Soon after the doctor, Dolly had arrived. She knew that there was to be a consultation that day, and though she was only just up after her confinement (she had another baby, a little girl, born at the end of the winter), though she had trouble and anxiety enough of her own, she had left her tiny baby and a sick child, to come and hear Kitty’s fate, which was to be decided that day.
“Well, well?” she said, coming into the drawing-room, without taking off her hat. “You’re all in good spirits. Good news, then?”
They tried to tell her what the doctor had said, but it appeared that though the doctor had talked distinctly enough and at great length, it was utterly impossible to report what he had said. The only point of interest was that it was settled they should go abroad.
Dolly could not help sighing. Her dearest friend, her sister, was going away. And her life was not a cheerful one. Her relations with Stepan Arkadyevitch after their reconciliation had become humiliating. The union Anna had cemented turned out to be of no solid character, and family harmony was breaking down again at the same point. There had been nothing definite, but Stepan Arkadyevitch was hardly ever at home; money, too, was hardly ever forthcoming, and Dolly was continually tortured by suspicions of infidelity, which she tried to dismiss, dreading the agonies of jealousy she had been through already. The first onslaught of jealousy, once lived through, could never come back again, and even the discovery of infidelities could never now affect her as it had the first time. Such a discovery now would only mean breaking up family habits, and she let herself be deceived, despising him and still more herself, for the weakness. Besides this, the care of her large family was a constant worry to her: first, the nursing of her young baby did not go well, then the nurse had gone away, now one of the children had fallen ill.
“Well, how are all of you?” asked her mother.
“Ah, mamma, we have plenty of troubles of our own. Lili is ill, and I’m afraid it’s scarlatina. I have come here now to hear about Kitty, and then I shall shut myself up entirely, if—God forbid—it should be scarlatina.”
The old prince too had come in from his study after the doctor’s departure, and after presenting his cheek to Dolly, and saying a few words to her, he turned to his wife:
“How have you settled it? you’re going? Well, and what do you mean to do with me?”
“I suppose you had better stay here, Alexander,” said his wife.
“That’s as you like.”
“Mamma, why shouldn’t father come with us?” said Kitty. “It would be nicer for him and for us too.”
The old prince got up and stroked Kitty’s hair. She lifted her head and looked at him with a forced smile. It always seemed to her that he understood her better than anyone in the family, though he did not say much about her. Being the youngest, she was her father’s favorite, and she fancied that his love gave him insight. When now her glance met his blue kindly eyes looking intently at her, it seemed to her that he saw right through her, and understood all that was not good that was passing within her. Reddening, she stretched out towards him expecting a kiss, but he only patted her hair and said:
“These stupid chignons! There’s no getting at the real daughter. One simply strokes the bristles of dead women. Well, Dolinka,” he turned to his elder daughter, “what’s your young buck about, hey?”
“Nothing, father,” answered Dolly, understanding that her husband was meant. “He’s always out; I scarcely ever see him,” she could not resist adding with a sarcastic smile.
“Why, hasn’t he gone into the country yet—to see about selling that forest?”
“No, he’s still getting ready for the journey.”
“Oh, that’s it!” said the prince. “And so am I to be getting ready for a journey too? At your service,” he said to his wife, sitting down. “And I tell you what, Katia,” he went on to his younger daughter, “you must wake up one fine day and say to yourself: Why, I’m quite well, and merry, and going out again with father for an early morning walk in the frost. Hey?”
What her father said seemed simple enough, yet at these words Kitty became confused and overcome like a detected criminal. “Yes, he sees it all, he understands it all, and in these words he’s telling me that though I’m ashamed, I must get over my shame.” She could not pluck up spirit to make any answer. She tried to begin, and all at once burst into tears, and rushed out of the room.
“See what comes of your jokes!” the princess pounced down on her husband. “You’re always....” she began a string of reproaches.
The prince listened to the princess’s scolding rather a long while without speaking, but his face was more and more frowning.
“She’s so much to be pitied, poor child, so much to be pitied, and you don’t feel how it hurts her to hear the slightest reference to the cause of it. Ah! to be so mistaken in people!” said the princess, and by the change in her tone both Dolly and the prince knew she was speaking of Vronsky. “I don’t know why there aren’t laws against such base, dishonorable people.”
“Ah, I can’t bear to hear you!” said the prince gloomily, getting up from his low chair, and seeming anxious to get away, yet stopping in the doorway. “There are laws, madam, and since you’ve challenged me to it, I’ll tell you who’s to blame for it all: you and you, you and nobody else. Laws against such young gallants there have always been, and there still are! Yes, if there has been nothing that ought not to have been, old as I am, I’d have called him out to the barrier, the young dandy. Yes, and now you physic her and call in these quacks.”
The prince apparently had plenty more to say, but as soon as the princess heard his tone she subsided at once, and became penitent, as she always did on serious occasions.
“Alexander, Alexander,” she whispered, moving to him and beginning to weep.
As soon as she began to cry the prince too calmed down. He went up to her.
“There, that’s enough, that’s enough! You’re wretched too, I know. It can’t be helped. There’s no great harm done. God is merciful ... thanks....” he said, not knowing what he was saying, as he responded to the tearful kiss of the princess that he felt on his hand. And the prince went out of the room.
Before this, as soon as Kitty went out of the room in tears, Dolly, with her motherly, family instincts, had promptly perceived that here a woman’s work lay before her, and she prepared to do it. She took off her hat, and, morally speaking, tucked up her sleeves and prepared for action. While her mother was attacking her father, she tried to restrain her mother, so far as filial reverence would allow. During the prince’s outburst she was silent; she felt ashamed for her mother, and tender towards her father for so quickly being kind again. But when her father left them she made ready for what was the chief thing needful—to go to Kitty and console her.
“I’d been meaning to tell you something for a long while, mamma: did you know that Levin meant to make Kitty an offer when he was here the last time? He told Stiva so.”
“Well, what then? I don’t understand....”
“So did Kitty perhaps refuse him?... She didn’t tell you so?”
“No, she has said nothing to me either of one or the other; she’s too proud. But I know it’s all on account of the other.”
“Yes, but suppose she has refused Levin, and she wouldn’t have refused him if it hadn’t been for the other, I know. And then, he has deceived her so horribly.”
It was too terrible for the princess to think how she had sinned against her daughter, and she broke out angrily.
“Oh, I really don’t understand! Nowadays they will all go their own way, and mothers haven’t a word to say in anything, and then....”
“Mamma, I’ll go up to her.”
“Well, do. Did I tell you not to?” said her mother.
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