Anna karenina, p.68
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       Anna Karenina, p.68

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 34

  Before the end of the course of drinking the waters, PrinceShtcherbatsky, who had gone on from Carlsbad to Baden and Kissingen toRussian friends--to get a breath of Russian air, as he said--came backto his wife and daughter.

  The views of the prince and of the princess on life abroad werecompletely opposed. The princess thought everything delightful, and inspite of her established position in Russian society, she tried abroadto be like a European fashionable lady, which she was not--for thesimple reason that she was a typical Russian gentlewoman; and so she wasaffected, which did not altogether suit her. The prince, on thecontrary, thought everything foreign detestable, got sick of Europeanlife, kept to his Russian habits, and purposely tried to show himselfabroad less European than he was in reality.

  The prince returned thinner, with the skin hanging in loose bags on hischeeks, but in the most cheerful frame of mind. His good humor was evengreater when he saw Kitty completely recovered. The news of Kitty'sfriendship with Madame Stahl and Varenka, and the reports the princessgave him of some kind of change she had noticed in Kitty, troubled theprince and aroused his habitual feeling of jealousy of everything thatdrew his daughter away from him, and a dread that his daughter mighthave got out of the reach of his influence into regions inaccessible tohim. But these unpleasant matters were all drowned in the sea ofkindliness and good humor which was always within him, and more so thanever since his course of Carlsbad waters.

  The day after his arrival the prince, in his long overcoat, with hisRussian wrinkles and baggy cheeks propped up by a starched collar, setoff with his daughter to the spring in the greatest good humor.

  It was a lovely morning: the bright, cheerful houses with their littlegardens, the sight of the red-faced, red-armed, beer-drinking Germanwaitresses, working away merrily, did the heart good. But the nearerthey got to the springs the oftener they met sick people; and theirappearance seemed more pitiable than ever among the everyday conditionsof prosperous German life. Kitty was no longer struck by this contrast.The bright sun, the brilliant green of the foliage, the strains of themusic were for her the natural setting of all these familiar faces, withtheir changes to greater emaciation or to convalescence, for which shewatched. But to the prince the brightness and gaiety of the Junemorning, and the sound of the orchestra playing a gay waltz then infashion, and above all, the appearance of the healthy attendants, seemedsomething unseemly and monstrous, in conjunction with these slowlymoving, dying figures gathered together from all parts of Europe. Inspite of his feeling of pride and, as it were, of the return of youth,with his favorite daughter on his arm, he felt awkward, and almostashamed of his vigorous step and his sturdy, stout limbs. He felt almostlike a man not dressed in a crowd.

  "Present me to your new friends," he said to his daughter, squeezing herhand with his elbow. "I like even your horrid Soden for making you sowell again. Only it's melancholy, very melancholy here. Who's that?"

  Kitty mentioned the names of all the people they met, with some of whomshe was acquainted and some not. At the entrance of the garden they metthe blind lady, Madame Berthe, with her guide, and the prince wasdelighted to see the old Frenchwoman's face light up when she heardKitty's voice. She at once began talking to him with French exaggeratedpoliteness, applauding him for having such a delightful daughter,extolling Kitty to the skies before her face, and calling her atreasure, a pearl, and a consoling angel.

  "Well, she's the second angel, then," said the prince, smiling. "shecalls Mademoiselle Varenka angel number one."

  "Oh! Mademoiselle Varenka, she's a real angel, allez," Madame Bertheassented.

  In the arcade they met Varenka herself. She was walking rapidly towardsthem carrying an elegant red bag.

  "Here is papa come," Kitty said to her.

  Varenka made--simply and naturally as she did everything--a movementbetween a bow and a curtsey, and immediately began talking to theprince, without shyness, naturally, as she talked to everyone.

  "Of course I know you; I know you very well," the prince said to herwith a smile, in which Kitty detected with joy that her father liked herfriend. "Where are you off to in such haste?"

  "Maman's here," she said, turning to Kitty. "She has not slept allnight, and the doctor advised her to go out. I'm taking her her work."

  "So that's angel number one?" said the prince when Varenka had gone on.

  Kitty saw that her father had meant to make fun of Varenka, but that hecould not do it because he liked her.

  "Come, so we shall see all your friends," he went on, "even MadameStahl, if she deigns to recognize me."

  "Why, did you know her, papa?" Kitty asked apprehensively, catching thegleam of irony that kindled in the prince's eyes at the mention ofMadame Stahl.

  "I used to know her husband, and her too a little, before she'd joinedthe Pietists."

  "What is a Pietist, papa?" asked Kitty, dismayed to find that what sheprized so highly in Madame Stahl had a name.

  "I don't quite know myself. I only know that she thanks God foreverything, for every misfortune, and thanks God too that her husbanddied. And that's rather droll, as they didn't get on together."

  "Who's that? What a piteous face!" he asked, noticing a sick man ofmedium height sitting on a bench, wearing a brown overcoat and whitetrousers that fell in strange folds about his long, fleshless legs. Thisman lifted his straw hat, showed his scanty curly hair and highforehead, painfully reddened by the pressure of the hat.

  "That's Petrov, an artist," answered Kitty, blushing. "And that's hiswife," she added, indicating Anna Pavlovna, who, as though on purpose,at the very instant they approached walked away after a child that hadrun off along a path.

