FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 27

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

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The house was big and old-fashioned,
and Levin, though he lived alone, had the whole house
heated and used.  He knew that this was stupid,
he knew that it was positively not right, and contrary
to his present new plans, but this house was a whole
world to Levin.  It was the world in which his
father and mother had lived and died.  They had
lived just the life that to Levin seemed the ideal
of perfection, and that he had dreamed of beginning
with his wife, his family.

Levin scarcely remembered his mother. 
His conception of her was for him a sacred memory,
and his future wife was bound to be in his imagination
a repetition of that exquisite, holy ideal of a woman
that his mother had been.

He was so far from conceiving of love
for woman apart from marriage that he positively pictured
to himself first the family, and only secondarily
the woman who would give him a family.  His ideas
of marriage were, consequently, quite unlike those
of the great majority of his acquaintances, for whom
getting married was one of the numerous facts of social
life.  For Levin it was the chief affair of life,
on which its whole happiness turned.  And now
he had to give up that.

When he had gone into the little drawing
room, where he always had tea, and had settled himself
in his armchair with a book, and Agafea Mihalovna
had brought him tea, and with her usual, “Well,
I’ll stay a while, sir,” had taken a chair
in the window, he felt that, however strange it might
be, he had not parted from his daydreams, and that
he could not live without them.  Whether with
her, or with another, still it would be.  He was
reading a book, and thinking of what he was reading,
and stopping to listen to Agafea Mihalovna, who gossiped
away without flagging, and yet with all that, all
sorts of pictures of family life and work in the future
rose disconnectedly before his imagination.  He
felt that in the depth of his soul something had been
put in its place, settled down, and laid to rest.

He heard Agafea Mihalovna talking
of how Prohor had forgotten his duty to God, and with
the money Levin had given him to buy a horse, had
been drinking without stopping, and had beaten his
wife till he’d half killed her.  He listened,
and read his book, and recalled the whole train of
ideas suggested by his reading.  It was Tyndall’s
Treatise on Heat.  He recalled his own
criticisms of Tyndall of his complacent satisfaction
in the cleverness of his experiments, and for his
lack of philosophic insight.  And suddenly there
floated into his mind the joyful thought:  “In
two years’ time I shall have two Dutch cows;
Pava herself will perhaps still be alive, a dozen
young daughters of Berkoot and the three others ­how
lovely!”

He took up his book again.  “Very
good, electricity and heat are the same thing; but
is it possible to substitute the one quantity for
the other in the equation for the solution of any problem? 
No.  Well, then what of it?  The connection
between all the forces of nature is felt instinctively…. 
It’s particulary nice if Pava’s daughter
should be a red-spotted cow, and all the herd will
take after her, and the other three, too!  Splendid! 
To go out with my wife and visitors to meet the herd…. 
My wife says, Kostya and I looked after that calf
like a child.’  ’How can it interest
you so much?’ says a visitor.  ’Everything
that interests him, interests me.’  But
who will she be?” And he remembered what had
happened at Moscow….  “Well, there’s
nothing to be done….  It’s not my fault. 
But now everything shall go on in a new way. 
It’s nonsense to pretend that life won’t
let one, that the past won’t let one.  One
must struggle to live better, much better.”… 
He raised his head, and fell to dreaming.  Old
Laska, who had not yet fully digested her delight
at his return, and had run out into the yard to bark,
came back wagging her tail, and crept up to him, bringing
in the scent of fresh air, put her head under his
hand, and whined plaintively, asking to be stroked.

“There, who’d have thought
it?” said Agafea Mihalovna.  “The
dog now…why, she understands that her master’s
come home, and that he’s low-spirited.”

“Why low-spirited?”

“Do you suppose I don’t
see it, sir?  It’s high time I should know
the gentry.  Why, I’ve grown up from a little
thing with them.  It’s nothing, sir, so
long as there’s health and a clear conscience.”

Levin looked intently at her, surprised
at how well she knew his thought.

“Shall I fetch you another cup?”
said she, and taking his cup she went out.

Laska kept poking her head under his
hand.  He stroked her, and she promptly curled
up at his feet, laying her head on a hindpaw. 
And in token of all now being well and satisfactory,
she opened her mouth a little, smacked her lips, and
settling her sticky lips more comfortably about her
old teeth, she sank into blissful repose.  Levin
watched all her movements attentively.

“That’s what I’ll
do,” he said to himself; “that’s
what I’ll do!  Nothing’s amiss…. 
All’s well.”

 

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