Anna Karenina (Part Two – Chapter 31-35)
It was a wet day; it had been raining all the morning, and the invalids, with their parasols, had flocked into the arcades.
Kitty was walking there with her mother and the Moscow colonel, smart and jaunty in his European coat, bought ready-made at Frankfort. They were walking on one side of the arcade, trying to avoid Levin, who was walking on the other side. Varenka, in her dark dress, in a black hat with a turndown brim, was walking up and down the whole length of the arcade with a blind Frenchwoman, and, every time she met Kitty, they exchanged friendly glances.
“Mamma, couldn’t I speak to her?” said Kitty, watching her unknown friend, and noticing that she was going up to the spring, and that they might come there together.
“Oh, if you want to so much, I’ll find out about her first and make her acquaintance myself,” answered her mother. “What do you see in her out of the way? A companion, she must be. If you like, I’ll make acquaintance with Madame Stahl; I used to know her belle-seur,” added the princess, lifting her head haughtily.
Kitty knew that the princess was offended that Madame Stahl had seemed to avoid making her acquaintance. Kitty did not insist.
“How wonderfully sweet she is!” she said, gazing at Varenka just as she handed a glass to the Frenchwoman. “Look how natural and sweet it all is.”
“It’s so funny to see your engouements,” said the princess. “No, we’d better go back,” she added, noticing Levin coming towards them with his companion and a German doctor, to whom he was talking very noisily and angrily.
They turned to go back, when suddenly they heard, not noisy talk, but shouting. Levin, stopping short, was shouting at the doctor, and the doctor, too, was excited. A crowd gathered about them. The princess and Kitty beat a hasty retreat, while the colonel joined the crowd to find out what was the matter.
A few minutes later the colonel overtook them.
“What was it?” inquired the princess.
“Scandalous and disgraceful!” answered the colonel. “The one thing to be dreaded is meeting Russians abroad. That tall gentleman was abusing the doctor, flinging all sorts of insults at him because he wasn’t treating him quite as he liked, and he began waving his stick at him. It’s simply a scandal!”
“Oh, how unpleasant!” said the princess. “Well, and how did it end?”
“Luckily at that point that…the one in the mushroom hat… intervened. A Russian lady, I think she is,” said the colonel.
“Mademoiselle Varenka?” asked Kitty.
“Yes, yes. She came to the rescue before anyone; she took the man by the arm and led him away.”
“There, mamma,” said Kitty; “you wonder that I’m enthusiastic about her.”
The next day, as she watched her unknown friend, Kitty noticed that Mademoiselle Varenka was already on the same terms with Levin and his companion as with her other proteges. She went up to them, entered into conversation with them, and served as interpreter for the woman, who could not speak any foreign language.
Kitty began to entreat her mother still more urgently to let her make friends with Varenka. And, disagreeable as it was to the princess to seem to take the first step in wishing to make the acquaintance of Madame Stahl,who thought fit to give herself airs, she made inquiries about Varenka, and, having ascertained particulars about her tending to prove that there could be no harm though little good in the acquaintance, she herself approached Varenka and made acquaintance with her.
Choosing a time when her daughter had gone to the spring, while Varenka had stopped outside the baker’s, the princess went up to her.
“Allow me to make your acquaintance,” she said, with her dignified smile. “My daughter has lost her heart to you,” she said. “Possibly you do not know me. I am…”
“That feeling is more than reciprocal, princess,” Varenka answered hurriedly.
“What a good deed you did yesterday to our poor compatriot!” said the princess.
Varenka flushed a little. “I don’t remember. I don’t think I did anything,” she said.
“Why, you saved that Levin from disagreeable consequences.”
“Yes, sa compagne called me, and I tried to pacify him, he’s very ill and was dissatisfied with the doctor. I’m used to looking after such invalids.”
“Yes, I’ve heard you live at Mentone with your aunt–I think– Madame Stahl: I used to know her belle-soeur.”
“No, she’s not my aunt. I call her mamma, but I am not related to her; I was brought up by her,” answered Varenka, flushing a little again.
This was so simply said, and so sweet was the truthful and candid expression of her face, that the princess saw why Kitty had taken such a fancy to Varenka.
“Well, and what’s this Levin going to do?” asked the princess.
“He’s going away,” answered Varenka.
At that instant Kitty came up from the spring beaming with delight that her mother had become acquainted with her unknown friend.
“Well, see, Kitty, your intense desire to make friends with Mademoiselle . . .”
“Varenka,” Varenka put in smiling, “that’s what everyone calls me.”
Kitty blushed with pleasure, and slowly, without speaking, pressed her new friend’s hand, which did not respond to her pressure, but lay motionless in her hand. The hand did not respond to her pressure, but the face of Mademoiselle Varenka glowed with a soft, glad, though rather mournful smile, that showed large but handsome teeth.
“I have long wished for this too,” she said.
“But you are so busy.”
“Oh, no, I’m not at all busy,” answered Varenka, but at that moment she had to leave her new friends because two little Russian girls, children of an invalid, ran up to her.
