Anna Karenina (Part Three – Chapter 6-10)
Mashkin Upland was mown, the last row finished, the peasants had put on their coats and were gaily trudging home. Levin got on his horse and, parting regretfully from the peasants, rode homewards. On the hillside he looked back; he could not see them in the mist that had risen from the valley; he could only hear rough, good-humored voices, laughter, and the sound of clanking scythes.
Sergey Ivanovitch had long ago finished dinner, and was drinking iced lemon and water in his own room, looking through the reviews and papers which he had only just received by post, when Levin rushed into the room, talking merrily, with his wet and matted hair sticking to his forehead, and his back and chest grimed and moist.
“We mowed the whole meadow! Oh, it is nice, delicious! And how have you been getting on?” said Levin, completely forgetting the disagreeable conversation of the previous day.
“Mercy! what do you look like!” said Sergey Ivanovitch, for the first moment looking round with some dissatisfaction. “And the door, do shut the door!” he cried. “You must have let in a dozen at least.”
Sergey Ivanovitch could not endure flies, and in his own room he never opened the window except at night, and carefully kept the door shut.
“Not one, on my honor. But if I have, I’ll catch them. You wouldn’t believe what a pleasure it is! How have you spent the day?”
“Very well. But have you really been mowing the whole day? I expect you’re as hungry as a wolf. Kouzma has got everything ready for you.”
“No, I don’t feel hungry even. I had something to eat there. But I’ll go and wash.”
“Yes, go along, go along, and I’ll come to you directly,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, shaking his head as he looked at his brother. “Go along, make haste,” he added smiling, and gathering up his books, he prepared to go too. He, too, felt suddenly good-humored and disinclined to leave his brother’s side. “But what did you do while it was raining?”
“Rain? Why, there was scarcely a drop. I’ll come directly. So you had a nice day too? That’s first-rate.” And Levin went off to change his clothes.
Five minutes later the brothers met in the dining room. Although it seemed to Levin that he was not hungry, and he sat down to dinner simply so as not to hurt Kouzma’s feelings, yet when he began to eat the dinner struck him as extraordinarily good. Sergey Ivanovitch watched him with a smile.
“Oh, by the way, there’s a letter for you,” said he. “Kouzma, bring it down, please. And mind you shut the doors.”
The letter was from Oblonsky. Levin read it aloud. Oblonsky wrote to him from Petersburg: “I have had a letter from Dolly; she’s at Ergushovo, and everything seems going wrong there. Do ride over and see her, please; help her with advice; you know all about it. She will be so glad to see you. She’s quite alone, poor thing. My mother-in-law and all of them are still abroad.”
“That’s capital! I will certainly ride over to her,” said Levin. “Or we’ll go together. She’s such a splendid woman, isn’t she?”
“They’re not far from here, then?”
“Twenty-five miles. Or perhaps it is thirty. But a capital road. Capital, we’ll drive over.”
“I shall be delighted,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, still smiling. The sight of his younger brother’s appearance had immediately put him in a good humor.
“Well, you have an appetite!” he said, looking at his dark-red, sunburnt face and neck bent over the plate.
“Splendid! You can’t imagine what an effectual remedy it is for every sort of foolishness. I want to enrich medicine with a new word: Arbeitskur.”
“Well, but you don’t need it, I should fancy.”
“No, but for all sorts of nervous invalids.”
“Yes, it ought to be tried. I had meant to come to the mowing to look at you, but it was so unbearably hot that I got no further than the forest. I sat there a little, and went on by the forest to the village, met your old nurse, and sounded her as to the peasants’ view of you. As far as I can make out, they don’t approve of this. She said: ‘It’s not a gentleman’s work.’ Altogether, I fancy that in the people’s ideas there are very clear and definite notions of certain, as they call it, ‘gentlemanly’ lines of action. And they don’t sanction the gentry’s moving outside bounds clearly laid down in their ideas.”
“Maybe so; but anyway it’s a pleasure such as I have never known in my life. And there’s no harm in it, you know. Is there?” answered Levin. “I can’t help it if they don’t like it. Though I do believe it’s all right. Eh?”
“Altogether,” pursued Sergey Ivanovitch, “you’re satisfied with your day?”
