ruined palace. “I am the heavier,” she shouted, and gnashed her iron teeth. Then she jumped into the other scale.
She was so heavy that the scale with the little Prince in it shot up into the air. It shot up so fast that little Prince Ivan flew up into the sky, up and up and up, and came down on the topmost turret of the cloud castle of the little sister of the Sun.
The Sun’s little sister laughed, and closed the window, and went up to the turret to meet the little Prince. But the witch baby turned back the way she had come, and went off, gnashing her iron teeth until they broke. And ever since then little Prince Ivan and the little sister of the Sun play together in the castle of cloud that hangs over the end of the world. They borrow the stars to play at ball, and put them back at night whenever they remember.
“So when there are no stars?” asked Maroosia.
“It means that Prince Ivan and the Sun’s little sister have gone to sleep over their games and forgotten to put their toys away.”
This is the story which old Peter used to tell whenever either Vanya or Maroosia was cross. This did not often happen; but it would be no use to pretend that it never happened at all. Sometimes it was Vanya who scolded Maroosia, and sometimes it was Maroosia who scolded Vanya. Sometimes there were two scoldings going on at once. And old Peter did not like crossness in the hut, whoever did the scolding. He said it spoilt his tobacco and put a sour taste in the tea. And, of course, when the children remembered that they were spoiling their grandfather’s tea and tobacco they stopped just as quickly as they could, unless their tongues had run right away with them—which happens sometimes, you know, even to grown-up people. This story used to be told in two ways. It was either the tale of an old man who was bothered by a cross old woman, or the tale of an old woman who was bothered by a cross old man. And the moment old Peter began the story both children would ask at once, “Which is the cross one?”—for t hen they would know which of them old Peter thought was in the wrong.
“This time it’s the old woman,” said their grandfather; “but, as like as not, it will be the old man next.”
And then any quarrelling there was came to an end, and was forgotten before the end of the story. This is the story.
An old man and an old woman lived in a little wooden house. All round the house there was a garden, crammed with flowers, and potatoes, and beetroots, and cabbages. And in one corner of the house there was a narrow wooden stairway which went up and up, twisting and twisting, into a high tower. In the top of the tower was a dovecot, and on the top of the dovecot was a flat roof.