When she went into Kitty's little sanctum, a pretty, rosy little room, full of knickknacks in vieux saxe, as youthful and rosy and gay as Kitty herself had been only two months ago, Dolly recalled how they had together decorated the room the year before, with what gaiety and love. Her heart turned cold when she beheld Kitty sitting on the low chair nearest the door, her eyes fixed immovably on a corner of the rug. Kitty glanced at her sister, and the cold, rather austere expression of her face did not change.
"I'm going now, and shall entrench myself at home, and you won't be able to come to see me," said Darya Alexandrovna sitting down beside her. "I want to talk to you."
"What about?" Kitty asked swiftly, lifting her head in fright.
"What should it be, save what's grieving you?"
"I have no grief."
"Come, Kitty. Do you possibly think I cannot know? I know all. And, believe me, this is so insignificant... We've all been through it."
Kitty did not speak, and her face had a stern expression.
"He's not worth your suffering on his account," pursued Darya Alexandrovna, coming straight to the point.
"Yes- because he has disdained me," said Kitty, in a jarring voice. "Don't say anything! Please, don't say anything!"
"But whoever told you that? No one has said that. I'm certain he was in love with you, and remained in love with you, but..."
"Oh, the most awful thing of all for me are these condolences!" cried out Kitty, in a sudden fit of anger. She turned round on her chair, turned red, and her fingers moved quickly, as she pinched the buckle of the belt she held, now with one hand, now with the other. Dolly knew this trick her sister had of grasping something in turn with each of her hands, when in excitement; she knew that, in a moment of excitement Kitty was capable of forgetting herself and saying a great deal too much and much that was unpleasant, and Dolly would have calmed her; but it was already too late.
"What- what is it you want to make me feel, eh?" said Kitty quickly. "That I've been in love with a man who didn't even care to know me, and that I'm dying for love of him? And this is said to me by my own sister, who imagines that... that... that she's sympathizing with me!... I don't want these condolences and hypocrisies!"
"Kitty, you're unjust."
"Why do you torment me?"
"But I... On the contrary... I can see you're hurt...."
But Kitty in her heat did not hear her.
"I've nothing to despair over and be comforted about. I'm sufficiently proud never to allow myself to care for a man who does not love me."
"Why, I don't say anything of the kind... Only, tell me the truth," said Darya Alexandrovna, taking her by the hand, "tell me- did Levin speak to you?..."
The mention of Levin seemed to deprive Kitty of the last vestige of self-control. She leaped up from her chair, and, flinging the buckle to the ground, gesticulating rapidly with her hands, she said:
"Why bring Levin in too? I can't understand- what you want to torture me for? I've told you, and I repeat it- I have some pride, and never, never would I do what you're doing- going back to a man who's deceived you, who has come to love another woman. I can't understand this! You may- but I can't do it!"
And, having said these words, she glanced at her sister, and seeing that Dolly sat silent, her head mournfully bowed, Kitty, instead of leaving the room, as she had intended, sat down near the door, and, hiding her face in her shawl, let her head drop.
The silence lasted for two minutes. Dolly's thoughts were of herself. That humiliation of which she was always conscious came back to her with special pain when her sister reminded her of it. She had not expected such cruelty from her sister, and was resentful. But suddenly she heard the rustle of a skirt, and, simultaneously, an outburst of smothered sobbing, and felt arms clasping her neck from below. Kitty was on her knees before her.
"Dolinka, I am so, so unhappy!" she whispered penitently.
And the endearing face, covered with tears, hid itself in Darya Alexandrovna's skirt.
It was as if tears were the indispensable oil without which the machinery of mutual communion could not run smoothly between the two sisters; the sisters, after their tears, discussed everything but that which engrossed them; but, even in talking of outside matters, they understood one another. Kitty knew that what she had uttered in anger about her husband's infidelity and her humiliating position had struck her poor sister to the very depths of her heart, but she also knew that the latter had forgiven her. Dolly for her part had comprehended all she had wanted to find out. She had become convinced that her surmises were correct; that Kitty's misery, her incurable misery, was due precisely to the fact that Levin had proposed to her and she had refused him, while Vronsky had deceived her, and that she stood ready to love Levin and to hate Vronsky. Kitty said no word of this; she spoke of nothing save her own spiritual state.
"I have nothing to grieve over," she said, calming down, "but you could understand that everything has become loathsome, hateful, coarse to me- and I myself most of all. You can't imagine what loathsome thoughts I have about everything."
"Why, whatever loathsome thoughts can you have?" asked Dolly, smiling.
"Most, most loathsome and coarse: I couldn't tell you. This is not melancholy, nor boredom, but far worse. As if everything of good that I had were gone out of sight, while only that which was most loathsome were left. Well, how shall I put it to you?" she went on, seeing incomprehension in her sister's eyes. "Papa began saying something to me just now... It seems to me he thinks all I need is to marry. If mamma takes me to a ball- it seems to me she takes me only to marry me off as fast as possible, and get me off her hands. I know this isn't so, but I can't drive away such thoughts. These suitors so called- I can't bear the sight of them. It seems to me as if they're always taking stock of me. Formerly, to go anywhere in a ball dress was a downright joy to me; I used to admire myself; now I feel ashamed, in at ease. Well, take any example you like... This doctor... Now..."
Kitty hesitated; she wanted to say further that ever since this change had taken place in her, Stepan Arkadyevich had become unbearably repulsive to her, and that she could not see him without imagining the grossest and most hideous things.
"Well now, everything appears to me, in the coarsest, most loathsome aspect," she went on. "That is my ailment. Perhaps all this will pass..."
"Try not to think of such things..."
"I can't help it. I feel well only when I am with the children, at your house."
"What a pity you can't visit me!"
"Oh, yes, I'll come.- I've had scarlatina, and I'll persuade maman to let me come."
Kitty insisted on having her way, and went to stay at her sister's and nursed the children all through the scarlatina- for it really proved to be scarlatina. The two sisters brought all the six children successfully through it; Kitty's health, however, did not improve, and in Lent the Shcherbatskys went abroad.