Left alone, Darya Alexandrovna, with a good housewife’s eye, scanned her room. All she had seen in entering the house and walking through it, and all she saw now in her room, gave her an impression of wealth and sumptuousness and of that modern European luxury of which she had only read in English novels, but had never seen in Russia and in the country. Everything was new from the new French hangings on the walls to the carpet which covered the whole floor. The bed had a spring mattress, and a special sort of bolster and silk pillowcases on the little pillows. The marble washstand, the dressing table, the little sofa, the tables, the bronze clock on the chimney piece, the window curtains, and the portières were all new and expensive.
The smart maid, who came in to offer her services, with her hair done up high, and a gown more fashionable than Dolly’s, was as new and expensive as the whole room. Darya Alexandrovna liked her neatness, her deferential and obliging manners, but she felt ill at ease with her. She felt ashamed of her seeing the patched dressing jacket that had unluckily been packed by mistake for her. She was ashamed of the very patches and darned places of which she had been so proud at home. At home it had been so clear that for six dressing jackets there would be needed twenty-four yards of nainsook at sixteen pence the yard, which was a matter of thirty shillings besides the cutting-out and making, and these thirty shillings had been saved. But before the maid she felt, if not exactly ashamed, at least uncomfortable.
Darya Alexandrovna had a great sense of relief when Annushka, whom she had known for years, walked in. The smart maid was sent for to go to her mistress, and Annushka remained with Darya Alexandrovna.
Annushka was obviously much pleased at that lady’s arrival, and began to chatter away without a pause. Dolly observed that she was longing to express her opinion in regard to her mistress’s position, especially as to the love and devotion of the count to Anna Arkadyevna, but Dolly carefully interrupted her whenever she began to speak about this.
“I grew up with Anna Arkadyevna; my lady’s dearer to me than anything. Well, it’s not for us to judge. And, to be sure, there seems so much love....”
“Kindly pour out the water for me to wash now, please,” Darya Alexandrovna cut her short.
“Certainly. We’ve two women kept specially for washing small things, but most of the linen’s done by machinery. The count goes into everything himself. Ah, what a husband!...”
Dolly was glad when Anna came in, and by her entrance put a stop to Annushka’s gossip.
Anna had put on a very simple batiste gown. Dolly scrutinized that simple gown attentively. She knew what it meant, and the price at which such simplicity was obtained.
“An old friend,” said Anna of Annushka.
Anna was not embarrassed now. She was perfectly composed and at ease. Dolly saw that she had now completely recovered from the impression her arrival had made on her, and had assumed that superficial, careless tone which, as it were, closed the door on that compartment in which her deeper feelings and ideas were kept.
“Well, Anna, and how is your little girl?” asked Dolly.
“Annie?” (This was what she called her little daughter Anna.) “Very well. She has got on wonderfully. Would you like to see her? Come, I’ll show her to you. We had a terrible bother,” she began telling her, “over nurses. We had an Italian wet-nurse. A good creature, but so stupid! We wanted to get rid of her, but the baby is so used to her that we’ve gone on keeping her still.”
“But how have you managed?...” Dolly was beginning a question as to what name the little girl would have; but noticing a sudden frown on Anna’s face, she changed the drift of her question.
“How did you manage? have you weaned her yet?”
But Anna had understood.
“You didn’t mean to ask that? You meant to ask about her surname. Yes? That worries Alexey. She has no name—that is, she’s a Karenina,” said Anna, dropping her eyelids till nothing could be seen but the eyelashes meeting. “But we’ll talk about all that later,” her face suddenly brightening. “Come, I’ll show you her. Elle est très gentille. She crawls now.”
In the nursery the luxury which had impressed Dolly in the whole house struck her still more. There were little go-carts ordered from England, and appliances for learning to walk, and a sofa after the fashion of a billiard table, purposely constructed for crawling, and swings and baths, all of special pattern, and modern. They were all English, solid, and of good make, and obviously very expensive. The room was large, and very light and lofty.
When they went in, the baby, with nothing on but her little smock, was sitting in a little elbow chair at the table, having her dinner of broth, which she was spilling all over her little chest. The baby was being fed, and the Russian nursery maid was evidently sharing her meal. Neither the wet-nurse nor the head-nurse were there; they were in the next room, from which came the sound of their conversation in the queer French which was their only means of communication.
