Boris reddened. “How absurd you are!” he said, bending down to her, flushing redder still, but doing nothing, waiting what would come next. Suddenly she jumped on to a tub, so that as she stood she was taller than he, flung both arms round him so that her slender, bare arms clasped him above his neck, and flinging back her hair with a toss of her head, she kissed him just on his lips.

She slipped away among the flower-pots on the other side, and stood with hanging head.

“Natasha,” he said, “you know I love you, but—”

“You’re in love with me,” Natasha broke in.

“Yes I am, but, please, don’t let us do like that.… In another four years… Then I shall ask for your hand.” Natasha pondered a moment.

“Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen …” she said, counting on her thin little fingers.

“Very well. Then it’s settled?” And her excited face beamed with a smile of delight and relief.

“Settled!” said Boris.

“For ever?” said the little girl. “Till death?” And taking his arm, with a happy face she walked quietly beside him into the next room.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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