Anna Karenina (Part 8 – Chapter 16-19)

Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy

Chapter 16

Sergey Ivanovitch, being practiced in argument, did not reply, but at once turned the conversation to another aspect of the subject.

“Oh, if you want to learn the spirit of the people by arithmetical computation, of course it’s very difficult to arrive at it. And voting has not been introduced among us and cannot be introduced, for it does not express the will of the people; but there are other ways of reaching that. It is felt in the air, it is felt by the heart. I won’t speak of those deep currents which are astir in the still ocean of the people, and which are evident to every unprejudiced man; let us look at society in the narrow sense. All the most diverse sections of the educated public, hostile before, are merged in one. Every division is at an end, all the public organs say the same thing over and over again, all feel the mighty torrent that has overtaken them and is carrying them in one direction.”

“Yes, all the newspapers do say the same thing,” said the prince. “That’s true. But so it is the same thing that all the frogs croak before a storm. One can hear nothing for them.”

“Frogs or no frogs, I’m not the editor of a paper and I don’t want to defend them; but I am speaking of the unanimity in the intellectual world,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, addressing his brother. Levin would have answered, but the old prince interrupted him.

“Well, about that unanimity, that’s another thing, One may say,” said the prince. “There’s my son-in-law, Stepan Arkadyevitch, you know him. He’s got a place now on the committee of a commission and something or other, I don’t remember. Only there’s nothing to do in it–why, Dolly, it’s no secret!–and a salary of eight thousand. You try asking him whether his post is of use, he’ll prove to you that it’s most necessary. And he’s a truthful man too, but there’s no refusing to believe in the utility of eight thousand roubles.”

“Yes, he asked me to give a message to Darya Alexandrovna about the post,” said Sergey Ivanovitch reluctantly, feeling the prince’s remark to be ill-timed.

“So it is with the unanimity of the press. That’s been explained to me: as soon as there’s war their incomes are doubled. How can they help believing in the destinies of the people and the Slavonic races…and all that?”

“I don’t care for many of the papers, but that’s unjust,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.

“I would only make one condition,” pursued the old prince. “Alphonse Karr said a capital thing before the war with Prussia: ‘You consider war to be inevitable? Very good. Let everyone who advocates war be enrolled in a special regiment of advance-guards, for the front of every storm, of every attack, to lead them all!'”

“A nice lot the editors would make!” said Katavasov, with a loud roar, as he pictured the editors he knew in this picked legion.

“But they’d run,” said Dolly, “they’d only be in the way.”

“Oh, if they ran away, then we’d have grape-shot or Cossacks with whips behind them,” said the prince.

“But that’s a joke, and a poor one too, if you’ll excuse my saying so, prince,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.

“I don’t see that it was a joke, that…” Levin was beginning, but Sergey Ivanovitch interrupted him.

“Every member of society is called upon to do his own special work,” said he. “And men of thought are doing their work when they express public opinion. And the single-hearted and full expression of public opinion is the service of-the press and a phenomenon to rejoice us at the same time. Twenty years ago we should have been silent, but now we have heard the voice of the Russian people, which is ready to rise as one man and ready to sacrifice itself for its oppressed brethren; that is a great step and a proof of strength.”

“But it’s not only making a sacrifice. but killing Turks,” said Levin timidly. “The people make sacrifices and are ready to make sacrifices for their soul, but not for murder,” he added, instinctively connecting the conversation with the ideas that had been absorbing his mind.

“For their soul? That’s a most puzzling expression for a natural science man, do you understand? What sort of thing is the soul?” said Katavasov, smiling.

“Oh, you know!”

“No, by God, I haven’t the faintest idea!” said Katavasov with a loud roar of laughter.

“‘I bring not peace, but a sword,’ says Christ,” Sergey Ivanovitch rejoined for his part, quoting as simply as though it were the easiest thing to understand the very passage that had always puzzled Levin most.

“That’s so, no doubt,” the old man repeated again. He was standing near them and responded to a chance glance turned in his direction.

“Ah, my dear fellow, you’re defeated, utterly defeated!” cried Katavasov good-humoredly.

Levin reddened with vexation, not at being defeated, but at having failed to control himself and being drawn into argument.

“No, I can’t argue with them,” he thought; “they wear impenetrable armor, while I’m naked.”

