FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 6

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

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During the time of the children’s
tea the grown-up people sat in the balcony and talked
as though nothing had happened, though they all, especially
Sergey Ivanovitch and Varenka, were very well aware
that there had happened an event which, though negative,
was of very great importance.  They both had the
same feeling, rather like that of a schoolboy after
an examination, which has left him in the same class
or shut him out of the school forever.  Everyone
present, feeling too that something had happened,
talked eagerly about extraneous subjects.  Levin
and Kitty were particularly happy and conscious of
their love that evening.  And their happiness
in their love seemed to imply a disagreeable slur
on those who would have liked to feel the same and
could not ­and they felt a prick of conscience.

“Mark my words, Alexander will not come,”
said the old princess.

That evening they were expecting Stepan
Arkadyevitch to come down by train, and the old prince
had written that possibly he might come too.

“And I know why,” the
princess went on; “he says that young people
ought to be left alone for a while at first.”

“But papa has left us alone. 
We’ve never seen him,” said Kitty. 
“Besides, we’re not young people! ­we’re
old, married people by now.”

“Only if he doesn’t come,
I shall say good-bye to you children,” said
the princess, sighing mournfully.

“What nonsense, mamma!”
both the daughters fell upon her at once.

“How do you suppose he is feeling?  Why,
now…”

And suddenly there was an unexpected
quiver in the princess’s voice.  Her daughters
were silent, and looked at one another.  “Maman
always finds something to be miserable about,”
they said in that glance.  They did not know
that happy as the princess was in her daughter’s
house, and useful as she felt herself to be there,
she had been extremely miserable, both on her own account
and her husband’s, ever since they had married
their last and favorite daughter, and the old home
had been left empty.

“What is it, Agafea Mihalovna?”
Kitty asked suddenly of Agafea Mihalovna, who was
standing with a mysterious air, and a face full of
meaning.

“About supper.”

“Well, that’s right,”
said Dolly; “you go and arrange about it, and
I’ll go and hear Grisha repeat his lesson, or
else he will have nothing done all day.”

“That’s my lesson! 
No, Dolly, I’m going,” said Levin, jumping
up.

Grisha, who was by now at a high school,
had to go over the lessons of the term in the summer
holidays.  Darya Alexandrovna, who had been studying
Latin with her son in Moscow before, had made it a
rule on coming to the Levins’ to go over with
him, at least once a day, the most difficult lessons
of Latin and arithmetic.  Levin had offered to
take her place, but the mother, having once overheard
Levin’s lesson, and noticing that it was not
given exactly as the teacher in Moscow had given it,
said resolutely, though with much embarrassment and
anxiety not to mortify Levin, that they must keep
strictly to the book as the teacher had done, and
that she had better undertake it again herself. 
Levin was amazed both at Stepan Arkadyevitch, who,
by neglecting his duty, threw upon the mother the
supervision of studies of which she had no comprehension,
and at the teachers for teaching the children so badly. 
But he promised his sister-in-law to give the lessons
exactly as she wished.  And he went on teaching
Grisha, not in his own way, but by the book, and so
took little interest in it, and often forgot the hour
of the lesson.  So it had been today.

“No, I’m going, Dolly,
you sit still,” he said.  “We’ll
do it all properly, like the book.  Only when
Stiva comes, and we go out shooting, then we shall
have to miss it.”

And Levin went to Grisha.

Varenka was saying the same thing
to Kitty.  Even in the happy, well-ordered household
of the Levins Varenka had succeeded in making herself
useful.

“I’ll see to the supper,
you sit still,” she said, and got up to go to
Agafea Mihalovna.

“Yes, yes, most likely they’ve
not been able to get chickens.  If so, ours…”

“Agafea Mihalovna and I will
see about it,” and Varenka vanished with her.

“What a nice girl!” said the princess.

“Not nice, maman; she’s
an exquisite girl; there’s no one else like
her.”

“So you are expecting Stepan
Arkadyevitch today?” said Sergey Ivanovitch,
evidently not disposed to pursue the conversation
about Varenka.  “It would be difficult to
find two sons-in-law more unlike than yours,”
he said with a subtle smile.  “One all
movement, only living in society, like a fish in water;
the other our Kostya, lively, alert, quick in everything,
but as soon as he is in society, he either sinks into
apathy, or struggles helplessly like a fish on land.”

