Anna karenina, p.159
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       Anna Karenina, p.159

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 2

  On the terrace were assembled all the ladies of the party. They alwaysliked sitting there after dinner, and that day they had work to do theretoo. Besides the sewing and knitting of baby clothes, with which all ofthem were busy, that afternoon jam was being made on the terrace by amethod new to Agafea Mihalovna, without the addition of water. Kitty hadintroduced this new method, which had been in use in her home. AgafeaMihalovna, to whom the task of jam-making had always been intrusted,considering that what had been done in the Levin household could not beamiss, had nevertheless put water with the strawberries, maintainingthat the jam could not be made without it. She had been caught in theact, and was now making jam before everyone, and it was to be proved toher conclusively that jam could be very well made without water.

  Agafea Mihalovna, her face heated and angry, her hair untidy, and herthin arms bare to the elbows, was turning the preserving-pan over thecharcoal stove, looking darkly at the raspberries and devoutly hopingthey would stick and not cook properly. The princess, conscious thatAgafea Mihalovna's wrath must be chiefly directed against her, as theperson responsible for the raspberry jam-making, tried to appear to beabsorbed in other things and not interested in the jam, talked of othermatters, but cast stealthy glances in the direction of the stove.

  "I always buy my maids' dresses myself, of some cheap material," theprincess said, continuing the previous conversation. "Isn't it time toskim it, my dear?" she added, addressing Agafea Mihalovna. "There's notthe slightest need for you to do it, and it's hot for you," she said,stopping Kitty.

  "I'll do it," said Dolly, and getting up, she carefully passed the spoonover the frothing sugar, and from time to time shook off the clingingjam from the spoon by knocking it on a plate that was covered withyellow-red scum and blood-colored syrup. "How they'll enjoy this attea-time!" she thought of her children, remembering how she herself as achild had wondered how it was the grown-up people did not eat what wasbest of all--the scum of the jam.

  "Stiva says it's much better to give money." Dolly took up meanwhile theweighty subject under discussion, what presents should be made toservants. "But..."

  "Money's out of the question!" the princess and Kitty exclaimed with onevoice. "They appreciate a present..."

  "Well, last year, for instance, I bought our Matrona Semyenovna, not apoplin, but something of that sort," said the princess.

  "I remember she was wearing it on your nameday."

  "A charming pattern--so simple and refined,--I should have liked itmyself, if she hadn't had it. Something like Varenka's. So pretty andinexpensive."

  "Well, now I think it's done," said Dolly, dropping the syrup from thespoon.

  "When it sets as it drops, it's ready. Cook it a little longer, AgafeaMihalovna."

  "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, lookingat a sparrow that had settled on the step and was pecking at the centerof 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 hadbeen doing all the while, so that Agafea Mihalovna should not understandthem, "you know, mamma, I somehow expect things to be settled today. Youknow what I mean. How splendid it would be!"

  "But what a famous matchmaker she is!" said Dolly. "How carefully andcleverly she throws them together!..."

  "No; tell me, mamma, what do you think?"

  "Why, what is one to think? He" (_he_ meant Sergey Ivanovitch) "might atany time have been a match for anyone in Russia; now, of course, he'snot quite a young man, still I know ever so many girls would be glad tomarry him even now.... She's a very nice girl, but he might..."

  "Oh, no, mamma, do understand why, for him and for her too, nothingbetter could be imagined. In the first place, she's charming!" saidKitty, 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 lookfor 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 wouldbe so splendid!... I look forward to seeing them coming out of theforest--and everything settled. I shall see at once by their eyes. Ishould be so delighted! What do you think, Dolly?"

  "But don't excite yourself. It's not at all the thing for you to beexcited," 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 asort of barrier, and all at once it's broken down," said Dolly, smilingpensively 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 theprincess, but her face beamed all over at the recollection.

  "Oh, but how was it? You loved him, anyway, before you were allowed tospeak?"

  Kitty felt a peculiar pleasure in being able now to talk to her motheron equal terms about those questions of such paramount interest in awoman's life.

  "Of course I did; he had come to stay with us in the country."

  "But how was it settled between you, mamma?"

  "You imagine, I dare say, that you invented something quite new? It'salways just the same: it was settled by the eyes, by smiles..."

  "How nicely you said that, mamma! It's just by the eyes, by smiles thatit's done," Dolly assented.

  "But what words did he say?"

  "What did Kostya say to you?"

