FictionForest

PART TWO : Chapter 14

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

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As he rode up to the house in the
happiest frame of mind, Levin heard the bell ring
at the side of the principal entrance of the house.

“Yes, that’s someone from
the railway station,” he thought, “just
the time to be here from the Moscow train…Who could
it be?  What if it’s brother Nikolay? 
He did say:  ’Maybe I’ll go to the
waters, or maybe I’ll come down to you.’”
He felt dismayed and vexed for the first minute,
that his brother Nikolay’s presence should come
to disturb his happy mood of spring.  But he
felt ashamed of the feeling, and at once he opened,
as it were, the arms of his soul, and with a softened
feeling of joy and expectation, now he hoped with all
his heart that it was his brother.  He pricked
up his horse, and riding out from behind the acacias
he saw a hired three-horse sledge from the railway
station, and a gentleman in a fur coat.  It was
not his brother.  “Oh, if it were only
some nice person one could talk to a little!”
he thought.

“Ah,” cried Levin joyfully,
flinging up both his hands.  “Here’s
a delightful visitor!  Ah, how glad I am to see
you!” he shouted, recognizing Stepan Arkadyevitch.

“I shall find out for certain
whether she’s married, or when she’s going
to be married,” he thought.  And on that
delicious spring day he felt that the thought of her
did not hurt him at all.

“Well, you didn’t expect
me, eh?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting out
of the sledge, splashed with mud on the bridge of his
nose, on his cheek, and on his eyebrows, but radiant
with health and good spirits.  “I’ve
come to see you in the first place,” he said,
embracing and kissing him, “to have some stand-shooting
second, and to sell the forest at Ergushovo third.”

“Delightful!  What a spring
we’re having!  How ever did you get along
in a sledge?”

“In a cart it would have been
worse still, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” answered
the driver, who knew him.

“Well, I’m very, very
glad to see you,” said Levin, with a genuine
smile of childlike delight.

Levin led his friend to the room set
apart for visitors, where Stepan Arkadyevitch’s
things were carried also ­a bag, a gun in
a case, a satchel for cigars.  Leaving him there
to wash and change his clothes, Levin went off to
the counting house to speak about the ploughing and
clover.  Agafea Mihalovna, always very anxious
for the credit of the house, met him in the hall with
inquiries about dinner.

“Do just as you like, only let
it be as soon as possible,” he said, and went
to the bailiff.

When he came back, Stepan Arkadyevitch,
washed and combed, came out of his room with a beaming
smile, and they went upstairs together.

“Well, I am glad I managed to
get away to you!  Now I shall understand what
the mysterious business is that you are always absorbed
in here.  No, really, I envy you.  What a
house, how nice it all is!  So bright, so cheerful!”
said Stepan Arkadyevitch, forgetting that it was not
always spring and fine weather like that day. 
“And your nurse is simply charming!  A
pretty maid in an apron might be even more agreeable,
perhaps; but for your severe monastic style it does
very well.”

Stepan Arkadyevitch told him many
interesting pieces of news; especially interesting
to Levin was the news that his brother, Sergey Ivanovitch,
was intending to pay him a visit in the summer.

Not one word did Stepan Arkadyevitch
say in reference to Kitty and the Shtcherbatskys;
he merely gave him greetings from his wife. 
Levin was grateful to him for his delicacy and was
very glad of his visitor.  As always happened
with him during his solitude, a mass of ideas and
feelings had been accumulating within him, which he
could not communicate to those about him.  And
now he poured out upon Stepan Arkadyevitch his poetic
joy in the spring, and his failures and plans for
the land, and his thoughts and criticisms on the books
he had been reading, and the idea of his own book,
the basis of which really was, though he was unaware
of it himself, a criticism of all the old books on
agriculture.  Stepan Arkadyevitch, always charming,
understanding everything at the slightest reference,
was particularly charming on this visit, and Levin
noticed in him a special tenderness, as it were, and
a new tone of respect that flattered him.

The efforts of Agafea Mihalovna and
the cook, that the dinner should be particularly good,
only ended in the two famished friends attacking the
preliminary course, eating a great deal of bread and
butter, salt goose and salted mushrooms, and in Levin’s
finally ordering the soup to be served without the
accompaniment of little pies, with which the cook
had particularly meant to impress their visitor. 
But though Stepan Arkadyevitch was accustomed to
very different dinners, he thought everything excellent: 
the herb brandy, and the bread, and the butter, and
above all the salt goose and the mushrooms, and the
nettle soup, and the chicken in white sauce, and the
white Crimean wine ­ everything was superb
and delicious.

