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 Kittys fate, which was to be decided that day.
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.
Ah, mamma, we have plenty of troubles of our own. Lili is ill, and Im afraid its scarlatina. I have come here now to hear about Kitty, and then I shall shut myself up entirely, ifGod forbidit should be scarlatina.
The old prince got up and stroked Kittys hair. She lifted her head and looked at him with a forced smile. It always seemed to her that he understood her better than any one in the family, though he did not say much about her. Being the youngest, she was her fathers favourite, 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
Oh, thats 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, Im 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 hes telling me that though Im 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.
Shes so much to be pitied, poor child, so much to be pitied, and you dont 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 dont know why there arent laws against such base, dishonourable people.
Ah, I cant 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 youve challenged me to it, Ill tell you whos 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, Id have called him out to the barrier, the young dandy. Yes, and now you physic her and call in these quacks.
There, thats enough, thats enough! Youre wretched too, I know. It cant be helped. Theres 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 womans 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 princes 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 needfulto go to Kitty and console her.