Silence ensued. The countess looked at her callers, smiling affably, but no_oncealing the fact that she would not be distressed if they now rose and too_heir leave. The visitor's daughter was already smoothing down her dress wit_n inquiring look at her mother, when suddenly from the next room were hear_he footsteps of boys and girls running to the door and the noise of a chai_alling over, and a girl of thirteen, hiding something in the folds of he_hort muslin frock, darted in and stopped short in the middle of the room. I_as evident that she had not intended her flight to bring her so far. Behin_er in the doorway appeared a student with a crimson coat collar, an office_f the Guards, a girl of fifteen, and a plump rosy-faced boy in a shor_acket.
The count jumped up and, swaying from side to side, spread his arms wide an_hrew them round the little girl who had run in.
"Ah, here she is!" he exclaimed laughing. "My pet, whose name day it is. M_ear pet!"
"Ma chere, there is a time for everything," said the countess with feigne_everity. "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," sai_he visitor. "What a charming child," she added, addressing the mother.
This black-eyed, wide-mouthed girl, not pretty but full of life- with childis_are shoulders which after her run heaved and shook her bodice, with blac_urls 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 n_onger a child, though the child is not yet a young woman. Escaping from he_ather she ran to hide her flushed face in the lace of her mother'_antilla—not paying the least attention to her severe remark—and began t_augh. She laughed, and in fragmentary sentences tried to explain about a dol_hich she produced from the folds of her frock.
"Do you see?… My doll… Mimi… You see… " was all Natasha managed to utter (t_er everything seemed funny). She leaned against her mother and burst int_uch a loud, ringing fit of laughter that even the prim visitor could not hel_oining 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 visito_he added: "She is my youngest girl."
Natasha, raising her face for a moment from her mother's mantilla, glanced u_t her through tears of laughter, and again hid her face.
The visitor, compelled to look on at this family scene, thought it necessar_o take some part in it.
"Tell me, my dear," said she to Natasha, "is Mimi a relation of yours? _aughter, 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'_ifteen-year-old niece, and little Petya, his youngest boy, had all settle_own in the drawing room and were obviously trying to restrain within th_ounds 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 societ_candals, the weather, and Countess Apraksina. Now and then they glanced a_ne another, hardly able to suppress their laughter.
The two young men, the student and the officer, friends from childhood, wer_f the same age and both handsome fellows, though not alike. Boris was tal_nd fair, and his calm and handsome face had regular, delicate features.
Nicholas was short with curly hair and an open expression. Dark hairs wer_lready showing on his upper lip, and his whole face expressed impetuosity an_nthusiasm. Nicholas blushed when he entered the drawing room. He evidentl_ried to find something to say, but failed. Boris on the contrary at onc_ound his footing, and related quietly and humorously how he had know tha_oll 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 ha_racked right across the skull. Having said this he glanced at Natasha. Sh_urned away from him and glanced at her younger brother, who was screwing u_is eyes and shaking with suppressed laughter, and unable to control hersel_ny longer, she jumped up and rushed from the room as fast as her nimbl_ittle feet would carry her. Boris did not laugh.
"You were meaning to go out, weren't you, Mamma? Do you want the carriage?" h_sked his mother with a smile.
"Yes, yes, go and tell them to get it ready," she answered, returning hi_mile.
Boris quietly left the room and went in search of Natasha. The plump boy ra_fter them angrily, as if vexed that their program had been disturbed.