“Quite satisfied. We cut the whole meadow. And such a splendid old man I made friends with there! You can’t fancy how delightful he was!”
“Well, so you’re content with your day. And so am I. First, I solved two chess problems, and one a very pretty one–a pawn opening. I’ll show it you. And then–I thought over our conversation yesterday.”
“Eh! our conversation yesterday?” said Levin, blissfully dropping his eyelids and drawing deep breaths after finishing his dinner, and absolutely incapable of recalling what their conversation yesterday was about.
“I think you are partly right. Our difference of opinion amounts to this, that you make the mainspring self-interest, while I suppose that interest in the common weal is bound to exist in every man of a certain degree of advancement. Possibly you are right too, that action founded on material interest would be more desirable. You are altogether, as the French say, too primesautiere a nature; you must have intense, energetic action, or nothing.”
Levin listened to his brother and did not understand a single word, and did not want to understand. He was only afraid his brother might ask him some question which would make it evident he had not heard.
“So that’s what I think it is, my dear boy,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, touching him on the shoulder.
“Yes, of course. But, do you know? I won’t stand up for my view,” answered Levin, with a guilty, childlike smile. “Whatever was it I was disputing about?” he wondered. “Of course, I’m right, and he’s right, and it’s all first-rate. Only I must go round to the counting house and see to things.” He got up, stretching and smiling. Sergey Ivanovitch smiled too.
“If you want to go out, let’s go together,” he said, disinclined to be parted from his brother, who seemed positively breathing out freshness and energy. “Come, we’ll go to the counting house, if you have to go there.”
“Oh, heavens!” shouted Levin, so loudly that Sergey Ivanovitch was quite frightened.
“What, what is the matter?”
“How’s Agafea Mihalovna’s hand?” said Levin, slapping himself on the head. “I’d positively forgotten her even.”
“It’s much better.”
“Well, anyway I’ll run down to her. Before you’ve time to get your hat on, I’ll be back.”
And he ran downstairs, clattering with his heels like a spring-rattle.
Stephan Arkadyevitch had gone to Petersburg to perform the most natural and essential official duty–so familiar to everyone in the government service, though incomprehensible to outsiders– that duty, but for which one could hardly be in government service, of reminding the ministry of his existence–and having, for the due performance of this rite, taken all the available cash from home, was gaily and agreeably spending his days at the races and in the summer villas. Meanwhile Dolly and the children had moved into the country, to cut down expenses as much as possible. She had gone to Ergushovo, the estate that had been her dowry, and the one where in spring the forest had been sold. It was nearly forty miles from Levin’s Pokrovskoe. The big, old house at Ergushovo had been pulled down long ago, and the old prince had had the lodge done up and built on to. Twenty years before, when Dolly was a child, the lodge had been roomy and comfortable, though, like all lodges, it stood sideways to the entrance avenue, and faced the south. But by now this lodge was old and dilapidated. When Stepan Arkadyevitch had gone down in the spring to sell the forest, Dolly had begged him to look over the house and order what repairs might be needed. Stepan Arkadyevitch, like all unfaithful husbands indeed, was very solicitous for his wife’s comfort, and he had himself looked over the house, and given instructions about everything that he considered necessary. What he considered necessary was to cover all the furniture with cretonne, to put up curtains, to weed the garden, to make a little bridge on the pond, and to plant flowers. But he forgot many other essential matters, the want of which greatly distressed Darya Alexandrovna later on.
In spite of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s efforts to be an attentive father and husband, he never could keep in his mind that he had a wife and children. He had bachelor tastes, and it was in accordance with them that he shaped his life. On his return to Moscow he informed his wife with pride that everything was ready, that the house would be a little paradise, and that he advised her most certainly to go. His wife’s staying away in the country was very agreeable to Stepan Arkadyevitch from every point of view: it did the children good, it decreased expenses, and it left him more at liberty. Darya Alexandrovna regarded staying in the country for the summer as essential for the children, especially for the little girl, who had not succeeded in regaining her strength after the scarlatina, and also as a means of escaping the petty humiliations, the little bills owing to the wood-merchant, the fishmonger, the shoemaker, which made her miserable. Besides this, she was pleased to go away to the country because she was dreaming of getting her sister Kitty to stay with her there. Kitty was to be back from abroad in the middle of the summer, and bathing had been prescribed for her. Kitty wrote that no prospect was so alluring as to spend the summer with Dolly at Ergushovo, full of childish associations for both of them.
