The Little Daughter of the Snow
There were once an old man, as old as I am, perhaps, and an old woman, his wife, and they lived together in a hut, in a village on the edge of the forest. There were many people in the village; quite a town it was—eight huts at least, thirty or forty souls, good company to be had for crossing the road. But the old man and the old woman were unhappy, in spite of living like that in the very middle of the world. And why do you think they were unhappy? They were unhappy because they had no little Vanya and no little Maroosia. Think of that. Some would say they were better off without them.
"Would you say that, grandfather?" asked Maroosia.
"You are a stupid little pigeon," said old Peter, and he went on.
Well, these two were very unhappy. All the other huts had babies in them—yes, and little ones playing about in the road outside, and having to be shouted at when any one came driving by. But there were no babies in their hut, and the old woman never had to go to the door to see where her little one had strayed to, because she had no little one.
And these two, the old man and the old woman, used to stand whole hours, just peeping through their window to watch the children playing outside. They had dogs and a cat, and cocks and hens, but none of these made up for having no children. These two would just stand and watch the children of the other huts. The dogs would bark, but they took no notice; and the cat would curl up against them, but they never felt her; and as for the cocks and hens, well, they were fed, but that was all. The old people did not care for them, and spent all their time in watching the Vanyas and Maroosias who belonged to the other huts.
In the winter the children in their little sheepskin coats....
"Like ours?" said Vanya and Maroosia together.
"Like yours," said old Peter.
In their little sheepskin coats, he went on, played in the crisp snow. They pelted each other with snowballs, and shouted and laughed, and then they rolled the snow together and made a snow woman—a regular snow Baba Yaga, a snow witch; such an old fright!