The particulars which the princess had learned in regard to
Varenka's past and her relations with Madame Stahl were as
Madame Stahl, of whom some people said that she had worried her
husband out of his life, while others said it was he who had made
her wretched by his immoral behavior, had always been a woman of
weak health and enthusiastic temperament. When, after her
separation from her husband, she gave birth to her only child,
the child had died almost immediately, and the family of Madame
Stahl, knowing her sensibility, and fearing the news would kill
her, had substituted another child, a baby born the same night
and in the same house in Petersburg, the daughter of the chief
cook of the Imperial Household. This was Varenka. Madame Stahl
learned later on that Varenka was not her own child, but she went
on bringing her up, especially as very soon afterwards Varenka
had not a relation of her own living. Madame Stahl had now been
living more than ten years continuously abroad, in the south,
never leaving her couch. And some people said that Madame Stahl
had made her social position as a philanthropic, highly religious
woman; other people said she really was at heart the highly
ethical being, living for nothing but the good of her
fellow creatures, which she represented herself to be. No one
knew what her faith was--Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox. But
one fact was indubitable--she was in amicable relations with the
highest dignitaries of all the churches and sects.
Varenka lived with her all the while abroad, and everyone who
knew Madame Stahl knew and liked Mademoiselle Varenka, as
everyone called her.
Having learned all these facts, the princess found nothing to
object to in her daughter's intimacy with Varenka, more
especially as Varenka's breeding and education were of the
best--she spoke French and English extremely well--and what was
of the most weight, brought a message from Madame Stahl
expressing her regret that she was prevented by her ill health
from making the acquaintance of the princess.
After getting to know Varenka, Kitty became more and more
fascinated by her friend, and every day she discovered new
virtues in her.
The princess, hearing that Varenka had a good voice, asked her to
come and sing to them in the evening.