Telling Tales 80
Friends, Family, and Foes
The old man went on, “It is one thing to enjoy oneself. It is another to partake of kindness.”
“What do you mean?” asked the brother and sister. They were grubby, faces covered with gravy, and the boy might have had an onion behind his ear. They were the first of the town to have eaten, the grandchildren of the old woman, and now they were chasing each other through the crowd in a wild game of tag. They stopped at the words.
The wild blond girl with the javelin asked, “How do you tag each other?”
“Like this!” they yelled together, and bashed one another as hard as they could with their spoons.
“Are you enemies?”
“He’s my brother,” said the sister, as if that meant ‘yes.’
“That’s how I treat my enemies,” went on the wild girl. “Family is family and friend is friend. You shouldn’t mistake them for the enemy,” and with that she stabbed down with her javelin. The sister jumped as though she’d been hit in the arm and her brother took a half step forward. “That’s it,” she said, “you stand up for each other.” She clipped the ground again and smiled as the brother winced in the same way. Then she leaned down and whispered to the two, “That’s how sharp my spear is, it can pin your shadows to the ground.” She giggled as the two children ran off.
“Is that wise, mademoiselle? We should not like them to think that we are their enemies, after all.” To all present, it was clear that the old man desperately wanted to comb the young woman’s hair and put it in some kind of proper braid.
“You teach kindness your way, I’ll teach it in mind. Did I ever tell you how my godmother Aife trained me to gut a soldier on the field of battle?”
“Indeed, I am afraid you did, and more than once,” said the man with the air of one who was going to hear the story once more, regardless of how he had just answered.
“See here, now, you, you say you’re tsarevitch Ivan, see here,” said the mayor. “Enough joking about, take these spoons off of our wrists.”
The young man Ivan looked at the mayor. “Are you done eating?”
“If you’re done – truly done – we’ll take back our utensils. But remember, no spoon, no stew.”
The mayor conferred with his brother. “Fine. Remove it.” The tsarevna Vasilisa removed the spoon as easy as you please and handed it to one of the guards, who reattached it to his shoulder. Slowly, watching them, the brother dipped his own spoon in the stew and held it out to the mayor, who ate. No one stopped him.
“How you choose to use your spoons is up to you,” said Ivan.
“Here, what are you doing?” someone else bellowed. The mayor’s smug look vanished as he saw the brother and the sister feeding the beggar from the edge of town.
“He doesn’t live here!” said the mayor. “He’s not part of the deal. He shouldn’t get to eat! He doesn’t have a spoon.”
“Neither do you, and he’s not an enemy,” said the sister as she balanced her spoon with her brother’s help.
“How you choose to use your spoon is up to you,” laughed Ivan.
The mayor sputtered but most everyone was in too good a mood to stand in the way. “Our good fortune doesn’t have to be his bad,” said someone else.
The old servant looked around. “Now I believe we have succeeded.”