And the end of the story? They buried the Tzar, and made the young archer Tzar in his place. He married the Princess Vasilissa, and lived many years with her in love and good fellowship. And he built a golden stable for the horse of power, and never forgot what he owed to him.
It sometimes happened that the two children asked too many questions even for old Peter, though he was the kindest old Russian peasant who ever was a grandfather. Sometimes he was busy; sometimes he was tired, and really could not think of the right answer; sometimes he did not know the right answer. And once, when Vanya asked him why the sun was hot, and his sister Maroosia went on and on asking if the sun was a fire, who lit it? and if it was burning, why didn’t it burn out? old Peter grumbled that he would not answer any more.
For a moment the two children were quiet, and then Maroosia asked one more question.
Old Peter looked up from the net he was mending. “Maroosia, my dear,” he said, “you had better watch the tip of your tongue, or perhaps, when you are grown up and have a husband, the same thing will happen to you that happened to the wife of the huntsman who saw a snake in a burning wood-pile.”
“Oh, tell us what happened to her!” said Maroosia.
“That is another question,” said old Peter; “but I’ll tell you, and then perhaps you won’t ask any more, and will give my old head a rest.”
And then he told them the story of the hunter and his wife.
Once upon a time there was a hunter who went out into the forest to shoot game. He had a wife and two dogs. His wife was for ever asking questions, so that he was glad to get away from her into the forest. And she did not like dogs, and said they were always bringing dirt into the house with their muddy paws. So that the dogs were glad to get away into the forest with the hunter.
One day the hunter and the two dogs wandered all day through the deep woods, and never got a sight of a bird; no, they never even saw a hare. All day long they wandered on and saw nothing. The hunter had not fired a cartridge. He did not want to go home and have to answer his wife’s questions about why he had an empty bag, so he went deeper and deeper into the thick forest. And suddenly, as it grew towards evening, the sharp smell of burning wood floated through the trees, and the hunter, looking about him, saw the flickering of a fire. He made his way towards it, and found a clearing in the forest, and a wood pile in the middle of it, and it was burning so fiercely that he could scarcely come near it.
And this was the marvel, that in the middle of the blazing timbers was sitting a great snake, curled round and round upon itself and waving its head above the flames.
As soon as it saw the hunter it called out, in a loud hissing voice, to come near.