"How plainly all these young people wear their hearts on their sleeves!" said Anna Mikhaylovna, pointing to Nicholas as he went out. "Cousinage- dangereux voisinage;"* she added.
*Cousinhood is a dangerous neighborhood.
"Yes," said the countess when the brightness these young people had brought into the room had vanished; and as if answering a question no one had put but which was always in her mind, "and how much suffering, how much anxiety one has had to go through that we might rejoice in them now! And yet really the anxiety is greater now than the joy. One is always, always anxious! Especially just at this age, so dangerous both for girls and boys."
"It all depends on the bringing up," remarked the visitor.
"Yes, you're quite right," continued the countess. "Till now I have always, thank God, been my children's friend and had their full confidence," said she, repeating the mistake of so many parents who imagine that their children have no secrets from them. "I know I shall always be my daughters' first confidante, and that if Nicholas, with his impulsive nature, does get into mischief (a boy can't help it), he will all the same never be like those Petersburg young men."
"Yes, they are splendid, splendid youngsters," chimed in the count, who always solved questions that seemed to him perplexing by deciding that everything was splendid. "Just fancy: wants to be an hussar. What's one to do, my dear?"
"What a charming creature your younger girl is," said the visitor; "a little volcano!"
"Yes, a regular volcano," said the count. "Takes after me! And what a voice she has; though she's my daughter, I tell the truth when I say she'll be a singer, a second Salomoni! We have engaged an Italian to give her lessons."
"Isn't she too young? I have heard that it harms the voice to train it at that age."
"Oh no, not at all too young!" replied the count. "Why, our mothers used to be married at twelve or thirteen."
"And she's in love with Boris already. Just fancy!" said the countess with a gentle smile, looking at Boris' and went on, evidently concerned with a thought that always occupied her: "Now you see if I were to be severe with her and to forbid it... goodness knows what they might be up to on the sly" (she meant that they would be kissing), "but as it is, I know every word she utters. She will come running to me of her own accord in the evening and tell me everything. Perhaps I spoil her, but really that seems the best plan. With her elder sister I was stricter."
"Yes, I was brought up quite differently," remarked the handsome elder daughter, Countess Vera, with a smile.
But the smile did not enhance Vera's beauty as smiles generally do; on the contrary it gave her an unnatural, and therefore unpleasant, expression. Vera was good-looking, not at all stupid, quick at learning, was well brought up, and had a pleasant voice; what she said was true and appropriate, yet, strange to say, everyone- the visitors and countess alike- turned to look at her as if wondering why she had said it, and they all felt awkward.
"People are always too clever with their eldest children and try to make something exceptional of them," said the visitor.
"What's the good of denying it, my dear? Our dear countess was too clever with Vera," said the count. "Well, what of that? She's turned out splendidly all the same," he added, winking at Vera.
The guests got up and took their leave, promising to return to dinner.
"What manners! I thought they would never go," said the countess, when she had seen her guests out.
War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy