4. CHAPTER IV.
ALL three of the Miss Epanchins were fine, healthy girls, well-grown,
with good shoulders and busts, and strong--almost
masculine--hands; and, of course, with all the above attributes,
they enjoyed capital appetites, of which they were not in the
Elizabetha Prokofievna sometimes informed the girls that they
were a little too candid in this matter, but in spite of their
outward deference to their mother these three young women, in
solemn conclave, had long agreed to modify the unquestioning
obedience which they had been in the habit of according to her;
and Mrs. General Epanchin had judged it better to say nothing
about it, though, of course, she was well aware of the fact.
It is true that her nature sometimes rebelled against these
dictates of reason, and that she grew yearly more capricious and
impatient; but having a respectful and well-disciplined husband
under her thumb at all times, she found it possible, as a rule,
to empty any little accumulations of spleen upon his head, and
therefore the harmony of the family was kept duly balanced, and
things went as smoothly as family matters can.
Mrs. Epanchin had a fair appetite herself, and generally took her
share of the capital mid-day lunch which was always served for
the girls, and which was nearly as good as a dinner. The young
ladies used to have a cup of coffee each before this meal, at ten
o'clock, while still in bed. This was a favourite and unalterable
arrangement with them. At half-past twelve, the table was laid in
the small dining-room, and occasionally the general himself
appeared at the family gathering, if he had time.
Besides tea and coffee, cheese, honey, butter, pan-cakes of
various kinds (the lady of the house loved these best), cutlets,
and so on, there was generally strong beef soup, and other
On the particular morning on which our story has opened, the
family had assembled in the dining-room, and were waiting the
general's appearance, the latter having promised to come this
day. If he had been one moment late, he would have been sent for
at once; but he turned up punctually.