The first days of her existence in the country were very hard for Dolly. She used to stay in the country as a child, and the impression she had retained of it was that the country was a refuge from all the unpleasantness of the town, that life there, though not luxurious–Dolly could easily make up her mind to that–was cheap and comfortable; that there was plenty of everything, everything was cheap, everything could be got, and children were happy. But now coming to the country as the head of a family, she perceived that it was all utterly unlike what she had fancied.
The day after their arrival there was a heavy fall of rain and in the night the water came through in the corridor and in the nursery, so that the beds had to be carried into the drawing room. There was no kitchen maid to be found; of the nine cows, it appeared from the words of the cowherd-woman that some were about to calve, others had just calved, others were old, and others again hard-uddered; there was not butter nor milk enough even for the children. There were no eggs. They could get no fowls; old, purplish, stringy cocks were all they had for roasting and boiling. Impossible to get women to scrub the floors–all were potato-hoeing. Driving was out of the question, because one of the horses was restive, and bolted in the shafts. There was no place where they could bathe; the whole of the river-bank was trampled by the cattle and open to the road; even walks were impossible, for the cattle strayed into the garden through a gap in the hedge, and there was one terrible bull, who bellowed, and therefore might be expected to gore somebody. There were no proper cupboards for their clothes; what cupboards there were either would not close at all, or burst open whenever anyone passed by them. There were no pots and pans; there was no copper in the washhouse, nor even an ironing-board in the maids’ room.
Finding instead of peace and rest all these, from her point of view, fearful calamities, Darya Alexandrovna was at first in despair. She exerted herself to the utmost, felt the hopelessness of the position, and was every instant suppressing the tears that started into her eyes. The bailiff, a retired quartermaster, whom Stepan Arkadyevitch had taken a fancy to and had appointed bailiff on account of his handsome and respectful appearance as a hall-porter, showed no sympathy for Darya Alexandrovna’s woes. He said respectfully, “nothing can be done, the peasants are such a wretched lot,” and did nothing to help her.
The position seemed hopeless. But in the Oblonskys’ household, as in all families indeed, there was one inconspicuous but most valuable and useful person, Marya Philimonovna. She soothed her mistress, assured her that everything would come round (it was her expression, and Matvey had borrowed it from her), and without fuss or hurry proceeded to set to work herself. She had immediately made friends with the bailiff’s wife, and on the very first day she drank tea with her and the bailiff under the acacias, and reviewed all the circumstances of the position. Very soon Marya Philimonovna had established her club, so to say, under the acacias, and there it was, in this club, consisting of the bailiff’s wife, the village elder, and the counting house clerk, that the difficulties of existence were gradually smoothed away, and in a week’s time everything actually had come round. The roof was mended, a kitchen maid was found–a crony of the village elder’s–hens were bought, the cows began giving milk, the garden hedge was stopped up with stakes, the carpenter made a mangle, hooks were put in the cupboards, and they ceased to burst open spontaneously, and an ironing-board covered with army cloth was placed across from the arm of a chair to the chest of drawers, and there was a smell of flatirons in the maids’ room.
“Just see, now, and you were quite in despair,” said Marya Philimonovna, pointing to the ironing-board. They even rigged up a bathing-shed of straw hurdles. Lily began to bathe, and Darya Alexandrovna began to realize, if only in part, her expectations, if not of a peaceful, at least of a comfortable, life in the country. Peaceful with six children Darya Alexandrovna could not be. One would fall ill, another might easily become so, a third would be without something necessary, a fourth would show symptoms of a bad disposition, and so on. Rare indeed were the brief periods of peace. But these cares and anxieties were for Darya Alexandrovna the sole happiness possible. Had it not been for them, she would have been left alone to brood over her husband who did not love her. And besides, hard though it was for the mother to bear the dread of illness, the illnesses themselves, and the grief of seeing signs of evil propensities in her children–the children themselves were even now repaying her in small joys for her sufferings. Those joys were so small that they passed unnoticed, like gold in sand, and at bad moments she could see nothing but the pain, nothing but sand; but there were good moments too when she saw nothing but the joy, nothing but gold.