“Varenka, mamma’s calling!” they cried.
And Varenka went after them.
The particulars which the princess had learned in regard to Varenka’s past and her relations with Madame Stahl were as follows:
Madame Stahl, of whom some people said that she had worried her husband out of his life, while others said it was he who had made her wretched by his immoral behavior, had always been a woman of weak health and enthusiastic temperament. When, after her separation from her husband, she gave birth to her only child, the child had died almost immediately, and the family of Madame Stahl, knowing her sensibility, and fearing the news would kill her, had substituted another child, a baby born the same night and in the same house in Petersburg, the daughter of the chief cook of the Imperial Household. This was Varenka. Madame Stahl learned later on that Varenka was not her own child, but she went on bringing her up, especially as very soon afterwards Varenka had not a relation of her own living. Madame Stahl had now been living more than ten years continuously abroad, in the south, never leaving her couch. And some people said that Madame Stahl had made her social position as a philanthropic, highly religious woman; other people said she really was at heart the highly ethical being, living for nothing but the good of her fellow creatures, which she represented herself to be. No one knew what her faith was–Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox. But one fact was indubitable–she was in amicable relations with the highest dignitaries of all the churches and sects.
Varenka lived with her all the while abroad, and everyone who knew Madame Stahl knew and liked Mademoiselle Varenka, as everyone called her.
Having learned all these facts, the princess found nothing to object to in her daughter’s intimacy with Varenka, more especially as Varenka’s breeding and education were of the best–she spoke French and English extremely well–and what was of the most weight, brought a message from Madame Stahl expressing her regret that she was prevented by her ill health from making the acquaintance of the princess.
After getting to know Varenka, Kitty became more and more fascinated by her friend, and every day she discovered new virtues in her.
The princess, hearing that Varenka had a good voice, asked her to come and sing to them in the evening.
“Kitty plays, and we have a piano, not a good one, it’s true, but you will give us so much pleasure,” said the princess with her affected smile, which Kitty disliked particularly just then, because she noticed that Varenka had no inclination to sing. Varenka came, however, in the evening and brought a roll of music with her. The princess had invited Marya Yevgenyevna and her daughter and the colonel.
Varenka seemed quite unaffected by there being persons present she did not know, and she went directly to the piano. She could not accompany herself, but she could sing music at sight very well. Kitty, who played well, accompanied her.
“You have an extraordinary talent,” the princess said to her after Varenka had sung the first song extremely well.
Marya Yevgenyevna and her daughter expressed their thanks and admiration.
“Look,” said the colonel, looking out of the window, “what an audience has collected to listen to you.” There actually was quite a considerable crowd under the windows.
“I am very glad it gives you pleasure,” Varenka answered simply.
Kitty looked with pride at her friend. She was enchanted by her talent, and her voice and her face, but most of all by her manner, by the way Varenka obviously thought nothing of her singing and was quite unmoved by their praises. She seemed only to be asking: “Am I to sing again, or is that enough?”
“If it had been I,” thought Kitty, “how proud I should have been! How delighted I should have been to see that crowd under the windows! But she’s utterly unmoved by it. Her only motive is to avoid refusing and to please mamma. What is there in her? What is it gives her the power to look down on everything, to be calm independently of everything? How I should like to know it and to learn it of her!” thought Kitty, gazing into her serene face. The princess asked Varenka to sing again, and Varenka sang another song, also smoothly, distinctly, and well, standing erect at the piano and beating time on it with her thin, dark-skinned hand.
The next song in the book was an Italian one. Kitty played the opening bars, and looked round at Varenka.
“Let’s skip that,” said Varenka, flushing a little. Kitty let her eyes rest on Varenka’s face, with a look of dismay and inquiry.
“Very well, the next one,” she said hurriedly, turning over the pages, and at once feeling that there was something connected with the song.
“No,” answered Varenka with a smile, laying her hand on the music, “no, let’s have that one.” And she sang it just as quietly, as coolly, and as well as the others.
When she had finished, they all thanked her again, and went off to tea. Kitty and Varenka went out into the little garden that adjoined the house.
“Am I right, that you have some reminiscences connected with that song?” said Kitty. “Don’t tell me,” she added hastily, “only say if I’m right.”
“No, why not? I’ll tell you simply,” said Varenka, and, without waiting for a reply, she went on: “Yes, it brings up memories, once painful ones. I cared for someone once, and I used to sing him that song.”
Kitty with big, wide-open eyes gazed silently, sympathetically at Varenka.
“I cared for him, and he cared for me; but his mother did not wish it, and he married another girl. He’s living now not far from us, and I see him sometimes. You didn’t think I had a love story too,” she said, and there was a faint gleam in her handsome face of that fire which Kitty felt must once have glowed all over her.
“I didn’t think so? Why, if I were a man, I could never care for anyone else after knowing you. Only I can’t understand how he could, to please his mother, forget you and make you unhappy; he had no heart.”
“Oh, no, he’s a very good man, and I’m not unhappy; quite the contrary, I’m very happy. Well, so we shan’t be singing any more now,” she added, turning towards the house.
