FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 16

Leo TolstoyAug 25, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Darya Alexandrovna carried out her
intention and went to see Anna.  She was sorry
to annoy her sister and to do anything Levin disliked. 
She quite understood how right the Levins were in
not wishing to have anything to do with Vronsky. 
But she felt she must go and see Anna, and show her
that her feelings could not be changed, in spite of
the change in her position.  That she might be
independent of the Levins in this expedition, Darya
Alexandrovna sent to the village to hire horses for
the drive; but Levin learning of it went to her to
protest.

“What makes you suppose that
I dislike your going?  But, even if I did dislike
it, I should still more dislike your not taking my
horses,” he said.  “You never told
me that you were going for certain.  Hiring horses
in the village is disagreeable to me, and, what’s
of more importance, they’ll undertake the job
and never get you there.  I have horses. 
And if you don’t want to wound me, you’ll
take mine.”

Darya Alexandrovna had to consent,
and on the day fixed Levin had ready for his sister-in-law
a set of four horses and relays, getting them together
from the farm- and saddle-horses ­not at
all a smart-looking set, but capable of taking Darya
Alexandrovna the whole distance in a single day. 
At that moment, when horses were wanted for the princess,
who was going, and for the midwife, it was a difficult
matter for Levin to make up the number, but the duties
of hospitality would not let him allow Darya Alexandrovna
to hire horses when staying in his house.  Moreover,
he was well aware that the twenty roubles that would
be asked for the journey were a serious matter for
her; Darya Alexandrovna’s pecuniary affairs,
which were in a very unsatisfactory state, were taken
to heart by the Levins as if they were their own.

Darya Alexandrovna, by Levin’s
advice, started before daybreak.  The road was
good, the carriage comfortable, the horses trotted
along merrily, and on the box, besides the coachman,
sat the counting-house clerk, whom Levin was sending
instead of a groom for greater security.  Darya
Alexandrovna dozed and waked up only on reaching the
inn where the horses were to be changed.

After drinking tea at the same well-to-do
peasant’s with whom Levin had stayed on the
way to Sviazhsky’s, and chatting with the women
about their children, and with the old man about Count
Vronsky, whom the latter praised very highly, Darya
Alexandrovna, at ten o’clock, went on again. 
At home, looking after her children, she had no time
to think.  So now, after this journey of four
hours, all the thoughts she had suppressed before rushed
swarming into her brain, and she thought over all her
life as she never had before, and from the most different
points of view.  Her thoughts seemed strange even
to herself.  At first she thought about the children,
about whom she was uneasy, although the princess and
Kitty (she reckoned more upon her) had promised to
look after them.  “If only Masha does not
begin her naughty tricks, if Grisha isn’t kicked
by a horse, and Lily’s stomach isn’t upset
again!” she thought.  But these questions
of the present were succeeded by questions of the
immediate future.  She began thinking how she
had to get a new flat in Moscow for the coming winter,
to renew the drawing room furniture, and to make her
elder girl a cloak.  Then questions of the more
remote future occurred to her:  how she was to
place her children in the world.  “The girls
are all right,” she thought; “but the boys?”

“It’s very well that I’m
teaching Grisha, but of course that’s only because
I am free myself now, I’m not with child. 
Stiva, of course, there’s no counting on. 
And with the help of good-natured friends I can bring
them up; but if there’s another baby coming?…” 
And the thought struck her how untruly it was said
that the curse laid on woman was that in sorrow she
should bring forth children.

“The birth itself, that’s
nothing; but the months of carrying the child ­that’s
what’s so intolerable,” she thought, picturing
to herself her last pregnancy, and the death of the
last baby.  And she recalled the conversation
she had just had with the young woman at the inn. 
On being asked whether she had any children, the
handsome young woman had answered cheerfully: 

“I had a girl baby, but God
set me free; I buried her last Lent.”

“Well, did you grieve very much
for her?” asked Darya Alexandrovna.

“Why grieve?  The old man
has grandchildren enough as it is.  It was only
a trouble.  No working, nor nothing.  Only
a tie.”

This answer had struck Darya Alexandrovna
as revolting in spite of the good-natured and pleasing
face of the young woman; but now she could not help
recalling these words.  In those cynical words
there was indeed a grain of truth.

“Yes, altogether,” thought
Darya Alexandrovna, looking back over her whole existence
during those fifteen years of her married life, “pregnancy,
sickness, mental incapacity, indifference to everything,
and most of all ­hideousness.  Kitty,
young and pretty as she is, even Kitty has lost her
looks; and I when I’m with child become hideous,
I know it.  The birth, the agony, the hideous
agonies, that last moment…then the nursing, the
sleepless nights, the fearful pains….”

