Anna Karenina (Part 6 – Chapter 11-15)
When Levin and Stepan Arkadyevitch reached the peasant’s hut where Levin always used to stay, Veslovsky was already there. He was sitting in the middle of the hut, clinging with both hands to the bench from which he was being pulled by a soldier, the brother of the peasant’s wife, who was helping him off with his miry boots. Veslovsky was laughing his infectious, good-humored laugh.
“I’ve only just come. Ils ont ete charmants. Just fancy, they gave me drink, fed me! Such bread, it was exquisite! Delicieux! And the vodka, I never tasted any better. And they would not take a penny for anything. And they kept saying: ‘Excuse our homely ways.'”
“What should they take anything for? They were entertaining you, to be sure. Do you suppose they keep vodka for sale?” said the soldier, succeeding at last in pulling the soaked boot off the blackened stocking.
In spite of the dirtiness of the hut, which was all muddied by their boots and the filthy dogs licking themselves clean, and the smell of marsh mud and powder that filled the room, and the absence of knives and forks, the party drank their tea and ate their supper with a relish only known to sportsmen. Washed and clean, they went into a hay-barn swept ready for them, where the coachman had been making up beds for the gentlemen.
Though it was dusk, not one of them wanted to go to sleep.
After wavering among reminiscences and anecdotes of guns, of dogs, and of former shooting parties, the conversation rested on a topic that interested all of them. After Vassenka had several times over expressed his appreciation of this delightful sleeping place among the fragrant hay, this delightful broken cart (he supposed it to be broken because the shafts had been taken out), of the good nature of the peasants that had treated him to vodka, of the dogs who lay at the feet of their respective masters, Oblonsky began telling them of a delightful shooting party at Malthus’s, where he had stayed the previous summer.
Malthus was a well-known capitalist, who had made his money by speculation in railway shares. Stepan Arkadyevitch described what grouse moors this Malthus had bought in the Tver province, and how they were preserved, and of the carriages and dogcarts in which the shooting party had been driven, and the luncheon pavilion that had been rigged up at the marsh.
“I don’t understand you,” said Levin, sitting up in the hay; “how is it such people don’t disgust you? I can understand a lunch with Lafitte is all very pleasant, but don’t you dislike just that very sumptuousness? All these people, just like our spirit monopolists in old days, get their money in a way that gains them the contempt of everyone. They don’t care for their contempt, and then they use their dishonest gains to buy off the contempt they have deserved.”
“Perfectly true!” chimed in Vassenka Veslovsky. “Perfectly! Oblonsky, of course, goes out of bonhomie, but other people say: ‘Well, Oblonsky stays with them.’…”
“Not a bit of it.” Levin could hear that Oblonsky was smiling as he spoke. “I simply don’t consider him more dishonest than any other wealthy merchant or nobleman. They’ve all made their money alike–by their work and their intelligence.”
“Oh, by what work? Do you call it work to get hold of concessions and speculate with them?”
“Of course it’s work. Work in this sense, that if it were not for him and others like him, there would have been no railways.”
“But that’s not work, like the work of a peasant or a learned profession.”
“Granted, but it’s work in the sense that his activity produces a result–the railways. But of course you think the railways useless.”
“No, that’s another question; I am prepared to admit that they’re useful. But all profit that is out of proportion to the labor expended is dishonest.”
“But who is to define what is proportionate?”
“Making profit by dishonest means, by trickery,” said Levin, conscious that he could not draw a distinct line between honesty and dishonesty. “Such as banking, for instance,” he went on. “It’s an evil–the amassing of huge fortunes without labor, just the same thing as with the spirit monopolies, it’s only the form that’s changed. Le roi est mort, vive le roi. No sooner were the spirit monopolies abolished than the railways came up, and banking companies; that, too, is profit without work.”
“Yes, that may all be very true and clever…. Lie down, Krak!” Stepan Arkadyevitch called to his dog, who was scratching and turning over all the hay. He was obviously convinced of the correctness of his position, and so talked serenely and without haste. “But you have not drawn the line between honest and dishonest work. That I receive a bigger salary than my chief clerk, though he knows more about the work than I do–that’s dishonest, I suppose?”
“I can’t say.”
“Well, but I can tell you: your receiving some five thousand, let’s say, for your work on the land, while our host, the peasant here, however hard he works, can never get more than fifty roubles, is just as dishonest as my earning more than my chief clerk, and Malthus getting more than a station-master. No, quite the contrary; I see that society takes up a sort of antagonistic attitude to these people, which is utterly baseless, and I fancy there’s envy at the bottom of it….”
“No, that’s unfair,” said Veslovsky; “how could envy come in? There is something not nice about that sort of business.”