Now in the solitude of the country, she began to be more and more frequently aware of those joys. Often, looking at them, she would make every possible effort to persuade herself that she was mistaken, that she as a mother was partial to her children. All the same, she could not help saying to herself that she had charming children, all six of them in different ways, but a set of children such as is not often to be met with, and she was happy in them, and proud of them.
Towards the end of May, when everything had been more or less satisfactorily arranged, she received her husband’s answer to her complaints of the disorganized state of things in the country. He wrote begging her forgiveness for not having thought of everything before, and promised to come down at the first chance. This chance did not present itself, and till the beginning of June Darya Alexandrovna stayed alone in the country.
On the Sunday in St. Peter’s week Darya Alexandrovna drove to mass for all her children to take the sacrament. Darya Alexandrovna in her intimate, philosophical talks with her sister, her mother, and her friends very often astonished them by the freedom of her views in regard to religion. She had a strange religion of transmigration of souls all her own, in which she had firm faith, troubling herself little about the dogmas of the Church. But in her family she was strict in carrying out all that was required by the Church–and not merely in order to set an example, but with all her heart in it. The fact that the children had not been at the sacrament for nearly a year worried her extremely, and with the full approval and sympathy of Marya Philimonovna she decided that this should take place now in the summer.
For several days before, Darya Alexandrovna was busily deliberating on how to dress all the children. Frocks were made or altered and washed, seams and flounces were let out, buttons were sewn on, and ribbons got ready. One dress, Tanya’s, which the English governess had undertaken, cost Darya Alexandrovna much loss of temper. The English governess in altering it had made the seams in the wrong place, had taken up the sleeves too much, and altogether spoilt the dress. It was so narrow on Tanya’s shoulders that it was quite painful to look at her. But Marya Philimonovna had the happy thought of putting in gussets, and adding a little shoulder-cape. The dress was set right, but there was nearly a quarrel with the English governess. On the morning, however, all was happily arranged, and towards ten o’clock–the time at which they had asked the priest to wait for them for the mass–the children in their new dresses, with beaming faces stood on the step before the carriage waiting for their mother.
To the carriage, instead of the restive Raven, they had harnessed, thanks to the representations of Marya Philimonovna, the bailiff’s horse, Brownie, and Darya Alexandrovna, delayed by anxiety over her own attire, came out and got in, dressed in a white muslin gown.
Darya Alexandrovna had done her hair, and dressed with care and excitement. In the old days she had dressed for her own sake to look pretty and be admired. Later on, as she got older, dress became more and more distasteful to her. She saw that she was losing her good looks. But now she began to feel pleasure and interest in dress again. Now she did not dress for her own sake, not for the sake of her own beauty, but simply that as the mother of those exquisite creatures she might not spoil the general effect. And looking at herself for the last time in the looking-glass she was satisfied with herself. She looked nice. Not nice as she would have wished to look nice in old days at a ball, but nice for the object which she now had in view.
In the church there was no one but the peasants, the servants and their women-folk. But Darya Alexandrovna saw, or fancied she saw, the sensation produced by her children and her. The children were not only beautiful to look at in their smart little dresses, but they were charming in the way they behaved. Aliosha, it is true, did not stand quite correctly; he kept turning round, trying to look at his little jacket from behind; but all the same he was wonderfully sweet. Tanya behaved like a grownup person, and looked after the little ones. And the smallest, Lily, was bewitching in her naive astonishment at everything, and it was difficult not to smile when, after taking the sacrament, she said in English, “Please, some more.”
On the way home the children felt that something solemn had happened, and were very sedate.
