The Complete Works of Count Tolstoy/Little Girls Wiser than Old People
LITTLE GIRLS WISER THAN OLD PEOPLE
It was an early Easter. They had just quit using sleighs. In the yards lay snow, and rills ran down the village. A large puddle had run down from a manure pile into a lane between two farms. And at this puddle two girls, one older than the other, had met. Both of them had been dressed by their mothers in new bodices. The little girl had a blue bodice, and the elder a yellow one with a design. Both had their heads wrapped in red kerchiefs. After mass the two girls went to the puddle, where they showed their new garments to each other, and began to play. They wanted to plash in the water. The little girl started to go into the puddle with her shoes on, but the older girl said to her:
"Don't go, Malasha, your mother will scold you. I will take off my shoes, and you do the same."
The girls took off their shoes, raised their skirts, and walked through the puddle toward each other. Malasha stepped in up to her ankles, and said:
"It is deep, Akulka, I am afraid."
"Never mind," she replied, "it will not be any deeper. Come straight toward me!" They came closer to each other. Akulka said:
"Malasha, look out, and do not splash it up, but walk softly."
She had barely said that when Malasha plumped her foot into the water and bespattered Akiilka's bodice, and not only her bodice, but also her nose and eyes. When Akulka saw the spots on her bodice, she grew angry at Malasha, and scolded her, and ran after her, and wanted to strike her. Malasha was frightened and, seeing what trouble she had caused, jumped out of the puddle and ran home.
Akulka's mother passed by; she saw her daughter's bodice bespattered and her shirt soiled.
"Where, accursed one, did you get yourself so dirty?"
"Malasha has purposely splashed it on me."
Akulka's mother grasped Malasha and gave her a knock on the nape of her neck. Malasha began to howl, and her mother ran out of the house.
"Why do you strike my daughter?" she began to scold her neighbour.
One word brought back another, and the women began to quarrel. The men, too, ran out, and a big crowd gathered in the street. All were crying, and nobody could hear his neighbour. They scolded and cursed each other; one man gave another man a push, and a fight had begun, when Akulka's grandmother came out. She stepped in the midst of the peasants, and began to talk to them:
"What are you doing, dear ones? Consider the holiday. This is a time for rejoicing. And see what sin you are doing!"
They paid no attention to the old woman, and almost knocked her off her feet. She would never have stopped them, if it had not been for Akulka and Malasha. While the women exchanged words, Akulka wiped off her bodice, and went back to the puddle in the lane. She picked up a pebble and began to scratch the ground so as to let the water off into the street. While she was scratching, Malasha came up and began to help her: she picked up a chip and widened the rill. The peasants had begun to fight, just as the water went down the rill toward the place where the old woman was trying to separate the men. The girls ran, one from one side of the rill, the other from the other side.
"Look out, Malasha, look out!" shouted Akiilka.
Malasha wanted to say something herself, but could not speak for laughter.
The girls were running and laughing at a chip which was bobbing up and down the rill. They ran straight into the crowd of the peasants. The old woman saw them and said to the peasants:
"Shame on you before God, men! You have started fighting on account of these two girls, and they have long ago forgotten it: the dear children have been playing nicely together. They are wiser than you."
The men looked at the girls, and they felt ashamed. Then they laughed at themselves, and scattered to their farms.
"Except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."