“You say,” Levin went on, “that it’s unjust for me to receive five thousand, while the peasant has fifty; that’s true. It is unfair, and I feel it, but…”
“It really is. Why is it we spend our time riding, drinking, shooting, doing nothing, while they are forever at work?” said Vassenka Veslovsky, obviously for the first time in his life reflecting on the question, and consequently considering it with perfect sincerity.
“Yes, you feel it, but you don’t give him your property,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, intentionally, as it seemed, provoking Levin.
There had arisen of late something like a secret antagonism between the two brothers-in-law; as though, since they had married sisters, a kind of rivalry had sprung up between them as to which was ordering his life best, and now this hostility showed itself in the conversation, as it began to take a personal note.
“I don’t give it away, because no one demands that from me, and if I wanted to, I could not give it away,” answered Levin, “and have no one to give it to.”
“Give it to this peasant, he would not refuse it.”
“Yes, but how am I to give it up? Am I to go to him and make a deed of conveyance?”
“I don’t know; but if you are convinced that you have no right…”
“I’m not at all convinced. On the contrary, I feel I have no right to give it up, that I have duties both to the land and to my family.”
“No, excuse me, but if you consider this inequality is unjust, why is it you don’t act accordingly?…”
“Well, I do act negatively on that idea, so far as not trying to increase the difference of position existing between him and me.”
“No, excuse me, that’s a paradox.”
“Yes, there’s something of a sophistry about that,” Veslovsky agreed. “Ah! our host; so you’re not asleep yet?” he said to the peasant who came into the barn, opening the creaking door. “How is it you’re not asleep?”
“No, how’s one to sleep! I thought our gentlemen would be asleep, but I heard them chattering. I want to get a hook from here. She won’t bite?” he added, stepping cautiously with his bare feet.
“And where are you going to sleep?”
“We are going out for the night with the beasts.”
“Ah, what a night!” said Veslovsky, looking out at the edge of the hut and the unharnessed wagonette that could be seen in the faint light of the evening glow in the great frame of the open doors. “But listen, there are women’s voices singing, and, on my word, not badly too. Who’s that singing, my friend?”
“That’s the maids from hard by here.”
“Let’s go, let’s have a walk! We shan’t go to sleep, you know. Oblonsky, come along!”
“If one could only do both, lie here and go,” answered Oblonsky, stretching. “It’s capital lying here.”
“Well, I shall go by myself,” said Veslovsky, getting up eagerly, and putting on his shoes and stockings. “Good-bye, gentlemen. If it’s fun, I’ll fetch you. You’ve treated me to some good sport, and I won’t forget you.”
“He really is a capital fellow, isn’t he?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, when Veslovsky had gone out and the peasant had closed the door after him.
“Yes, capital,” answered Levin, still thinking of the subject of their conversation just before. It seemed to him that he had clearly expressed his thoughts and feelings to the best of his capacity, and yet both of them, straightforward men and not fools, had said with one voice that he was comforting himself with sophistries. This disconcerted him.
“It’s just this, my dear boy. One must do one of two things: either admit that the existing order of society is just, and then stick up for one’s rights in it; or acknowledge that you are enjoying unjust privileges, as I do, and then enjoy them and be satisfied.”
“No, if it were unjust, you could not enjoy these advantages and be satisfied–at least I could not. The great thing for me is to feel that I’m not to blame.”
“What do you say, why not go after all?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, evidently weary of the strain of thought. “We shan’t go to sleep, you know. Come, let’s go!”
Levin did not answer. What they had said in the conversation, that he acted justly only in a negative sense, absorbed his thoughts. “Can it be that it’s only possible to be just negatively?” he was asking himself.
“How strong the smell of the fresh hay is, though,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting up. “There’s not a chance of sleeping. Vassenka has been getting up some fun there. Do you hear the laughing and his voice? Hadn’t we better go? Come along!”
“No, I’m not coming,” answered Levin.
“Surely that’s not a matter of principle too,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling, as he felt about in the dark for his cap.
“It’s not a matter of principle, but why should I go?”
“But do you know you are preparing trouble for yourself,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, finding his cap and getting up.
“Do you suppose I don’t see the line you’ve taken up with your wife? I heard how it’s a question of the greatest consequence, whether or not you’re to be away for a couple of days’ shooting. That’s all very well as an idyllic episode, but for your whole life that won’t answer. A man must be independent; he has his masculine interests. A man has to be manly,” said Oblonsky, opening the door.
“In what way? To go running after servant girls?” said Levin.
“Why not, if it amuses him? Ca ne tire pas a consequence. It won’t do my wife any harm, and it’ll amuse me. The great thing is to respect the sanctity of the home. There should be nothing in the home. But don’t tie your own hands.”
“Perhaps so,” said Levin dryly, and he turned on his side. “Tomorrow, early, I want to go shooting, and I won’t wake anyone, and shall set off at daybreak.”
