FictionForest

PART TWO : Chapter 2

Leo TolstoyAug 22, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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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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