  "He wrote it in chalk. It was wonderful.... How long ago it seems!" shesaid.

  And the three women all fell to musing on the same thing. Kitty was thefirst to break the silence. She remembered all that last winter beforeher marriage, and her passion for Vronsky.

  "There's one thing ... that old love affair of Varenka's," she said, anatural chain of ideas bringing her to this point. "I should have likedto say something to Sergey Ivanovitch, to prepare him. They're all--allmen, I mean," she added, "awfully jealous over our past."

  "Not all," said Dolly. "You judge by your own husband. It makes himmiserable even now to remember Vronsky. Eh? that's true, isn't it?"

  "Yes," Kitty answered, a pensive smile in her eyes.

  "But I really don't know," the mother put in in defense of her motherlycare of her daughter, "what there was in your past that could worry him?That Vronsky paid you attentions--that happens to every girl."

  "Oh, yes, but we didn't mean that," Kitty said, flushing a little.

  "No, let me speak," her mother went on, "why, you yourself would not letme have a talk to Vronsky. Don't you remember?"

  "Oh, mamma!" said Kitty, with an expression of suffering.

  "There's no keeping you young people in check nowadays.... Yourfriendship could not have gone beyond what was suitable. I should myselfhave called upon him to explain himself. But, my darling, it's not rightfor you to be agitated. Please remember that, and calm yourself."

  "I'm perfectly calm, maman."

  "How happy it was for Kitty that Anna came then," said Dolly, "and howunhappy for her. It turned out quite the opposite," she said, struck byher own ideas. "Then Anna was so happy, and Kitty thought herselfunhappy. Now it is just the opposite. I often think of her."

  "A nice person to think about! Horrid, repulsive woman--no heart," saidher mother, who could not forget that Kitty had married not Vronsky, butLevin.

  "What do you want to talk of it for?" Kitty said with annoyance. "Inever think about it, and I don't want to think of it.... And I don'twant to think of it," she said, catching the sound of her husband'swell-known step on the steps of the terrace.

  "What's that you don't want to think about?" inquired Levin, coming ontothe terrace.
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  But no one answered him, and he did not repeat the question.

  "I'm sorry I've broken in on your feminine parliament," he said, lookinground on every one discontentedly, and perceiving that they had beentalking of something which they would not talk about before him.

  For a second he felt that he was sharing the feeling of AgafeaMihalovna, vexation at their making jam without water, and altogether atthe outside Shtcherbatsky element. He smiled, however, and went up toKitty.

  "Well, how are you?" he asked her, looking at her with the expressionwith which everyone looked at her now.

  "Oh, very well," said Kitty, smiling, "and how have things gone withyou?"

  "The wagons held three times as much as the old carts did. Well, are wegoing for the children? I've ordered the horses to be put in."

  "What! you want to take Kitty in the wagonette?" her mother saidreproachfully.

  "Yes, at a walking pace, princess."

  Levin never called the princess "maman" as men often do call theirmothers-in-law, and the princess disliked his not doing so. But thoughhe liked and respected the princess, Levin could not call her so withouta sense of profaning his feeling for his dead mother.

  "Come with us, maman," said Kitty.

  "I don't like to see such imprudence."

  "Well, I'll walk then, I'm so well." Kitty got up and went to herhusband and took his hand.

  "You may be well, but everything in moderation," said the princess.

  "Well, Agafea Mihalovna, is the jam done?" said Levin, smiling to AgafeaMihalovna, and trying to cheer her up. "Is it all right in the new way?"

  "I suppose it's all right. For our notions it's boiled too long."

  "It'll be all the better, Agafea Mihalovna, it won't mildew, even thoughour ice has begun to thaw already, so that we've no cool cellar to storeit," said Kitty, at once divining her husband's motive, and addressingthe old housekeeper with the same feeling; "but your pickle's so good,that mamma says she never tasted any like it," she added, smiling, andputting her kerchief straight.

  Agafea Mihalovna looked angrily at Kitty.

  "You needn't try to console me, mistress. I need only to look at youwith him, and I feel happy," she said, and something in the roughfamiliarity of that _with him_ touched Kitty.

  "Come along with us to look for mushrooms, you will show us the bestplaces." Agafea Mihalovna smiled and shook her head, as though to say:"I should like to be angry with you too, but I can't."

  "Do it, please, by my receipt," said the princess; "put some paper overthe jam, and moisten it with a little rum, and without even ice, it willnever go mildewy."

 
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