FictionForest

PART TWO : Chapter 30

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

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In the little German watering-place
to which the Shtcherbatskys had betaken themselves,
as in all places indeed where people are gathered
together, the usual process, as it were, of the crystallization
of society went on, assigning to each member of that
society a definite and unalterable place.  Just
as the particle of water in frost, definitely and
unalterably, takes the special form of the crystal
of snow, so each new person that arrived at the springs
was at once placed in his special place.

Fuerst Shtcherbatsky, sammt
Gemahlin und Tochter
, by the apartments they took,
and from their name and from the friends they made,
were immediately crystallized into a definite place
marked out for them.

There was visiting the watering-place
that year a real German Fuerstin, in consequence of
which the crystallizing process went on more vigorously
than ever.  Princess Shtcherbatskaya wished,
above everything, to present her daughter to this German
princess, and the day after their arrival she duly
performed this rite.  Kitty made a low and graceful
curtsey in the very simple, that is to say,
very elegant frock that had been ordered her from
Paris.  The German princess said, “I hope
the roses will soon come back to this pretty little
face,” and for the Shtcherbatskys certain definite
lines of existence were at once laid down from which
there was no departing.  The Shtcherbatskys made
the acquaintance too of the family of an English Lady
Somebody, and of a German countess and her son, wounded
in the last war, and of a learned Swede, and of M.
Canut and his sister.  But yet inevitably
the Shtcherbatskys were thrown most into the society
of a Moscow lady, Marya Yevgenyevna Rtishtcheva and
her daughter, whom Kitty disliked, because she had
fallen ill, like herself, over a love affair, and
a Moscow colonel, whom Kitty had known from childhood,
and always seen in uniform and epaulets, and who now,
with his little eyes and his open neck and flowered
cravat, was uncommonly ridiculous and tedious, because
there was no getting rid of him.  When all this
was so firmly established, Kitty began to be very
much bored, especially as the prince went away to
Carlsbad and she was left alone with her mother. 
She took no interest in the people she knew, feeling
that nothing fresh would come of them.  Her chief
mental interest in the watering-place consisted in
watching and making theories about the people she
did not know.  It was characteristic of Kitty
that she always imagined everything in people in the
most favorable light possible, especially so in those
she did not know.  And now as she made surmises
as to who people were, what were their relations to
one another, and what they were like, Kitty endowed
them with the most marvelous and noble characters,
and found confirmation of her idea in her observations.

Of these people the one that attracted
her most was a Russian girl who had come to the watering-place
with an invalid Russian lady, Madame Stahl, as everyone
called her.  Madame Stahl belonged to the highest
society, but she was so ill that she could not walk,
and only on exceptionally fine days made her appearance
at the springs in an invalid carriage.  But it
was not so much from ill-health as from pride ­so
Princess Shtcherbatskaya interpreted it ­that
Madame Stahl had not made the acquaintance of anyone
among the Russians there.  The Russian girl looked
after Madame Stahl, and besides that, she was, as
Kitty observed, on friendly terms with all the invalids
who were seriously ill, and there were many of them
at the springs, and looked after them in the most
natural way.  This Russian girl was not, as Kitty
gathered, related to Madame Stahl, nor was she a paid
attendant.  Madame Stahl called her Varenka, and
other people called her “Mademoiselle Varenka.” 
Apart from the interest Kitty took in this girl’s
relations with Madame Stahl and with other unknown
persons, Kitty, as often happened, felt an inexplicable
attraction to Mademoiselle Varenka, and was aware
when their eyes met that she too liked her.

Of Mademoiselle Varenka one would
not say that she had passed her first youth, but she
was, as it were, a creature without youth; she might
have been taken for nineteen or for thirty.  If
her features were criticized separately, she was handsome
rather than plain, in spite of the sickly hue of her
face.  She would have been a good figure, too,
if it had not been for her extreme thinness and the
size of her head, which was too large for her medium
height.  But she was not likely to be attractive
to men.  She was like a fine flower, already past
its bloom and without fragrance, though the petals
were still unwithered.  Moreover, she would have
been unattractive to men also from the lack of just
what Kitty had too much of ­of the suppressed
fire of vitality, and the consciousness of her own
attractiveness.

She always seemed absorbed in work
about which there could be no doubt, and so it seemed
she could not take interest in anything outside it. 
It was just this contrast with her own position that
was for Kitty the great attraction of Mademoiselle
Varenka.  Kitty felt that in her, in her manner
of life, she would find an example of what she was
now so painfully seeking:  interest in life, a
dignity in life ­apart from the worldly relations
of girls with men, which so revolted Kitty, and appeared
to her now as a shameful hawking about of goods in
search of a purchaser.  The more attentively Kitty
watched her unknown friend, the more convinced she
was this girl was the perfect creature she fancied
her, and the more eagerly she wished to make her acquaintance.

The two girls used to meet several
times a day, and every time they met, Kitty’s
eyes said:  “Who are you?  What are
you?  Are you really the exquisite creature I
imagine you to be?  But for goodness’ sake
don’t suppose,” her eyes added, “that
I would force my acquaintance on you, I simply admire
you and like you.”  “I like you too,
and you’re very, very sweet.  And I should
like you better still, if I had time,” answered
the eyes of the unknown girl.  Kitty saw indeed,
that she was always busy.  Either she was taking
the children of a Russian family home from the springs,
or fetching a shawl for a sick lady, and wrapping
her up in it, or trying to interest an irritable invalid,
or selecting and buying cakes for tea for someone.

Soon after the arrival of the Shtcherbatskys
there appeared in the morning crowd at the springs
two persons who attracted universal and unfavorable
attention.  These were a tall man with a stooping
figure, and huge hands, in an old coat too short for
him, with black, simple, and yet terrible eyes, and
a pockmarked, kind-looking woman, very badly and tastelessly
dressed.  Recognizing these persons as Russians,
Kitty had already in her imagination begun constructing
a delightful and touching romance about them. 
But the princess, having ascertained from the visitors’
list that this was Nikolay Levin and Marya Nikolaevna,
explained to Kitty what a bad man this Levin was, and
all her fancies about these two people vanished. 
Not so much from what her mother told her, as from
the fact that it was Konstantin’s brother, this
pair suddenly seemed to Kitty intensely unpleasant. 
This Levin, with his continual twitching of his head,
aroused in her now an irrepressible feeling of disgust.

It seemed to her that his big, terrible
eyes, which persistently pursued her, expressed a
feeling of hatred and contempt, and she tried to avoid
meeting him.

 

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