“How good you are! how good you are!” cried Kitty, and stopping her, she kissed her. “If I could only be even a little like you!”
“Why should you be like anyone? You’re nice as you are,” said Varenka, smiling her gentle, weary smile.
“No, I’m not nice at all. Come, tell me…. Stop a minute, let’s sit down,” said Kitty, making her sit down again beside her. “Tell me, isn’t it humiliating to think that a man has disdained your love, that he hasn’t cared for it?…”
“But he didn’t disdain it; I believe he cared for me, but he was a dutiful son…”
“Yes, but if it hadn’t been on account of his mother, if it had been his own doing?…” said Kitty, feeling she was giving away her secret, and that her face, burning with the flush of shame, had betrayed her already.
“I that case he would have done wrong, and I should not have regretted him,” answered Varenka, evidently realizing that they were now talking not of her, but of Kitty.
“But the humiliation,” said Kitty, “the humiliation one can never forget, can never forget,” she said, remembering her look at the last ball during the pause in the music.
“Where is the humiliation? Why, you did nothing wrong?”
“Worse than wrong–shameful.”
Varenka shook her head and laid her hand on Kitty’s hand.
“Why, what is there shameful?” she said. “You didn’t tell a man, who didn’t care for you, that you loved him, did you?”
“Of course not, I never said a word, but he knew it. No, no, there are looks, there are ways; I can’t forget it, if I live a hundred years.”
“Why so? I don’t understand. The whole point is whether you love him now or not,” said Varenka, who called everything by its name.
“I hate him; I can’t forgive myself.”
“Why, what for?”
“The shame, the humiliation!”
“Oh! if everyone were as sensitive as you are!” said Varenka. “There isn’t a girl who hasn’t been through the same. And it’s all so unimportant.”
“Why, what is important?” said Kitty, looking into her face with inquisitive wonder.
“Oh, there’s so much that’s important,” said Varenka, smiling.
“Oh, so much that’s more important,” answered Varenka, not knowing what to say. But at that instant they heard the princess’s voice from the window. “Kitty, it’s cold! Either get a shawl, or come indoors.”
“It really is time to go in!” said Varenka, getting up. “I have to go on to Madame Berthe’s; she asked me to.”
Kitty held her by the hand, and with passionate curiosity and entreaty her eyes asked her: “What is it, what is this of such importance that gives you such tranquillity? You know, tell me!” But Varenka did not even know what Kitty’s eyes were asking her. She merely thought that she had to go to see Madame Berthe too that evening, and to make haste home in time for maman’s tea at twelve o’clock. She went indoors, collected her music, and saying good-bye to everyone, was about to go.
“Allow me to see you home,” said the colonel.
“Yes, how can you go alone at night like this?” chimed in the princess. “Anyway, I’ll send Parasha.”
Kitty saw that Varenka could hardly restrain a smile at the idea that she needed an escort.
“No, I always go about alone and nothing ever happens to me,” she said, taking her hat. And kissing Kitty once more, without saying what was important, she stepped out courageously with the music under her arm and vanished into the twilight of the summer night, bearing away with her her secret of what was important and what gave her the calm and dignity so much to be envied.
Kitty made the acquaintance of Madame Stahl too, and this acquaintance, together with her friendship with Varenka, did not merely exercise a great influence on her, it also comforted her in her mental distress. She found this comfort through a completely new world being opened to her by means of this acquaintance, a world having nothing in common with her past, an exalted, noble world, from the height of which she could contemplate her past calmly. It was revealed to her that besides the instinctive life to which Kitty had given herself up hitherto there was a spiritual life. This life was disclosed in religion, but a religion having nothing in common with that one which Kitty had known from childhood, and which found expression in litanies and all-night services at the Widow’s Home, where one might meet one’s friends, and in learning by heart Slavonic texts with the priest. This was a lofty, mysterious religion connected with a whole series of noble thoughts and feelings, which one could do more than merely believe because one was told to, which one could love.
Kitty found all this out not from words. Madame Stahl talked to Kitty as to a charming child that one looks on with pleasure as on the memory of one’s youth, and only once she said in passing that in all human sorrows nothing gives comfort but love and faith, and that in the sight of Christ’s compassion for us no sorrow is trifling–and immediately talked of other things. But in every gesture of Madame Stahl, in every word, in every heavenly–as Kitty called it–look, and above all in the whole story of her life, which she heard from Varenka, Kitty recognized that something “that was important,” of which, till then, she had known nothing.