Everything went happily at home too; but at lunch Grisha began whistling, and, what was worse, was disobedient to the English governess, and was forbidden to have any tart. Darya Alexandrovna would not have let things go so far on such a day had she been present; but she had to support the English governess’s authority, and she upheld her decision that Grisha should have no tart. This rather spoiled the general good humor. Grisha cried, declaring that Nikolinka had whistled too, and he was not punished, and that he wasn’t crying for the tart–he didn’t care–but at being unjustly treated. This was really too tragic, and Darya Alexandrovna made up her mind to persuade the English governess to forgive Grisha, and she went to speak to her. But on the way, as she passed the drawing room, she beheld a scene, filling her heart with such pleasure that the tears came into her eyes, and she forgave the delinquent herself.
The culprit was sitting at the window in the corner of the drawing room; beside him was standing Tanya with a plate. On the pretext of wanting to give some dinner to her dolls, she had asked the governess’s permission to take her share of tart to the nursery, and had taken it instead to her brother. While still weeping over the injustice of his punishment, he was eating the tart, and kept saying through his sobs, “Eat yourself; let’s eat it together…together.”
Tanya had at first been under the influence of her pity for Grisha, then of a sense of her noble action, and tears were standing in her eyes too; but she did not refuse, and ate her share.
On catching sight of their mother they were dismayed, but, looking into her face, they saw they were not doing wrong. They burst out laughing, and, with their mouths full of tart, they began wiping their smiling lips with their hands, and smearing their radiant faces all over with tears and jam.
“Mercy! Your new white frock; Tanya! Grisha!” said their mother, trying to save the frock, but with tears in her eyes, smiling a blissful, rapturous smile.
The new frocks were taken off, and orders were given for the little girls to have their blouses put on, and the boys their old jackets, and the wagonette to be harnessed; with Brownie, to the bailiff’s annoyance, again in the shafts, to drive out for mushroom picking and bathing. A roar of delighted shrieks arose in the nursery, and never ceased till they had set off for the bathing-place.
They gathered a whole basketful of mushrooms; even Lily found a birch mushroom. It had always happened before that Miss Hoole found them and pointed them out to her; but this time she found a big one quite of herself, and there was a general scream of delight, “Lily has found a mushroom!”
Then they reached the river, put the horses under the birch trees, and went to the bathing-place. The coachman, Terenty, fastened the horses, who kept whisking away the flies, to a tree, and, treading down the grass, lay down in the shade of a birch and smoked his shag, while the never-ceasing shrieks of delight of the children floated across to him from the bathing-place.
Though it was hard work to look after all the children and restrain their wild pranks, though it was difficult too to keep in one’s head and not mix up all the stockings, little breeches, and shoes for the different legs, and to undo and to do up again all the tapes and buttons, Darya Alexandrovna, who had always liked bathing herself, and believed it to be very good for the children, enjoyed nothing so much as bathing with all the children. To go over all those fat little legs, pulling on their stockings, to take in her arms and dip those little naked bodies, and to hear their screams of delight and alarm, to see the breathless faces with wide-open, scared, and happy eyes of all her splashing cherubs, was a great pleasure to her.
When half the children had been dressed, some peasant women in holiday dress, out picking herbs, came up to the bathing-shed and stopped shyly. Marya Philimonovna called one of them and handed her a sheet and a shirt that had dropped into the water for her to dry them, and Darya Alexandrovna began to talk to the women. At first they laughed behind their hands and did not understand her questions, but soon they grew bolder and began to talk, winning Darya Alexandrovna’s heart at once by the genuine admiration of the children that they showed.
“My, what a beauty! as white as sugar,” said one, admiring Tanitchka, and shaking her head; “but thin…”
“Yes, she has been ill.”
“And so they’ve been bathing you too,” said another to the baby.
“No; he’s only three months old,” answered Darya Alexandrovna with pride.
“You don’t say so!”
“And have you any children?”
“I’ve had four; I’ve two living–a boy and a girl. I weaned her last carnival.”
“How old is she?”
“Why, two years old.”
“Why did you nurse her so long?”
“It’s our custom; for three fasts…”
And the conversation became most interesting to Darya Alexandrovna. What sort of time did she have? What was the matter with the boy? Where was her husband? Did it often happen?
