LITTLE GIRLS WISER THAN OLD PEOPLE

LITTLE GIRLS WISER THAN OLD PEOPLE

It was an early Easter. 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 clothes. The little 
girl had a blue dress, and the elder a yellow one 
with a design. Both had their heads wrapped in red 
kerchiefs.
After prayers in the Church, 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 wil upl 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 Akulka’s new dress, and not only her dress, but also 
her nose and eyes. When Akulka saw the spots on 
her dress, 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 dress bespattered and 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 dress, 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 
Akulka.
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.

-Count Leo N. Tolstoy
(Adapted from a translation 
by Leo Wiener)


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