Yet, elevated as Madame Stahl’s character was, touching as was her story, and exalted and moving as was her speech, Kitty could not help detecting in her some traits which perplexed her. She noticed that when questioning her about her family, Madame Stahl had smiled contemptuously, which was not in accord with Christian meekness. She noticed, too, that when she had found a Catholic priest with her, Madame Stahl had studiously kept her face in the shadow of the lamp-shade and had smiled in a peculiar way. Trivial as these two observations were, they perplexed her, and she had her doubts as to Madame Stahl. But on the other hand Varenka, alone in the world, without friends or relations, with a melancholy disappointment in the past, desiring nothing, regretting nothing, was just that perfection of which Kitty dared hardly dream. In Varenka she realized that one has but to forget oneself and love others, and one will be calm, happy, and noble. And that was what Kitty longed to be. Seeing now clearly what was the most important, Kitty was not satisfied with being enthusiastic over it; she at once gave herself up with her whole soul to the new life that was opening to her. From Varenka’s accounts of the doings of Madame Stahl and other people whom she mentioned, Kitty had already constructed the plan of her own future life. She would, like Madame Stahl’s niece, Aline, of whom Varenka had talked to her a great deal, seek out those who were in trouble, wherever she might be living, help them as far as she could, give them the Gospel, read the Gospel to the sick, the criminals, to the dying. The idea of reading the Gospel to criminals, as Aline did, particularly fascinated Kitty. But all these were secret dreams, of which Kitty did not talk either to her mother or to Varenka.
While awaiting the time for carrying out her plans on a large scale, however, Kitty, even then at the springs, where there were so many people ill and unhappy, readily found a chance for practicing her new principles in imitation of Varenka.
At first the princess noticed nothing but that Kitty was much under the influence of her engouement, as she called it, for Madame Stahl, and still more for Varenka. She saw that Kitty did not merely imitate Varenka in her conduct, but unconsciously imitated her in her manner of walking, of talking, of blinking her eyes. But later on the princess noticed that, apart from this adoration, some kind of serious spiritual change was taking place in her daughter.
The princess saw that in the evenings Kitty read a French testament that Madame Stahl had given her–a thing she had never done before; that she avoided society acquaintances and associated with the sick people who were under Varenka’s protection, and especially one poor family, that of a sick painter, Petrov. Kitty was unmistakably proud of playing the part of a sister of mercy in that family. All this was well enough, and the princess had nothing to say against it, especially as Petrov’s wife was a perfectly nice sort of woman, and that the German princess, noticing Kitty’s devotion, praised her, calling her an angel of consolation. All this would have been very well, if there had been no exaggeration. But the princess saw that her daughter was rushing into extremes, and so indeed she told her.
“Il ne faut jamais rien outrer,” she said to her.
Her daughter made her no reply, only in her heart she thought that one could not talk about exaggeration where Christianity was concerned. What exaggeration could there be in the practice of a doctrine wherein one was bidden to turn the other cheek when one was smitten, and give one’s cloak if one’s coat were taken? But the princess disliked this exaggeration, and disliked even more the fact that she felt her daughter did not care to show her all her heart. Kitty did in fact conceal her new views and feelings from her mother. She concealed them not because she did not respect or did not love her mother, but simply because she was her mother. She would have revealed them to anyone sooner than to her mother.
“How is it Anna Pavlovna’s not been to see us for so long?” the princess said one day of Madame Petrova. “I’ve asked her, but she seems put out about something.”
“No, I’ve not noticed it, maman,” said Kitty, flushing hotly.
“Is it long since you went to see them?”
“We’re meaning to make an expedition to the mountains tomorrow,” answered Kitty,
“Well, you can go,” answered the princess, gazing at her daughter’s embarrassed face and trying to guess the cause of her embarrassment.
That day Varenka came to dinner and told them that Anna Pavlovna had changed her mind and given up the expedition for the morrow. And the princess noticed again that Kitty reddened.
“Kitty, haven’t you had some misunderstanding with the Petrovs?” said the princess, when they were left alone. “Why has she given up sending the children and coming to see us?”
Kitty answered that nothing had happened between them, and that she could not tell why Anna Pavlovna seemed displeased with her. Kitty answered perfectly truly. She did not know the reason Anna Pavlovna had changed to her, but she guessed it. She guessed at something which she could not tell her mother, which she did not put into words to herself. It was one of those things which one knows but which one can never speak of even to oneself so terrible and shameful would it be to be mistaken.
Again and again she went over in her memory all her relations with the family. She remembered the simple delight expressed on the round, good-humored face of Anna Pavlovna at their meetings; she remembered their secret confabulations about the invalid, their plots to draw him away from the work which was forbidden him, and to get him out-of-doors; the devotion of the youngest boy, who used to call her “my Kitty,” and would not go to bed without her. How nice it all was! Then she recalled the thin, terribly thin figure of Petrov, with his long neck, in his brown coat, his scant, curly hair, his questioning blue eyes that were so terrible to Kitty at first, and his painful attempts to seem hearty and lively in her presence. She recalled the efforts she had made at first to overcome the repugnance she felt for him, as for all consumptive people, and the pains it had cost her to think of things to say to him. She recalled the timid, softened look with which he gazed at her, and the strange feeling of compassion and awkwardness, and later of a sense of her own goodness, which she had felt at it. How nice it all was! But all that was at first. Now, a few days ago, everything was suddenly spoiled. Anna Pavlovna had met Kitty with affected cordiality, and had kept continual watch on her and on her husband.
