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 husband.
"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.
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