Hearing Anna’s voice, a smart, tall, English nurse with a disagreeable face and a dissolute expression walked in at the door, hurriedly shaking her fair curls, and immediately began to defend herself though Anna had not found fault with her. At every word Anna said, the English nurse said hurriedly several times, “Yes, my lady.”
The rosy baby with her black eyebrows and hair, her sturdy red little body with tight goose-flesh skin, delighted Darya Alexandrovna in spite of the cross expression with which she stared at the stranger. She positively envied the baby’s healthy appearance. She was delighted, too, at the baby’s crawling. Not one of her own children had crawled like that. When the baby was put on the carpet and its little dress tucked up behind, it was wonderfully charming. Looking round like some little wild animal at the grown-up big people with her bright black eyes, she smiled, unmistakably pleased at their admiring her, and holding her legs sideways, she pressed vigorously on her arms, and rapidly drew her whole back up after, and then made another step forward with her little arms.
But the whole atmosphere of the nursery, and especially the English nurse, Darya Alexandrovna did not like at all. It was only on the supposition that no good nurse would have entered so irregular a household as Anna’s that Darya Alexandrovna could explain to herself how Anna with her insight into people could take such an unprepossessing, disreputable-looking woman as nurse to her child.
Besides, from a few words that were dropped, Darya Alexandrovna saw at once that Anna, the two nurses, and the child had no common existence, and that the mother’s visit was something exceptional. Anna wanted to get the baby her plaything, and could not find it.
Most amazing of all was the fact that on being asked how many teeth the baby had, Anna answered wrong, and knew nothing about the two last teeth.
“I sometimes feel sorry I’m so superfluous here,” said Anna, going out of the nursery and holding up her skirt so as to escape the plaything standing in the doorway. “It was very different with my first child.”
“I expected it to be the other way,” said Darya Alexandrovna shyly.
“Oh, no! By the way, do you know I saw Seryozha?” said Anna, screwing up her eyes, as though looking at something far away. “But we’ll talk about that later. You wouldn’t believe it, I’m like a hungry beggar woman when a full dinner is set before her, and she does not know what to begin on first. The dinner is you, and the talks I have before me with you, which I could never have with anyone else; and I don’t know which subject to begin upon first. Mais je ne vous ferai grâce de rien. I must have everything out with you.”
“Oh, I ought to give you a sketch of the company you will meet with us,” she went on. “I’ll begin with the ladies. Princess Varvara—you know her, and I know your opinion and Stiva’s about her. Stiva says the whole aim of her existence is to prove her superiority over Auntie Katerina Pavlovna: that’s all true; but she’s a good-natured woman, and I am so grateful to her. In Petersburg there was a moment when a chaperon was absolutely essential for me. Then she turned up. But really she is good-natured. She did a great deal to alleviate my position. I see you don’t understand all the difficulty of my position ... there in Petersburg,” she added. “Here I’m perfectly at ease and happy. Well, of that later on, though. Then Sviazhsky—he’s the marshal of the district, and he’s a very good sort of a man, but he wants to get something out of Alexey. You understand, with his property, now that we are settled in the country, Alexey can exercise great influence. Then there’s Tushkevitch—you have seen him, you know—Betsy’s admirer. Now he’s been thrown over and he’s come to see us. As Alexey says, he’s one of those people who are very pleasant if one accepts them for what they try to appear to be, et puis il est comme il faut, as Princess Varvara says. Then Veslovsky ... you know him. A very nice boy,” she said, and a sly smile curved her lips. “What’s this wild story about him and the Levins? Veslovsky told Alexey about it, and we don’t believe it. Il est très gentil et naïf,” she said again with the same smile. “Men need occupation, and Alexey needs a circle, so I value all these people. We have to have the house lively and gay, so that Alexey may not long for any novelty. Then you’ll see the steward—a German, a very good fellow, and he understands his work. Alexey has a very high opinion of him. Then the doctor, a young man, not quite a Nihilist perhaps, but you know, eats with his knife ... but a very good doctor. Then the architect.... Une petite cour!”
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