Darya Alexandrovna felt disinclined to leave the peasant women, so interesting to her was their conversation, so completely identical were all their interests. What pleased her most of all was that she saw clearly what all the women admired more than anything was her having so many children, and such fine ones. The peasant women even made Darya Alexandrovna laugh, and offended the English governess, because she was the cause of the laughter she did not understand. One of the younger women kept staring at the Englishwoman, who was dressing after all the rest, and when she put on her third petticoat she could not refrain from the remark, “My, she keeps putting on and putting on, and she’ll never have done!” she said, and they all went off into roars.
On the drive home, as Darya Alexandrovna, with all her children round her, their heads still wet from their bath, and a kerchief tied over her own head, was getting near the house, the coachman said, “There’s some gentleman coming: the master of Pokrovskoe, I do believe.”
Darya Alexandrovna peeped out in front, and was delighted when she recognized in the gray hat and gray coat the familiar figure of Levin walking to meet them. She was glad to see him at any time, but at this moment she was specially glad he should see her in all her glory. No one was better able to appreciate her grandeur than Levin.
Seeing her, he found himself face to face with one of the pictures of his daydream of family life.
“You’re like a hen with your chickens, Darya Alexandrovna.”
“Ah, how glad I am to see you!” she said, holding out her hand to him.
“Glad to see me, but you didn’t let me know. My brother’s staying with me. I got a note from Stiva that you were here.”
“From Stiva?” Darya Alexandrovna asked with surprise.
“Yes; he writes that you are here, and that he thinks you might allow me to be of use to you,” said Levin, and as he said it he became suddenly embarrassed, and, stopping abruptly, he walked on in silence by the wagonette, snapping off the buds of the lime trees and nibbling them. He was embarrassed through a sense that Darya Alexandrovna would be annoyed by receiving from an outsider help that should by rights have come from her own husband. Darya Alexandrovna certainly did not like this little way of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s of foisting his domestic duties on others. And she was at once aware that Levin was aware of this. It was just for this fineness of perception, for this delicacy, that Darya Alexandrovna liked Levin.
“I know, of course,” said Levin, “that that simply means that you would like to see me, and I’m exceedingly glad. Though I can fancy that, used to town housekeeping as you are, you must feel in the wilds here, and if there’s anything wanted, I’m altogether at your disposal.”
“Oh, no!” said Dolly. “At first things were rather uncomfortable, but now we’ve settled everything capitally– thanks to my old nurse,” she said, indicating Marya Philimonovna, who, seeing that they were speaking of her, smiled brightly and cordially to Levin. She knew him, and knew that he would be a good match for her young lady, and was very keen to see the matter settled.
“Won’t you get in, sir, we’ll make room this side!” she said to him.
“No, I’ll walk. Children, who’d like to race the horses with me?” The children knew Levin very little, and could not remember when they had seen him, but they experienced in regard to him none of that strange feeling of shyness and hostility which children so often experience towards hypocritical, grown-up people, and for which they are so often and miserably punished. Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised. Whatever faults Levin had, there was not a trace of hypocrisy in him, and so the children showed him the same friendliness that they saw in their mother’s face. On his invitation, the two elder ones at once jumped out to him and ran with him as simply as they would have done with their nurse or Miss Hoole or their mother. Lily, too, began begging to go to him, and her mother handed her to him; he sat her on his shoulder and ran along with her.
“Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, Darya Alexandrovna!” he said, smiling good-humoredly to the mother; “there’s no chance of my hurting or dropping her.”
And, looking at his strong, agile, assiduously careful and needlessly wary movements, the mother felt her mind at rest, and smiled gaily and approvingly as she watched him.
Here, in the country, with children, and with Darya Alexandrovna, with whom he was in sympathy, Levin was in a mood not infrequent with him, of childlike light-heartedness that she particularly liked in him. As he ran with the children, he taught them gymnastic feats, set Miss Hoole laughing with his queer English accent, and talked to Darya Alexandrovna of his pursuits in the country.
After dinner, Darya Alexandrovna, sitting alone with him on the balcony, began to speak of Kitty.
“You know, Kitty’s coming here, and is going to spend the summer with me.”
“Really,” he said, flushing, and at once, to change the conversation, he said: “Then I’ll send you two cows, shall I? If you insist on a bill you shall pay me five roubles a month; but it’s really too bad of you.”
“No, thank you. We can manage very well now.”