Could that touching pleasure he showed when she came near be the cause of Anna Pavlovna’s coolness?
“Yes,” she mused, “there was something unnatural about Anna Pavlovna, and utterly unlike her good nature, when she said angrily the day before yesterday: ‘There, he will keep waiting for you; he wouldn’t drink his coffee without you, though he’s grown so dreadfully weak.’ ”
“Yes, perhaps, too, she didn’t like it when I gave him the rug. It was all so simple, but he took it so awkwardly, and was so long thanking me, that I felt awkward too. And then that portrait of me he did so well. And most of all that look of confusion and tenderness! Yes, yes, that’s it!” Kitty repeated to herself with horror. “No, it can’t be, it oughtn’t to be! He’s so much to be pitied!” she said to herself directly after.
This doubt poisoned the charm of her new life.
Before the end of the course of drinking the waters, Prince Shtcherbatsky, who had gone on from Carlsbad to Baden and Kissingen to Russian friends–to get a breath of Russian air, as he said–came back to his wife and daughter.
The views of the prince and of the princess on life abroad were completely opposed. The princess thought everything delightful, and in spite of her established position in Russian society, she tried abroad to be like a European fashionable lady, which she was not–for the simple reason that she was a typical Russian gentlewoman; and so she was affected, which did not altogether suit her. The prince, on the contrary, thought everything foreign detestable, got sick of European life, kept to his Russian habits, and purposely tried to show himself abroad less European than he was in reality.
The prince returned thinner, with the skin hanging in loose bags on his cheeks, but in the most cheerful frame of mind. His good humor was even greater when he saw Kitty completely recovered. The news of Kitty’s friendship with Madame Stahl and Varenka, and the reports the princess gave him of some kind of change she had noticed in Kitty, troubled the prince and aroused his habitual feeling of jealousy of everything that drew his daughter away from him, and a dread that his daughter might have got out of the reach of his influence into regions inaccessible to him. But these unpleasant matters were all drowned in the sea of kindliness and good humor which was always within him, and more so than ever since his course of Carlsbad waters.
The day after his arrival the prince, in his long overcoat, with his Russian wrinkles and baggy cheeks propped up by a starched collar, set off with his daughter to the spring in the greatest good humor.
It was a lovely morning: the bright, cheerful houses with their little gardens, the sight of the red-faced, red-armed, beer-drinking German waitresses, working away merrily, did the heart good. But the nearer they got to the springs the oftener they met sick people; and their appearance seemed more pitiable than ever among the everyday conditions of prosperous German life. Kitty was no longer struck by this contrast. The bright sun, the brilliant green of the foliage, the strains of the music were for her the natural setting of all these familiar faces, with their changes to greater emaciation or to convalescence, for which she watched. But to the prince the brightness and gaiety of the June morning, and the sound of the orchestra playing a gay waltz then in fashion, and above all, the appearance of the healthy attendants, seemed something unseemly and monstrous, in conjunction with these slowly moving, dying figures gathered together from all parts of Europe. In spite of his feeling of pride and, as it were, of the return of youth, with his favorite daughter on his arm, he felt awkward, and almost ashamed of his vigorous step and his sturdy, stout limbs. He felt almost like a man not dressed in a crowd.
“Present me to your new friends,” he said to his daughter, squeezing her hand with his elbow. “I like even your horrid Soden for making you so well again. Only it’s melancholy, very melancholy here. Who’s that?”
Kitty mentioned the names of all the people they met, with some of whom she was acquainted and some not. At the entrance of the garden they met the blind lady, Madame Berthe, with her guide, and the prince was delighted to see the old Frenchwoman’s face light up when she heard Kitty’s voice. She at once began talking to him with French exaggerated politeness, applauding him for having such a delightful daughter, extolling Kitty to the skies before her face, and calling her a treasure, a pearl, and a consoling angel.
“Well, she’s the second angel, then,” said the prince, smiling. “she calls Mademoiselle Varenka angel number one.”
“Oh! Mademoiselle Varenka, she’s a real angel, allez,” Madame Berthe assented.
In the arcade they met Varenka herself. She was walking rapidly towards them carrying an elegant red bag.
“Here is papa come,” Kitty said to her.
Varenka made–simply and naturally as she did everything–a movement between a bow and curtsey, and immediately began talking to the prince, without shyness, naturally, as she talked to everyone.
“Of course I know you; I know you very well,” the prince said to her with a smile, in which Kitty detected with joy that her father liked her friend. “Where are you off to in such haste?”
“Maman’s here,” she said, turning to Kitty. “She has not slept all night, and the doctor advised her to go out. I’m taking her her work.”
“So that’s angel number one?” said the prince when Varenka had gone on.
Kitty saw that her father had meant to make fun of Varenka, but that he could not do it because he liked her.
“Come, so we shall see all your friends,” he went on, “even Madame Stahl, if she deigns to recognize me.”
“Why, did you know her, papa?” Kitty asked apprehensively, catching the gleam of irony that kindled in the prince’s eyes at the mention of Madame Stahl.
“I used to know her husband, and her too a little, before she’d joined the Pietists.”
