FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 26

Leo TolstoyAug 21, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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In the morning Konstantin Levin left
Moscow, and towards evening he reached home. 
On the journey in the train he talked to his neighbors
about politics and the new railways, and, just as in
Moscow, he was overcome by a sense of confusion of
ideas, dissatisfaction with himself, shame of something
or other.  But when he got out at his own station,
when he saw his one-eyed coachman, Ignat, with the
collar of his coat turned up; when, in the dim light
reflected by the station fires, he saw his own sledge,
his own horses with their tails tied up, in their harness
trimmed with rings and tassels; when the coachman Ignat,
as he put in his luggage, told him the village news,
that the contractor had arrived, and that Pava
had calved, ­he felt that little by little
the confusion was clearing up, and the shame and self-dissatisfaction
were passing away.  He felt this at the mere
sight of Ignat and the horses; but when he had put
on the sheepskin brought for him, had sat down wrapped
up in the sledge, and had driven off pondering on
the work that lay before him in the village, and staring
at the side-horse, that had been his saddle-horse,
past his prime now, but a spirited beast from the
Don, he began to see what had happened to him in quite
a different light.  He felt himself, and did
not want to be any one else.  All he wanted now
was to be better than before.  In the first place
he resolved that from that day he would give up hoping
for any extraordinary happiness, such as marriage must
have given him, and consequently he would not so disdain
what he really had.  Secondly, he would never
again let himself give way to low passion, the memory
of which had so tortured him when he had been making
up his mind to make an offer.  Then remembering
his brother Nikolay, he resolved to himself that he
would never allow himself to forget him, that he would
follow him up, and not lose sight of him, so as to
be ready to help when things should go ill with him. 
And that would be soon, he felt.  Then, too,
his brother’s talk of communism, which he had
treated so lightly at the time, now made him think. 
He considered a revolution in economic conditions
nonsense.  But he always felt the injustice of
his own abundance in comparison with the poverty of
the peasants, and now he determined that so as to
feel quite in the right, though he had worked hard
and lived by no means luxuriously before, he would
now work still harder, and would allow himself even
less luxury.  And all this seemed to him so easy
a conquest over himself that he spent the whole drive
in the pleasantest daydreams.  With a resolute
feeling of hope in a new, better life, he reached
home before nine o’clock at night.

The snow of the little quadrangle
before the house was lit up by a light in the bedroom
windows of his old nurse, Agafea Mihalovna, who performed
the duties of housekeeper in his house.  She was
not yet asleep.  Kouzma, waked up by her, came
sidling sleepily out onto the steps.  A setter
bitch, Laska, ran out too, almost upsetting Kouzma,
and whining, turned round about Levin’s knees,
jumping up and longing, but not daring, to put her
forepaws on his chest.

“You’re soon back again,
sir,” said Agafea Mihalovna.

“I got tired of it, Agafea Mihalovna. 
With friends, one is well; but at home, one is better,”
he answered, and went into his study.

The study was slowly lit up as the
candle was brought in.  The familiar details
came out:  the stag’s horns, the bookshelves,
the looking-glass, the stove with its ventilator, which
had long wanted mending, his father’s sofa,
a large table, on the table an open book, a broken
ash tray, a manuscript book with his handwriting. 
As he saw all this, there came over him for an instant
a doubt of the possibility of arranging the new life,
of which he had been dreaming on the road.  All
these traces of his life seemed to clutch him, and
to say to him:  “No, you’re not going
to get away from us, and you’re not going to
be different, but you’re going to be the same
as you’ve always been; with doubts, everlasting
dissatisfaction with yourself, vain efforts to amend,
and falls, and everlasting expectation, of a happiness
which you won’t get, and which isn’t possible
for you.”

This the things said to him, but another
voice in his heart was telling him that he must not
fall under the sway of the past, and that one can
do anything with oneself.  And hearing that voice,
he went into the corner where stood his two heavy dumbbells,
and began brandishing them like a gymnast, trying
to restore his confident temper.  There was a
creak of steps at the door.  He hastily put down
the dumbbells.

The bailiff came in, and said everything,
thank God, was doing well; but informed him that the
buckwheat in the new drying machine had been a little
scorched.  This piece of news irritated Levin. 
The new drying machine had been constructed and partly
invented by Levin.  The bailiff had always been
against the drying machine, and now it was with suppressed
triumph that he announced that the buckwheat had been
scorched.  Levin was firmly convinced that if
the buckwheat had been scorched, it was only because
the precautions had not been taken, for which he had
hundreds of times given orders.  He was annoyed,
and reprimanded the bailiff.  But there had been
an important and joyful event:  Pava, his
best cow, an expensive beast, bought at a show, had
calved.

“Kouzma, give me my sheepskin. 
And you tell them to take a lantern.  I’ll
come and look at her,” he said to the bailiff.

The cowhouse for the more valuable
cows was just behind the house.  Walking across
the yard, passing a snowdrift by the lilac tree, he
went into the cowhouse.  There was the warm, steamy
smell of dung when the frozen door was opened, and
the cows, astonished at the unfamiliar light of the
lantern, stirred on the fresh straw.  He caught
a glimpse of the broad, smooth, black and piebald
back of Hollandka.  Berkoot, the bull, was lying
down with his ring in his lip, and seemed about to
get up, but thought better of it, and only gave two
snorts as they passed by him.  Pava, a perfect
beauty, huge as a hippopotamus, with her back turned
to them, prevented their seeing the calf, as she sniffed
her all over.

Levin went into the pen, looked Pava
over, and lifted the red and spotted calf onto her
long, tottering legs.  Pava, uneasy, began
lowing, but when Levin put the calf close to her she
was soothed, and, sighing heavily, began licking her
with her rough tongue.  The calf, fumbling, poked
her nose under her mother’s udder, and stiffened
her tail out straight.

“Here, bring the light, Fyodor,
this way,” said Levin, examining the calf. 
“Like the mother! though the color takes after
the father; but that’s nothing.  Very good. 
Long and broad in the haunch.  Vassily Fedorovitch,
isn’t she splendid?” he said to the bailiff,
quite forgiving him for the buckwheat under the influence
of his delight in the calf.

“How could she fail to be? 
Oh, Semyon the contractor came the day after you
left.  You must settle with him, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,”
said the bailiff.  “I did inform you about
the machine.”

This question was enough to take Levin
back to all the details of his work on the estate,
which was on a large scale, and complicated. 
He went straight from the cowhouse to the counting
house, and after a little conversation with the bailiff
and Semyon the contractor, he went back to the house
and straight upstairs to the drawing room.

 

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