He saw that it was impossible to convince his brother and Katavasov, and he saw even less possibility of himself agreeing with them. What they advocated was the very pride of intellect that had almost been his ruin. He could not admit that some dozens of men, among them his brother, had the right, on the ground of what they were told by some hundreds of glib volunteers swarming to the capital, to say that they and the newspapers were expressing the will and feeling of the people, and a feeling which was expressed in vengeance and murder. He could not admit this, because he neither saw the expression of such feelings in the people among whom he was living, nor found them in himself (and he could not but consider himself one of the persons making up the Russian people), and most of all because he, like the people, did not know and could not know what is for the general good, though he knew beyond a doubt that this general good could be attained only by the strict observance of that law of right and wrong which has been revealed to every man, and therefore he could not wish for war or advocate war for any general objects whatever. He said as Mihalitch did and the people, who had expressed their feeling in the traditional invitations of the Varyagi: “Be princes and rule over us. Gladly we promise complete submission. All the labor, all humiliations, all sacrifices we take upon ourselves; but we will not judge and decide.” And now, according to Sergey Ivanovitch’s account, the people had foregone this privilege they had bought at such a costly price.

He wanted to say too that if public opinion were an infallible guide, then why were not revolutions and the commune as lawful as the movement in favor of the Slavonic peoples? But these were merely thoughts that could settle nothing. One thing could be seen beyond doubt–that was that at the actual moment the discussion was irritating Sergey Ivanovitch, and so it was wrong to continue it. And Levin ceased speaking and then called the attention of his guests to the fact that the storm clouds were gathering, and that they had better be going home before it rained.

Chapter 17

The old prince and Sergey Ivanovitch got into the trap and drove off; the rest of the party hastened homewards on foot.

But the storm-clouds, turning white and then black, moved down so quickly that they had to quicken their pace to get home before the rain. The foremost clouds, lowering and black as soot-laden smoke, rushed with extraordinary swiftness over the sky. They were still two hundred paces from home and a gust of wind had already blown up, and every second the downpour might be looked for.

The children ran ahead with frightened and gleeful shrieks. Darya Alexandrovna, struggling painfully with her skirts that clung round her legs, was not walking, but running, her eyes fixed on the children. The men of the party, holding their hats on, strode with long steps beside her. They were just at the steps when a big drop fell splashing on the edge of the iron guttering. The children and their elders after them ran into the shelter of the house, talking merrily.

“Katerina Alexandrovna?” Levin asked of Agafea Mihalovna, who met them with kerchiefs and rugs in the hall.

“We thought she was with you,” she said.

“And Mitya?”

“In the copse, he must be, and the nurse with him.”

Levin snatched up the rugs and ran towards the copse.

In that brief interval of time the storm clouds had moved on, covering the sun so completely that it was dark as an eclipse. Stubbornly, as though insisting on its rights, the wind stopped Levin, and tearing the leaves and flowers off the lime trees and stripping the white birch branches into strange unseemly nakedness, it twisted everything on one side–acacias, flowers, burdocks, long grass, and tall tree-tops. The peasant girls working in the garden ran shrieking into shelter in the servants’ quarters. The streaming rain had already flung its white veil over all the distant forest and half the fields close by, and was rapidly swooping down upon the copse. The wet of the rain spurting up in tiny drops could be smelt in the air.

Holding his head bent down before him, and struggling with the wind that strove to tear the wraps away from him, Levin was moving up to the copse and had just caught sight of something white behind the oak tree, when there was a sudden flash, the whole earth seemed on fire, and the vault of heaven seemed crashing overhead. Opening his blinded eyes, Levin gazed through the thick veil of rain that separated him now from the copse, and to his horror the first thing he saw was the green crest of the familiar oak-tree in the middle of the copse uncannily changing its position. “Can it have been struck?” Levin hardly had time to think when, moving more and more rapidly, the oak tree vanished behind the other trees, and he heard the crash of the great tree falling upon the others.

The flash of lightning, the crash of thunder, and the instantaneous chill that ran through him were all merged for Levin in one sense of terror.

“My God! my God! not on them!” he said.

And though he thought at once how senseless was his prayer that they should not have been killed by the oak which had fallen now, he repeated it, knowing that he could do nothing better than utter this senseless prayer.

Running up to the place where they usually went, he did not find them there.

They were at the other end of the copse under an old lime-tree; they were calling him. Two figures in dark dresses (they had been light summer dresses when they started out) were standing bending over something. It was Kitty with the nurse. The rain was already ceasing, and it was beginning to get light when Levin reached them. The nurse was not wet on the lower part of her dress, but Kitty was drenched through, and her soaked clothes clung to her. Though the rain was over, they still stood in the same position in which they had been standing when the storm broke. Both stood bending over a perambulator with a green umbrella.

“Alive? Unhurt? Thank God!” he said, splashing with his soaked boots through the standing water and running up to them.

Kitty’s rosy wet face was turned towards him, and she smiled timidly under her shapeless sopped hat.

“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? I can’t think how you can be so reckless!” he said angrily to his wife.

“It wasn’t my fault, really. We were just meaning to go, when he made such a to-do that we had to change him. We were just…” Kitty began defending herself.

Mitya was unharmed, dry, and still fast asleep.

