“When it sets as it drops, it’s ready. Cook it a little longer, Agafea Mihalovna.”
“The flies!” said Agafea Mihalovna angrily. “It’ll be just the same,” she added.
“Ah! how sweet it is! don’t frighten it!” Kitty said suddenly, looking at a sparrow that had settled on the step and was pecking at the center of a raspberry.
“Yes, but you keep a little further from the stove,” said her mother.
“A propos de Varenka,” said Kitty, speaking in French, as they had been doing all the while, so that Agafea Mihalovna should not understand them, “you know, mamma, I somehow expect things to be settled today. You know what I mean. How splendid it would be!”
“But what a famous matchmaker she is!” said Dolly. “How carefully and cleverly she throws them together!...”
“No; tell me, mamma, what do you think?”
“Why, what is one to think? He” (he meant Sergey Ivanovitch) “might at any time have been a match for anyone in Russia; now, of course, he’s not quite a young man, still I know ever so many girls would be glad to marry him even now.... She’s a very nice girl, but he might...”
“Oh, no, mamma, do understand why, for him and for her too, nothing better could be imagined. In the first place, she’s charming!” said Kitty, crooking one of her fingers.
“He thinks her very attractive, that’s certain,” assented Dolly.
“Then he occupies such a position in society that he has no need to look for either fortune or position in his wife. All he needs is a good, sweet wife—a restful one.”
“Well, with her he would certainly be restful,” Dolly assented.
“Thirdly, that she should love him. And so it is...that is, it would be so splendid!...I look forward to seeing them coming out of the forest—and everything settled. I shall see at once by their eyes. I should be so delighted! What do you think, Dolly?”
“But don’t excite yourself. It’s not at all the thing for you to be excited,” said her mother.
“Oh, I’m not excited, mamma. I fancy he will make her an offer today.”
“Ah, that’s so strange, how and when a man makes an offer!... There is a sort of barrier, and all at once it’s broken down,” said Dolly, smiling pensively and recalling her past with Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Mamma, how did papa make you an offer?” Kitty asked suddenly.
“There was nothing out of the way, it was very simple,” answered the princess, but her face beamed all over at the recollection.
“Oh, but how was it? You loved him, anyway, before you were allowed to speak?”
Kitty felt a peculiar pleasure in being able now to talk to her mother on equal terms about those questions of such paramount interest in a woman’s life.
“Of course I did; he had come to stay with us in the country.”
“But how was it settled between you, mamma?”