Anna karenina, p.67
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       Anna Karenina, p.67

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 33

  Kitty made the acquaintance of Madame Stahl too, and this acquaintance,together with her friendship with Varenka, did not merely exercise agreat influence on her, it also comforted her in her mental distress.She found this comfort through a completely new world being opened toher by means of this acquaintance, a world having nothing in common withher past, an exalted, noble world, from the height of which she couldcontemplate her past calmly. It was revealed to her that besides theinstinctive life to which Kitty had given herself up hitherto there wasa spiritual life. This life was disclosed in religion, but a religionhaving nothing in common with that one which Kitty had known fromchildhood, and which found expression in litanies and all-night servicesat the Widow's Home, where one might meet one's friends, and in learningby heart Slavonic texts with the priest. This was a lofty, mysteriousreligion 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 asto a charming child that one looks on with pleasure as on the memory ofone's youth, and only once she said in passing that in all human sorrowsnothing gives comfort but love and faith, and that in the sight ofChrist's compassion for us no sorrow is trifling--and immediately talkedof other things. But in every gesture of Madame Stahl, in every word, inevery heavenly--as Kitty called it--look, and above all in the wholestory of her life, which she heard from Varenka, Kitty recognized thatsomething "that was important," of which, till then, she had knownnothing.

  Yet, elevated as Madame Stahl's character was, touching as was herstory, and exalted and moving as was her speech, Kitty could not helpdetecting in her some traits which perplexed her. She noticed that whenquestioning her about her family, Madame Stahl had smiledcontemptuously, which was not in accord with Christian meekness. Shenoticed, too, that when she had found a Catholic priest with her, MadameStahl had studiously kept her face in the shadow of the lamp-shade andhad smiled in a peculiar way. Trivial as these two observations were,they perplexed her, and she had her doubts as to Madame Stahl. But onthe other hand Varenka, alone in the world, without friends orrelations, with a melancholy disappointment in the past, desiringnothing, regretting nothing, was just that perfection of which Kittydared hardly dream. In Varenka she realized that one has but to forgetoneself and love others, and one will be calm, happy, and noble. Andthat was what Kitty longed to be. Seeing now clearly what was _the mostimportant_, Kitty was not satisfied with being enthusiastic over it; sheat once gave herself up with her whole soul to the new life that wasopening to her. From Varenka's accounts of the doings of Madame Stahland other people whom she mentioned, Kitty had already constructed theplan 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 thosewho were in trouble, wherever she might be living, help them as far asshe could, give them the Gospel, read the Gospel to the sick, tocriminals, to the dying. The idea of reading the Gospel to criminals, asAline did, particularly fascinated Kitty. But all these were secretdreams, 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 manypeople ill and unhappy, readily found a chance for practicing her newprinciples in imitation of Varenka.

  At first the princess noticed nothing but that Kitty was much under theinfluence of her _engouement_, as she called it, for Madame Stahl, andstill more for Varenka. She saw that Kitty did not merely imitateVarenka in her conduct, but unconsciously imitated her in her manner ofwalking, of talking, of blinking her eyes. But later on the princessnoticed that, apart from this adoration, some kind of serious spiritualchange was taking place in her daughter.

  The princess saw that in the evenings Kitty read a French testament thatMadame Stahl had given her--a thing she had never done before; that sheavoided society acquaintances and associated with the sick people whowere under Varenka's protection, and especially one poor family, that ofa sick painter, Petrov. Kitty was unmistakably proud of playing the partof a sister of mercy in that family. All this was well enough, and theprincess had nothing to say against it, especially as Petrov's wife wasa perfectly nice sort of woman, and that the German princess, noticingKitty's devotion, praised her, calling her an angel of consolation. Allthis would have been very well, if there had been no exaggeration. Butthe princess saw that her daughter was rushing into extremes, and soindeed 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 onecould not talk about exaggeration where Christianity was concerned. Whatexaggeration could there be in the practice of a doctrine wherein onewas bidden to turn the other cheek when one was smitten, and give one'scloak if one's coat were taken? But the princess disliked thisexaggeration, and disliked even more the fact that she felt her daughterdid not care to show her all her heart. Kitty did in fact conceal hernew views and feelings from her mother. She concealed them not becauseshe did not respect or did not love her mother, but simply because shewas her mother. She would have revealed them to anyone sooner than toher mother.

  "How is it Anna Pavlovna's not been to see us for so long?" the princesssaid one day of Madame Petrova. "I've asked her, but she seems put outabout 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'sembarrassed face and trying to guess the cause of her embarrassment.

  That day Varenka came to dinner and told them that Anna Pavlovna hadchanged her mind and given up the expedition for the morrow. And theprincess noticed again that Kitty reddened.

  "Kitty, haven't you had some misunderstanding with the Petrovs?" saidthe princess, when they were left alone. "Why has she given up sendingthe children and coming to see us?"

  Kitty answered that nothing had happened between them, and that shecould not tell why Anna Pavlovna seemed displeased with her. Kittyanswered perfectly truly. She did not know the reason Anna Pavlovna hadchanged to her, but she guessed it. She guessed at something which shecould 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 speakof 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 thefamily. She remembered the simple delight expressed on the round,good-humored face of Anna Pavlovna at their meetings; she rememberedtheir secret confabulations about the invalid, their plots to draw himaway 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," andwould not go to bed without her. How nice it all was! Then she recalledthe thin, terribly thin figure of Petrov, with his long neck, in hisbrown coat, his scant, curly hair, his questioning blue eyes that wereso terrible to Kitty at first, and his painful attempts to seem heartyand lively in her presence. She recalled the efforts she had made atfirst to overcome the repugnance she felt for him, as for allconsumptive people, and the pains it had cost her to think of things tosay to him. She recalled the timid, softened look with which he gazed ather, and the strange feeling of compassion and awkwardness, and later ofa sense of her own goodness, which she had felt at it. How nice it allwas! But all that was at first. Now, a few days ago, everything wassuddenly 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 causeof 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 beforeyesterday: 'The
re, he will keep waiting for you; he wouldn't drink hiscoffee without you, though he's grown so dreadfully weak.'"

  "Yes, perhaps, too, she didn't like it when I gave him the rug. It wasall 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'sit!" Kitty repeated to herself with horror. "No, it can't be, itoughtn't to be! He's so much to be pitied!" she said to herself directlyafter.

  This doubt poisoned the charm of her new life.

 
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