“Yes, he’s very heedless,”
said the princess, addressing Sergey Ivanovitch. 
“I’ve been meaning, indeed, to ask you
to tell him that it’s out of the question for
her” (she indicated Kitty) “to stay here;
that she positively must come to Moscow.  He talks
of getting a doctor down…”

“Maman, he’ll do everything;
he has agreed to everything,” Kitty said, angry
with her mother for appealing to Sergey Ivanovitch
to judge in such a matter.

In the middle of their conversation
they heard the snorting of horses and the sound of
wheels on the gravel.  Dolly had not time to
get up to go and meet her husband, when from the window
of the room below, where Grisha was having his lesson,
Levin leaped out and helped Grisha out after him.

“It’s Stiva!” Levin
shouted from under the balcony.  “We’ve
finished, Dolly, don’t be afraid!” he added,
and started running like a boy to meet the carriage.

Is ea id, ejus, ejus, ejus!
shouted Grisha, skipping along the avenue.

“And some one else too! 
Papa, of course!” cried Levin, stopping at
the entrance of the avenue.  “Kitty, don’t
come down the steep staircase, go round.”

But Levin had been mistaken in taking
the person sitting in the carriage for the old prince. 
As he got nearer to the carriage he saw beside Stepan
Arkadyevitch not the prince but a handsome, stout
young man in a Scotch cap, with long ends of ribbon
behind.  This was Vassenka Veslovsky, a distant
cousin of the Shtcherbatskys, a brilliant young gentleman
in Petersburg and Moscow society.  “A capital
fellow, and a keen sportsman,” as Stepan Arkadyevitch
said, introducing him.

Not a whit abashed by the disappointment
caused by his having come in place of the old prince,
Veslovsky greeted Levin gaily, claiming acquaintance
with him in the past, and snatching up Grisha into
the carriage, lifted him over the pointer that Stepan
Arkadyevitch had brought with him.

Levin did not get into the carriage,
but walked behind.  He was rather vexed at the
non-arrival of the old prince, whom he liked more
and more the more he saw of him, and also at the arrival
of this Vassenka Veslovsky, a quite uncongenial and
superfluous person.  He seemed to him still more
uncongenial and superfluous when, on approaching the
steps where the whole party, children and grown-up,
were gathered together in much excitement, Levin saw
Vassenka Veslovsky, with a particularly warm and gallant
air, kissing Kitty’s hand.

“Your wife and I are cousins
and very old friends,” said Vassenka Veslovsky,
once more shaking Levin’s hand with great warmth.

“Well, are there plenty of birds?”
Stepan Arkadyevitch said to Levin, hardly leaving
time for everyone to utter their greetings.  “We’ve
come with the most savage intentions.  Why, maman,
they’ve not been in Moscow since!  Look,
Tanya, here’s something for you!  Get it,
please, it’s in the carriage, behind!”
he talked in all directions.  “How pretty
you’ve grown, Dolly,” he said to his wife,
once more kissing her hand, holding it in one of his,
and patting it with the other.

Levin, who a minute before had been
in the happiest frame of mind, now looked darkly at
everyone, and everything displeased him.

“Who was it he kissed yesterday
with those lips?” he thought, looking at Stepan
Arkadyevitch’s tender demonstrations to his
wife.  He looked at Dolly, and he did not like
her either.

“She doesn’t believe in
his love.  So what is she so pleased about? 
Revolting!” thought Levin.

He looked at the princess, who had
been so dear to him a minute before, and he did not
like the manner in which she welcomed this Vassenka,
with his ribbons, just as though she were in her own
house.

Even Sergey Ivanovitch, who had come
out too onto the steps, seemed to him unpleasant with
the show of cordiality with which he met Stepan Arkadyevitch,
though Levin knew that his brother neither liked nor
respected Oblonsky.

And Varenka, even she seemed hateful,
with her air sainte nitouche making the acquaintance
of this gentleman, while all the while she was thinking
of nothing but getting married.

And more hateful than anyone was Kitty
for falling in with the tone of gaiety with which
this gentleman regarded his visit in the country,
as though it were a holiday for himself and everyone
else.  And, above all, unpleasant was that particular
smile with which she responded to his smile.

Noisily talking, they all went into
the house; but as soon as they were all seated, Levin
turned and went out.

Kitty saw something was wrong with
her husband.  She tried to seize a moment to
speak to him alone, but he made haste to get away
from her, saying he was wanted at the counting-house. 
It was long since his own work on the estate had
seemed to him so important as at that moment. 
“It’s all holiday for them,” he
thought; “but these are no holiday matters, they
won’t wait, and there’s no living without
them.”

 

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