Though it was hard work to look after all the children and restrain their wild pranks, though it was difficult too to keep in one’s head and not mix up all the stockings, little breeches, and shoes for the different legs, and to undo and to do up again all the tapes and buttons, Darya Alexandrovna, who had always liked bathing herself, and believed it to be very good for the children, enjoyed nothing so much as bathing with all the children. To go over all those fat little legs, pulling on their stockings, to take in her arms and dip those little naked bodies, and to hear their screams of delight and alarm, to see the breathless faces with wide-open, scared, and happy eyes of all her splashing cherubs, was a great pleasure to her.
When half the children had been dressed, some peasant women in holiday dress, out picking herbs, came up to the bathing-shed and stopped shyly. Marya Philimonovna called one of them and handed her a sheet and a shirt that had dropped into the water for her to dry them, and Darya Alexandrovna began to talk to the women. At first they laughed behind their hands and did not understand her questions, but soon they grew bolder and began to talk, winning Darya Alexandrovna’s heart at once by the genuine admiration of the children that they showed.
“My, what a beauty! as white as sugar,” said one, admiring Tanitchka, and shaking her head; “but thin...”
“Yes, she has been ill.”
“And so they’ve been bathing you too,” said another to the baby.
“No; he’s only three months old,” answered Darya Alexandrovna with pride.
“You don’t say so!”
“And have you any children?”
“I’ve had four; I’ve two living—a boy and a girl. I weaned her last carnival.”
“How old is she?”
“Why, two years old.”
“Why did you nurse her so long?”
“It’s our custom; for three fasts...”
And the conversation became most interesting to Darya Alexandrovna. What sort of time did she have? What was the matter with the boy? Where was her husband? Did it often happen?
Darya Alexandrovna felt disinclined to leave the peasant women, so interesting to her was their conversation, so completely identical were all their interests. What pleased her most of all was that she saw clearly what all the women admired more than anything was her having so many children, and such fine ones. The peasant women even made Darya Alexandrovna laugh, and offended the English governess, because she was the cause of the laughter she did not understand. One of the younger women kept staring at the Englishwoman, who was dressing after all the rest, and when she put on her third petticoat she could not refrain from the remark, “My, she keeps putting on and putting on, and she’ll never have done!” she said, and they all went off into roars.