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Chapter 19


Left alone, Darya Alexandrovna, with a good housewife's eye,
scanned her room. All she had seen in entering the house and
walking through it, and all she saw now in her room, gave her an
impression of wealth and sumptuousness and of that modern
European luxury of which she had only read in English novels, but
had never seen in Russia and in the country. Everything was new
from the new French hangings on the walls to the carpet which
covered the whole floor. The bed had a spring mattress, and a
special sort of bolster and silk pillowcases on the little
pillows. The marble washstand, the dressing table, the little
sofa, the tables, the bronze clock on the chimney piece, the
window curtains, and the portieres were all new and expensive.

The smart maid, who came in to offer her services, with her hair
done up high, and a gown more fashionable than Dolly's, was as
new and expensive as the whole room. Darya Alexandrovna liked
her neatness, her deferential and obliging manners, but she felt
ill at ease with her. She felt ashamed of her seeing the patched
dressing jacket that had unluckily been packed by mistake for
her. She was ashamed of the very patches and darned places of
which she had been so proud at home. At home it had been so
clear that for six dressing jackets there would be needed
twenty-four yards of nainsook at sixteen pence the yard, which
was a matter of thirty shillings besides the cutting-out and
making, and these thirty shillings had been saved. But before
the maid she felt, if not exactly ashamed, at least
uncomfortable.

Darya Alexandrovna had a great sense of relief when Annushka,
whom she had known for years, walked in. The smart maid was sent
for to go to her mistress, and Annushka remained with Darya
Alexandrovna.

Annushka was obviously much pleased at that lady's arrival, and
began to chatter away without a pause. Dolly observed that she
was longing to express her opinion in regard to her mistress's
position, especially as to the love and devotion of the count to
Anna Arkadyevna, but Dolly carefully interrupted her whenever she
began to speak about this.

"I grew up with Anna Arkadyevna; my lady's dearer to me than
anything. Well, it's not for us to judge. And, to be sure,
there seems so much love..."

"Kindly pour out the water for me to wash now, please," Darya
Alexandrovna cut her short.

"Certainly. We've two women kept specially for washing small
things, but most of the linen's done by machinery. The count
goes into everything himself. Ah, what a husband!..."

Dolly was glad when Anna came in, and by her entrance put a stop
to Annushka's gossip.

Anna had put on a very simple batiste gown. Dolly scrutinized
that simple gown attentively. She knew what it meant, and the
price at which such simplicity was obtained.

"An old friend," said Anna of Annushka.

Anna was not embarrassed now. She was perfectly composed and at
ease. Dolly saw that she had now completely recovered from the
impression her arrival had made on her, and had assumed that
superficial, careless tone which, as it were, closed the door on
that compartment in which her deeper feelings and ideas were
kept.

"Well, Anna, and how is your little girl?" asked Dolly.

"Annie?" (This was what she called her little daughter Anna.)
"Very well. She has got on wonderfully. Would you like to see
her? Come, I'll show her to you. We had a terrible bother," she
began telling her, "over nurses. We had an Italian wet-nurse. A
good creature, but so stupid! We wanted to get rid of her, but
the baby is so used to her that we've gone on keeping her still."

"But how have you managed?..." Dolly was beginning a question
as to what name the little girl would have; but noticing a sudden
frown on Anna's face, she changed the drift of her question.

"How did you manage? have you weaned her yet?"

But Anna had understood.

"You didn't mean to ask that? You meant to ask about her
surname. Yes? That worries Alexey. She has no name--that is,
she's a Karenina," said Anna, dropping her eyelids till nothing
could be seen but the eyelashes meeting. "But we'll talk about
all that later," her face suddenly brightening. "Come, I'll show
you her. Elle est tres gentille. She crawls now."

In the nursery the luxury which had impressed Dolly in the whole
house struck her still more. There were little go-carts ordered
from England, and appliances for learning to walk, and a sofa
after the fashion of a billiard table, purposely constructed for
crawling, and swings and baths, all of special pattern, and
modern. They were all English, solid, and of good make, and
obviously very expensive. The room was large, and very light and
lofty.

When they went in, the baby, with nothing on but her little smock
was sitting in a little elbow chair at the table, having her
dinner of broth which she was spilling all over her little chest.
The baby was being fed, and the Russian nursery maid was
evidently sharing her meal. Neither the wet-nurse nor the
head nurse were there; they were in the next room, from which
came the sound of their conversation in the queer French which
was their only means of communication.

