If she had looked out the window, she might have seen a great, hoary old black owl alight on the branch of the oak tree. She might have seen the owl lean perilously forward on his green-black branch and, without taking his gaze from her window, fall hard—thump, bash!—onto the streetside. She would have seen the bird bounce up, and when he righted himself, become a handsome young man in a handsome black coat, his dark hair curly and thick, flecked with silver, his mouth half-smiling, as if anticipating a terribly sweet thing.
But Marya Morevna saw none of this. She only heard the knock at the great cherrywood door, and rushed to answer it before her mother could wake. […] Slowly, without taking his eyes from hers, the man in the black coat knelt before her.
“I am Comrade Koschei, surnamed Bessmertny,” he said with a low, churning voice, “and I have come for the girl in the window.”