The prince communicated his good humor to his own family and his friends, and even to the German landlord in whose rooms the Shtcherbatskys were staying.
On coming back with Kitty from the springs, the prince, who had asked the colonel, and Marya Yevgenyevna, and Varenka all to come and have coffee with them, gave orders for a table and chairs to be taken into the garden under the chestnut tree, and lunch to be laid there. The landlord and the servants, too, grew brisker under the influence of his good spirits. They knew his open-handedness; and half an hour later the invalid doctor from Hamburg, who lived on the top floor, looked enviously out of the window at the merry party of healthy Russians assembled under the chestnut tree. In the trembling circles of shadow cast by the leaves, at a table, covered with a white cloth, and set with coffeepot, bread-and-butter, cheese, and cold game, sat the princess in a high cap with lilac ribbons, distributing cups and bread-and-butter. At the other end sat the prince, eating heartily, and talking loudly and merrily. The prince had spread out near him his purchases, carved boxes, and knick-knacks, paper-knives of all sorts, of which he bought a heap at every watering-place, and bestowed them upon everyone, including Lieschen, the servant girl, and the landlord, with whom he jested in his comically bad German, assuring him that it was not the water had cured Kitty, but his splendid cookery, especially his plum soup. The princess laughed at her husband for his Russian ways, but she was more lively and good-humored than she had been all the while she had been at the waters. The colonel smiled, as he always did, at the prince’s jokes, but as far as regards Europe, of which he believed himself to be making a careful study, he took the princess’s side. The simple-hearted Marya Yevgenyevna simply roared with laughter at everything absurd the prince said, and his jokes made Varenka helpless with feeble but infectious laughter, which was something Kitty had never seen before.
Kitty was glad of all this, but she could not be light-hearted. She could not solve the problem her father had unconsciously set her by his good-humored view of her friends, and of the life that had so attracted her. To this doubt there was joined the change in her relations with the Petrovs, which had been so conspicuously and unpleasantly marked that morning. Everyone was good-humored, but Kitty could not feel good-humored, and this increased her distress. She felt a feeling such as she had known in childhood, when she had been shut in her room as a punishment, and had heard her sisters’ merry laughter outside.
“Well, but what did you buy this mass of things for?” said the princess, smiling, and handing her husband a cup of coffee.
“One goes for a walk, one looks in a shop, and they ask you to buy. ‘Erlaucht, Durchlaucht?’ Directly they say ‘Durchlaucht,’ I can’t hold out. I lose ten thalers.”
“It’s simply from boredom,” said the princess.
“Of course it is. Such boredom, my dear, that one doesn’t know what to do with oneself.”
“How can you be bored, prince? There’s so much that’s interesting now in Germany,” said Marya Yevgenyevna.
“But I know everything that’s interesting: the plum soup I know, and the pea sausages I know. I know everything.”
“No, you may say what you like, prince, there’s the interest of their institutions,” said the colonel.
“But what is there interesting about it? They’re all as pleased as brass halfpence. They’ve conquered everybody, and why am I to be pleased at that? I haven’t conquered anyone; and I’m obliged to take off my own boots, yes, and put them away too; in the morning, get up and dress at once, and go to the dining-room to drink bad tea! How different it is at home! You get up in no haste, you get cross, grumble a little, and come round again. You’ve time to think things over, and no hurry.”
“But time’s money, you forget that,” said the colonel.
“Time, indeed, that depends! Why, there’s time one would give a month of for sixpence, and time you wouldn’t give half an hour of for any money. Isn’t that so, Katinka? What is it? why are you so depressed?”
“I’m not depressed.”
“Where are you off to? Stay a little longer,” he said to Varenka.
“I must be going home,” said Varenka, getting up, and again she went off into a giggle. When she had recovered, she said good-bye, and went into the house to get her hat.
Kitty followed her. Even Varenka struck her as different. She was not worse, but different from what she had fancied her before.
“Oh, dear! it’s a long while since I’ve laughed so much!” said Varenka, gathering up her parasol and her bag. “How nice he is, your father!”
Kitty did not speak.
“When shall I see you again?” asked Varenka.
“Mamma meant to go and see the Petrovs. Won’t you be there?” said Kitty, to try Varenka.
“Yes,” answered Varenka. “They’re getting ready to go away, so I promised to help them pack.”
“Well, I’ll come too, then.”
“No, why should you?”
“Why not? why not? why not?” said Kitty, opening her eyes wide, and clutching at Varenka’s parasol, so as not to let her go. “No, wait a minute; why not?”
“Oh, nothing; your father has come, and besides, they will feel awkward at your helping.”