“What is a Pietist, papa?” asked Kitty, dismayed to find that what she prized so highly in Madame Stahl had a name.
“I don’t quite know myself. I only know that she thanks God for everything, for every misfortune, and thanks God too that her husband died. And that’s rather droll, as they didn’t get on together.”
“Who’s that? What a piteous face!” he asked, noticing a sick man of medium height sitting on a bench, wearing a brown overcoat and white trousers that fell in strange folds about his long, fleshless legs. This man lifted his straw hat, showed his scanty curly hair and high forehead, painfully reddened by the pressure of the hat.
“That’s Petrov, an artist,” answered Kitty, blushing. “And that’s his wife,” she added, indicating Anna Pavlovna, who, as though on purpose, at the very instant they approached walked away after a child that had run off along a path.
“Poor fellow! and what a nice face he has!” said the prince. “Why don’t you go up to him? He wanted to speak to you.”
“Well, let us go, then,” said Kitty, turning round resolutely. “How are you feeling today?” she asked Petrov.
Petrov got up, leaning on his stick, and looked shyly at the prince.
“This is my daughter,” said the prince. “Let me introduce myself.”
The painter bowed and smiled, showing his strangely dazzling white teeth.
“We expected you yesterday, princess,” he said to Kitty. He staggered as he said this, and then repeated the motion, trying to make it seem as if it had been intentional.
“I meant to come, but Varenka said that Anna Pavlovna sent word you were not going.”
“Not going!” said Petrov, blushing, and immediately beginning to cough, and his eyes sought his wife. “Anita! Anita!” he said loudly, and the swollen veins stood out like cords on his thin white neck.
Anna Pavlovna came up.
“So you sent word to the princess that we weren’t going!” he whispered to her angrily, losing his voice.
“Good morning, princess,” said Anna Pavlovna, with an assumed smile utterly unlike her former manner. “Very glad to make your acquaintance,” she said to the prince. “You’ve long been expected, prince.”
“What did you send word to the princess that we weren’t going for?” the artist whispered hoarsely once more, still more angrily, obviously exasperated that his voice failed him so that he could not give his words the expression he would have liked to.
“Oh, mercy on us! I thought we weren’t going,” his wife answered crossly.
“What, when….” He coughed and waved his hand. The prince took off his hat and moved away with his daughter.
“Ah! ah!” he sighed deeply. “Oh, poor things!”
“Yes, papa,” answered Kitty. “And you must know they’ve three children, no servant, and scarcely any means. He gets something from the Academy,” she went on briskly, trying to drown the distress that the queer change in Anna Pavlovna’s manner to her had aroused in her.
“Oh, here’s Madame Stahl,” said Kitty, indicating an invalid carriage, where, propped on pillows, something in gray and blue was lying under a sunshade. This was Madame Stahl. Behind her stood the gloomy, healthy-looking German workman who pushed the carriage. Close by was standing a flaxen-headed Swedish count, whom Kitty knew by name. Several invalids were lingering near the low carriage, staring at the lady as though she were some curiosity.
The prince went up to her, and Kitty detected that disconcerting gleam of irony in his eyes. He went up to Madame Stahl, and addressed her with extreme courtesy and affability in that excellent French that so few speak nowadays.
“I don’t know if you remember me, but I must recall myself to thank you for your kindness to my daughter,” he said, taking off his hat and not putting it on again.
“Prince Alexander Shtcherbatsky,” said Madame Stahl, lifting upon him her heavenly eyes, in which Kitty discerned a look of annoyance. “Delighted! I have taken a great fancy to your daughter.”
“You are still in weak health?”
“Yes; I’m used to it,” said Madame Stahl, and she introduced the prince to the Swedish count.
“You are scarcely changed at all,” the prince said to her. “It’s ten or eleven years since I had the honor of seeing you.”
“Yes; God sends the cross and sends the strength to bear it. Often one wonders what is the goal of this life?… The other side!” she said angrily to Varenka, who had rearranged the rug over her feet not to her satisfaction.
“To do good, probably,” said the prince with a twinkle in his eye.
“That is not for us to judge,” said Madame Stahl, perceiving the shade of expression on the prince’s face. “So you will send me that book, dear count? I’m very grateful to you,” she said to the young Swede.
“Ah!” cried the prince, catching sight of the Moscow colonel standing near, and with a bow to Madame Stahl he walked away with his daughter and the Moscow colonel, who joined them.
“That’s our aristocracy, prince!” the Moscow colonel said with ironical intention. He cherished a grudge against Madame Stahl for not making his acquaintance.
“She’s just the same,” replied the prince.
“Did you know her before her illness, prince–that’s to say before she took to her bed?”
“Yes. She took to her bed before my eyes,” said the prince.
“They say it’s ten years since she has stood on her feet.”
“She doesn’t stand up because her legs are too short. She’s a very bad figure.”
“Papa, it’s not possible!” cried Kitty.
“That’s what wicked tongues say, my darling. And your Varenka catches it too,” he added. “Oh, these invalid ladies!”