“Messieurs, venes vite!” they heard the voice of Veslovsky coming back. “Charmante! I’ve made such a discovery. Charmante! a perfect Gretchen, and I’ve already made friends with her. Really, exceedingly pretty,” he declared in a tone of approval, as though she had been made pretty entirely on his account, and he was expressing his satisfaction with the entertainment that had been provided for him.
Levin pretended to be asleep, while Oblonsky, putting on his slippers, and lighting a cigar, walked out of the barn, and soon their voices were lost.
For a long while Levin could not get to sleep. He heard the horses munching hay, then he heard the peasant and his elder boy getting ready for the night, and going off for the night watch with the beasts, then he heard the soldier arranging his bed on the other side of the barn, with his nephew, the younger son of their peasant host. He heard the boy in his shrill little voice telling his uncle what he thought about the dogs, who seemed to him huge and terrible creatures, and asking what the dogs were going to hunt next day, and the soldier in a husky, sleepy voice, telling him the sportsmen were going in the morning to the marsh, and would shoot with their guns; and then, to check the boy’s questions, he said, “Go to sleep, Vaska; go to sleep, or you’ll catch it,” and soon after he began snoring himself, and everything was still. He could only hear the snort of the horses, and the guttural cry of a snipe.
“Is it really only negative?” he repeated to himself. “Well, what of it? It’s not my fault.” And he began thinking about the next day.
“Tomorrow I’ll go out early, and I’ll make a point of keeping cool. There are lots of snipe; and there are grouse too. When I come back there’ll be the note from Kitty. Yes, Stiva may be right, I’m not manly with her, I’m tied to her apron-strings…. Well, it can’t be helped! Negative again….”
Half asleep, he heard the laughter and mirthful talk of Veslovsky and Stepan Arkadyevitch. For an instant he opened his eyes: the moon was up, and in the open doorway, brightly lighted up by the moonlight, they were standing talking. Stepan Arkadyevitch was saying something of the freshness of one girl, comparing her to a freshly peeled nut, and Veslovsky with his infectious laugh was repeating some words, probably said to him by a peasant: “Ah, you do your best to get round her!” Levin, half asleep, said:
“Gentlemen, tomorrow before daylight!” and fell asleep.
Waking up at earliest dawn, Levin tried to wake his companions. Vassenka, lying on his stomach, with one leg in a stocking thrust out, was sleeping so soundly that he could elicit no response. Oblonsky, half asleep, declined to get up so early. Even Laska, who was asleep, curled up in the hay, got up unwillingly, and lazily stretched out and straightened her hind legs one after the other. Getting on his boots and stockings, taking his gun, and carefully opening the creaking door of the barn, Levin went out into the road. The coachmen were sleeping in their carriages, the horses were dozing. Only one was lazily eating oats, dipping its nose into the manger. It was still gray out-of-doors.
“Why are you up so early, my dear?” the old woman, their hostess, said, coming out of the hut and addressing him affectionately as an old friend.
“Going shooting, granny. Do I go this way to the marsh?”
“Straight out at the back; by our threshing floor, my dear, and hemp patches; there’s a little footpath.” Stepping carefully with her sunburnt, bare feet, the old woman conducted Levin, and moved back the fence for him by the threshing floor.
“Straight on and you’ll come to the marsh. Our lads drove the cattle there yesterday evening.”
Laska ran eagerly forward along the little path. Levin followed her with a light, rapid step, continually looking at the sky. He hoped the sun would not be up before he reached the marsh. But the sun did not delay. The moon, which had been bright when he went out, by now shone only like a crescent of quicksilver. The pink flush of dawn, which one could not help seeing before, now had to be sought to be discerned at all. What were before undefined, vague blurs in the distant countryside could now be distinctly seen. They were sheaves of rye. The dew, not visible till the sun was up, wetted Levin’s legs and his blouse above his belt in the high growing, fragrant hemp patch, from which the pollen had already fallen out. In the transparent stillness of morning the smallest sounds were audible. A bee flew by Levin’s ear with the whizzing sound of a bullet. He looked carefully, and saw a second and a third. They were all flying from the beehives behind the hedge, and they disappeared over the hemp patch in the direction of the marsh. The path led straight to the marsh. The marsh could be recognized by the mist which rose from it, thicker in one place and thinner in another, so that the reeds and willow bushes swayed like islands in this mist. At the edge of the marsh and the road, peasant boys and men, who had been herding for the night, were lying, and in the dawn all were asleep under their coats. Not far from them were three hobbled horses. One of them clanked a chain. Laska walked beside her master, pressing a little forward and looking round. Passing the sleeping peasants and reaching the first reeds, Levin examined his pistols and let his dog off. One of the horses, a sleek, dark-brown three-year-old, seeing the dog, started away, switched its tail and snorted. The other horses too were frightened, and splashing through the water with their hobbled legs, and drawing their hoofs out of the thick mud with a squelching sound, they bounded out of the marsh. Laska stopped, looking ironically at the horses and inquiringly at Levin. Levin patted Laska, and whistled as a sign that she might begin.