“No, tell me why you don’t want me to be often at the Petrovs’. You don’t want me to—why not?”
“I didn’t say that,” said Varenka quietly.
“No, please tell me!”
“Tell you everything?” asked Varenka.
“Everything, everything!” Kitty assented.
“Well, there’s really nothing of any consequence; only that Mihail Alexeyevitch” (that was the artist’s name) “had meant to leave earlier, and now he doesn’t want to go away,” said Varenka, smiling.
“Well, well!” Kitty urged impatiently, looking darkly at Varenka.
“Well, and for some reason Anna Pavlovna told him that he didn’t want to go because you are here. Of course, that was nonsense; but there was a dispute over it—over you. You know how irritable these sick people are.”
Kitty, scowling more than ever, kept silent, and Varenka went on speaking alone, trying to soften or soothe her, and seeing a storm coming—she did not know whether of tears or of words.
“So you’d better not go…. You understand; you won’t be offended?…”
“And it serves me right! And it serves me right!” Kitty cried quickly, snatching the parasol out of Varenka’s hand, and looking past her friend’s face.
Varenka felt inclined to smile, looking at her childish fury, but she was afraid of wounding her.
“How does it serve you right? I don’t understand,” she said.
“It serves me right, because it was all sham; because it was all done on purpose, and not from the heart. What business had I to interfere with outsiders? And so it’s come about that I’m a cause of quarrel, and that I’ve done what nobody asked me to do. Because it was all a sham! a sham! a sham!…”
“A sham! with what object?” said Varenka gently.
“Oh, it’s so idiotic! so hateful! There was no need whatever for me…. Nothing but sham!” she said, opening and shutting the parasol.
“But with what object?”
“To seem better to people, to myself, to God; to deceive everyone. No! now I won’t descend to that. I’ll be bad; but anyway not a liar, a cheat.”
“But who is a cheat?” said Varenka reproachfully. “You speak as if….”
But Kitty was in one of her gusts of fury, and she would not let her finish.
“I don’t talk about you, not about you at all. You’re perfection. Yes, yes, I know you’re all perfection; but what am I to do if I’m bad? This would never have been if I weren’t bad. So let me be what I am. I won’t be a sham. What have I to do with Anna Pavlovna? Let them go their way, and me go mine. I can’t be different…. And yet it’s not that, it’s not that.”
“What is not that?” asked Varenka in bewilderment.
“Everything. I can’t act except from the heart, and you act from principle. I liked you simply, but you most likely only wanted to save me, to improve me.”
“You are unjust,” said Varenka.
“But I’m not speaking of other people, I’m speaking of myself.”
“Kitty,” they heard her mother’s voice, “come here, show papa your necklace.”
Kitty, with a haughty air, without making peace with her friend, took the necklace in a little box from the table and went to her mother.
“What’s the matter? Why are you so red?” her mother and father said to her with one voice.
“Nothing,” she answered. “I’ll be back directly,” and she ran back.
“She’s still here,” she thought. “What am I to say to her? Oh, dear! what have I done, what have I said? Why was I rude to her? What am I to do? What am I to say to her?” thought Kitty, and she stopped in the doorway.
Varenka in her hat and with the parasol in her hands was sitting at the table examining the spring which Kitty had broken. She lifted her head.
“Varenka, forgive me, do forgive me,” whispered Kitty, going up to her. “I don’t remember what I said. I….”
“I really didn’t mean to hurt you,” said Varenka, smiling.
Peace was made. But with her father’s coming all the world in which she had been living was transformed for Kitty. She did not give up everything she had learned, but she became aware that she had deceived herself in supposing she could be what she wanted to be. Her eyes were, it seemed, opened; she felt all the difficulty of maintaining herself without hypocrisy and self-conceit on the pinnacle to which she had wished to mount. Moreover, she became aware of all the dreariness of the world of sorrow, of sick and dying people, in which she had been living. The efforts she had made to like it seemed to her intolerable, and she felt a longing to get back quickly into the fresh air, to Russia, to Ergushovo, where, as she knew from letters, her sister Dolly had already gone with her children.
But her affection for Varenka did not wane. As she said good-bye, Kitty begged her to come to them in Russia.
“I’ll come when you get married,” said Varenka.
“I shall never marry.”
“Well, then, I shall never come.”
“Well, then, I shall be married simply for that. Mind now, remember your promise,” said Kitty.
The doctor’s prediction was fulfilled. Kitty returned home to Russia cured. She was not so gay and thoughtless as before, but she was serene. Her Moscow troubles had become a memory to her.