There was a girl called Lyonushka who lived in our village. She was of average height but nicely put together. Her hair was blonde, flaxen-blonde – bleached flax, that is, and the Russian word for “bleached” is belyony, so her name fit her perfectly. And she had beautiful eyes, cool as river water. She was an odd one, though – more of a spectacle than a miracle. A lot of people thought she was a half-wit, and nothing else. She’d collect all sorts of sick critters. Folks would bring her this, that, and the other – a squirrel, a hedgehog, and as for the cats… They needed drowning, but the womenfolk felt sorry for them and dumped them on Lyonushka, to her great delight. She fed the wee ones milk through the nipple of a baby bottle, and collected herbs out in the forest and brewed them up for the sick ones to drink. Even a little bird with a broken wing – she’d bind it up and make it well. So after that, the birds would fly and fly around her home.
Kolya the stable boy was courting Lyonushka. Hale and hearty he was, curly haired and broad shouldered. The girls were like to die for love of him. But Kolya and Lyonushka became an item. Time was, they’d go to the social club of an evening. He’d have her by the elbow and she’d be cracking sunflower seeds all the while, showing off her white teeth. And laughing her head off. She was a cheerful one.
And didn’t he love her!.. She’d be out working on the farm, and he’d go to meet her, take her something for lunch. And he fixed up her hut, kept everything in great shape. He was good with his hands, that one. And there she’d be, laughing it up.
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