Laska ran joyfully and anxiously through the slush that swayed under her.
Running into the marsh among the familiar scents of roots, marsh plants, and slime, and the extraneous smell of horse dung, Laska detected at once a smell that pervaded the whole marsh, the scent of that strong-smelling bird that always excited her more than any other. Here and there among the moss and marsh plants this scent was very strong, but it was impossible to determine in which direction it grew stronger or fainter. To find the direction, she had to go farther away from the wind. Not feeling the motion of her legs, Laska bounded with a stiff gallop, so that at each bound she could stop short, to the right, away from the wind that blew from the east before sunrise, and turned facing the wind. Sniffing in the air with dilated nostrils, she felt at once that not their tracks only but they themselves were here before her, and not one, but many. Laska slackened her speed. They were here, but where precisely she could not yet determine. To find the very spot, she began to make a circle, when suddenly her master’s voice drew her off. “Laska! here?” he asked, pointing her to a different direction. She stopped, asking him if she had better not go on doing as she had begun. But he repeated his command in an angry voice, pointing to a spot covered with water, where there could not be anything. She obeyed him, pretending she was looking, so as to please him, went round it, and went back to her former position, and was at once aware of the scent again. Now when he was not hindering her, she knew what to do, and without looking at what was under her feet, and to her vexation stumbling over a high stump into the water, but righting herself with her strong, supple legs, she began making the circle which was to make all clear to her. The scent of them reached her, stronger and stronger, and more and more defined, and all at once it became perfectly clear to her that one of them was here, behind this tuft of reeds, five paces in front of her; she stopped, and her whole body was still and rigid. On her short legs she could see nothing in front of her, but by the scent she knew it was sitting not more than five paces off. She stood still, feeling more and more conscious of it, and enjoying it in anticipation. Her tail was stretched straight and tense, and only wagging at the extreme end. Her mouth was slightly open, her ears raised. One ear had been turned wrong side out as she ran up, and she breathed heavily but warily, and still more warily looked round, but more with her eyes than her head, to her master. He was coming along with the face she knew so well, though the eyes were always terrible to her. He stumbled over the stump as he came, and moved, as she thought, extraordinarily slowly. She thought he came slowly, but he was running.
Noticing Laska’s special attitude as she crouched on the ground, as it were, scratching big prints with her hind paws, and with her mouth slightly open, Levin knew she was pointing at grouse, and with an inward prayer for luck, especially with the first bird, he ran up to her. Coming quite close up to her, he could from his height look beyond her, and he saw with his eyes what she was seeing with her nose. In a space between two little thickets, to a couple of yards’ distance, he could see a grouse. Turning its head, it was listening. Then lightly preening and folding its wings, it disappeared round a corner with a clumsy wag of its tail.
“Fetch it, fetch it!” shouted Levin, giving Laska a shove from behind.
“But I can’t go,” thought Laska. “Where am I to go? From here I feel them, but if I move forward I shall know nothing of where they are or who they are.” But then he shoved her with his knee, and in an excited whisper said, “Fetch it, Laska.”
“Well, if that’s what he wishes, I’ll do it, but I can’t answer for myself now,” she thought, and darted forward as fast as her legs would carry her between the thick bushes. She scented nothing now; she could only see and hear, without understanding anything.
Ten paces from her former place a grouse rose with a guttural cry and the peculiar round sound of its wings. And immediately after the shot it splashed heavily with its white breast on the wet mire. Another bird did not linger, but rose behind Levin without the dog. When Levin turned towards it, it was already some way off. But his shot caught it. Flying twenty paces further, the second grouse rose upwards, and whirling round like a ball, dropped heavily on a dry place.
“Come, this is going to be some good!” thought Levin, packing the warm and fat grouse into his game bag. “Eh, Laska, will it be good?”
When Levin, after loading his gun, moved on, the sun had fully risen, though unseen behind the storm-clouds. The moon had lost all of its luster, and was like a white cloud in the sky. Not a single star could be seen. The sedge, silvery with dew before, now shone like gold. The stagnant pools were all like amber. The blue of the grass had changed to yellow-green. The marsh birds twittered and swarmed about the brook and upon the bushes that glittered with dew and cast long shadows. A hawk woke up and settled on a haycock, turning its head from side to side and looking discontentedly at the marsh. Crows were flying about the field, and a bare-legged boy was driving the horses to an old man, who had got up from under his long coat and was combing his hair. The smoke from the gun was white as milk over the green of the grass.