Hearing Anna's voice, a smart, tall, English nurse with a
disagreeable face and a dissolute expression walked in at the
door, hurriedly shaking her fair curls, and immediately began to
defend herself though Anna had not found fault with her. At
every word Anna said, the English nurse said hurriedly several
times, "Yes, my lady."

The rosy baby with her black eyebrows and hair, her sturdy red
little body with tight goose-flesh skin, delighted Darya
Alexandrovna in spite of the cross expression with which she
stared at the stranger. She positively envied the baby's healthy
appearance. She was delighted, too, at the baby's crawling. Not
one of her own children had crawled like that. When the baby was
put on the carpet and its little dress tucked up behind, it was
wonderfully charming. Looking round like some little wild animal
at the grown-up big people with her bright black eyes, she
smiled, unmistakably pleased at their admiring her, and holding
her legs sideways, she pressed vigorously on her arms, and
rapidly drew her whole back up after, and then made another step
forward with her little arms.

But the whole atmosphere of the nursery, and especially the
English nurse, Darya Alexandrovna did not like at all. It was
only on the supposition that no good nurse would have entered so
irregular a household as Anna's that Darya Alexandrovna could
explain to herself how Anna with her insight into people could
take such an unprepossessing, disreputable-looking woman as nurse
to her child.

Besides, from a few words that were dropped, Darya Alexandrovna
saw at once that Anna, the two nurses, and the child had no
common existence, and that the mother's visit was something
exceptional. Anna wanted to get the baby her plaything, and
could not find it.

Most amazing of all was the fact that on being asked how many
teeth the baby had, Anna answered wrong, and knew nothing about
the two last teeth.

"I sometimes feel sorry I'm so superfluous here," said Anna,
going out of the nursery and holding up her skirt so as to escape
the plaything standing in the doorway. "It was very different
with my first child."

"I expected it to be the other way," said Darya Alexandrovna
shyly.

"Oh, no! By the way, do you know I saw Seryozha?" said Anna;
screwing up her eyes, as though looking at something far away.
"But we'll talk about that later. You wouldn't believe it, I'm
like a hungry beggar woman when a full dinner is set before her,
and she does not know what to begin on first. The dinner is you,
and the talks I have before me with you, which I could never have
with anyone else; and I don't know which subject to begin upon
first. Mais je ne vous ferai grace de rien. I must have
everything out with you."

"Oh, I ought to give you a sketch of the company you will meet
with us," she went on. "I'll begin with the ladies. Princess
Varvara--you know her, and I know your opinion and Stiva's about
her. Stiva says the whole aim of her existence is to prove her
superiority over Auntie Katerina Pavlovna: that's all true; but
she's a good-natured woman, and I am so grateful to her. In
Petersburg there was a moment when a chaperon was absolutely
essential for me. Then she turned up. But really she is good-
natured. She did a great deal to alleviate my position. I see
you don't understand all the difficulty of my position...there in
Petersburg," she added. "Here I'm perfectly at ease and happy.
Well, of that later on, though. Then Sviazhsky--he's the marshal
of the district, and he's a very good sort of a man, but he wants
to get something out of Alexey. You understand, with his
property, now that we are settled in the country, Alexey can
exercise great influence. Then there's Tushkevitch--you have
seen him, you know--Betsy's admirer. Now he's been thrown over
and he's come to see us. As Alexey says, he's one of those
people who are very pleasant if one accepts them for what they
try to appear to be, et puis il est comme il faut, as Princess
Varvara says. Then Veslovsky...you know him. A very nice boy,"
she said, and a sly smile curved her lips. "What's this wild
story about him and the Levins? Veslovsky told Alexey about it,
and we don't believe it. Il est tres gentil et naif," she said
again with the same smile. "Men need occupation, and Alexey
needs a circle, so I value all these people. We have to have the
house lively and gay, so that Alexey may not long for any
novelty. Then you'll see the steward--a German, a very good
fellow, and he understands his work. Alexey has a very high
opinion of him. Then the doctor, a young man, not quite a
Nihilist perhaps, but you know, eats with his knife...but a very
good doctor. Then the architect.... Une petite cour!"



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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