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Chapter 33

Kitty made the acquaintance of Madame Stahl too, and this
acquaintance, together with her friendship with Varenka, did not
merely exercise a great influence on her, it also comforted her
in her mental distress. She found this comfort through a
completely new world being opened to her by means of this
acquaintance, a world having nothing in common with her past, an
exalted, noble world, from the height of which she could
contemplate her past calmly. It was revealed to her that besides
the instinctive life to which Kitty had given herself up hitherto
there was a spiritual life. This life was disclosed in religion,
but a religion having nothing in common with that one which Kitty
had known from childhood, and which found expression in litanies
and all-night services at the Widow's Home, where one might meet
one's friends, and in learning by heart Slavonic texts with the
priest. This was a lofty, mysterious religion connected with a
whole series of noble thoughts and feelings, which one could do
more than merely believe because one was told to, which one could

Kitty found all this out not from words. Madame Stahl talked to
Kitty as to a charming child that one looks on with pleasure as
on the memory of one's youth, and only once she said in passing
that in all human sorrows nothing gives comfort but love and
faith, and that in the sight of Christ's compassion for us no
sorrow is trifling--and immediately talked of other things. But
in every gesture of Madame Stahl, in every word, in every
heavenly--as Kitty called it--look, and above all in the whole
story of her life, which she heard from Varenka, Kitty recognized
that something "that was important," of which, till then, she had
known nothing.

Yet, elevated as Madame Stahl's character was, touching as was
her story, and exalted and moving as was her speech, Kitty could
not help detecting in her some traits which perplexed her. She
noticed that when questioning her about her family, Madame Stahl
had smiled contemptuously, which was not in accord with Christian
meekness. She noticed, too, that when she had found a Catholic
priest with her, Madame Stahl had studiously kept her face in the
shadow of the lamp-shade and had smiled in a peculiar way.
Trivial as these two observations were, they perplexed her, and
she had her doubts as to Madame Stahl. But on the other hand
Varenka, alone in the world, without friends or relations, with a
melancholy disappointment in the past, desiring nothing,
regretting nothing, was just that perfection of which Kitty dared
hardly dream. In Varenka she realized that one has but to forget
oneself and love others, and one will be calm, happy, and noble.
And that was what Kitty longed to be. Seeing now clearly what
was the most important, Kitty was not satisfied with being
enthusiastic over it; she at once gave herself up with her whole
soul to the new life that was opening to her. From Varenka's
accounts of the doings of Madame Stahl and other people whom she
mentioned, Kitty had already constructed the plan of her own
future life. She would, like Madame Stahl's niece, Aline, of
whom Varenka had talked to her a great deal, seek out those who
were in trouble, wherever she might be living, help them as far
as she could, give them the Gospel, read the Gospel to the sick,
the criminals, to the dying. The idea of reading the Gospel to
criminals, as Aline did, particularly fascinated Kitty. But all
these were secret dreams, of which Kitty did not talk either to
her mother or to Varenka.

While awaiting the time for carrying out her plans on a large
scale, however, Kitty, even then at the springs, where there were
so many people ill and unhappy, readily found a chance for
practicing her new principles in imitation of Varenka.

At first the princess noticed nothing but that Kitty was much
under the influence of her engouement, as she called it, for
Madame Stahl, and still more for Varenka. She saw that Kitty did
not merely imitate Varenka in her conduct, but unconsciously
imitated her in her manner of walking, of talking, of blinking
her eyes. But later on the princess noticed that, apart from
this adoration, some kind of serious spiritual change was taking
place in her daughter.

The princess saw that in the evenings Kitty read a French
testament that Madame Stahl had given her--a thing she had never
done before; that she avoided society acquaintances and
associated with the sick people who were under Varenka's
protection, and especially one poor family, that of a sick
painter, Petrov. Kitty was unmistakably proud of playing the
part of a sister of mercy in that family. All this was well
enough, and the princess had nothing to say against it,
especially as Petrov's wife was a perfectly nice sort of woman,
and that the German princess, noticing Kitty's devotion, praised
her, calling her an angel of consolation. All this would have
been very well, if there had been no exaggeration. But the
princess saw that her daughter was rushing into extremes, and so
indeed she told her.

