Dolly could not help sighing. Her dearest friend, her sister, was going away. And her life was not a cheerful one. Her relations with Stepan Arkadyevitch after their reconciliation had become humiliating. The union Anna had cemented turned out to be of no solid character, and family harmony was breaking down again at the same point. There had been nothing definite, but Stepan Arkadyevitch was hardly ever at home; money, too, was hardly ever forthcoming, and Dolly was continually tortured by suspicions of infidelity, which she tried to dismiss, dreading the agonies of jealousy she had been through already. The first onslaught of jealousy, once lived through, could never come back again, and even the discovery of infidelities could never now affect her as it had the first time. Such a discovery now would only mean breaking up family habits, and she let herself be deceived, despising him and still more herself, for the weakness. Besides this, the care of her large family was a constant worry to her: first, the nursing of her young baby did not go well, then the nurse had gone away, now one of the children had fallen ill.
“Well, how are all of you?” asked her mother.
“Ah, mamma, we have plenty of troubles of our own. Lili is ill, and I’m afraid it’s scarlatina. I have come here now to hear about Kitty, and then I shall shut myself up entirely, if—God forbid—it should be scarlatina.”
The old prince too had come in from his study after the doctor’s departure, and after presenting his cheek to Dolly, and saying a few words to her, he turned to his wife:
“How have you settled it? you’re going? Well, and what do you mean to do with me?”
“I suppose you had better stay here, Alexander,” said his wife.
“That’s as you like.”
“Mamma, why shouldn’t father come with us?” said Kitty. “It would be nicer for him and for us too.”
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 in the family, though he did not say much about her. Being the youngest, she was her father’s favorite, and she fancied that his love gave him insight. When now her glance met his blue kindly eyes looking intently at her, it seemed to her that he saw right through her, and understood all that was not good that was passing within her. Reddening, she stretched out towards him expecting a kiss, but he only patted her hair and said:
“These stupid chignons! There’s no getting at the real daughter. One simply strokes the bristles of dead women. Well, Dolinka,” he turned to his elder daughter, “what’s your young buck about, hey?”
“Nothing, father,” answered Dolly, understanding that her husband was meant. “He’s always out; I scarcely ever see him,” she could not resist adding with a sarcastic smile.
“Why, hasn’t he gone into the country yet—to see about selling that forest?”