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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 203 pages of information about Old Peter's Russian Tales.

And then there came along the Bear.  He was very slow and very heavy.

“Little house, little house!  Who lives in the little house?”

“Burrowing Mouse, and Croaking Frog, and Hare Hide-in-the-Hill, and Fox Run-about-Every-where, and Wolf Leap-out-of-the-Bushes.  Who are you?”

“I am Bear Squash-the-Lot.”

And the Bear sat down on the horse’s skull, and squashed the whole lot of them.

* * * * *

The way to tell that story is to make one hand the skull, and the fingers and thumb of the other hand the animals that go in one by one.  At least that was the way old Peter told it; and when it came to the end, and the Bear came along, why, the Bear was old Peter himself, who squashed both little hands, and Vanya or Maroosia, whichever it was, all together in one big hug.

ALENOUSHKA AND HER BROTHER.

Once upon a time there were two orphan children, a little boy and a little girl.  Their father and mother were dead, and they had not even an old grandfather to spend his time in telling them stories.  They were alone.  The little boy was called Vanoushka,[3] and the little girl’s name was Alenoushka.[3]

They set out together to walk through the whole of the great wide world.  It was a long journey they set out on, and they did not think of any end to it, but only of moving on and on, and never stopping long enough in one place to be unhappy there.

[Footnote 3:  That means that they were called Ivan and Elena.  Vanoushka and Alenoushka are affectionate forms of these names.]

They were travelling one day over a broad plain, padding along on their little bare feet.  There were no trees on the plain, no bushes; open flat country as far as you could see, and the great sun up in the sky burning the grass and making their throats dry, and the sandy ground so hot that they could scarcely bear to set their feet on it.  All day from early morning they had been walking, and the heat grew greater and greater towards noon.

“Oh,” said little Vanoushka, “my throat is so dry.  I want a drink.  I must have a drink—­just a little drink of cool water.”

“We must go on,” said Alenoushka, “till we come to a well.  Then we will drink.”

They went on along the track, with their eyes burning and their throats as dry as sand on a stove.

But presently Vanoushka cried out joyfully.  He saw a horse’s hoofmark in the ground.  And it was full of water, like a little well.

“Sister, sister,” says he, “the horse has made a little well for me with his great hoof, and now we can have a drink; and oh, but I am thirsty!”

“Not yet, brother,” says Alenoushka.  “If you drink from the hoofmark of a horse, you will turn into a little foal, and that would never do.”

“I am so very thirsty,” says Vanoushka; but he did as his sister told him, and they walked on together under the burning sun.

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