“Oh, no, papa!” Kitty objected warmly. “Varenka worships her. And then she does so much good! Ask anyone! Everyone knows her and Aline Stahl.”
“Perhaps so,” said the prince, squeezing her hand with his elbow; “but it’s better when one does good so that you may ask everyone and no one knows.”
Kitty did not answer, not because she had nothing to say, but because she did not care to reveal her secret thoughts even to her father. But, strange to say, although she had so made up her mind not to be influenced by her father’s views, not to let him into her inmost sanctuary, she felt that the heavenly image of Madame Stahl, which she had carried for a whole month in her heart, had vanished, never to return, just as the fantastic figure made up of some clothes thrown down at random vanishes when one sees that it is only some garment lying there. All that was left was a woman with short legs, who lay down because she had a bad figure, and worried patient Varenka for not arranging her rug to her liking. And by no effort of the imagination could Kitty bring back the former Madame Stahl.
The prince communicated his good humor to his own family and his friends, and even to the German landlord in whose rooms the Shtcherbatskys were staying.
On coming back with Kitty from the springs, the prince, who had asked the colonel, and Marya Yevgenyevna, and Varenka all to come and have coffee with them, gave orders for a table and chairs to be taken into the garden under the chestnut tree, and lunch to be laid there. The landlord and the servants, too, grew brisker under the influence of his good spirits. They knew his open-handedness; and half an hour later the invalid doctor from Hamburg, who lived on the top floor, looked enviously out of the window at the merry party of healthy Russians assembled under the chestnut tree. In the trembling circles of shadow cast by the leaves, at a table, covered with a white cloth, and set with coffeepot, bread-and-butter, cheese, and cold game, sat the princess in a high cap with lilac ribbons, distributing cups and bread-and-butter. At the other end sat the prince, eating heartily, and talking loudly and merrily. The prince had spread out near him his purchases, carved boxes, and knick-knacks, paper-knives of all sorts, of which he bought a heap at every watering-place, and bestowed them upon everyone, including Lieschen, the servant girl, and the landlord, with whom he jested in his comically bad German, assuring him that it was not the water had cured Kitty, but his splendid cookery, especially his plum soup. The princess laughed at her husband for his Russian ways, but she was more lively and good-humored than she had been all the while she had been at the waters. The colonel smiled, as he always did, at the prince’s jokes, but as far as regards Europe, of which he believed himself to be making a careful study, he took the princess’s side. The simple-hearted Marya Yevgenyevna simply roared with laughter at everything absurd the prince said, and his jokes made Varenka helpless with feeble but infectious laughter, which was something Kitty had never seen before.
Kitty was glad of all this, but she could not be light-hearted. she could not solve the problem her father had unconsciously set her by his goodhumored view of her friends, and of the life that had so attracted her. To this doubt there was joined the change in her relations with the Petrovs, which had been so conspicuously and unpleasantly marked that morning. Everyone was good humored, but Kitty could not feel good humored, and this increased her distress. She felt a feeling such as she had known in childhood, when she had been shut in her room as a punishment, and had heard her sisters’ merry laughter outside.
“Well, but what did you buy this mass of things for?” said the princess, smiling, and handing her husband a cup of coffee.
“One goes for a walk, one looks in a shop, and they ask you to buy. ‘Erlaucht, Durchlaucht?’ Directly they say ‘Durchlaucht,’ I can’t hold out. I lose ten thalers.”
“It’s simply from boredom,” said the princess.
“Of course it is. Such boredom, my dear, that one doesn’t know what to do with oneself.”
“How can you be bored, prince? There’s so much that’s interesting now in Germany,” said Marya Yevgenyevna.
“But I know everything that’s interesting: the plum soup I know, and the pea sausages I know. I know everything.”
“No, you may say what you like, prince, there’s the interest of their institutions,” said the colonel.
“But what is there interesting about it? They’re all as pleased as brass halfpence. They’ve conquered everybody, and why am I to be pleased at that? I haven’t conquered anyone; and I’m obliged to take off my own boots, yes, and put them away too; in the morning, get up and dress at once, and go to the dining room to drink bad tea! How different it is at home! You get up in no haste, you get cross, grumble a little, and come round again. You’ve time to think things over, and no hurry.”
“But time’s money, you forget that,” said the colonel.
“Time, indeed, that depends! Why, there’s time one would give a month of for sixpence, and time you wouldn’t give half an hour of for any money. Isn’t that so, Katinka? What is it? why are you so depressed?”
“I’m not depressed.”
“Where are you off to? Stay a little longer,” he said to Varenka.
“I must be going home,” said Varenka, getting up, and again she went off into a giggle. When she had recovered, she said good-bye, and went into the house to get her hat.
Kitty followed her. Even Varenka struck her as different. She was not worse, but different from what she had fancied her before.
“Oh, dear! it’s a long while since I’ve laughed so much!” said Varenka, gathering up her parasol and her bag. “How nice he is, your father!”
Kitty did not speak.
“When shall I see you again?” asked Varenka.
