– What a miracle! – the girl exclaimed, looking at Koschei’s reflection. The curiosity got the best of her, leaving the fear behind, and the girl asked bravely. – Is this also a magic mirror?
Koschei stopped, shifting his gaze in astonishment from the mirror, where he saw a freak, at the girl who was peering at him as at something strange and glancing at the mirror occasionally.
– A simple mirror, – Koschei finally grumbled, casting a glance at the mirror once again.
– Not at all! – Hope persisted. – There, – she waved her hand towards the mirror, – and here, – she pointed at Koschei, – are two different people!
Gorynych looked in surprise at the mirror with his three heads, each after each, because he couldn’t fit all them in a room at once. He was shuffling his feet awkwardly, hovering on the doorstep. But he could see only himself and Koschei in the mirror. Zmey-Gorynych frowned displeased, as if a toy had been taken from him.
But the brooms turned out to be much defter. They gracefully swang their twig-skirts several times, sweeping away all the piled up dust from the large man-sized mirror. The mops also got down to work right away, piping huge basins of water like they were on a deck. The last of the brooms also ran by and looked in the mirror, and saw nothing but itself. It seemed like a mirror couldn’t place in everybody at once and reflected only one object at a time.
– Are you hazing me?! – Koshei yelled and Hope got really worried that he was running out of patience. – What other two people are you talking about! Admit, somebody sent you here! – and he bent to her viciously, throwing his clawed hand in the air.
Wait a minute. Where are the claws?!
Koschei froze in amazement and began to view hands. Terrible, long, yellowed claws disappeared, and beautiful almond-shaped nails appeared in their place.
He didn’t believe his eyes. How could that happen? For how many decades had he seen himself as a gray, slightly hunched, clawed man? But did he really look like this or was it just the way he took himself? How did others see him?
Absolutely weakened Koschei sank into a chair, which his housemates were able to move close by the mirror. He was peering at his hands, and the others were watching him expectantly.
– I don’t know whether you will please to hear it or not, dear Koschei, but nobody has sent me to you. I’m afraid, I got here by pure chance...
The broom was casually waltzing around the owner’s armchair, attracting everybody’s attention. Hope couldn’t drag her gaze away from such a hard worker. She wondered if that was an enchanted girl. Or are they all enchanted?
– Do I look like a villain who would imprison a living soul in an object? – Koschei raised his head up and lowered it back thoughtfully right away. In truth, what could she think about him, if for decades he had seen himself only as a monster?
Hope realized that she was thinking aloud, but she couldn’t make up the way to correct this unfortunate oversight so fast.
Eventually, the girl hit everyone with the words she didn’t expect to hear herself.
– I don’t believe that people are born evil, – she claimed. – And you don’t look like an evil person. After all, if the fairy-tales were true, I would be in a dungeon now. And where are all the beautiful and clever fairytale princesses, that were languishing in bonds? – she looked inquisitively into Koschei's eyes, trying to comprehend his behavior. – There you go! Something just isn't sitting right… – the girl thoughtfully tapped the floor with a small slipper, whipping up a layer of dust, and then sneezed. The broom and the scoop, joined by the mops and basins of water, rushed at once to clear the floor of dirt and dust, pushing the girl to the mirror. – What did you do with those beauties? – Hope demanded.
– I did nothing! – Koschei resented and everyone was surprised to see how his hair shortened and darkened magically, forming a full head of beautiful, thick chestnut curls. – They were bored with their betrothed princes, which sometimes turned out to be not only Ivans, but also fool. So they came to me for advice. And when their knights in armor showed up, we played out the kidnapping. This way they were relieved by their princes. And that’s when Gorynych and I, – Koschei smiled bitterly, – had to fight these ardent gallants back. Indeed, I couldn’t tell them that the ladies were against such attention! I mean, it might wreck somebody's life – and the wounded soul never heals easily.
For some reason, the way he said this restored Hope's image of the beauty on one of Koschei’s canvases. Who was she to him? Was she one of those princesses who were in flight from the betrothed? And where did all these fussy ladies disappear then?
Wow… – everybody whispered admiringly. Hope was surprised with such a turn of the story. And others were surprised to notice that as soon as Koshei revealed the truth that he never told anybody, his eyelashes turned darker to match his new hair.