“Splendid, splendid!”
he said, lighting a fat cigar after the roast. 
“I feel as if, coming to you, I had landed on
a peaceful shore after the noise and jolting of a
steamer.  And so you maintain that the laborer
himself is an element to be studied and to regulate
the choice of methods in agriculture.  Of course,
I’m an ignorant outsider; but I should fancy
theory and its application will have its influence
on the laborer too.”

“Yes, but wait a bit. 
I’m not talking of political economy, I’m
talking of the science of agriculture.  It ought
to be like the natural sciences, and to observe given
phenomena and the laborer in his economic, ethnographical…”

At that instant Agafea Mihalovna came in with jam.

“Oh, Agafea Mihalovna,”
said Stepan Arkadyevitch, kissing the tips of his
plump fingers, “what salt goose, what herb brandy!…What
do you think, isn’t it time to start, Kostya?”
he added.

Levin looked out of the window at
the sun sinking behind the bare tree-tops of the forest.

“Yes, it’s time,”
he said.  “Kouzma, get ready the trap,”
and he ran downstairs.

Stepan Arkadyevitch, going down, carefully
took the canvas cover off his varnished gun case with
his own hands, and opening it, began to get ready
his expensive new-fashioned gun.  Kouzma, who
already scented a big tip, never left Stepan Arkadyevitch’s
side, and put on him both his stockings and boots,
a task which Stepan Arkadyevitch readily left him.

“Kostya, give orders that if
the merchant Ryabinin comes…I told him to come today,
he’s to be brought in and to wait for me…”

“Why, do you mean to say you’re
selling the forest to Ryabinin?”

“Yes.  Do you know him?”

“To be sure I do.  I have
had to do business with him, ‘positively and
conclusively.’”

Stepan Arkadyevitch laughed. 
“Positively and conclusively” were the
merchant’s favorite words.

“Yes, it’s wonderfully
funny the way he talks.  She knows where her
master’s going!” he added, patting Laska,
who hung about Levin, whining and licking his hands,
his boots, and his gun.

The trap was already at the steps
when they went out.

“I told them to bring the trap
round; or would you rather walk?”

“No, we’d better drive,”
said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting into the trap. 
He sat down, tucked the tiger-skin rug round him,
and lighted a cigar.  “How is it you don’t
smoke?  A cigar is a sort of thing, not exactly
a pleasure, but the crown and outward sign of pleasure. 
Come, this is life!  How splendid it is! 
This is how I should like to live!”

“Why, who prevents you?” said Levin, smiling.

“No, you’re a lucky man! 
You’ve got everything you like.  You like
horses ­and you have them; dogs ­you
have them; shooting ­ you have it; farming ­you
have it.”

“Perhaps because I rejoice in
what I have, and don’t fret for what I haven’t,”
said Levin, thinking of Kitty.

Stepan Arkadyevitch comprehended,
looked at him, but said nothing.

Levin was grateful to Oblonsky for
noticing, with his never-failing tact, that he dreaded
conversation about the Shtcherbatskys, and so saying
nothing about them.  But now Levin was longing
to find out what was tormenting him so, yet he had
not the courage to begin.

“Come, tell me how things are
going with you,” said Levin, bethinking himself
that it was not nice of him to think only of himself.

Stepan Arkadyevitch’s eyes sparkled merrily.

“You don’t admit, I know,
that one can be fond of new rolls when one has had
one’s rations of bread ­to your mind
it’s a crime; but I don’t count life as
life without love,” he said, taking Levin’s
question his own way.  “What am I to do? 
I’m made that way.  And really, one does
so little harm to anyone, and gives oneself so much
pleasure…”

“What! is there something new, then?”
queried Levin.

“Yes, my boy, there is! 
There, do you see, you know the type of Ossian’s
women….  Women, such as one sees in dreams…. 
Well, these women are sometimes to be met in reality…and
these women are terrible.  Woman, don’t
you know, is such a subject that however much you
study it, it’s always perfectly new.”

“Well, then, it would be better not to study
it.”

“No.  Some mathematician
has said that enjoyment lies in the search for truth,
not in the finding it.”

Levin listened in silence, and in
spite of all the efforts he made, he could not in
the least enter into the feelings of his friend and
understand his sentiments and the charm of studying
such women.

 

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