“Oh, well, then, I’ll have a look at your cows, and if you’ll allow me, I’ll give directions about their food. Everything depends on their food.”
And Levin, to turn the conversation, explained to Darya Alexandrovna the theory of cow-keeping, based on the principle that the cow is simply a machine for the transformation of food into milk, and so on.
He talked of this, and passionately longed to hear more of Kitty, and, at the same time, was afraid of hearing it. He dreaded the breaking up of the inward peace he had gained with such effort.
“Yes, but still all this has to be looked after, and who is there to look after it?” Darya Alexandrovna responded, without interest.
She had by now got her household matters so satisfactorily arranged, thanks to Marya Philimonovna, that she was disinclined to make any change in them; besides, she had no faith in Levin’s knowledge of farming. General principles, as to the cow being a machine for the production of milk, she looked on with suspicion. It seemed to her that such principles could only be a hindrance in farm management. It all seemed to her a far simpler matter: all that was needed, as Marya Philimonovna had explained, was to give Brindle and Whitebreast more food and drink, and not to let the cook carry all the kitchen slops to the laundry maid’s cow. That was clear. But general propositions as to feeding on meal and on grass were doubtful and obscure. And, what was most important, she wanted to talk about Kitty.
“Kitty writes to me that there’s nothing she longs for so much as quiet and solitude,” Dolly said after the silence that had followed.
“And how is she–better?” Levin asked in agitation.
“Thank God, she’s quite well again. I never believed her lungs were affected.”
“Oh, I’m very glad!” said Levin, and Dolly fancied she saw something touching, helpless, in his face as he said this and looked silently into her face.
“Let me ask you, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” said Darya Alexandrovna, smiling her kindly and rather mocking smile, “why is it you are angry with Kitty?”
“I? I’m not angry with her,” said Levin.
“Yes, you are angry. Why was it you did not come to see us nor them when you were in Moscow?”
“Darya Alexandrovna,” he said, blushing up to the roots of his hair, “I wonder really that with your kind heart you don’t feel this. How it is you feel no pity for me, if nothing else, when you know…”
“What do I know?”
“You know I made an offer and that I was refused,” said Levin, and all the tenderness he had been feeling for Kitty a minute before was replaced by a feeling of anger for the slight he had suffered.
“What makes you suppose I know?”
“Because everybody knows it…”
“That’s just where you are mistaken; I did not know it, though I had guessed it was so.”
“Well, now you know it.”
“All I knew was that something had happened that made her dreadfully miserable, and that she begged me never to speak of it. And if she would not tell me, she would certainly not speak of it to anyone else. But what did pass between you? Tell me.”
“I have told you.”
“When was it?”
“When I was at their house the last time.”
“Do you know that,” said Darya Alexandrovna, “I am awfully, awfully sorry for her. You suffer only from pride….”
“Perhaps so,” said Levin, “but…”
She interrupted him.
“But she, poor girl…I am awfully, awfully sorry for her. Now I see it all.”
“Well, Darya Alexandrovna, you must excuse me,” he said, getting up. “Good-bye, Darya Alexandrovna, till we meet again.”
“No, wait a minute,” she said, clutching him by the sleeve. “Wait a minute, sit down.”
“Please, please, don’t let us talk of this,” he said, sitting down, and at the same time feeling rise up and stir within his heart a hope he had believed to be buried.
“If I did not like you,” she said, and tears came into her eyes; “if I did not know you, as I do know you . . .”
The feeling that had seemed dead revived more and more, rose up and took possession of Levin’s heart.
“Yes, I understand it all now,” said Darya Alexandrovna. “You can’t understand it; for you men, who are free and make your own choice, it’s always clear whom you love. But a girl’s in a position of suspense, with all a woman’s or maiden’s modesty, a girl who sees you men from afar, who takes everything on trust,– a girl may have, and often has, such a feeling that she cannot tell what to say.”
“Yes, if the heart does not speak…”
“No, the heart does speak; but just consider: you men have views about a girl, you come to the house, you make friends, you criticize, you wait to see if you have found what you love, and then, when you are sure you love her, you make an offer….”
“Well, that’s not quite it.”
