restrain her tears, though there was still a constrained smile on her lips, she got up and went out of the room. All Nikolay’s animation was gone. He waited for the first break in the conversation, and, with a face of distress, walked out of the room to look for Sonya.

“How all the young things wear their hearts on their sleeves!” said Anna Mihalovna, pointing to Nikolay’s retreating figure. “Cousinage, dangereux voisinage,” she added.

“Yes,” said the countess, when the sunshine that had come into the drawing-room with the young people had vanished. She was, as it were, replying to a question which no one had put to her, but which was always in her thoughts: “What miseries, what anxieties one has gone through for the happiness one has in them now! And even now one feels really more dread than joy over them. One’s always in terror! At this age particularly when there are so many dangers both for girls and boys.”

“Everything depends on bringing up,” said the visitor.

“Yes, you are right,” the countess went on. “So far I have been, thank God, my children’s friend and have enjoyed their full confidence,” said the countess, repeating the error of so many parents, who imagine their children have no secrets from them. “I know I shall always be first in my children’s confidence, and that Nikolay, if, with his impulsive character, he does get into mischief (boys will be boys) it won’t be like these Petersburg young gentlemen.”

“Yes, they’re capital children, capital children,” assented the count, who always solved all perplexing questions by deciding that everything was capital. “Fancy now, his taking it into his head to be an hussar! But what can one expect, ma chère?”

“What a sweet little thing your younger girl is!” said the visitor. “Full of fun and mischief!”

“Yes, that she is,” said the count. “She takes after me! And such a voice; though she’s my daughter, it’s the truth I’m telling you, she’ll be a singer, another Salomini. We’ve engaged an Italian to give her lessons.”

“Isn’t it too early? They say it injures the voice to train it at that age.”

“Oh, no! Too early!” said the count. “Why, our mothers used to be married at twelve and thirteen.”

“Well, she’s in love with Boris already! What do you say to that?” said the countess, smiling softly and looking at Boris’s mother. And apparently in reply to the question that was always in her mind, she went on: “Why, you know, if I were strict with her, if I were to forbid her…God knows what they might not be doing in secret” (the countess meant that they might kiss each other), “but as it is I know every word she utters. She’ll come to me this evening and tell me everything of herself. I spoil her, perhaps, but I really believe it’s the best way. I brought my elder girl up more strictly.”

“Yes, I was brought up quite differently,” said the elder girl, the handsome young Countess Vera; and she smiled. But the smile did not improve Vera’s face; on the contrary her face looked unnatural, and therefore unpleasing. Vera was good-looking; she was not stupid, was clever at her lessons, and well educated; she had a pleasant voice, and what she said was true and appropriate. But, strange to say, every one—both the visitor and the countess—looked at her, as though wondering why she had said it, and conscious of a certain awkwardness.

“People are always too clever with their elder children; they try to do something exceptional with them,” said the visitor.

“We won’t conceal our errors, ma chère! My dear countess was too clever with Vera,” said the count. “But what of it? she has turned out capitally all the same,” he added, with a wink of approval to Vera.

The guests got up and went away, promising to come to dinner.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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