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.