Anna karenina, p.64
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       Anna Karenina, p.64

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 30

  In the little German watering-place to which the Shtcherbatskys hadbetaken themselves, as in all places indeed where people are gatheredtogether, the usual process, as it were, of the crystallization ofsociety went on, assigning to each member of that society a definite andunalterable place. Just as the particle of water in frost, definitelyand unalterably, takes the special form of the crystal of snow, so eachnew person that arrived at the springs was at once placed in his specialplace.

  _Fuerst_ Shtcherbatsky, _sammt Gemahlin und Tochter_, by the apartmentsthey took, and from their name and from the friends they made, wereimmediately crystallized into a definite place marked out for them.

  There was visiting the watering-place that year a real German Fuerstin,in consequence of which the crystallizing process went on morevigorously than ever. Princess Shtcherbatskaya wished, above everything,to present her daughter to this German princess, and the day after theirarrival she duly performed this rite. Kitty made a low and gracefulcurtsey in the _very simple_, that is to say, very elegant frock thathad been ordered her from Paris. The German princess said, "I hope theroses will soon come back to this pretty little face," and for theShtcherbatskys certain definite lines of existence were at once laiddown from which there was no departing. The Shtcherbatskys made theacquaintance too of the family of an English Lady Somebody, and of aGerman countess and her son, wounded in the last war, and of a learnedSwede, and of M. Canut and his sister. But yet inevitably theShtcherbatskys were thrown most into the society of a Moscow lady, MaryaYevgenyevna Rtishtcheva and her daughter, whom Kitty disliked, becauseshe had fallen ill, like herself, over a love affair, and a Moscowcolonel, whom Kitty had known from childhood, and always seen in uniformand epaulets, and who now, with his little eyes and his open neck andflowered cravat, was uncommonly ridiculous and tedious, because therewas no getting rid of him. When all this was so firmly established,Kitty began to be very much bored, especially as the prince went away toCarlsbad and she was left alone with her mother. She took no interest inthe people she knew, feeling that nothing fresh would come of them. Herchief mental interest in the watering-place consisted in watching andmaking theories about the people she did not know. It was characteristicof Kitty that she always imagined everything in people in the mostfavorable light possible, especially so in those she did not know. Andnow as she made surmises as to who people were, what were theirrelations to one another, and what they were like, Kitty endowed themwith the most marvelous and noble characters, and found confirmation ofher idea in her observations.

  Of these people the one that attracted her most was a Russian girl whohad come to the watering-place with an invalid Russian lady, MadameStahl, as everyone called her. Madame Stahl belonged to the highestsociety, but she was so ill that she could not walk, and only onexceptionally fine days made her appearance at the springs in an invalidcarriage. But it was not so much from ill-health as from pride--soPrincess Shtcherbatskaya interpreted it--that Madame Stahl had not madethe acquaintance of anyone among the Russians there. The Russian girllooked after Madame Stahl, and besides that, she was, as Kitty observed,on friendly terms with all the invalids who were seriously ill, andthere were many of them at the springs, and looked after them in themost natural way. This Russian girl was not, as Kitty gathered, relatedto Madame Stahl, nor was she a paid attendant. Madame Stahl called herVarenka, and other people called her "Mademoiselle Varenka." Apart fromthe interest Kitty took in this girl's relations with Madame Stahl andwith other unknown persons, Kitty, as often happened, felt aninexplicable attraction to Mademoiselle Varenka, and was aware whentheir eyes met that she too liked her.

  Of Mademoiselle Varenka one would not say that she had passed her firstyouth, but she was, as it were, a creature without youth; she might havebeen taken for nineteen or for thirty. If her features were criticizedseparately, she was handsome rather than plain, in spite of the sicklyhue of her face. She would have been a good figure, too, if it had notbeen for her extreme thinness and the size of her head, which was toolarge for her medium height. But she was not likely to be attractive tomen. She was like a fine flower, already past its bloom and withoutfragrance, though the petals were still unwithered. Moreover, she wouldhave been unattractive to men also from the lack of just what Kitty hadtoo much of--of the suppressed fire of vitality, and the consciousnessof her own attractiveness.

  She always seemed absorbed in work about which there could be no doubt,and so it seemed she could not take interest in anything outside it. Itwas just this contrast with her own position that was for Kitty thegreat attraction of Mademoiselle Varenka. Kitty felt that in her, in hermanner of life, she would find an example of what she was now sopainfully seeking: interest in life, a dignity in life--apart from theworldly relations of girls with men, which so revolted Kitty, andappeared to her now as a shameful hawking about of goods in search of apurchaser. The more attentively Kitty watched her unknown friend, themore convinced she was this girl was the perfect creature she fanciedher, and the more eagerly she wished to make her acquaintance.

  The two girls used to meet several times a day, and every time they met,Kitty's eyes said: "Who are you? What are you? Are you really theexquisite creature I imagine you to be? But for goodness' sake don'tsuppose," her eyes added, "that I would force my acquaintance on you, Isimply admire you and like you." "I like you too, and you're very, verysweet. And I should like you better still, if I had time," answered theeyes of the unknown girl. Kitty saw indeed, that she was always busy.Either she was taking the children of a Russian family home from thesprings, or fetching a shawl for a sick lady, and wrapping her up in it,or trying to interest an irritable invalid, or selecting and buyingcakes for tea for someone.

  Soon after the arrival of the Shtcherbatskys there appeared in themorning crowd at the springs two persons who attracted universal andunfavorable attention. These were a tall man with a stooping figure, andhuge hands, in an old coat too short for him, with black, simple, andyet terrible eyes, and a pockmarked, kind-looking woman, very badly andtastelessly dressed. Recognizing these persons as Russians, Kitty hadalready in her imagination begun constructing a delightful and touchingromance about them. But the princess, having ascertained from thevisitors' list that this was Nikolay Levin and Marya Nikolaevna,explained to Kitty what a bad man this Levin was, and all her fanciesabout these two people vanished. Not so much from what her mother toldher, as from the fact that it was Konstantin's brother, this pairsuddenly seemed to Kitty intensely unpleasant. This Levin, with hiscontinual twitching of his head, aroused in her now an irrepressiblefeeling of disgust.

  It seemed to her that his big, terrible eyes, which persistently pursuedher, expressed a feeling of hatred and contempt, and she tried to avoidmeeting him.

 
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