THE THREE WONDERFUL BEGGARS 33
She had not time to say more, when the whole castle shook, and a rustling, hissing, groaning sound was heard. The girl quickly pushed Vassili into a chest under the bed, locked it and whispered : ' Listen to what the serpent and I talk about.'
Then she rose up to receive the Serpent King.
The monster rushed into the room, and threw itseif panting on the bed, crying: ' I've flown half over the world. I'm tired, very tired, and want to sleep — scratch my head.'
The beautiful girl sat down near him, stroking his hideous head, and said in a sweet coaxing voice: ' You know everything in the world. After you left, I had such a wonderful dream. Will you tell me what it means ?'
' Out with it then, quick ! What was it?'
' I dreamt I was walking on a wide road, and an oak tree said to me : "Ask the king this : Rotten at the roots, half dead, and yet green stands the old oak. Is it to stand much longer on the earth ? '''
' It must stand till some one comes and pushes it down with his foot. Then it will fall, and under its roots will be found more gold and silver than even Mark the Rich has got.'
' Then I dreamt I came to a river, and the old ferryman said to me : " For thirty years the ferryman has rowed to and fro. Will the tired old man have to row much longer? " '
' That depends on himself. If some one gets into the boat to be ferried across, the old man has only to push the boat off, and go his way without looking back. The man in the boat will then have to take his place.'
' And at last I dreamt that I was walking over a bridge made of a whale's back, and the living bridge spoke to me and said: " Here have I been stretched out these three years, and men and horses have trampled my back down into my ribs. Must I lie here much longer?" '