"Il ne faut jamais rien outrer," she said to her.

Her daughter made her no reply, only in her heart she thought
that one could not talk about exaggeration where Christianity was
concerned. What exaggeration could there be in the practice of a
doctrine wherein one was bidden to turn the other cheek when one
was smitten, and give one's cloak if one's coat were taken? But
the princess disliked this exaggeration, and disliked even more
the fact that she felt her daughter did not care to show her all
her heart. Kitty did in fact conceal her new views and feelings
from her mother. She concealed them not because she did not
respect or did not love her mother, but simply because she was
her mother. She would have revealed them to anyone sooner than
to her mother.

"How is it Anna Pavlovna's not been to see us for so long?" the
princess said one day of Madame Petrova. "I've asked her, but
she seems put out about something."

"No, I've not noticed it, maman," said Kitty, flushing hotly.

"Is it long since you went to see them?"

"We're meaning to make an expedition to the mountains tomorrow,"
answered Kitty,

"Well, you can go," answered the princess, gazing at her
daughter's embarrassed face and trying to guess the cause of her

That day Varenka came to dinner and told them that Anna Pavlovna
had changed her mind and given up the expedition for the morrow.
And the princess noticed again that Kitty reddened.

"Kitty, haven't you had some misunderstanding with the Petrovs?"
said the princess, when they were left alone. "Why has she given
up sending the children and coming to see us?"

Kitty answered that nothing had happened between them, and that
she could not tell why Anna Pavlovna seemed displeased with her.
Kitty answered perfectly truly. She did not know the reason Anna
Pavlovna had changed to her, but she guessed it. She guessed at
something which she could not tell her mother, which she did not
put into words to herself. It was one of those things which one
knows but which one can never speak of even to oneself so
terrible and shameful would it be to be mistaken.

Again and again she went over in her memory all her relations
with the family. She remembered the simple delight expressed on
the round, good-humored face of Anna Pavlovna at their meetings;
she remembered their secret confabulations about the invalid,
their plots to draw him away from the work which was forbidden
him, and to get him out-of-doors; the devotion of the youngest
boy, who used to call her "my Kitty," and would not go to bed
without her. How nice it all was! Then she recalled the thin,
terribly thin figure of Petrov, with his long neck, in his brown
coat, his scant, curly hair, his questioning blue eyes that were
so terrible to Kitty at first, and his painful attempts to seem
hearty and lively in her presence. She recalled the efforts she
had made at first to overcome the repugnance she felt for him, as
for all consumptive people, and the pains it had cost her to
think of things to say to him. She recalled the timid, softened
look with which he gazed at her, and the strange feeling of
compassion and awkwardness, and later of a sense of her own
goodness, which she had felt at it. How nice it all was! But
all that was at first. Now, a few days ago, everything was
suddenly spoiled. Anna Pavlovna had met Kitty with affected
cordiality, and had kept continual watch on her and on her

Could that touching pleasure he showed when she came near be the
cause of Anna Pavlovna's coolness?

"Yes," she mused, "there was something unnatural about Anna
Pavlovna, and utterly unlike her good nature, when she said
angrily the day before yesterday: 'There, he will keep waiting
for you; he wouldn't drink his coffee without you, though he's
grown so dreadfully weak.' "

"Yes, perhaps, too, she didn't like it when I gave him the rug.
It was all so simple, but he took it so awkwardly, and was so
long thanking me, that I felt awkward too. And then that
portrait of me he did so well. And most of all that look of
confusion and tenderness! Yes, yes, that's it!" Kitty repeated
to herself with horror. "No, it can't be, it oughtn't to be!
He's so much to be pitied!" she said to herself directly after.

This doubt poisoned the charm of her new life.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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