In the morning Misery wakes as usual, and cries out to be taken to the tavern.
“We’ve sold everything I’ve got,” says the merchant.
“Well, what are you going to do to amuse me?” says Misery.
“Let’s play hide-and-seek in the yard,” says the merchant.
“Right,” says Misery; “but you’ll never find me, for I can make myself so small I can hide in a mouse-hole in the floor.”
“We’ll see,” says the merchant.
The merchant hid first, and Misery found him at once.
“Now it’s my turn,” says Misery; “but what’s the good? You’ll never find me. Why, I could get inside the hub of that wheel if I had a mind to.”
“What a liar you are!” says the merchant; “you never could get into that little hole.”
“Look,” says Misery, and he made himself little, little, little, and sat on the hub of the wheel.
“Look,” says he, making himself smaller again; and then, pouf! in he pops into the hole of the hub.
Instantly the merchant took the other wedge and the hammer, and drove the wedge into the hole. The first wedge had closed up the other end, and so there was Misery shut up inside the hub of the cart wheel.
The merchant set the wheel on his shoulders, and took it to the river and threw it out as far as he could, and it went floating away down to the sea.
Then he went home and set to work to make money again, and earn his daily bread; for Misery had made him so poor that he had nothing left, and had to hire himself out to make a living, just as his peasant brother used to do.
But what happened to Misery when he went floating away?
He floated away down the river, shut up in the hub of the wheel. He ought to have starved there. But I am afraid some silly, greedy fellow thought to get a new wheel for nothing, and pulled the wedges out and let him go; for, by all I hear, Misery is still wandering about the world and making people wretched—bad luck to him!
A CHAPTER OF FISH.
Sometimes in spring, when the big river flooded its banks and made lakes of the meadows, and the little rivers flowed deep, old Peter spent a few days netting fish. Also in summer he set night-lines in the little river not far from where it left the forest. And so it happened that one day he sat in the warm sunshine outside his hut, mending his nets and making floats for them; not cork floats like ours, but little rolls of the silver bark of the birch tree.
And while he sat there Vanya and Maroosia watched him, and sometimes even helped, holding a piece of the net between them, while old Peter fastened on the little glistening rolls of bark that were to keep it up in the water. And all the time old Peter worked he smoked, and told them stories about fish.
First he told them what happened when the first pike was born, and how it is that all the little fish are not eaten by the great pike with his huge greedy mouth and his sharp teeth.