FictionForest

PART EIGHT : Chapter 14

Leo TolstoyAug 26, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Levin looked before him and saw a
herd of cattle, then he caught sight of his trap with
Raven in the shafts, and the coachman, who, driving
up to the herd, said something to the herdsman. 
Then he heard the rattle of the wheels and the snort
of the sleek horse close by him.  But he was
so buried in his thoughts that he did not even wonder
why the coachman had come for him.

He only thought of that when the coachman
had driven quite up to him and shouted to him. 
“The mistress sent me.  Your brother has
come, and some gentleman with him.”

Levin got into the trap and took the
reins.  As though just roused out of sleep, for
a long while Levin could not collect his faculties. 
He stared at the sleek horse flecked with lather
between his haunches and on his neck, where the harness
rubbed, stared at Ivan the coachman sitting beside
him, and remembered that he was expecting his brother,
thought that his wife was most likely uneasy at his
long absence, and tried to guess who was the visitor
who had come with his brother.  And his brother
and his wife and the unknown guest seemed to him now
quite different from before.  He fancied that
now his relations with all men would be different.

“With my brother there will
be none of that aloofness there always used to be
between us, there will be no disputes; with Kitty
there shall never be quarrels; with the visitor, whoever
he may be, I will be friendly and nice; with the servants,
with Ivan, it will all be different.”

Pulling the stiff rein and holding
in the good horse that snorted with impatience and
seemed begging to be let go, Levin looked round at
Ivan sitting beside him, not knowing what to do with
his unoccupied hand, continually pressing down his
shirt as it puffed out, and he tried to find something
to start a conversation about with him.  He would
have said that Ivan had pulled the saddle-girth up
too high, but that was like blame, and he longed for
friendly, warm talk.  Nothing else occurred to
him.

“Your honor must keep to the
right and mind that stump,” said the coachman,
pulling the rein Levin held.

“Please don’t touch and
don’t teach me!” said Levin, angered by
this interference.  Now, as always, interference
made him angry, and he felt sorrowfully at once how
mistaken had been his supposition that his spiritual
condition could immediately change him in contact
with reality.

He was not a quarter of a mile from
home when he saw Grisha and Tanya running to meet
him.

“Uncle Kostya! mamma’s
coming, and grandfather, and Sergey Ivanovitch, and
someone else,” they said, clambering up into
the trap.

“Who is he?”

“An awfully terrible person! 
And he does like this with his arms,” said
Tanya, getting up in the trap and mimicking Katavasov.

“Old or young?” asked
Levin, laughing, reminded of someone, he did not know
whom, by Tanya’s performance.

“Oh, I hope it’s not a
tiresome person!” thought Levin.

As soon as he turned, at a bend in
the road, and saw the party coming, Levin recognized
Katavasov in a straw hat, walking along swinging his
arms just as Tanya had shown him.  Katavasov was
very fond of discussing metaphysics, having derived
his notions from natural science writers who had never
studied metaphysics, and in Moscow Levin had had many
arguments with him of late.

And one of these arguments, in which
Katavasov had obviously considered that he came off
victorious, was the first thing Levin thought of as
he recognized him.

“No, whatever I do, I won’t
argue and give utterance to my ideas lightly,”
he thought.

Getting out of the trap and greeting
his brother and Katavasov, Levin asked about his wife.

“She has taken Mitya to Kolok”
(a copse near the house).  “She meant to
have him out there because it’s so hot indoors,”
said Dolly.  Levin had always advised his wife
not to take the baby to the wood, thinking it unsafe,
and he was not pleased to hear this.

“She rushes about from place
to place with him,” said the prince, smiling. 
“I advised her to try putting him in the ice
cellar.”

“She meant to come to the bee
house.  She thought you would be there. 
We are going there,” said Dolly.

“Well, and what are you doing?”
said Sergey Ivanovitch, falling back from the rest
and walking beside him.

“Oh, nothing special. 
Busy as usual with the land,” answered Levin. 
“Well, and what about you?  Come for long? 
We have been expecting you for such a long time.”

“Only for a fortnight. 
I’ve a great deal to do in Moscow.”