One of the boys ran up to Levin.
“Uncle, there were ducks here yesterday!” he shouted to him, and he walked a little way off behind him.
And Levin was doubly pleased, in sight of the boy, who expressed his approval, at killing three snipe, one after another, straight off.
The sportsman’s saying, that if the first beast or the first bird is not missed, the day will be lucky, turned out correct.
At ten o’clock Levin, weary, hungry, and happy after a tramp of twenty miles, returned to his night’s lodging with nineteen head of fine game and one duck, which he tied to his belt, as it would not go into the game bag. His companions had long been awake, and had had time to get hungry and have breakfast.
“Wait a bit, wait a bit, I know there are nineteen,” said Levin, counting a second time over the grouse and snipe, that looked so much less important now, bent and dry and bloodstained, with heads crooked aside, than they did when they were flying.
The number was verified, and Stepan Arkadyevitch’s envy pleased Levin. He was pleased too on returning to find the man sent by Kitty with a note was already there.
“I am perfectly well and happy. If you were uneasy about me, you can feel easier than ever. I’ve a new bodyguard, Marya Vlasyevna,”– this was the midwife, a new and important personage in Levin’s domestic life. “She has come to have a look at me. She found me perfectly well, and we have kept her till you are back. All are happy and well, and please, don’t be in a hurry to come back, but, if the sport is good, stay another day.”
These two pleasures, his lucky shooting and the letter from his wife, were so great that two slightly disagreeable incidents passed lightly over Levin. One was that the chestnut trace horse, who had been unmistakably overworked on the previous day, was off his feed and out of sorts. The coachman said he was “Overdriven yesterday, Konstantin Dmitrievitch. Yes, indeed! driven ten miles with no sense!”
The other unpleasant incident, which for the first minute destroyed his good humor, though later he laughed at it a great deal, was to find that of all the provisions Kitty had provided in such abundance that one would have thought there was enough for a week, nothing was left. On his way back, tired and hungry from shooting, Levin had so distinct a vision of meat-pies that as he approached the hut he seemed to smell and taste them, as Laska had smelt the game, and he immediately told Philip to give him some. It appeared that there were no pies left, nor even any chicken.
“Well, this fellow’s appetite!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, laughing and pointing at Vassenka Veslovsky. “I never suffer from loss of appetite, but he’s really marvelous!…”
“Well, it can’t be helped,” said Levin, looking gloomily at Veslovsky. “Well, Philip, give me some beef, then.”
“The beef’s been eaten, and the bones given to the dogs,” answered Philip.
Levin was so hurt that he said, in a tone of vexation, “You might have left me something!” and he felt ready to cry.
“Then put away the game,” he said in a shaking voice to Philip, trying not to look at Vassenka, “and cover them with some nettles. And you might at least ask for some milk for me.”
But when he had drunk some milk, he felt ashamed immediately at having shown his annoyance to a stranger, and he began to laugh at his hungry mortification.
In the evening they went shooting again, and Veslovsky had several successful shots, and in the night they drove home.
Their homeward journey was as lively as their drive out had been. Veslovsky sang songs and related with enjoyment his adventures with the peasants, who had regaled him with vodka, and said to him, “Excuse our homely ways,” and his night’s adventures with kiss-in-the-ring and the servant-girl and the peasant, who had asked him was he married, and on learning that he was not, said to him, “Well, mind you don’t run after other men’s wives–you’d better get one of your own.” These words had particularly amused Veslovsky.
“Altogether, I’ve enjoyed our outing awfully. And you, Levin?”
“I have, very much,” Levin said quite sincerely. It was particularly delightful to him to have got rid of the hostility he had been feeling towards Vassenka Veslovsky at home, and to feel instead the most friendly disposition to him.
Next day at ten o’clock Levin, who had already gone his rounds, knocked at the room where Vassenka had been put for the night.
“Entrez!” Veslovsky called to him. “Excuse me, I’ve only just finished my ablutions,” he said, smiling, standing before him in his underclothes only.
“Don’t mind me, please.” Levin sat down in the window. “Have you slept well?”
“Like the dead. What sort of day is it for shooting?”
“What will you take, tea or coffee?”
“Neither. I’ll wait till lunch. I’m really ashamed. I suppose the ladies are down? A walk now would be capital. You show me your horses.”
After walking about the garden, visiting the stable, and even doing some gymnastic exercises together on the parallel bars, Levin returned to the house with his guest, and went with him into the drawing room.
“We had splendid shooting, and so many delightful experiences!” said Veslovsky, going up to Kitty, who was sitting at the samovar. “What a pity ladies are cut off from these delights!”