“Anyway you make an offer, when your love is ripe or when the balance has completely turned between the two you are choosing from. But a girl is not asked. She is expected to make her choice, and yet she cannot choose, she can only answer ‘yes’ or ‘no.'”
“Yes, to choose between me and Vronsky,” thought Levin, and the dead thing that had come to life within him died again, and only weighed on his heart and set it aching.
“Darya Alexandrovna,” he said, “that’s how one chooses a new dress or some purchase or other, not love. The choice has been made, and so much the better…. And there can be no repeating it.”
“Ah, pride, pride!” said Darya Alexandrovna, as though despising him for the baseness of this feeling in comparison with that other feeling which only women know. “At the time when you made Kitty an offer she was just in a position in which she could not answer. She was in doubt. Doubt between you and Vronsky. Him she was seeing every day, and you she had not seen for a long while. Supposing she had been older…I, for instance, in her place could have felt no doubt. I always disliked him, and so it has turned out.”
Levin recalled Kitty’s answer. She had said: “No, that cannot be…”
“Darya Alexandrovna,” he said dryly, “I appreciate your confidence in me; I believe you are making a mistake. But whether I am right or wrong, that pride you so despise makes any thought of Katerina Alexandrovna out of the question for me,– you understand, utterly out of the question.”
“I will only say one thing more: you know that I am speaking of my sister, whom I love as I love my own children. I don’t say she cared for you, all I meant to say is that her refusal at that moment proves nothing.”
“I don’t know!” said Levin, jumping up. “If you only knew how you are hurting me. It’s just as if a child of yours were dead, and they were to say to you: He would have been like this and like that, and he might have lived, and how happy you would have been in him. But he’s dead, dead, dead!…”
“How absurd you are!” said Darya Alexandrovna, looking with mournful tenderness at Levin’s excitement. “Yes, I see it all more and more clearly,” she went on musingly. “So you won’t come to see us, then, when Kitty’s here?”
“No, I shan’t come. Of course I won’t avoid meeting Katerina Alexandrovna, but as far as I can, I will try to save her the annoyance of my presence.”
“You are very, very absurd,” repeated Darya Alexandrovna, looking with tenderness into his face. “Very well then, let it be as though we had not spoken of this. What have you come for, Tanya?” she said in French to the little girl who had come in.
“Where’s my spade, mamma?”
“I speak French, and you must too.”
The little girl tried to say it in French, but could not remember the French for spade; the mother prompted her, and then told her in French where to look for the spade. And this made a disagreeable impression on Levin.
Everything in Darya Alexandrovna’s house and children struck him now as by no means so charming as a little while before. “And what does she talk French with the children for?” he thought; “how unnatural and false it is! And the children feel it so: Learning French and unlearning sincerity,” he thought to himself, unaware that Darya Alexandrovna had thought all that over twenty times already, and yet, even at the cost of some loss of sincerity, believed it necessary to teach her children French in that way.
“But why are you going? Do stay a little.”
Levin stayed to tea; but his good-humor had vanished, and he felt ill at ease.
After tea he went out into the hall to order his horses to be put in, and, when he came back, he found Darya Alexandrovna greatly disturbed, with a troubled face, and tears in her eyes. While Levin had been outside, an incident had occurred which had utterly shattered all the happiness she had been feeling that day, and her pride in her children. Grisha and Tanya had been fighting over a ball. Darya Alexandrovna, hearing a scream in the nursery, ran in and saw a terrible sight. Tanya was pulling Grisha’s hair, while he, with a face hideous with rage, was beating her with his fists wherever he could get at her. Something snapped in Darya Alexandrovna’s heart when she saw this. It was as if darkness had swooped down upon her life; she felt that these children of hers, that she was so proud of, were not merely most ordinary, but positively bad, ill-bred children, with coarse, brutal propensities–wicked children.
She could not talk or think of anything else, and she could not speak to Levin of her misery.
Levin saw she was unhappy and tried to comfort her, saying that it showed nothing bad, that all children fight; but, even as he said it, he was thinking in his heart: “No, I won’t be artificial and talk French with my children; but my children won’t be like that. All one has to do is not spoil children, not to distort their nature, and they’ll be delightful. No, my children won’t be like that.”
He said good-bye and drove away, and she did not try to keep him.