Darya Alexandrovna shuddered at the
mere recollection of the pain from sore breasts which
she had suffered with almost every child.  “Then
the children’s illnesses, that everlasting apprehension;
then bringing them up; evil propensities” (she
thought of little Masha’s crime among the raspberries),
“education, Latin ­it’s all
so incomprehensible and difficult.  And on the
top of it all, the death of these children.” 
And there rose again before her imagination the cruel
memory, that always tore her mother’s heart,
of the death of her last little baby, who had died
of croup; his funeral, the callous indifference of
all at the little pink coffin, and her own torn heart,
and her lonely anguish at the sight of the pale little
brow with its projecting temples, and the open, wondering
little mouth seen in the coffin at the moment when
it was being covered with the little pink lid with
a cross braided on it.

“And all this, what’s
it for?  What is to come of it all?  That
I’m wasting my life, never having a moment’s
peace, either with child, or nursing a child, forever
irritable, peevish, wretched myself and worrying others,
repulsive to my husband, while the children are growing
up unhappy, badly educated, and penniless.  Even
now, if it weren’t for spending the summer at
the Levins’, I don’t know how we should
be managing to live.  Of course Kostya and Kitty
have so much tact that we don’t feel it; but
it can’t go on.  They’ll have children,
they won’t be able to keep us; it’s a
drag on them as it is.  How is papa, who has hardly
anything left for himself, to help us?  So that
I can’t even bring the children up by myself,
and may find it hard with the help of other people,
at the cost of humiliation.  Why, even if we
suppose the greatest good luck, that the children don’t
die, and I bring them up somehow.  At the very
best they’ll simply be decent people. 
That’s all I can hope for.  And to gain
simply that ­what agonies, what toil!… 
One’s whole life ruined!” Again she recalled
what the young peasant woman had said, and again she
was revolted at the thought; but she could not help
admitting that there was a grain of brutal truth in
the words.

“Is it far now, Mihail?”
Darya Alexandrovna asked the counting house clerk,
to turn her mind from thoughts that were frightening
her.

“From this village, they say,
it’s five miles.”  The carriage drove
along the village street and onto a bridge.  On
the bridge was a crowd of peasant women with coils
of ties for the sheaves on their shoulders, gaily
and noisily chattering.  They stood still on
the bridge, staring inquisitively at the carriage. 
All the faces turned to Darya Alexandrovna looked
to her healthy and happy, making her envious of their
enjoyment of life.  “They’re all
living, they’re all enjoying life,” Darya
Alexandrovna still mused when she had passed the peasant
women and was driving uphill again at a trot, seated
comfortably on the soft springs of the old carriage,
“while I, let out, as it were from prison, from
the world of worries that fret me to death, am only
looking about me now for an instant.  They all
live; those peasant women and my sister Natalia and
Varenka and Anna, whom I am going to see ­all,
but not I.

“And they attack Anna. 
What for? am I any better?  I have, anyway,
a husband I love ­not as I should like to
love him, still I do love him, while Anna never loved
hers.  How is she to blame?  She wants to
live.  God has put that in our hearts.  Very
likely I should have done the same.  Even to
this day I don’t feel sure I did right in listening
to her at that terrible time when she came to me in
Moscow.  I ought then to have cast off my husband
and have begun my life fresh.  I might have loved
and have been loved in reality.  And is it any
better as it is?  I don’t respect him. 
He’s necessary to me,” she thought about
her husband, “and I put up with him.  Is
that any better?  At that time I could still
have been admired, I had beauty left me still,”
Darya Alexandrovna pursued her thoughts, and she would
have liked to look at herself in the looking glass. 
She had a traveling looking glass in her handbag,
and she wanted to take it out; but looking at the
backs of the coachman and the swaying counting house
clerk, she felt that she would be ashamed if either
of them were to look round, and she did not take out
the glass.

But without looking in the glass,
she thought that even now it was not too late; and
she thought of Sergey Ivanovitch, who was always particularly
attentive to her, of Stiva’s good-hearted friend,
Turovtsin, who had helped her nurse her children through
the scarlatina, and was in love with her.  And
there was someone else, a quite young man, who ­her
husband had told her it as a joke ­thought
her more beautiful than either of her sisters. 
And the most passionate and impossible romances rose
before Darya Alexandrovna’s imagination. 
“Anna did quite right, and certainly I shall
never reproach her for it.  She is happy, she
makes another person happy, and she’s not broken
down as I am, but most likely just as she always was,
bright, clever, open to every impression,” thought
Darya Alexandrovna, ­and a sly smile curved
her lips, for, as she pondered on Anna’s love
affair, Darya Alexandrovna constructed on parallel
lines an almost identical love affair for herself,
with an imaginary composite figure, the ideal man
who was in love with her.  She, like Anna, confessed
the whole affair to her husband.  And the amazement
and perplexity of Stepan Arkadyevitch at this avowal
made her smile.

In such daydreams she reached the
turning of the highroad that led to Vozdvizhenskoe.

 

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