Anna karenina, p.12
Anna Karenina, p.12graf Leo Tolstoy
The young Princess Kitty Shtcherbatskaya was eighteen. It was the firstwinter that she had been out in the world. Her success in society hadbeen greater than that of either of her elder sisters, and greater eventhan her mother had anticipated. To say nothing of the young men whodanced at the Moscow balls being almost all in love with Kitty, twoserious suitors had already this first winter made their appearance:Levin, and immediately after his departure, Count Vronsky.
Levin's appearance at the beginning of the winter, his frequent visits,and evident love for Kitty, had led to the first serious conversationsbetween Kitty's parents as to her future, and to disputes between them.The prince was on Levin's side; he said he wished for nothing better forKitty. The princess for her part, going round the question in the mannerpeculiar to women, maintained that Kitty was too young, that Levin haddone nothing to prove that he had serious intentions, that Kitty felt nogreat attraction to him, and other side issues; but she did not statethe principal point, which was that she looked for a better match forher daughter, and that Levin was not to her liking, and she did notunderstand him. When Levin had abruptly departed, the princess wasdelighted, and said to her husband triumphantly: "You see I was right."When Vronsky appeared on the scene, she was still more delighted,confirmed in her opinion that Kitty was to make not simply a good, but abrilliant match.
In the mother's eyes there could be no comparison between Vronsky andLevin. She disliked in Levin his strange and uncompromising opinions andhis shyness in society, founded, as she supposed, on his pride and hisqueer sort of life, as she considered it, absorbed in cattle andpeasants. She did not very much like it that he, who was in love withher daughter, had kept coming to the house for six weeks, as though hewere waiting for something, inspecting, as though he were afraid hemight be doing them too great an honor by making an offer, and did notrealize that a man, who continually visits at a house where there is ayoung unmarried girl, is bound to make his intentions clear. Andsuddenly, without doing so, he disappeared. "It's as well he's notattractive enough for Kitty to have fallen in love with him," thoughtthe mother.
Vronsky satisfied all the mother's desires. Very wealthy, clever, ofaristocratic family, on the highroad to a brilliant career in the armyand at court, and a fascinating man. Nothing better could be wished for.
Vronsky openly flirted with Kitty at balls, danced with her, and camecontinually to the house, consequently there could be no doubt of theseriousness of his intentions. But, in spite of that, the mother hadspent the whole of that winter in a state of terrible anxiety andagitation.
Princess Shtcherbatskaya had herself been married thirty years ago, heraunt arranging the match. Her husband, about whom everything was wellknown before hand, had come, looked at his future bride, and been lookedat. The match-making aunt had ascertained and communicated their mutualimpression. That impression had been favorable. Afterwards, on a dayfixed beforehand, the expected offer was made to her parents, andaccepted. All had passed very simply and easily. So it seemed, at least,to the princess. But over her own daughters she had felt how far fromsimple and easy is the business, apparently so commonplace, of marryingoff one's daughters. The panics that had been lived through, thethoughts that had been brooded over, the money that had been wasted, andthe disputes with her husband over marrying the two elder girls, Daryaand Natalia! Now, since the youngest had come out, she was going throughthe same terrors, the same doubts, and still more violent quarrels withher husband than she had over the elder girls. The old prince, like allfathers indeed, was exceedingly punctilious on the score of the honorand reputation of his daughters. He was irrationally jealous over hisdaughters, especially over Kitty, who was his favorite. At every turn hehad scenes with the princess for compromising her daughter. The princesshad grown accustomed to this already with her other daughters, but nowshe felt that there was more ground for the prince's touchiness. She sawthat of late years much was changed in the manners of society, that amother's duties had become still more difficult. She saw that girls ofKitty's age formed some sort of clubs, went to some sort of lectures,mixed freely in men's society; drove about the streets alone, many ofthem did not curtsey, and, what was the most important thing, all thegirls were firmly convinced that to choose their husbands was their ownaffair, and not their parents'. "Marriages aren't made nowadays as theyused to be," was thought and said by all these young girls, and even bytheir elders. But how marriages were made now, the princess could notlearn from any one. The French fashion--of the parents arranging theirchildren's future--was not accepted; it was condemned. The Englishfashion of the complete independence of girls was also not accepted, andnot possible in Russian society. The Russian fashion of match-making bythe offices of intermediate persons was for some reason consideredunseemly; it was ridiculed by every one, and by the princess herself.But how girls were to be married, and how parents were to marry them, noone knew. Everyone with whom the princess had chanced to discuss thematter said the same thing: "Mercy on us, it's high time in our day tocast off all that old-fashioned business. It's the young people have tomarry; and not their parents; and so we ought to leave the young peopleto arrange it as they choose." It was very easy for anyone to say thatwho had no daughters, but the princess realized that in the process ofgetting to know each other, her daughter might fall in love, and fall inlove with someone who did not care to marry her or who was quite unfitto be her husband. And, however much it was instilled into the princessthat in our times young people ought to arrange their lives forthemselves, she was unable to believe it, just as she would have beenunable to believe that, at any time whatever, the most suitableplaythings for children five years old ought to be loaded pistols. Andso the princess was more uneasy over Kitty than she had been over herelder sisters.
Now she was afraid that Vronsky might confine himself to simply flirtingwith her daughter. She saw that her daughter was in love with him, buttried to comfort herself with the thought that he was an honorable man,and would not do this. But at the same time she knew how easy it is,with the freedom of manners of today, to turn a girl's head, and howlightly men generally regard such a crime. The week before, Kitty hadtold her mother of a conversation she had with Vronsky during a mazurka.This conversation had partly reassured the princess; but perfectly atease she could not be. Vronsky had told Kitty that both he and hisbrother were so used to obeying their mother that they never made uptheir minds to any important undertaking without consulting her. "Andjust now, I am impatiently awaiting my mother's arrival from Petersburg,as peculiarly fortunate," he told her.
Kitty had repeated this without attaching any significance to the words.But her mother saw them in a different light. She knew that the old ladywas expected from day to day, that she would be pleased at her son'schoice, and she felt it strange that he should not make his offerthrough fear of vexing his mother. However, she was so anxious for themarriage itself, and still more for relief from her fears, that shebelieved it was so. Bitter as it was for the princess to see theunhappiness of her eldest daughter, Dolly, on the point of leaving herhusband, her anxiety over the decision of her youngest daughter's fateengrossed all her feelings. Today, with Levin's reappearance, a freshsource of anxiety arose. She was afraid that her daughter, who had atone time, as she fancied, a feeling for Levin, might, from extreme senseof honor, refuse Vronsky, and that Levin's arrival might generallycomplicate and delay the affair so near being concluded.
"Why, has he been here long?" the princess asked about Levin, as theyreturned home.
"He came today, mamma."
"There's one thing I want to say..." began the princess, and from herserious and alert face, Kitty guessed what it would be.
"Mamma," she said, flushing hotly and turning quickly to her, "please,please don't say anything about that. I know, I know all about it."
She wished for what her mother wished for, but the motives of hermother's wishes wounded her.
"I only want to say that to raise hopes..."
"I won't," said her mother, seeing the tears in her daughter's eyes;"but one thing, my love; you promised me you would have no secrets fromme. You won't?"
"Never, mamma, none," answered Kitty, flushing a little, and looking hermother straight in the face, "but there's no use in my telling youanything, and I ... I ... if I wanted to, I don't know what to say orhow ... I don't know..."
"No, she could not tell an untruth with those eyes," thought the mother,smiling at her agitation and happiness. The princess smiled that whatwas taking place just now in her soul seemed to the poor child soimmense and so important.
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