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- 5 -

 

While the last hymn was still being sung, Raisa quickly left the church, got back into the coach and drove off. The villagers crowded out behind her to see where the coach was going, but it had already disappeared into the distance.

She drove home, and waved the feather to the left this time. A servant took her clothes and the crystal coach disappeared. She went back inside the house. There she sat as before, as if nothing at all had happened, watching the people going home from church.

Soon her sisters returned. Excitedly they related what they had seen. 'What a wonderful sight we saw today at church! Such beauty - such nobility! She must have been a Tsar's daughter from a distant land.

You should have seen the clothes she wore - silk and gold brocade inlaid with precious stones,' related Malvina.

'We have never seen the like before,' said Elvira. 'it's the talk of the whole village!

But of course, you have only yourself to blame that you missed it all, and didn't see a thing!'

'That's all right, my dear sisters, you have described it all so well to me that I feel as if I'd been there myself! ' said Raisa, wondering whether she should try it again next week...

The same thing happened on the next two Sundays after that. Raisa again made fools of her father, her sisters and the rest of the village.

However, on the last Sunday, she was enjoying the attention so much that, for a few minutes, she almost forgot that she was not a real Tsar's daughter and nearly left it too late to leave the church.

Some of the villagers, who had been expecting her to leave the church early, began to follow the coach and she had to take a detour thorough the forest in order to shake them off.

Her heart beating fast, she begged the coachman to hurry 'Oh, what are we going to do? Can't we shake them off?
Someone's sure to see us going into the house!' she cried. The coachman looked behind to make sure the coast was clear and stopped the coach in a clearing in the forest.

'I know a shortcut back from here,' she said as she jumped down. She tore off the clothes in a mad rush and handed them back to the servant. Then throwing on her own as she ran, she took the feather from her apron pocket and waved it to the left.

Glancing back over her shoulder she saw that the coach had disappeared. She tore back through the forest, almost bumping into a bunch of villagers taking a shortcut home from church.

Somewhat out of breath and scratched from brambles, she nevertheless managed to be back sitting at the window when her family returned. She had just smoothed down her hair and was trying to hide a tear in her dress when her sisters walked into the room. Luckily, they were so preoccupied with the latest appearance of the Tsar's daughter that they did not notice anything.

'And everyone is wondering just who she is and why she has chosen our village to go to church in,' Malvina was proclaiming in her loud voice. 'Some say she must be staying somewhere nearby! Just think - we might just run into her in the village some day!'

'Isn't it marvellous!' added Elvira 'some of the villagers are saying that she must be in hiding because her father wants her to marry a man she does not love. Others think she is searching for her lost lover...'

Malvina and Elvira were describing the Tsar's daughter to Raisa for the third time that morning, when a ray of sunlight through an open window suddenly caught a diamond hairpin sparkling in her hair. 'What was that? It looks like something flashing in your hair,' said Malvina peering closely at Raisa's hair. Elvira came across the room, her eyes nearly falling out of her head: 'But, it can't be...' She stopped suddenly, her mouth open in amazement as she saw the diamonds sparkling in her sister's hair.

'Why, it's exactly like the diamond hairpin that the Tsar's daughter was wearing today! Where on earth did you get it?'

Raisa's heart almost missed a beat. Quickly her hand went to her hair. Her knees were shaking. What could she do? Why hadn't the hairpin disappeared with everything else? Ripping it from her hair, she jumped up knocking over a chair. Before the other two could stop her she raced upstairs. and just managed to lock the door on them before they reached it.

She stood there panting behind the door, while her sisters hammered on the other side, yelling at her to open up and show them the diamond hairpin. After an hour or two they gave up and went away.

When all was quiet again, she called up the servant again with the feather and returned the hairpin to him.

 

by Ivan Bilibin

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