FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 14

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

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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 flat, 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.

 

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