BEFORE the end of the course of drinking the waters, Prince Shtcherbatsky, who had gone on from Carlsbad to Baden and Kissingen to Russian friendsto get a breath of Russian air, as he saidcame back to his wife and daughter.
The views of the prince and of the princess on life abroad were completely opposed. The princess thought everything delightful, and in spite of her established position in Russian society, she tried abroad to be like a European fashionable lady, which she was notfor the simple reason that she was a typical Russian gentlewoman; and so she was affected, which did not altogether suit her. The prince, on the contrary, thought everything foreign detestable, got sick of European life, kept to his Russian habits, and purposely tried to show himself abroad less European than he was in reality.
The prince returned thinner, with the skin hanging in loose bags on his cheeks, but in the most cheerful frame of mind. His good-humour was even greater when he saw Kitty completely recovered. The news of Kittys friendship with Madame Stahl and Varenka, and the reports the princess gave him of some kind of change she had noticed in Kitty, troubled the prince and aroused his habitual feeling of jealousy of everything that drew his daughter away from him, and a dread that his daughter might have got out of the reach of his influence into regions inaccessible to him. But these unpleasant matters were all drowned in the sea of kindliness and good-humour which was always within him, and more so than ever since his course of Carlsbad waters.
The day after his arrival the prince, in his long overcoat, with his Russian wrinkles and baggy cheeks propped up by a starched collar, set off with his daughter to the spring in the greatest good-humour.
It was a lovely morning: the bright, cheerful houses with their little gardens, the sight of the red-faced, red-armed beer-drinking German waitresses, working away merrily, did the heart good. But the nearer they got to the springs the oftener they met sick people; and their appearance seemed more pitiable than ever among the everyday conditions of prosperous German life. Kitty was no longer struck by this contrast. The bright sun, the brilliant green of the foliage, the strains of the music were for her the natural setting of all these familiar faces, with their changes to greater emaciation or to convalescence, for which she watched. But to the prince the brightness and gaiety of the June morning, and the sound of the orchestra playing a gay waltz then in fashion and above all, the appearance of the healthy attendants, seemed something unseemly and monstrous, in conjunction with these slowly moving, dying figures gathered together from all parts of Europe. In spite of his feeling of pride and, as it were, of the return of youth, with his favourite daughter on his arm, he felt awkward, and almost ashamed of his vigorous step and his sturdy, stout limbs. He felt almost like a man not dressed in a crowd.
Present me to your new friends, he said to his daughter, squeezing her hand with his elbow. I like even your horrid Soden for making you so well again. Only its melancholy, very melancholy here. Whos that?
Kitty mentioned the names of all the people they met, with some of whom she was acquainted and some not. At the entrance of the garden they met the blind lady, Madame Berthe, with her guide, and the prince was delighted to see the old Frenchwomans face light up when she heard Kittys voice. She at once began talking to him with French exaggerated politeness, applauding him for having such a delightful daughter, extolling Kitty to the skies before her face, and calling her a treasure, a pearl, and a consoling angel.
Whos that? What a piteous face! he asked, noticing a sick man of medium height sitting on a bench, wearing a brown overcoat and white trousers that fell in strange folds about his long, fleshless legs. This man lifted his straw hat, showed his scanty curly hair and high forehead, painfully reddened by the pressure of the hat.
Thats Petrov, an artist, answered Kitty, blushing. And thats his wife, she added, indicating Anna Pavlovna, who as though on purpose, at the very instant they approached walked away after a child that had run off along a path.
Good morning, princess, said Anna Pavlovna, with an assumed smile utterly unlike her former manner. Very glad to make your acquaintance, she said to the prince. Youve long been expected, prince.
What did you send word to the princess that we werent going for? the artist whispered hoarsely once more, still more angrily, obviously exasperated that his voice failed him so that he could not give his words the expression he would have liked to.
Yes, papa, answered Kitty. And you must know theyve three children, no servant, and scarcely any means. He gets something from the Academy, she went on briskly, trying to drown the distress that the queer change in Anna Pavlovnas manner to her had aroused in her.
Oh, heres Madame Stahl, said Kitty, indicating an invalid carriage, where, propped on pillows, something in grey and blue was lying under a sunshade. This was Madame Stahl. Behind her stood the gloomy, healthy-looking German workman who pushed the carriage. Close by was standing a flaxen-headed Swedish count, whom Kitty knew by name. Several invalids were lingering near the low carriage, staring at the lady as though she were some curiosity.
The prince went up to her, and Kitty detected that disconcerting gleam of irony in his eyes. He went up to Madame Stahl, and addressed her with extreme courtesy and affability in that excellent French that so few speak nowadays.
Yes; God sends the cross and sends the strength to bear it. Often one wonders what is the goal of this life? The other side! she said angrily to Varenka, who had rearranged the rug over her feet not to her satisfaction.
That is not for us to judge, said Madame Stahl, perceiving the shade of expression on the princes face. So you will send me that book, dear count? Im very grateful to you, she said to the young Swede.
Kitty did not answer, not because she had nothing to say, but because she did not care to reveal her secret thoughts even to her father. But, strange to say, although she had so made up her mind not to be influenced by her fathers views, not to let him into her inmost sanctuary, she felt that the heavenly image of Madame Stahl, which she had carried for a whole month in her heart, had vanished, never to return, just as the fantastic figure made up of some clothes thrown down at random vanishes when one sees that it is only some garment lying there. All that was left was a woman with short legs, who lay down because she was a bad figure, and worried patient Varenka for not arranging her rug to her liking. And by no effort of the imagination could Kitty bring back the former Madame Stahl.