FictionForest

PART TWO : Chapter 12

Leo TolstoyAug 22, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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In the early days after his return
from Moscow, whenever Levin shuddered and grew red,
remembering the disgrace of his rejection, he said
to himself:  “This was just how I used to
shudder and blush, thinking myself utterly lost, when
I was plucked in physics and did not get my remove;
and how I thought myself utterly ruined after I had
mismanaged that affair of my sister’s that was
entrusted to me.  And yet, now that years have
passed, I recall it and wonder that it could distress
me so much.  It will be the same thing too with
this trouble.  Time will go by and I shall not
mind about this either.”

But three months had passed and he
had not left off minding about it; and it was as painful
for him to think of it as it had been those first
days.  He could not be at peace because after
dreaming so long of family life, and feeling himself
so ripe for it, he was still not married, and was
further than ever from marriage.  He was painfully
conscious himself, as were all about him, that at
his years it is not well for man to be alone. 
He remembered how before starting for Moscow he had
once said to his cowman Nikolay, a simple-hearted
peasant, whom he liked talking to:  “Well,
Nikolay!  I mean to get married,” and how
Nikolay had promptly answered, as of a matter on which
there could be no possible doubt:  “And
high time too, Konstantin Demitrievitch.” 
But marriage had now become further off than ever. 
The place was taken, and whenever he tried to imagine
any of the girls he knew in that place, he felt that
it was utterly impossible.  Moreover, the recollection
of the rejection and the part he had played in the
affair tortured him with shame.  However often
he told himself that he was in no wise to blame in
it, that recollection, like other humiliating reminiscences
of a similar kind, made him twinge and blush. 
There had been in his past, as in every man’s,
actions, recognized by him as bad, for which his conscience
ought to have tormented him; but the memory of these
evil actions was far from causing him so much suffering
as those trivial but humiliating reminiscences. 
These wounds never healed.  And with these memories
was now ranged his rejection and the pitiful position
in which he must have appeared to others that evening. 
But time and work did their part.  Bitter memories
were more and more covered up by the incidents ­paltry
in his eyes, but really important ­of his
country life.  Every week he thought less often
of Kitty.  He was impatiently looking forward
to the news that she was married, or just going to
be married, hoping that such news would, like having
a tooth out, completely cure him.

Meanwhile spring came on, beautiful
and kindly, without the delays and treacheries of
spring, ­one of those rare springs in which
plants, beasts, and man rejoice alike.  This lovely
spring roused Levin still more, and strengthened him
in his resolution of renouncing all his past and building
up his lonely life firmly and independently. 
Though many of the plans with which he had returned
to the country had not been carried out, still his
most important resolution ­that of purity ­had
been kept by him.  He was free from that shame,
which had usually harassed him after a fall; and he
could look everyone straight in the face.  In
February he had received a letter from Marya Nikolaevna
telling him that his brother Nikolay’s health
was getting worse, but that he would not take advice,
and in consequence of this letter Levin went to Moscow
to his brother’s and succeeded in persuading
him to see a doctor and to go to a watering-place
abroad.  He succeeded so well in persuading his
brother, and in lending him money for the journey
without irritating him, that he was satisfied with
himself in that matter.  In addition to his farming,
which called for special attention in spring, and in
addition to reading, Levin had begun that winter a
work on agriculture, the plan of which turned on taking
into account the character of the laborer on the land
as one of the unalterable data of the question, like
the climate and the soil, and consequently deducing
all the principles of scientific culture, not simply
from the data of soil and climate, but from the data
of soil, climate, and a certain unalterable character
of the laborer.  Thus, in spite of his solitude,
or in consequence of his solitude, his life was exceedingly
full.  Only rarely he suffered from an unsatisfied
desire to communicate his stray ideas to someone besides
Agafea Mihalovna.  With her indeed he not infrequently
fell into discussion upon physics, the theory of agriculture,
and especially philosophy; philosophy was Agafea Mihalovna’s
favorite subject.

Spring was slow in unfolding. 
For the last few weeks it had been steadily fine
frosty weather.  In the daytime it thawed in the
sun, but at night there were even seven degrees of
frost.  There was such a frozen surface on the
snow that they drove the wagons anywhere off the roads. 
Easter came in the snow.  Then all of a sudden,
on Easter Monday, a warm wind sprang up, storm clouds
swooped down, and for three days and three nights the
warm, driving rain fell in streams.  On Thursday
the wind dropped, and a thick gray fog brooded over
the land as though hiding the mysteries of the transformations
that were being wrought in nature.  Behind the
fog there was the flowing of water, the cracking and
floating of ice, the swift rush of turbid, foaming
torrents; and on the following Monday, in the evening,
the fog parted, the storm clouds split up into little
curling crests of cloud, the sky cleared, and the
real spring had come.  In the morning the sun
rose brilliant and quickly wore away the thin layer
of ice that covered the water, and all the warm air
was quivering with the steam that rose up from the
quickened earth.  The old grass looked greener,
and the young grass thrust up its tiny blades; the
buds of the guelder-rose and of the currant and the
sticky birch-buds were swollen with sap, and an exploring
bee was humming about the golden blossoms that studded
the willow.  Larks trilled unseen above the velvety
green fields and the ice-covered stubble-land; peewits
wailed over the low lands and marshes flooded by the
pools; cranes and wild geese flew high across the
sky uttering their spring calls.  The cattle,
bald in patches where the new hair had not grown yet,
lowed in the pastures; the bowlegged lambs frisked
round their bleating mothers.  Nimble children
ran about the drying paths, covered with the prints
of bare feet.  There was a merry chatter of peasant
women over their linen at the pond, and the ring of
axes in the yard, where the peasants were repairing
ploughs and harrows.  The real spring had come.

 

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