“Mamma meant to go and see the Petrovs. Won’t you be there?” said Kitty, to try Varenka.
“Yes,” answered Varenka. “They’re getting ready to go away, so I promised to help them pack.”
“Well, I’ll come too, then.”
“No, why should you?”
“Why not? why not? why not?” said Kitty, opening her eyes wide, and clutching at Varenka’s parasol, so as not to let her go. “No, wait a minute; why not?”
“Oh, nothing; your father has come, and besides, they will feel awkward at your helping.”
“No, tell me why you don’t want me to be often at the Petrovs’. You don’t want me to–why not?”
“I didn’t say that,” said Varenka quietly.
“No, please tell me!”
“Tell you everything?” asked Varenka.
“Everything, everything!” Kitty assented.
“Well, there’s really nothing of any consequence; only that Mihail Alexeyevitch” (that was the artist’s name) “had meant to leave earlier, and now he doesn’t want to go away,” said Varenka, smiling.
“Well, well!” Kitty urged impatiently, looking darkly at Varenka.
“Well, and for some reason Anna Pavlovna told him that he didn’t want to go because you are here. Of course, that was nonsense; but there was a dispute over it–over you. You know how irritable these sick people are.”
Kitty, scowling more than ever, kept silent, and Varenka went on speaking alone, trying to soften or soothe her, and seeing a storm coming–she did not know whether of tears or of words.
“So you’d better not go…. You understand; you won’t be offended?…”
“And it serves me right! And it serves me right!” Kitty cried quickly, snatching the parasol out of Varenka’s hand, and looking past her friend’s face.
Varenka felt inclined to smile, looking at her childish fury, but she was afraid of wounding her.
“How does it serve you right? I don’t understand,” she said.
“It serves me right, because it was all sham; because it was all done on purpose, and not from the heart. What business had I to interfere with outsiders? And so it’s come about that I’m a cause of quarrel, and that I’ve done what nobody asked me to do. Because it was all a sham! a sham! a sham! . . .”
“A sham! with what object?” said Varenka gently.
“Oh, it’s so idiotic! so hateful! There was no need whatever for me…. Nothing but sham!” she said, opening and shutting the parasol.
“But with what object?”
“To seem better to people, to myself, to God; to deceive everyone. No! now I won’t descend to that. I’ll be bad; but anyway not a liar, a cheat.”
“But who is a cheat?” said Varenka reproachfully. “You speak as if…”
But Kitty was in one of her gusts of fury, and she would not let her finish.
“I don’t talk about you, not about you at all. You’re perfection. Yes, yes, I know you’re all perfection; but what am I to do if I’m bad? This would never have been if I weren’t bad. So let me be what I am. I won’t be a sham. What have I to do with Anna Pavlovna? Let them go their way, and me go mine. I can’t be different…. And yet it’s not that, it’s not that.”
“What is not that?” asked Varenka in bewilderment.
“Everything. I can’t act except from the heart, and you act from principle. I liked you simply, but you most likely only wanted to save me, to improve me.”
“You are unjust,” said Varenka.
“But I’m not speaking of other people, I’m speaking of myself.”
“Kitty,” they heard her mother’s voice, “come here, show papa your necklace.”
Kitty, with a haughty air, without making peace with her friend, took the necklace in a little box from the table and went to her mother.
“What’s the matter? Why are you so red?” her mother and father said to her with one voice.
“Nothing,” she answered. “I’ll be back directly,” and she ran back.
“She’s still here,” she thought. “What am I to say to her? Oh, dear! what have I done, what have I said? Why was I rude to her? What am I to do? What am I to say to her?” thought Kitty, and she stopped in the doorway.
Varenka in her hat and with the parasol in her hands was sitting at the table examining the spring which Kitty had broken. She lifted her head.
“Varenka, forgive me, do forgive me,” whispered Kitty, going up to her. “I don’t remember what I said. I…”
“I really didn’t mean to hurt you,” said Varenka, smiling.
Peace was made. But with her father’s coming all the world in which she had been living was transformed for Kitty. She did not give up everything she had learned, but she became aware that she had deceived herself in supposing she could be what she wanted to be. Her eyes were, it seemed, opened; she felt all the difficulty of maintaining herself without hypocrisy and self-conceit on the pinnacle to which she had wished to mount. Moreover, she became aware of all the dreariness of the world of sorrow, of sick and dying people, in which she had been living. The efforts she had made to like it seemed to her intolerable, and she felt a longing to get back quickly into the fresh air, to Russia, to Ergushovo, where, as she knew from letters, her sister Dolly had already gone with her children.
But her affection for Varenka did not wane. As she said good-bye, Kitty begged her to come to them in Russia.
“I’ll come when you get married,” said Varenka.
“I shall never marry.”
“Well, then, I shall never come.”
“Well, then, I shall be married simply for that. Mind now, remember your promise,” said Kitty.
The doctor’s prediction was fulfilled. Kitty returned home to Russia cured. She was not so gay and thoughtless as before, but she was serene. Her Moscow troubles had become a memory to her.