“Well, I suppose he must say something to the lady of the house,” Levin said to himself. Again he fancied something in the smile, in the all-conquering air with which their guest addressed Kitty….
The princess, sitting on the other side of the table with Marya Vlasyevna and Stepan Arkadyevitch, called Levin to her side, and began to talk to him about moving to Moscow for Kitty’s confinement, and getting ready rooms for them. Just as Levin had disliked all the trivial preparations for his wedding, as derogatory to the grandeur of the event, now he felt still more offensive the preparations for the approaching birth, the date of which they reckoned, it seemed, on their fingers. He tried to turn a deaf ear to these discussions of the best patterns of long clothes for the coming baby; tried to turn away and avoid seeing the mysterious, endless strips of knitting, the triangles of linen, and so on, to which Dolly attached special importance. The birth of a son (he was certain it would be a son) which was promised him, but which he still could not believe in–so marvelous it seemed–presented itself to his mind, on one hand, as a happiness so immense, and therefore so incredible; on the other, as an event so mysterious, that this assumption of a definite knowledge of what would be, and consequent preparation for it, as for something ordinary that did happen to people, jarred on him as confusing and humiliating.
But the princess did not understand his feelings, and put down his reluctance to think and talk about it to carelessness and indifference, and so she gave him no peace. She had commissioned Stepan Arkadyevitch to look at a fiat, and now she called Levin up.
“I know nothing about it, princess. Do as you think fit,” he said.
“You must decide when you will move.”
“I really don’t know. I know millions of children are born away from Moscow, and doctors…why…”
“But if so…”
“Oh, no, as Kitty wishes.”
“We can’t talk to Kitty about it! Do you want me to frighten her? Why, this spring Natalia Golitzina died from having an ignorant doctor.”
“I will do just what you say,” he said gloomily.
The princess began talking to him, but he did not hear her. Though the conversation with the princess had indeed jarred upon him, he was gloomy, not on account of that conversation, but from what he saw at the samovar.
“No, it’s impossible,” he thought, glancing now and then at Vassenka bending over Kitty, telling her something with his charming smile, and at her, flushed and disturbed.
There was something not nice in Vassenka’s attitude, in his eyes, in his smile. Levin even saw something not nice in Kitty’s attitude and look. And again the light died away in his eyes. Again, as before, all of a sudden, without the slightest transition, he felt cast down from a pinnacle of happiness, peace, and dignity, into an abyss of despair, rage, and humiliation. Again everything and everyone had become hateful to him.
“You do just as you think best, princess,” he said again, looking round.
“Heavy is the cap of Monomach,” Stepan Arkadyevitch said playfully, hinting, evidently, not simply at the princess’s conversation, but at the cause of Levin’s agitation, which he had noticed.
“How late you are today, Dolly!”
Everyone got up to greet Darya Alexandrovna. Vassenka only rose for an instant, and with the lack of courtesy to ladies characteristic of the modern young man, he scarcely bowed, and resumed his conversation again, laughing at something.
“I’ve been worried about Masha. She did not sleep well, and is dreadfully tiresome today,” said Dolly.
The conversation Vassenka had started with Kitty was running on the same lines as on the previous evening, discussing Anna, and whether love is to be put higher than worldly considerations. Kitty disliked the conversation, and she was disturbed both by the subject and the tone in which it was conducted, and also by the knowledge of the effect it would have on her husband. But she was too simple and innocent to know how to cut short this conversation, or even to conceal the superficial pleasure afforded her by the young man’s very obvious admiration. She wanted to stop it, but she did not know what to do. Whatever she did she knew would be observed by her husband, and the worst interpretation put on it. And, in fact, when she asked Dolly what was wrong with Masha, and Vassenka, waiting till this uninteresting conversation was over, began to gaze indifferently at Dolly, the question struck Levin as an unnatural and disgusting piece of hypocrisy.
“What do you say, shall we go and look for mushrooms today?” said Dolly.
“By all means, please, and I shall come too,” said Kitty, and she blushed. She wanted from politeness to ask Vassenka whether he would come, and she did not ask him. “Where are you going, Kostya?” she asked her husband with a guilty face, as he passed by her with a resolute step. This guilty air confirmed all his suspicions.
“The mechanician came when I was away; I haven’t seen him yet,” he said, not looking at her.
He went downstairs, but before he had time to leave his study he heard his wife’s familiar footsteps running with reckless speed to him.
“What do you want?” he said to her shortly. “We are busy.”
“I beg your pardon,” she said to the German mechanician; “I want a few words with my husband.”
The German would have left the room, but Levin said to him:
“Don’t disturb yourself.”
“The train is at three?” queried the German. “I mustn’t be late.”
Levin did not answer him, but walked out himself with his wife.
“Well, what have you to say to me?” he said to her in French.