“Well, thank God! I don’t know what I’m saying!”

They gathered up the baby’s wet belongings; the nurse picked up the baby and carried it. Levin walked beside his wife, and, penitent for having been angry, he squeezed her hand when the nurse was not looking.

Chapter 18

During the whole of that day, in the extremely different conversations in which he took part, only as it were with the top layer of his mind, in spite of the disappointment of not finding the change he expected in himself, Levin had been all the while joyfully conscious of the fulness of his heart.

After the rain it was too wet to go for a walk; besides, the storm clouds still hung about the horizon, and gathered here and there, black and thundery. on the rim of the sky. The whole party spent the rest of the day in the house.

No more discussions sprang up; on the contrary, after dinner every one was in the most amiable frame of mind.

At first Katavasov amused the ladies by his original jokes, which always pleased people on their first acquaintance with him. Then Sergey Ivanovitch induced him to tell them about the very interesting observations he had made on the habits and characteristics of common houseflies, and their life. Sergey Ivanovitch, too, was in good spirits, and at tea his brother drew him on to explain his views of the future of the Eastern question, and he spoke so simply and so well, that everyone listened eagerly.

Kitty was the only one who did not hear it all–she was summoned to give Mitya his bath.

A few minutes after Kitty had left the room she sent for Levin to come to the nursery.

Leaving his tea, and regretfully interrupting the interesting conversation, and at the same time uneasily wondering why he had been sent for, as this only happened on important occasions, Levin went to the nursery.

Although he had been much interested by Sergey Ivanovitch’s views of the new epoch in history that would be created by the emancipation of forty millions of men of Slavonic race acting with Russia, a conception quite new to him, and although he was disturbed by uneasy wonder at being sent for by Kitty, as soon as he came out of the drawing room and was alone, his mind reverted at once to the thoughts of the morning. And all the theories of the significance of the Slav element in the history of the world seemed to him so trivial compared with what was passing in his own soul, that he instantly forgot it all and dropped back into the same frame of mind that he been in that morning.

He did not, as he had done at other times, recall the whole train of thought–that he did not need. He fell back at once into the feeling which had guided him, which was connected with those thoughts, and he found that feeling in his soul even stronger and more definite than before. He did not, as he had had to do with previous attempts to find comforting arguments, need to revive a whole chain of thought to find the feeling. Now, on the contrary, the feeling of joy and peace was keener than ever, and thought could not keep pace with feeling.

He walked across the terrace and looked at two stars that had come out in the darkening sky, and suddenly he remembered. “Yes, looking at the sky, I thought that the dome that I see is not a deception, and then I thought something, I shirked facing something,” he mused. “But whatever it was, there can be no disproving it! I have but to think, and all will come clear!”

Just as he was going into the nursery he remembered what it was he had shirked facing. It was that if the chief proof of the Divinity was His revelation of what is right, how is it this revelation is confined to the Christian church alone? What relation to this revelation have the beliefs of the Buddhists, Mohammedans, who preached and did good too?

It seemed to him that he had an answer to this question; but he had not time to formulate it to himself before he went into the nursery.

Kitty was standing with her sleeves tucked up over the baby in the bath. Hearing her husband’s footstep, she turned towards him, summoning him to her with her smile. With one hand she was supporting the fat baby that lay floating and sprawling on its back, while with the other she squeezed the sponge over him.

“Come, look, look!” she said, when her husband came up to her. “Agafea Mihalovna’s right. He knows us!”

Mitya had on that day given unmistakable, incontestable signs of recognizing all his friends.

As soon as Levin approached the bath, the experiment was tried, and it was completely successful. The cook, sent for with this object, bent over the baby. He frowned and shook his head disapprovingly. Kitty bent down to him, he gave her a beaming smile, propped his little hands on the sponge and chirruped, making such a queer little contented sound with his lips, that Kitty and the nurse were not alone in their admiration. Levin, too, was surprised and delighted.

The baby was taken out of the bath, drenched with water, wrapped in towels, dried, and after a piercing scream, handed to his mother.

“Well, I am glad you are beginning to love him,” said Kitty to her husband, when she had settled herself comfortably in her usual place, with the baby at her breast. “I am so glad! It had begun to distress me. You said you had no feeling for him.”

“No; did I say that? I only said I was disappointed.”

“What! disappointed in him?”

“Not disappointed in him, but in my own feeling; I had expected more. I had expected a rush of new delightful emotion to come as a surprise. And then instead of that–disgust, pity…”

She listened attentively, looking at him over the baby, while she put back on her slender fingers the rings she had taken off while giving Mitya his bath.

“And most of all, at there being far more apprehension and pity than pleasure. Today, after that fright during the storm, I understand how I love him.”

Kitty’s smile was radiant.