At these words the brothers’
eyes met, and Levin, in spite of the desire he always
had, stronger than ever just now, to be on affectionate
and still more open terms with his brother, felt an
awkwardness in looking at him.  He dropped his
eyes and did not know what to say.

Casting over the subjects of conversation
that would be pleasant to Sergey Ivanovitch, and would
keep him off the subject of the Servian war and the
Slavonic question, at which he had hinted by the allusion
to what he had to do in Moscow, Levin began to talk
of Sergey Ivanovitch’s book.

“Well, have there been reviews
of your book?” he asked.

Sergey Ivanovitch smiled at the intentional
character of the question.

“No one is interested in that
now, and I less than anyone,” he said. 
“Just look, Darya Alexandrovna, we shall have
a shower,” he added, pointing with a sunshade
at the white rain clouds that showed above the aspen
tree-tops.

And these words were enough to re-establish
again between the brothers that tone ­hardly
hostile, but chilly ­which Levin had been
so longing to avoid.

Levin went up to Katavasov.

“It was jolly of you to make
up your mind to come,” he said to him.

“I’ve been meaning to
a long while.  Now we shall have some discussion,
we’ll see to that.  Have you been reading
Spencer?”

“No, I’ve not finished
reading him,” said Levin.  “But I
don’t need him now.”

“How’s that? that’s interesting. 
Why so?”

“I mean that I’m fully
convinced that the solution of the problems that interest
me I shall never find in him and his like.  Now…”

But Katavasov’s serene and good-humored
expression suddenly struck him, and he felt such tenderness
for his own happy mood, which he was unmistakably
disturbing by this conversation, that he remembered
his resolution and stopped short.

“But we’ll talk later
on,” he added.  “If we’re going
to the bee house, it’s this way, along this
little path,” he said, addressing them all.

Going along the narrow path to a little
uncut meadow covered on one side with thick clumps
of brilliant heart’s-ease among which stood
up here and there tall, dark green tufts of hellebore,
Levin settled his guests in the dense, cool shade of
the young aspens on a bench and some stumps purposely
put there for visitors to the bee house who might
be afraid of the bees, and he went off himself to
the hut to get bread, cucumbers, and fresh honey,
to regale them with.

Trying to make his movements as deliberate
as possible, and listening to the bees that buzzed
more and more frequently past him, he walked along
the little path to the hut.  In the very entry
one bee hummed angrily, caught in his beard, but he
carefully extricated it.  Going into the shady
outer room, he took down from the wall his veil, that
hung on a peg, and putting it on, and thrusting his
hands into his pockets, he went into the fenced-in
bee-garden, where there stood in the midst of a closely
mown space in regular rows, fastened with bast on posts,
all the hives he knew so well, the old stocks, each
with its own history, and along the fences the younger
swarms hived that year.  In front of the openings
of the hives, it made his eyes giddy to watch the
bees and drones whirling round and round about the
same spot, while among them the working bees flew
in and out with spoils or in search of them, always
in the same direction into the wood to the flowering
lime trees and back to the hives.

His ears were filled with the incessant
hum in various notes, now the busy hum of the working
bee flying quickly off, then the blaring of the lazy
drone, and the excited buzz of the bees on guard protecting
their property from the enemy and preparing to sting. 
On the farther side of the fence the old bee-keeper
was shaving a hoop for a tub, and he did not see Levin. 
Levin stood still in the midst of the beehives and
did not call him.

He was glad of a chance to be alone
to recover from the influence of ordinary actual life,
which had already depressed his happy mood. 
He thought that he had already had time to lose his
temper with Ivan, to show coolness to his brother,
and to talk flippantly with Katavasov.

“Can it have been only a momentary
mood, and will it pass and leave no trace?”
he thought.  But the same instant, going back
to his mood, he felt with delight that something new
and important had happened to him.  Real life
had only for a time overcast the spiritual peace he
had found, but it was still untouched within him.

Just as the bees, whirling round him,
now menacing him and distracting his attention, prevented
him from enjoying complete physical peace, forced
him to restrain his movements to avoid them, so had
the petty cares that had swarmed about him from the
moment he got into the trap restricted his spiritual
freedom; but that lasted only so long as he was among
them.  Just as his bodily strength was still
unaffected, in spite of the bees, so too was the spiritual
strength that he had just become aware of.

 

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