FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 3

Leo TolstoyAug 24, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Kitty was particularly glad of a chance
of being alone with her husband, for she had noticed
the shade of mortification that had passed over his
face ­always so quick to reflect every feeling ­at
the moment when he had come onto the terrace and asked
what they were talking of, and had got no answer.

When they had set off on foot ahead
of the others, and had come out of sight of the house
onto the beaten dusty road, marked with rusty wheels
and sprinkled with grains of corn, she clung faster
to his arm and pressed it closer to her.  He had
quite forgotten the momentary unpleasant impression,
and alone with her he felt, now that the thought of
her approaching motherhood was never for a moment
absent from his mind, a new and delicious bliss, quite
pure from all alloy of sense, in the being near to
the woman he loved.  There was no need of speech,
yet he longed to hear the sound of her voice, which
like her eyes had changed since she had been with
child.  In her voice, as in her eyes, there was
that softness and gravity which is found in people
continually concentrated on some cherished pursuit.

“So you’re not tired?  Lean more
on me,” said he.

“No, I’m so glad of a
chance of being alone with you, and I must own, though
I’m happy with them, I do regret our winter evenings
alone.”

“That was good, but this is
even better.  Both are better,” he said,
squeezing her hand.

“Do you know what we were talking
about when you came in?”

“About jam?”

“Oh, yes, about jam too; but
afterwards, about how men make offers.”

“Ah!” said Levin, listening
more to the sound of her voice than to the words she
was saying, and all the while paying attention to
the road, which passed now through the forest, and
avoiding places where she might make a false step.

“And about Sergey Ivanovitch
and Varenka.  You’ve noticed?…  I’m
very anxious for it,” she went on.  “What
do you think about it?” And she peeped into
his face.

“I don’t know what to
think,” Levin answered, smiling.  “Sergey
seems very strange to me in that way.  I told
you, you know…”

“Yes, that he was in love with
that girl who died….”

“That was when I was a child;
I know about it from hearsay and tradition. 
I remember him then.  He was wonderfully sweet. 
But I’ve watched him since with women; he is
friendly, some of them he likes, but one feels that
to him they’re simply people, not women.”

“Yes, but now with Varenka…I
fancy there’s something…”

“Perhaps there is…. 
But one has to know him….  He’s a peculiar,
wonderful person.  He lives a spiritual life only. 
He’s too pure, too exalted a nature.”

“Why?  Would this lower him, then?”

“No, but he’s so used
to a spiritual life that he can’t reconcile
himself with actual fact, and Varenka is after all
fact.”

Levin had grown used by now to uttering
his thought boldly, without taking the trouble of
clothing it in exact language.  He knew that
his wife, in such moments of loving tenderness as now,
would understand what he meant to say from a hint,
and she did understand him.

“Yes, but there’s not
so much of that actual fact about her as about me. 
I can see that he would never have cared for me. 
She is altogether spiritual.”

“Oh, no, he is so fond of you,
and I am always so glad when my people like you….”

“Yes, he’s very nice to me; but…”

“It’s not as it was with
poor Nikolay…you really cared for each other,”
Levin finished.  “Why not speak of him?”
he added.  “I sometimes blame myself for
not; it ends in one’s forgetting.  Ah, how
terrible and dear he was!…  Yes, what were we
talking about?” Levin said, after a pause.

“You think he can’t fall
in love,” said Kitty, translating into her own
language.

“It’s not so much that
he can’t fall in love,” Levin said, smiling,
“but he has not the weakness necessary…. 
I’ve always envied him, and even now, when
I’m so happy, I still envy him.”

“You envy him for not being able to fall in
love?”

“I envy him for being better
than I,” said Levin.  “He does not
live for himself.  His whole life is subordinated
to his duty.  And that’s why he can be calm
and contented.”

“And you?” Kitty asked,
with an ironical and loving smile.

She could never have explained the
chain of thought that made her smile; but the last
link in it was that her husband, in exalting his brother
and abasing himself, was not quite sincere.  Kitty
knew that this insincerity came from his love for his
brother, from his sense of shame at being too happy,
and above all from his unflagging craving to be better ­she
loved it in him, and so she smiled.

“And you?  What are you
dissatisfied with?” she asked, with the same
smile.

Her disbelief in his self-dissatisfaction
delighted him, and unconsciously he tried to draw
her into giving utterance to the grounds of her disbelief.

“I am happy, but dissatisfied
with myself…” he said.

“Why, how can you be dissatisfied
with yourself if you are happy?”

“Well, how shall I say?… 
In my heart I really care for nothing whatever but
that you should not stumble ­see?  Oh,
but really you mustn’t skip about like that!”
he cried, breaking off to scold her for too agile
a movement in stepping over a branch that lay in the
path.  “But when I think about myself, and
compare myself with others, especially with my brother,
I feel I’m a poor creature.”

“But in what way?” Kitty
pursued with the same smile.  “Don’t
you too work for others?  What about your co-operative
settlement, and your work on the estate, and your
book?…”

“Oh, but I feel, and particularly
just now ­it’s your fault,” he
said, pressing her hand ­“that all
that doesn’t count.  I do it in a way halfheartedly. 
If I could care for all that as I care for you!… 
Instead of that, I do it in these days like a task
that is set me.”

“Well, what would you say about
papa?” asked Kitty.  “Is he a poor
creature then, as he does nothing for the public good?”

“He? ­no!  But
then one must have the simplicity, the straightforwardness,
the goodness of your father:  and I haven’t
got that.  I do nothing, and I fret about it. 
It’s all your doing.  Before there was
you ­and this too,” he added
with a glance towards her waist that she understood ­“I
put all my energies into work; now I can’t,
and I’m ashamed; I do it just as though it were
a task set me, I’m pretending….”

“Well, but would you like to
change this minute with Sergey Ivanovitch?”
said Kitty.  “Would you like to do this
work for the general good, and to love the task set
you, as he does, and nothing else?”

“Of course not,” said
Levin.  “But I’m so happy that I don’t
understand anything.  So you think he’ll
make her an offer today?” he added after a brief
silence.

“I think so, and I don’t
think so.  Only, I’m awfully anxious for
it.  Here, wait a minute.”  She stooped
down and picked a wild camomile at the edge of the
path.  “Come, count:  he does propose,
he doesn’t,” she said, giving him the flower.

“He does, he doesn’t,”
said Levin, tearing off the white petals.

“No, no!” Kitty, snatching
at his hand, stopped him.  She had been watching
his fingers with interest.  “You picked
off two.”

“Oh, but see, this little one
shan’t count to make up,” said Levin,
tearing off a little half-grown petal.  “Here’s
the wagonette overtaking us.”

“Aren’t you tired, Kitty?” called
the princess.

“Not in the least.”

“If you are you can get in, as the horses are
quiet and walking.”

But it was not worth while to get
in, they were quite near the place, and all walked
on together.

 

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