Anna karenina, p.66
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       Anna Karenina, p.66

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 32

  The particulars which the princess had learned in regard to Varenka'spast and her relations with Madame Stahl were as follows:

  Madame Stahl, of whom some people said that she had worried her husbandout of his life, while others said it was he who had made her wretchedby his immoral behavior, had always been a woman of weak health andenthusiastic 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 thenews would kill her, had substituted another child, a baby born the samenight and in the same house in Petersburg, the daughter of the chiefcook of the Imperial Household. This was Varenka. Madame Stahl learnedlater on that Varenka was not her own child, but she went on bringingher up, especially as very soon afterwards Varenka had not a relation ofher own living. Madame Stahl had now been living more than ten yearscontinuously abroad, in the south, never leaving her couch. And somepeople said that Madame Stahl had made her social position as aphilanthropic, highly religious woman; other people said she really wasat heart the highly ethical being, living for nothing but the good ofher fellow creatures, which she represented herself to be. No one knewwhat her faith was--Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox. But one fact wasindubitable--she was in amicable relations with the highest dignitariesof all the churches and sects.

  Varenka lived with her all the while abroad, and everyone who knewMadame Stahl knew and liked Mademoiselle Varenka, as everyone calledher.

  Having learned all these facts, the princess found nothing to object toin her daughter's intimacy with Varenka, more especially as Varenka'sbreeding and education were of the best--she spoke French and Englishextremely well--and what was of the most weight, brought a message fromMadame Stahl expressing her regret that she was prevented by her illhealth from making the acquaintance of the princess.

  After getting to know Varenka, Kitty became more and more fascinated byher friend, and every day she discovered new virtues in her.

  The princess, hearing that Varenka had a good voice, asked her to comeand sing to them in the evening.

  "Kitty plays, and we have a piano; not a good one, it's true, but youwill give us so much pleasure," said the princess with her affectedsmile, which Kitty disliked particularly just then, because she noticedthat Varenka had no inclination to sing. Varenka came, however, in theevening and brought a roll of music with her. The princess had invitedMarya Yevgenyevna and her daughter and the colonel.

  Varenka seemed quite unaffected by there being persons present she didnot know, and she went directly to the piano. She could not accompanyherself, but she could sing music at sight very well. Kitty, who playedwell, accompanied her.

  "You have an extraordinary talent," the princess said to her afterVarenka had sung the first song extremely well.

  Marya Yevgenyevna and her daughter expressed their thanks andadmiration.

  "Look," said the colonel, looking out of the window, "what an audiencehas collected to listen to you." There actually was quite a considerablecrowd 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 wayVarenka obviously thought nothing of her singing and was quite unmovedby their praises. She seemed only to be asking: "Am I to sing again, oris that enough?"

  "If it had been I," thought Kitty, "how proud I should have been! Howdelighted I should have been to see that crowd under the windows! Butshe's utterly unmoved by it. Her only motive is to avoid refusing and toplease mamma. What is there in her? What is it gives her the power tolook down on everything, to be calm independently of everything? How Ishould like to know it and to learn it of her!" thought Kitty, gazinginto her serene face. The princess asked Varenka to sing again, andVarenka sang another song, also smoothly, distinctly, and well, standingerect at the piano and beating time on it with her thin, dark-skinnedhand.

  The next song in the book was an Italian one. Kitty played the openingbars, and looked round at Varenka.

  "Let's skip that," said Varenka, flushing a little. Kitty let her eyesrest 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 aswell 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 thehouse.

  "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 waitingfor a reply, she went on: "Yes, it brings up memories, once painfulones. I cared for someone once, and I used to sing him that song."

  Kitty with big, wide-open eyes gazed silently, sympathetically atVarenka.

  "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 seehim sometimes. You didn't think I had a love story too," she said, andthere was a faint gleam in her handsome face of that fire which Kittyfelt must once have glowed all over her.

  "I didn't think so? Why, if I were a man, I could never care for anyoneelse after knowing you. Only I can't understand how he could, to pleasehis 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, shekissed 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 sitdown," said Kitty, making her sit down again beside her. "Tell me, isn'tit humiliating to think that a man has disdained your love, that hehasn't cared for it?..."

  "But he didn't disdain it; I believe he cared for me, but he was adutiful son..."

  "Yes, but if it hadn't been on account of his mother, if it had been hisown doing?..." said Kitty, feeling she was giving away her secret, andthat her face, burning with the flush of shame, had betrayed heralready.

  "In that case he would have done wrong, and I should not have regrettedhim," answered Varenka, evidently realizing that they were now talkingnot of her, but of Kitty.

  "But the humiliation," said Kitty, "the humiliation one can neverforget, can never forget," she said, remembering her look at the lastball 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, whodidn'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 arelooks, 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 nowor 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. "Thereisn't a girl who hasn't been through the same. And it's all sounimportant."

  "Why, what is important?" said Kitty, looking into her face withinquisitive wonder.

  "Oh, there's so much that's important," said Varenka, smiling.

  "Why, what?"

  "Oh, so much that's more important,
" answered Varenka, not knowing whatto say. But at that instant they heard the princess's voice from thewindow. "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 onto Madame Berthe's; she asked me to."

  Kitty held her by the hand, and with passionate curiosity and entreatyher eyes asked her: "What is it, what is this of such importance thatgives you such tranquillity? You know, tell me!" But Varenka did noteven know what Kitty's eyes were asking her. She merely thought that shehad to go to see Madame Berthe too that evening, and to make haste homein time for _maman's_ tea at twelve o'clock. She went indoors, collectedher 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 thatshe 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 wasimportant, she stepped out courageously with the music under her arm andvanished into the twilight of the summer night, bearing away with herher secret of what was important and what gave her the calm and dignityso much to be envied.

 
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