War and Peace
Silence ensued. The countess looked at her callers, smiling affably,
but not concealing the fact that she would not be distressed if they
now rose and took their leave. The visitor's daughter was already
smoothing down her dress with an inquiring look at her mother, when
suddenly from the next room were heard the footsteps of boys and girls
running to the door and the noise of a chair falling over, and a
girl of thirteen, hiding something in the folds of her short muslin
frock, darted in and stopped short in the middle of the room. It was
evident that she had not intended her flight to bring her so far.
Behind her in the doorway appeared a student with a crimson coat
collar, an officer of the Guards, a girl of fifteen, and a plump
rosy-faced boy in a short jacket.
The count jumped up and, swaying from side to side, spread his
arms wide and threw them round the little girl who had run in.
"Ah, here she is!" he exclaimed laughing. "My pet, whose name day it
is. My dear pet!"
"Ma chere, there is a time for everything," said the countess with
feigned severity. "You spoil her, Ilya," she added, turning to her
"How do you do, my dear? I wish you many happy returns of your
name day," said the visitor. "What a charming child," she added,
addressing the mother.
This black-eyed, wide-mouthed girl, not pretty but full of life-
with childish bare shoulders which after her run heaved and shook
her bodice, with black curls tossed backward, thin bare arms, little
legs in lace-frilled drawers, and feet in low slippers- was just at
that charming age when a girl is no longer a child, though the child
is not yet a young woman. Escaping from her father she ran to hide her
flushed face in the lace of her mother's mantilla- not paying the
least attention to her severe remark- and began to laugh. She laughed,
and in fragmentary sentences tried to explain about a doll which she
produced from the folds of her frock.
"Do you see?... My doll... Mimi... You see..." was all Natasha
managed to utter (to her everything seemed funny). She leaned
against her mother and burst into such a loud, ringing fit of laughter
that even the prim visitor could not help joining in.
"Now then, go away and take your monstrosity with you," said the
mother, pushing away her daughter with pretended sternness, and
turning to the visitor she added: "She is my youngest girl."
Natasha, raising her face for a moment from her mother's mantilla,
glanced up at her through tears of laughter, and again hid her face.
The visitor, compelled to look on at this family scene, thought it
necessary to take some part in it.
"Tell me, my dear," said she to Natasha, "is Mimi a relation of
yours? A daughter, I suppose?"
Natasha did not like the visitor's tone of condescension to childish
things. She did not reply, but looked at her seriously.
Meanwhile the younger generation: Boris, the officer, Anna
Mikhaylovna's son; Nicholas, the undergraduate, the count's eldest
son; Sonya, the count's fifteen-year-old niece, and little Petya,
his youngest boy, had all settled down in the drawing room and were
obviously trying to restrain within the bounds of decorum the
excitement and mirth that shone in all their faces. Evidently in the
back rooms, from which they had dashed out so impetuously, the
conversation had been more amusing than the drawing-room talk of
society scandals, the weather, and Countess Apraksina. Now and then
they glanced at one another, hardly able to suppress their laughter.
The two young men, the student and the officer, friends from
childhood, were of the same age and both handsome fellows, though
not alike. Boris was tall and fair, and his calm and handsome face had
regular, delicate features. Nicholas was short with curly hair and
an open expression. Dark hairs were already showing on his upper
lip, and his whole face expressed impetuosity and enthusiasm. Nicholas
blushed when he entered the drawing room. He evidently tried to find
something to say, but failed. Boris on the contrary at once found
his footing, and related quietly and humorously how he had know that
doll Mimi when she was still quite a young lady, before her nose was
broken; how she had aged during the five years he had known her, and
how her head had cracked right across the skull. Having said this he
glanced at Natasha. She turned away from him and glanced at her
younger brother, who was screwing up his eyes and shaking with
suppressed laughter, and unable to control herself any longer, she
jumped up and rushed from the room as fast as her nimble little feet
would carry her. Boris did not laugh.
"You were meaning to go out, weren't you, Mamma? Do you want the
carriage?" he asked his mother with a smile.
"Yes, yes, go and tell them to get it ready," she answered,
returning his smile.
Boris quietly left the room and went in search of Natasha. The plump
boy ran after them angrily, as if vexed that their program had been
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