Right after the doctor Dolly arrived. She knew that the consultation was scheduled for that day, and, despite the fact that she had only recently gotten up from her lying-in (she had had another little girl at the end of the winter), despite her having enough trouble and cares of her own, she had left her breast baby and an ailing girl to come and learn Kitty's fate, which was being decided that day.
"Well, what's what?" said she, entering into the drawing room, without taking off her hat. "You're all in good spirits. That means good news, then?"
An attempt was made to tell her what the doctor had said, but it proved that, even though the doctor had talked coherently and long, it was utterly impossible to convey what he had said. The only point of interest was that going abroad was definitely decided upon.
Dolly could not help sighing. Her dearest friend, her sister, was going away. And her life was far from gay. Her relations with Stepan Arkadyevich after their reconciliation had become humiliating. The welding Anna had made proved not at all solid, and family concord had broken down again at the same point. There was nothing definite, but Stepan Arkadyevich was hardly ever at home; also, there was hardly ever any money, and Dolly was constantly being tortured by suspicions of infidelities, and by now she drove them away from her, dreading the agony of jealousy she had already experienced. The first explosion of jealousy, once lived through, could never return, and even the discovery of infidelities could never affect her now as it had the first time. Such a discovery now would only mean breaking up her family habits, and she permitted him to deceive her, despising him- and still more herself- for this weakness. Besides this, the cares of her large family were a constant torment to her: now the nursing of her breast baby did not go well; now the nurse would leave, now (as at the present time) one of the children would fall ill.
"Well, how's everybody in your family?" asked her mother.
"Ah, maman, we have enough trouble of our own. Lili has taken ill, and I'm afraid it's scarlatina. I have come here now to find out about Kitty, and then I shall shut myself up entirely, if- God forbid- it really be scarlatina."
The old Prince too had come in from his study after the doctor's departure, and, after offering his cheek to Dolly, and chatting awhile with her, he turned to his wife:
"What have you decided- are you going? Well, and what do you want to do with me?"
"I think you had better stay here, Alexandre," said his wife.
"Just as you wish."
"Maman, why shouldn't father come with us?" said Kitty. "He'll feel better, and so will we."
The old Prince got up and stroked Kitty's hair. She lifted her head and looked at him with a forced smile. It always seemed to her that he understood her better than anyone else in the family did, though he spoke but little with her. Being the youngest, she was her father's favorite, and she fancied that his love for her gave him insight. When now her gaze met his blue, kindly eyes, scrutinizing her intently, it seemed to her that he saw right through her, and understood all the evil things that were at work within her. Reddening, she was drawn toward him, expecting a kiss; but he merely patted her hair and said:
"These silly chignons! One can't as much as get near one's real daughter, but simply stroke the hair of defunct females. Well Dolinka," he turned to his elder daughter, "what's your ace up to now?"
"Nothing, papa," answered Dolly, who knew that this referred to her husband. "He's always out; I hardly ever see him," she could not resist adding with a mocking smile.
"Why, hasn't he gone into the country yet- about the sale of the forest?"
"No; he's still getting ready."
"Oh, that's it!" said the Prince. "And so I'm to be getting ready, too? At your service," he said to his wife, sitting down. "And as for you, Katia," he went on, addressing his younger daughter, "you must wake up one fine day and say to yourself: Why, I'm quite well, and merry, and I'm going out again with papa for an early morning stroll in the frost. Eh?"
What her father said seemed simple enough, yet at these words Kitty grew confused and upset, like a criminal caught red-handed. "Yes, he knows all, he understands all, and in these words he's telling me that though I'm ashamed, I must live through my shame." She could not pluck up spirit enough to make any answer. She made an attempt but suddenly burst into tears, and ran out of the room.
"See what comes of your jokes!" the Princess pounced on her husband. "You're always..." she launched into her reproachful speech.
The Prince listened to the Princess's reproaches rather a long while and kept silent, but his face grew more and more glowering.
"She's so much to be pitied, poor thing, so much to be pitied, yet you don't feel how it pains her to hear the least hint as to the cause of it all. Ah! to be so mistaken in people!" said the Princess, and by the change in her tone both Dolly and the Prince knew she meant Vronsky. "I don't know why there aren't laws against such vile, dishonorable people."
"Ah, I oughtn't to listen to you!" said the Prince glumly, getting up from his chair, as if to go, yet pausing in the doorway. "There are laws, my dear, and since you've challenged me to it, I'll tell you who's to blame for it all: you- you, you alone. Laws against such young gallants have always existed, and still exist! Yes, if there weren't anything that ought not to have been, I, old as I am, would have called him out to the barrier, this swell. Yes, and now go ahead and physic her, and call in these charlatans."
The Prince, it seemed, had plenty more to say, but no sooner had the Princess caught his tone than she subsided at once, and became penitent, as was always the case in serious matters.
"Alexandre, Alexandre," she whispered, approaching him and bursting into tears.
As soon as she began to weep the Prince, too, calmed down. He went up to her.
"There, that's enough, that's enough! You feel badly too, I know. Nothing can be done about it! It's not so very bad. God is merciful... thanks..." he said, without knowing himself what he was saying now, responding to the moist kiss of the Princess that he felt on his hand. And the Prince went out of the room.
No sooner had Kitty gone out of the room, in tears, than Dolly, with her motherly, domestic habit, had promptly perceived that here a woman's work lay before her, and got ready for it. She took off her hat, and, morally speaking, tucked up her sleeves and got ready for action. While her mother was attacking her father, she tried to restrain her mother, so far as daughterly reverence would allow. During the Prince's outburst she was silent; she felt ashamed for her mother and tender toward her father for so quickly being kind again. But when her father left, she made ready for what was most necessary- to go to Kitty and compose her.
"I've intended long since to tell you something, maman: did you know that Levin meant to propose to Kitty when he was here last? He told Stiva so."
"Well, what of it? I don't understand..."
"Why, perhaps Kitty refused him?... Did she say nothing to you?"
"No, she said nothing to me either of the one or the other; she's too proud. But I know it's all on account of this..."
"Yes, but suppose she has refused Levin- and she wouldn't have refused him if it hadn't been for the other, I know. And then, this fellow has deceived her so horribly."
It was too frightful for the Princess to think how much at fault she was before her daughter, and she grew angry.
"Oh, now I really understand nothing! Nowadays everybody thinks to live after his own way; a mother isn't told a thing, and then you have..."
"Maman, I'll go to her."
"Do. Am I forbidding you?"