  "Poor fellow! and what a nice face he has!" said the prince. "Why don'tyou go up to him? He wanted to speak to you."

  "Well, let us go, then," said Kitty, turning round resolutely. "How areyou feeling today?" she asked Petrov.

  Petrov got up, leaning on his stick, and looked shyly at the prince.

  "This is my daughter," said the prince. "Let me introduce myself."

  The painter bowed and smiled, showing his strangely dazzling whiteteeth.

  "We expected you yesterday, princess," he said to Kitty. He staggered ashe said this, and then repeated the motion, trying to make it seem as ifit had been intentional.

  "I meant to come, but Varenka said that Anna Pavlovna sent word you werenot going."

  "Not going!" said Petrov, blushing, and immediately beginning to cough,and his eyes sought his wife. "Anita! Anita!" he said loudly, and theswollen veins stood out like cords on his thin white neck.

  Anna Pavlovna came up.

  "So you sent word to the princess that we weren't going!" he whisperedto her angrily, losing his voice.

  "Good morning, princess," said Anna Pavlovna, with an assumed smileutterly unlike her former manner. "Very glad to make your acquaintance,"she said to the prince. "You've long been expected, prince."

  "What did you send word to the princess that we weren't going for?" theartist whispered hoarsely once more, still more angrily, obviouslyexasperated that his voice failed him so that he could not give hiswords the expression he would have liked to.

  "Oh, mercy on us! I thought we weren't going," his wife answeredcrossly.

  "What, when...." He coughed and waved his hand. The prince took off hishat and moved away with his daughter.

  "Ah! ah!" he sighed deeply. "Oh, poor things!"

  "Yes, papa," answered Kitty. "And you must know they've three children,no servant, and scarcely any means. He gets something from the Academy,"she went on briskly, trying to drown the distress that the queer changein Anna Pavlovna's manner to her had aroused in her.

  "Oh, here's Madame Stahl," said Kitty, indicating an invalid carriage,where, propped on pillows, something in gray and blue was lying under asunshade. This was Madame Stahl. Behind her stood the gloomy,healthy-looking German workman who pushed the carriage. Close by wasstanding a flaxen-headed Swedish count, whom Kitty k
new by name. Severalinvalids were lingering near the low carriage, staring at the lady asthough she were some curiosity.

  The prince went up to her, and Kitty detected that disconcerting gleamof irony in his eyes. He went up to Madame Stahl, and addressed her withextreme courtesy and affability in that excellent French that so fewspeak nowadays.

  "I don't know if you remember me, but I must recall myself to thank youfor your kindness to my daughter," he said, taking off his hat and notputting it on again.

  "Prince Alexander Shtcherbatsky," said Madame Stahl, lifting upon himher heavenly eyes, in which Kitty discerned a look of annoyance."Delighted! I have taken a great fancy to your daughter."

  "You are still in weak health?"

  "Yes; I'm used to it," said Madame Stahl, and she introduced the princeto the Swedish count.

  "You are scarcely changed at all," the prince said to her. "It's ten oreleven years since I had the honor of seeing you."

  "Yes; God sends the cross and sends the strength to bear it. Often onewonders what is the goal of this life?... The other side!" she saidangrily to Varenka, who had rearranged the rug over her feet not to hersatisfaction.

  "To do good, probably," said the prince with a twinkle in his eye.

  "That is not for us to judge," said Madame Stahl, perceiving the shadeof expression on the prince's face. "So you will send me that book, dearcount? I'm very grateful to you," she said to the young Swede.

  "Ah!" cried the prince, catching sight of the Moscow colonel standingnear, and with a bow to Madame Stahl he walked away with his daughterand the Moscow colonel, who joined them.

  "That's our aristocracy, prince!" the Moscow colonel said with ironicalintention. He cherished a grudge against Madame Stahl for not making hisacquaintance.

  "She's just the same," replied the prince.

  "Did you know her before her illness, prince--that's to say before shetook to her bed?"

  "Yes. She took to her bed before my eyes," said the prince.

  "They say it's ten years since she has stood on her feet."

  "She doesn't stand up because her legs are too short. She's a very badfigure."

  "Papa, it's not possible!" cried Kitty.

  "That's what wicked tongues say, my darling. And your Varenka catches ittoo," he added. "Oh, these invalid ladies!"

  "Oh, no, papa!" Kitty objected warmly. "Varenka worships her. And thenshe does so much good! Ask anyone! Everyone knows her and Aline Stahl."

  "Perhaps so," said the prince, squeezing her hand with his elbow; "butit's better when one does good so that you may ask everyone and no oneknows."

  Kitty did not answer, not because she had nothing to say, but becauseshe did not care to reveal her secret thoughts even to her father. But,strange to say, although she had so made up her mind not to beinfluenced by her father's views, not to let him into her inmostsanctuary, she felt that the heavenly image of Madame Stahl, which shehad carried for a whole month in her heart, had vanished, never toreturn, just as the fantastic figure made up of some clothes thrown downat random vanishes when one sees that it is only some garment lyingthere. All that was left was a woman with short legs, who lay downbecause she had a bad figure, and worried patient Varenka for notarranging her rug to her liking. And by no effort of the imaginationcould Kitty bring back the former Madame Stahl.

 

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