He did not look her in the face, and did not care to see that she in her condition was trembling all over, and had a piteous, crushed look.
“I…I want to say that we can’t go on like this; that this is misery…” she said.
“The servants are here at the sideboard,” he said angrily; “don’t make a scene.”
“Well, let’s go in here!”
They were standing in the passage. Kitty would have gone into the next room, but there the English governess was giving Tanya a lesson.
“Well, come into the garden.”
In the garden they came upon a peasant weeding the path. And no longer considering that the peasant could see her tear-stained and his agitated face, that they looked like people fleeing from some disaster, they went on with rapid steps, feeling that they must speak out and clear up misunderstandings, must be alone together, and so get rid of the misery they were both feeling.
“We can’t go on like this! It’s misery! I am wretched; you are wretched. What for?” she said, when they had at last reached a solitary garden seat at a turn in the lime tree avenue.
“But tell me one thing: was there in his tone anything unseemly, not nice, humiliatingly horrible?” he said, standing before her again in the same position with his clenched fists on his chest, as he had stood before her that night.
“Yes,” she said in a shaking voice; “but, Kostya, surely you see I’m not to blame? All the morning I’ve been trying to take a tone…but such people …Why did he come? How happy we were!” she said, breathless with the sobs that shook her.
Although nothing had been pursuing them, and there was nothing to run away from, and they could not possibly have found anything very delightful on that garden seat, the gardener saw with astonishment that they passed him on their way home with comforted and radiant faces.
After escorting his wife upstairs, Levin went to Dolly’s part of the house. Darya Alexandrovna, for her part, was in great distress too that day. She was walking about the room, talking angrily to a little girl, who stood in the corner roaring.
“And you shall stand all day in the corner, and have your dinner all alone, and not see one of your dolls, and I won’t make you a new frock,” she said, not knowing how to punish her.
“Oh, she is a disgusting child!” she turned to Levin. “Where does she get such wicked propensities?”
“Why, what has she done?” Levin said without much interest, for he had wanted to ask her advice, and so was annoyed that he had come at an unlucky moment.
“Grisha and she went into the raspberries, and there…I can’t tell you really what she did. It’s a thousand pities Miss Elliot’s not with us. This one sees to nothing–she’s a machine…. Figurez-vous que la petite?…”
And Darya Alexandrovna described Masha’s crime.
“That proves nothing; it’s not a question of evil propensities at all, it’s simply mischief,” Levin assured her.
“But you are upset about something? What have you come for?” asked Dolly. “What’s going on there?”
And in the tone of her question Levin heard that it would be easy for him to say what he had meant to say.
“I’ve not been in there, I’ve been alone in the garden with Kitty. We’ve had a quarrel for the second time since…Stiva came.”
Dolly looked at him with her shrewd, comprehending eyes.
“Come, tell me, honor bright, has there been…not in Kitty, but in that gentleman’s behavior, a tone which might be unpleasant– not unpleasant, but horrible, offensive to a husband?”
“You mean, how shall I say…. Stay, stay in the corner!” she said to Masha, who, detecting a faint smile in her mother’s face, had been turning round. “The opinion of the world would be that he is behaving as young men do behave. Il fait la cour a une jeune et jolie femme, and a husband who’s a man of the world should only be flattered by it.”
“Yes, yes,” said Levin gloomily; “but you noticed it?”
“Not only I, but Stiva noticed it. Just after breakfast he said to me in so many words, Je crois que Veslovsky fait un petit brin de cour a Kitty.”
“Well, that’s all right then; now I’m satisfied. I’ll send him away,” said Levin.
“What do you mean!b Are you crazy?” Dolly cried in horror; “nonsense, Kostya, only think!” she said, laughing. “You can go now to Fanny,” she said to Masha. “No, if you wish it, I’ll speak to Stiva. He’ll take him away. He can say you’re expecting visitors. Altogether he doesn’t fit into the house.”
“No, no, I’ll do it myself.”
“But you’ll quarrel with him?”
“Not a bit. I shall so enjoy it,” Levin said, his eyes flashing with real enjoyment. “Come, forgive her, Dolly, she won’t do it again,” he said of the little sinner, who had not gone to Fanny, but was standing irresolutely before her mother, waiting and looking up from under her brows to catch her mother’s eye.
The mother glanced at her. The child broke into sobs, hid her face on her mother’s lap, and Dolly laid her thin, tender hand on her head.
“And what is there in common between us and him?” thought Levin, and he went off to look for Veslovsky.
As he passed through the passage he gave orders for the carriage to be got ready to drive to the station.
“The spring was broken yesterday,” said the footman.
“Well, the covered trap, then, and make haste. Where’s the visitor?”
“The gentleman’s gone to his room.”
