FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 16

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

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At ten o’clock the old prince,
Sergey Ivanovitch, and Stepan Arkadyevitch were sitting
at Levin’s.  Having inquired after Kitty,
they had dropped into conversation upon other subjects. 
Levin heard them, and unconsciously, as they talked,
going over the past, over what had been up to that
morning, he thought of himself as he had been yesterday
till that point.  It was as though a hundred
years had passed since then.  He felt himself
exalted to unattainable heights, from which he studiously
lowered himself so as not to wound the people he was
talking to.  He talked, and was all the time
thinking of his wife, of her condition now, of his
son, in whose existence he tried to school himself
into believing.  The whole world of woman, which
had taken for him since his marriage a new value he
had never suspected before, was now so exalted that
he could not take it in in his imagination. 
He heard them talk of yesterday’s dinner at
the club, and thought:  “What is happening
with her now?  Is she asleep?  How is she? 
What is she thinking of?  Is he crying, my son
Dmitri?” And in the middle of the conversation,
in the middle of a sentence, he jumped up and went
out of the room.

“Send me word if I can see her,” said
the prince.

“Very well, in a minute,”
answered Levin, and without stopping, he went to her
room.

She was not asleep, she was talking
gently with her mother, making plans about the christening.

Carefully set to rights, with hair
well-brushed, in a smart little cap with some blue
in it, her arms out on the quilt, she was lying on
her back.  Meeting his eyes, her eyes drew him
to her.  Her face, bright before, brightened
still more as he drew near her.  There was the
same change in it from earthly to unearthly that is
seen in the face of the dead.  But then it means
farewell, here it meant welcome.  Again a rush
of emotion, such as he had felt at the moment of the
child’s birth, flooded his heart.  She
took his hand and asked him if he had slept. 
He could not answer, and turned away, struggling with
his weakness.

“I have had a nap, Kostya!”
she said to him; “and I am so comfortable now.”

She looked at him, but suddenly her
expression changed.

“Give him to me,” she
said, hearing the baby’s cry.  “Give
him to me, Lizaveta Petrovna, and he shall look at
him.”

“To be sure, his papa shall
look at him,” said Lizaveta Petrovna, getting
up and bringing something red, and queer, and wriggling. 
“Wait a minute, we’ll make him tidy first,”
and Lizaveta Petrovna laid the red wobbling thing
on the bed, began untrussing and trussing up the baby,
lifting it up and turning it over with one finger
and powdering it with something.

Levin, looking at the tiny, pitiful
creature, made strenuous efforts to discover in his
heart some traces of fatherly feeling for it. 
He felt nothing towards it but disgust.  But
when it was undressed and he caught a glimpse of wee,
wee, little hands, little feet, saffron-colored, with
little toes, too, and positively with a little big
toe different from the rest, and when he saw Lizaveta
Petrovna closing the wide-open little hands, as though
they were soft springs, and putting them into linen
garments, such pity for the little creature came upon
him, and such terror that she would hurt it, that
he held her hand back.

Lizaveta Petrovna laughed.

“Don’t be frightened, don’t be frightened!”

When the baby had been put to rights
and transformed into a firm doll, Lizaveta Petrovna
dandled it as though proud of her handiwork, and stood
a little away so that Levin might see his son in all
his glory.

Kitty looked sideways in the same
direction, never taking her eyes off the baby. 
“Give him to me! give him to me!” she
said, and even made as though she would sit up.

“What are you thinking of, Katerina
Alexandrovna, you mustn’t move like that! 
Wait a minute.  I’ll give him to you. 
Here we’re showing papa what a fine fellow
we are!”

And Lizaveta Petrovna, with one hand
supporting the wobbling head, lifted up on the other
arm the strange, limp, red creature, whose head was
lost in its swaddling clothes.  But it had a nose,
too, and slanting eyes and smacking lips.

“A splendid baby!” said Lizaveta Petrovna.

Levin sighed with mortification. 
This splendid baby excited in him no feeling but
disgust and compassion.  It was not at all the
feeling he had looked forward to.

He turned away while Lizaveta Petrovna
put the baby to the unaccustomed breast.

Suddenly laughter made him look round. 
The baby had taken the breast.

“Come, that’s enough,
that’s enough!” said Lizaveta Petrovna,
but Kitty would not let the baby go.  He fell
asleep in her arms.

“Look, now,” said Kitty,
turning the baby so that he could see it.  The
aged-looking little face suddenly puckered up still
more and the baby sneezed.

Smiling, hardly able to restrain his
tears, Levin kissed his wife and went out of the dark
room.  What he felt towards this little creature
was utterly unlike what he had expected.  There
was nothing cheerful and joyous in the feeling; on
the contrary, it was a new torture of apprehension. 
It was the consciousness of a new sphere of liability
to pain.  And this sense was so painful at first,
the apprehension lest this helpless creature should
suffer was so intense, that it prevented him from noticing
the strange thrill of senseless joy and even pride
that he had felt when the baby sneezed.

 

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