“I’m not going to let you have a pistol like that,” his mother said. “It’s dangerous.”
“No, it isn’t, Mummy,” Sasha protested. “If it shot bullets it would be dangerous, but you can’t kill anyone with caps.”
“You may hurt somebody or knock your eye out.”
“I’ll shut my eyes when I shoot.”
“No. I won’t have it. There’s no end of trouble with those toy pistols. They’re not safe. You may frighten someone with it,” said his mother.
And that was the end of it as far as she was concerned.
Now, Sasha had two older sisters, Marina and Ira [girls’ names]. So he went to them and begged for a pistol.
“I want one so badly. I promise to do anything you tell me to if you buy me one.”
“Oh, Sasha,” said Marina. “You’re a sly little thing! When you want something you’re as sweet as pie, but as soon as Mother goes out you make a nuisance of yourself.”
“I won’t any more, honest I won’t. I’ll be ever so good.”
“All right,” said Ira. “Marina and I will think it over. If you promise faithfully to be good we might buy you a pistol.”
“I promise. I’ll be as good as gold. You’ll see!”
The next day Sasha’s sisters went out and bought him a pistol and a whole box of caps.
When Sasha saw the shiny black pistol and the box of caps he jumped for joy and ran around the room hugging it to him in great excitement.
“Oh, my darling pistol. How I love you!”
Then he scratched his name on the handle and started shooting. Before long the whole room was blue with smoke.
“Oh, do stop it for goodness’ sake,” said Ira. “I jump every time it goes off.”
“Coward,” said Sasha. “All girls are cowards.”
“We’ll take it away from you if you call us names,” said Marina.
“All right, I’ll go outside and frighten the boys with it,” said Sasha.
He went into the back yard but there were no boys about. So he ran out on to the street and it is here that our story really begins.
As Sasha stepped out of his back yard he saw an old woman coming down the street. He waited until she came quite close and then he fired. Bang! The old woman jumped and gave a little scream.
“Oh dear, I did get a fright!” Then she turned and saw Sasha.
“So it was you who fired? You bad boy!”
“It wasn’t me,” said Sasha, hiding the pistol behind his back.
“Now then, young man, you needn’t tell lies. I saw you. I’m going to report you to the militia [the militia=police] for this.”
She shook her finger at him, crossed the street and disappeared round the corner.
Sasha was frightened. “Oh, oh! What shall I do? She’s gone to the militia to complain.”
He ran home, shaking with fright.
“What’s the matter with you?” asked Ira as he ran in panting.
“You look as if a wolf had been chasing you. What have you done now?”
“Er … nothing!”
“Don’t tell lies. I can see you’ve been up to mischief.” “I haven’t done anything. It’s just…. The pistol went off and she took fright.”
“Who took fright?”
“The old woman who was walking down the street.” “Why did you fire?”
“I don’t know. I just saw her coming and I thought it would be fun to fire. So I pulled the trigger.”
“What did she say?”
“Nothing. She went to the militia to complain.”
“There, you see. You promised to behave and now look what you’ve done!”
“How was I to know she’d be such a scarey old thing?”
“You wait, the militiaman will come after you. He’ll give you what for!”
“How will he find me? He doesn’t know where I live. He doesn’t even know my name.”
“Don’t worry. He’ll find you. The militia knows everything.”
Sasha sat home for a whole hour looking out of the window every few minutes to see if the militiaman was coming. But no one came. After a while he calmed down a little and brightened up.
“The old woman must have been trying to frighten me.”
He put his hand in his pocket to pull out his beloved pistol, but the pistol was gone. The box of caps was there, but no pistol. He tried the other pocket, but it was empty. He searched all over the room. He looked under the tables and under the sofa, but there was no sign of it. Sasha wept with mortification.
“I hardly had it at all,” he sobbed. “Such a lovely pistol. And now it’s gone.”
“Perhaps you left it in the yard?” suggested Ira.
“I must have dropped it by the gate,” said Sasha. “I’ll go and see.”
He ran outside on to the street, but there was no sign of the pistol.
“Of course, someone picked it up,” he thought. Just then a militiaman [policeman] came round the corner and made straight for their house.
“He’s coming for me! The old woman must have complained after all,” thought Sasha and dashed home as fast as he could.
“Well, did you find it?” asked his sisters.
“Sh!” hissed Sasha. “A militiaman is coming.”
“Yes, he’s coming here.”
“Where did you see him?”
“Out there in the street.”
Marina and Ira laughed at him. “You little coward! Saw a militiaman outside and got scared. He’s probably not coming this way at all.”
“I don’t care if he is!” said Sasha stoutly. “I’m not afraid of him.”
At that moment steps were heard outside and the door-bell rang. Marina and Ira ran to open the door. Sasha poked his head into the passage and hissed after them: “Don’t let him in!”
But Marina had already opened the door……
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