Levin came upon Veslovsky at the moment when the latter, having unpacked his things from his trunk, and laid out some new songs, was putting on his gaiters to go out riding.
Whether there was something exceptional in Levin’s face, or that Vassenka was himself conscious that ce petit brin de cour he was making was out of place in this family, but he was somewhat (as much as a young man in society can be) disconcerted at Levin’s entrance.
“You ride in gaiters?”
“Yes, it’s much cleaner,” said Vassenka, putting his fat leg on a chair, fastening the bottom hook, and smiling with simple-hearted good humor.
He was undoubtedly a good-natured fellow, and Levin felt sorry for him and ashamed of himself, as his host, when he saw the shy look on Vassenka’s face.
On the table lay a piece of stick which they had broken together that morning, trying their strength. Levin took the fragment in his hands and began smashing it up, breaking bits off the stick, not knowing how to begin.
“I wanted….” He paused, but suddenly, remembering Kitty and everything that had happened, he said, looking him resolutely in the face: “I have ordered the horses to be put-to for you.”
“How so?” Vassenka began in surprise. “To drive where?”
“For you to drive to the station,” Levin said gloomily.
“Are you going away, or has something happened?”
“It happens that I expect visitors,” said Levin, his strong fingers more and more rapidly breaking off the ends of the split stick. “And I’m not expecting visitors, and nothing has happened, but I beg you to go away. You can explain my rudeness as you like.”
Vassenka drew himself up.
“I beg you to explain…” he said with dignity, understanding at last.
“I can’t explain,” Levin said softly and deliberately, trying to control the trembling of his jaw; “and you’d better not ask.”
And as the split ends were all broken off, Levin clutched the thick ends in his finger, broke the stick in two, and carefully caught the end as it fell.
Probably the sight of those nervous fingers, of the muscles he had proved that morning at gymnastics, of the glittering eyes, the soft voice, and quivering jaws, convinced Vassenka better than any words. He bowed, shrugging his shoulders, and smiling contemptuously.
“Can I not see Oblonsky?”
The shrug and the smile did not irritate Levin.
“What else was there for him to do?” he thought.
“I’ll send him to you at once.”
“What madness is this?” Stepan Arkadyevitch said when, after hearing from his friend that he was being turned out of the house, he found Levin in the garden, where he was walking about waiting for his guest’s departure. “Mais c’est ridicule! What fly has stung you? Mais c’est du dernier ridicule! What did you think, if a young man…”
But the place where Levin had been stung was evidently still sore, for he turned pale again, when Stepan Arkadyevitch would have enlarged on the reason, and he himself cut him short.
“Please don’t go into it! I can’t help it. I feel ashamed of how I’m treating you and him. But it won’t be, I imagine, a great grief to him to go, and his presence was distasteful to me and to my wife.”
“But it’s insulting to him! Et puis c’est ridicule.”
“And to me it’s both insulting and distressing! And I’m not at fault in any way, and there’s no need for me to suffer.”
“Well, this I didn’t expect of you! On peut etre jaloux, mais a ce point, c’est du dernier ridicule!”
Levin turned quickly, and walked away from him into the depths of the avenue, and he went on walking up and down alone. Soon he heard the rumble of the trap, and saw from behind the trees how Vassenka, sitting in the hay (unluckily there was no seat in the trap) in his Scotch cap, was driven along the avenue, jolting up and down over the ruts.
“What’s this?” Levin thought, when a footman ran out of the house and stopped the trap. It was the mechanician, whom Levin had totally forgotten. The mechanician, bowing low, said something to Veslovsky, then clambered into the trap, and they drove off together.
Stepan Arkadyevitch and the princess were much upset by Levin’s action. And he himself felt not only in the highest degree ridicule, but also utterly guilty and disgraced. But remembering what sufferings he and his wife had been through, when he asked himself how he should act another time, he answered that he should do just the same again.
In spite of all this, towards the end of that day, everyone except the princess, who could not pardon Levin’s action, became extraordinarily lively and good humored, like children after a punishment or grown-up people after a dreary, ceremonious reception, so that by the evening Vassenka’s dismissal was spoken of, in the absence of the princess, as though it were some remote event. And Dolly, who had inherited her father’s gift of humorous storytelling, made Varenka helpless with laughter as she related for the third and fourth time, always with fresh humorous additions, how she had only just put on her new shoes for the benefit of the visitor, and on going into the drawing room, heard suddenly the rumble of the trap. And who should be in the trap but Vassenka himself, with his Scotch cap, and his songs and his gaiters, and all, sitting in the hay.
“If only you’d ordered out the carriage! But no! and then I hear: ‘Stop!’ Oh, I thought they’ve relented. I look out, and behold a fat German being sat down by him and driving away…. And my new shoes all for nothing!…”