“Were you very much frightened?” she said. “So was I too, but I feel it more now that it’s over. I’m going to look at the oak. How nice Katavasov is! And what a happy day we’ve had altogether. And you’re so nice with Sergey Ivanovitch, when you care to be…. Well, go back to them. It’s always so hot and steamy here after the bath.”

Chapter 19

Going out of the nursery and being again alone, Levin went back at once to the thought, in which there was something not clear.

Instead of going into the drawing room, where he heard voices, he stopped on the terrace, and leaning his elbows on the parapet, he gazed up at the sky.

It was quite dark now, and in the south, where he was looking, there were no clouds. The storm had drifted on to the opposite side of the sky, and there were flashes of lightning and distant thunder from that quarter. Levin listened to the monotonous drip from the lime trees in the garden, and looked at the triangle of stars he knew so well, and the Milky Way with its branches that ran through its midst. At each flash of lightning the Milky Way, and even the bright stars, vanished, but as soon as the lightning died away, they reappeared in their places as though some hand had flung them back with careful aim.

“Well, what is it perplexes me?” Levin said to himself, feeling beforehand that the solution of his difficulties was ready in his soul, though he did not know it yet. “Yes, the one unmistakable, incontestable manifestation of the Divinity is the law of right and wrong, which has come into the world by revelation, and which I feel in myself, and in the recognition of which–I don’t make myself, but whether I will or not–I am made one with other men in one body of believers, which is called the church. Well, but the Jews, the Mohammedans, the Confucians, the Buddhists–what of them?” he put to himself the question he had feared to face. “Can these hundreds of millions of men be deprived of that highest blessing without which life has no meaning?” He pondered a moment, but immediately corrected himself. “But what am I questioning?” he said to himself. “I am questioning the relation to Divinity of all the different religions of all mankind. I am questioning the universal manifestation of God to all the world with all those misty blurs. What am I about? To me individually, to my heart has been revealed a knowledge beyond all doubt, and unattainable by reason, and here I am obstinately trying to express that knowledge in reason and words.

“Don’t I know that the stars don’t move?” he asked himself, gazing at the bright planet which had shifted its position up to the topmost twig of the birch-tree. “But looking at the movements of the stars, I can’t picture to myself the rotation of the earth, and I’m right in saying that the stars move.

“And could the astronomers have understood and calculated anything, if they had taken into account all the complicated and varied motions of the earth? All the marvelous conclusions they have reached about the distances, weights, movements, and deflections of the heavenly bodies are only founded on the apparent motions of the heavenly bodies about a stationary earth, on that very motion I see before me now, which has been so for millions of men during long ages, and was and will be always alike, and can always be trusted. And just as the conclusions of the astronomers would have been vain and uncertain if not founded on observations of the seen heavens, in relation to a single meridian and a single horizon, so would my conclusions be vain and uncertain if not founded on that conception of right, which has been and will be always alike for all men, which has been revealed to me as a Christian, and which can always be trusted in my soul. The question of other religions and their relations to Divinity I have no right to decide, and no possibility of deciding.”

“Oh, you haven’t gone in then?” he heard Kitty’s voice all at once, as she came by the same way to the drawing-room.

“What is it? you’re not worried about anything?” she said, looking intently at his face in the starlight.

But she could not have seen his face if a flash of lightning had not hidden the stars and revealed it. In that flash she saw his face distinctly, and seeing him calm and happy, she smiled at him.

“She understands,” he thought; “she knows what I’m thinking about. Shall I tell her or not? Yes, I’ll tell her.” But at the moment he was about to speak, she began speaking.

“Kostya! do something for me,” she said; “go into the corner room and see if they’ve made it all right for Sergey Ivanovitch. I can’t very well. See if they’ve put the new wash stand in it.”

“Very well, I’ll go directly,” said Levin, standing up and kissing her.

“No, I’d better not speak of it,” he thought, when she had gone in before him. “It is a secret for me alone, of vital importance for me, and not to be put into words.

“This new feeling has not changed me, has not made me happy and enlightened all of a sudden, as I had dreamed, just like the feeling for my child. There was no surprise in this either. Faith–or not faith–I don’t know what it is–but this feeling has come just as imperceptibly through suffering, and has taken firm root in my soul.

“I shall go on in the same way, losing my temper with Ivan the coachman, falling into angry discussions, expressing my opinions tactlessly; there will be still the same wall between the holy of holies of my soul and other people, even my wife; I shall still go on scolding her for my own terror, and being remorseful for it; I shall still be as unable to understand with my reason why I pray, and I shall still go on praying; but my life now, my whole life apart from anything that can happen to me, every minute of it is no more meaningless, as it was before, but it has the positive meaning of goodness, which I have the power to

 

 

 

 

 

 

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