GHITA was four years old, and Ghita was unkempt, unwashed, impudent. At the back of his very shabby pantaloons there was a little tear, so that part of his shirt stuck out in a point. But this Ghita did not know, nor would he have minded had he known. For Ghita did not care about his appearance.
He always wore a huge, shabby, white-fur cap; summer and winter he wore it, having no other covering for his head.
Ghita was independent and inquisitive. He was always wandering about where he did not belong, and Ghita was greedy. This was rather natural, because Ghita's mother was very poor and there was never much to eat.
Ghita, above all things, adored the dark, sticky, brown jam the peasants made in autumn when the plums were ripe.
His mother was too poor to make any jam, but many of the neighbours did—and Ghita was always hanging around their yards.
Ghita had wonderfully persuasive blue eyes, and the neighbours had kind hearts, so Ghita generally got as much jam as his little stomach could comfortably digest.
There was only one old woman, Baba Tinca, who, although prosperous, had no heart for little children who liked jam.
Baba Tinca was a grasping old body who tried to make money out of everything.
She was cross, and had a loud, scolding voice and a red nose.
She also had a flock of geese, headed by a specially large goose who gave herself airs. She was a self-assertive, pompous old fowl; she hissed louder than any other goose in the village, and Ghita hated her.
But the worst was that no one made such excellent jam, nor in such great quantities, as Baba Tinca. She cooked it in a huge black pot, and you could smell it miles off!
One day Baba Tinca had been called away from her cooking, I know not where to—but that is of no importance. The door of her kitchen stood wide open, and Ghita, peeping in, could see the big black pot full to the brim of the tempting, brown, sticky mess. . .
"Now is my chance!" thought Ghita. "Baba Tinca can't see!" Of course this was not nice of Ghita, but he was greedy, and jam was so good!
So Ghita stole into Baba Tinca's kitchen like a thief.
There was no spoon, so Ghita used his finger. One could get quite a lot on one short, grimy finger.
"Niam, niam! oh! but it was good!" The short, grimy finger went in once, twice . . . thrice . . . but then, oh dear! . . . ! Ghita felt something seize him from the back—felt something take hold of the protruding little piece of shirt which stuck out from the tear in his trousers, and flop! oh dear! vai! vai! Ghita lay sprawling face downwards, in the sticky, brown mess!
His legs kicked about in the air, but he could not scream, as he was quite smothered in jam, and behind him hissed his enemy, the goose.
If Ghita's shirt had not been protruding quite so temptingly from the tear in his trousers, perhaps his enemy, the goose, would not have had so easy a game. But she had only just to pick him up and to drop him, flop! into the black pot.
I do not remember any more—who pulled Ghita out again; but luckily for Ghita somebody did—perhaps it was the goose herself!
But this I do know quite positively, that when Ghita stood on his feet again, he was as black as a sweep, and that he never more tried to steal any jam, either from Baba Tinca or from anybody else.