FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 1

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

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The Levins had been three months in
Moscow.  The date had long passed on which, according
to the most trustworthy calculations of people learned
in such matters, Kitty should have been confined. 
But she was still about, and there was nothing to
show that her time was any nearer than two months
ago.  The doctor, the monthly nurse, and Dolly
and her mother, and most of all Levin, who could not
think of the approaching event without terror, began
to be impatient and uneasy.  Kitty was the only
person who felt perfectly calm and happy.

She was distinctly conscious now of
the birth of a new feeling of love for the future
child, for her to some extent actually existing already,
and she brooded blissfully over this feeling. 
He was not by now altogether a part of herself, but
sometimes lived his own life independently of her. 
Often this separate being gave her pain, but at the
same time she wanted to laugh with a strange new joy.

All the people she loved were with
her, and all were so good to her, so attentively caring
for her, so entirely pleasant was everything presented
to her, that if she had not known and felt that it
must all soon be over, she could not have wished for
a better and pleasanter life.  The only thing
that spoiled the charm of this manner of life was
that her husband was not here as she loved him to
be, and as he was in the country.

She liked his serene, friendly, and
hospitable manner in the country.  In the town
he seemed continually uneasy and on his guard, as
though he were afraid someone would be rude to him,
and still more to her.  At home in the country,
knowing himself distinctly to be in his right place,
he was never in haste to be off elsewhere.  He
was never unoccupied.  Here in town he was in
a continual hurry, as though afraid of missing something,
and yet he had nothing to do.  And she felt sorry
for him.  To others, she knew, he did not appear
an object of pity.  On the contrary, when Kitty
looked at him in society, as one sometimes looks at
those one loves, trying to see him as if he were a
stranger, so as to catch the impression he must make
on others, she saw with a panic even of jealous fear
that he was far indeed from being a pitiable figure,
that he was very attractive with his fine breeding,
his rather old-fashioned, reserved courtesy with women,
his powerful figure, and striking, as she thought,
and expressive face.  But she saw him not from
without, but from within; she saw that here he was
not himself; that was the only way she could define
his condition to herself.  Sometimes she inwardly
reproached him for his inability to live in the town;
sometimes she recognized that it was really hard for
him to order his life here so that he could be satisfied
with it.

What had he to do, indeed?  He
did not care for cards; he did not go to a club. 
Spending the time with jovial gentlemen of Oblonsky’s
type ­she knew now what that meant…it meant
drinking and going somewhere after drinking. 
She could not think without horror of where men went
on such occasions.  Was he to go into society? 
But she knew he could only find satisfaction in that
if he took pleasure in the society of young women,
and that she could not wish for.  Should he stay
at home with her, her mother and her sisters? 
But much as she liked and enjoyed their conversations
forever on the same subjects ­“Aline-Nadine,”
as the old prince called the sisters’ talks ­she
knew it must bore him.  What was there left for
him to do?  To go on writing at his book he had
indeed attempted, and at first he used to go to the
library and make extracts and look up references for
his book.  But, as he told her, the more he did
nothing, the less time he had to do anything. 
And besides, he complained that he had talked too
much about his book here, and that consequently all
his ideas about it were muddled and had lost their
interest for him.

One advantage in this town life was
that quarrels hardly ever happened between them here
in town.  Whether it was that their conditions
were different, or that they had both become more
careful and sensible in that respect, they had no quarrels
in Moscow from jealousy, which they had so dreaded
when they moved from the country.

One event, an event of great importance
to both from that point of view, did indeed happen ­that
was Kitty’s meeting with Vronsky.

The old Princess Marya Borissovna,
Kitty’s godmother, who had always been very
fond of her, had insisted on seeing her.  Kitty,
though she did not go into society at all on account
of her condition, went with her father to see the
venerable old lady, and there met Vronsky.

The only thing Kitty could reproach
herself for at this meeting was that at the instant
when she recognized in his civilian dress the features
once so familiar to her, her breath failed her, the
blood rushed to her heart, and a vivid blush ­she
felt it ­ overspread her face.  But
this lasted only a few seconds.  Before her father,
who purposely began talking in a loud voice to Vronsky,
had finished, she was perfectly ready to look at Vronsky,
to speak to him, if necessary, exactly as she spoke
to Princess Marya Borissovna, and more than that,
to do so in such a way that everything to the faintest
intonation and smile would have been approved by her
husband, whose unseen presence she seemed to feel
about her at that instant.

She said a few words to him, even
smiled serenely at his joke about the elections, which
he called “our parliament.” (She had to
smile to show she saw the joke.) But she turned away
immediately to Princess Marya Borissovna, and did not
once glance at him till he got up to go; then she
looked at him, but evidently only because it would
be uncivil not to look at a man when he is saying
good-bye.

She was grateful to her father for
saying nothing to her about their meeting Vronsky,
but she saw by his special warmth to her after the
visit during their usual walk that he was pleased with
her.  She was pleased with herself.  She
had not expected she would have had the power, while
keeping somewhere in the bottom of her heart all the
memories of her old feeling for Vronsky, not only
to seem but to be perfectly indifferent and composed
with him.

Levin flushed a great deal more than
she when she told him she had met Vronsky at Princess
Marya Borissovna’s.  It was very hard for
her to tell him this, but still harder to go on speaking
of the details of the meeting, as he did not question
her, but simply gazed at her with a frown.

“I am very sorry you weren’t
there,” she said.  “Not that you
weren’t in the room…I couldn’t have been
so natural in your presence…I am blushing now much
more, much, much more,” she said, blushing till
the tears came into her eyes.  “But that
you couldn’t see through a crack.”

The truthful eyes told Levin that
she was satisfied with herself, and in spite of her
blushing he was quickly reassured and began questioning
her, which was all she wanted.  When he had heard
everything, even to the detail that for the first second
she could not help flushing, but that afterwards she
was just as direct and as much at her ease as with
any chance acquaintance, Levin was quite happy again
and said he was glad of it, and would not now behave
as stupidly as he had done at the election, but would
try the first time he met Vronsky to be as friendly
as possible.

“It’s so wretched to feel
that there’s a man almost an enemy whom it’s
painful to meet,” said Levin.  “I’m
very, very glad.”

 

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