FictionForest

PART THREE : Chapter 10

Leo TolstoyAug 23, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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“Kitty writes to me that there’s
nothing she longs for so much as quiet and solitude,”
Dolly said after the silence that had followed.

“And how is she ­better?” Levin
asked in agitation.

“Thank God, she’s quite
well again.  I never believed her lungs were
affected.”

“Oh, I’m very glad!”
said Levin, and Dolly fancied she saw something touching,
helpless, in his face as he said this and looked silently
into her face.

“Let me ask you, Konstantin
Dmitrievitch,” said Darya Alexandrovna, smiling
her kindly and rather mocking smile, “why is
it you are angry with Kitty?”

“I?  I’m not angry with her,”
said Levin.

“Yes, you are angry.  Why
was it you did not come to see us nor them when you
were in Moscow?”

“Darya Alexandrovna,”
he said, blushing up to the roots of his hair, “I
wonder really that with your kind heart you don’t
feel this.  How it is you feel no pity for me,
if nothing else, when you know…”

“What do I know?”

“You know I made an offer and
that I was refused,” said Levin, and all the
tenderness he had been feeling for Kitty a minute
before was replaced by a feeling of anger for the slight
he had suffered.

“What makes you suppose I know?”

“Because everybody knows it…”

“That’s just where you
are mistaken; I did not know it, though I had guessed
it was so.”

“Well, now you know it.”

“All I knew was that something
had happened that made her dreadfully miserable, and
that she begged me never to speak of it.  And
if she would not tell me, she would certainly not speak
of it to anyone else.  But what did pass between
you?  Tell me.”

“I have told you.”

“When was it?”

“When I was at their house the last time.”

“Do you know that,” said
Darya Alexandrovna, “I am awfully, awfully sorry
for her.  You suffer only from pride….”

“Perhaps so,” said Levin, “but…”

She interrupted him.

“But she, poor girl…I am awfully,
awfully sorry for her.  Now I see it all.”

“Well, Darya Alexandrovna, you
must excuse me,” he said, getting up. 
“Good-bye, Darya Alexandrovna, till we meet again.”

“No, wait a minute,” she
said, clutching him by the sleeve.  “Wait
a minute, sit down.”

“Please, please, don’t
let us talk of this,” he said, sitting down,
and at the same time feeling rise up and stir within
his heart a hope he had believed to be buried.

“If I did not like you,”
she said, and tears came into her eyes; “if
I did not know you, as I do know you . . .”

The feeling that had seemed dead revived
more and more, rose up and took possession of Levin’s
heart.

“Yes, I understand it all now,”
said Darya Alexandrovna.  “You can’t
understand it; for you men, who are free and make your
own choice, it’s always clear whom you love. 
But a girl’s in a position of suspense, with
all a woman’s or maiden’s modesty, a girl
who sees you men from afar, who takes everything on
trust, ­ a girl may have, and often has,
such a feeling that she cannot tell what to say.”

“Yes, if the heart does not speak…”

“No, the heart does speak; but
just consider:  you men have views about a girl,
you come to the house, you make friends, you criticize,
you wait to see if you have found what you love, and
then, when you are sure you love her, you make an offer….”

“Well, that’s not quite it.”

“Anyway you make an offer, when
your love is ripe or when the balance has completely
turned between the two you are choosing from. 
But a girl is not asked.  She is expected to
make her choice, and yet she cannot choose, she can
only answer ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”

“Yes, to choose between me and
Vronsky,” thought Levin, and the dead thing
that had come to life within him died again, and only
weighed on his heart and set it aching.

“Darya Alexandrovna,”
he said, “that’s how one chooses a new
dress or some purchase or other, not love.  The
choice has been made, and so much the better…. 
And there can be no repeating it.”

“Ah, pride, pride!” said
Darya Alexandrovna, as though despising him for the
baseness of this feeling in comparison with that other
feeling which only women know.  “At the
time when you made Kitty an offer she was just in
a position in which she could not answer.  She
was in doubt.  Doubt between you and Vronsky. 
Him she was seeing every day, and you she had not
seen for a long while.  Supposing she had been
older…I, for instance, in her place could have felt
no doubt.  I always disliked him, and so it has
turned out.”

Levin recalled Kitty’s answer. 
She had said:  “No, that cannot be…”

“Darya Alexandrovna,”
he said dryly, “I appreciate your confidence
in me; I believe you are making a mistake.  But
whether I am right or wrong, that pride you so despise
makes any thought of Katerina Alexandrovna out of
the question for me, ­ you understand, utterly
out of the question.”

“I will only say one thing more: 
you know that I am speaking of my sister, whom I love
as I love my own children.  I don’t say
she cared for you, all I meant to say is that her refusal
at that moment proves nothing.”

“I don’t know!”
said Levin, jumping up.  “If you only knew
how you are hurting me.  It’s just as if
a child of yours were dead, and they were to say to
you:  He would have been like this and like that,
and he might have lived, and how happy you would have
been in him.  But he’s dead, dead, dead!…”

“How absurd you are!”
said Darya Alexandrovna, looking with mournful tenderness
at Levin’s excitement.  “Yes, I see
it all more and more clearly,” she went on musingly. 
“So you won’t come to see us, then, when
Kitty’s here?”

“No, I shan’t come. 
Of course I won’t avoid meeting Katerina Alexandrovna,
but as far as I can, I will try to save her the annoyance
of my presence.”

“You are very, very absurd,”
repeated Darya Alexandrovna, looking with tenderness
into his face.  “Very well then, let it
be as though we had not spoken of this.  What
have you come for, Tanya?” she said in French
to the little girl who had come in.

“Where’s my spade, mamma?”

“I speak French, and you must too.”

The little girl tried to say it in
French, but could not remember the French for spade;
the mother prompted her, and then told her in French
where to look for the spade.  And this made a
disagreeable impression on Levin.

Everything in Darya Alexandrovna’s
house and children struck him now as by no means so
charming as a little while before.  “And
what does she talk French with the children for?”
he thought; “how unnatural and false it is! 
And the children feel it so:  Learning French
and unlearning sincerity,” he thought to himself,
unaware that Darya Alexandrovna had thought all that
over twenty times already, and yet, even at the cost
of some loss of sincerity, believed it necessary to
teach her children French in that way.

“But why are you going?  Do stay a little.”

Levin stayed to tea; but his good-humor
had vanished, and he felt ill at ease.

After tea he went out into the hall
to order his horses to be put in, and, when he came
back, he found Darya Alexandrovna greatly disturbed,
with a troubled face, and tears in her eyes. 
While Levin had been outside, an incident had occurred
which had utterly shattered all the happiness she
had been feeling that day, and her pride in her children. 
Grisha and Tanya had been fighting over a ball. 
Darya Alexandrovna, hearing a scream in the nursery,
ran in and saw a terrible sight.  Tanya was pulling
Grisha’s hair, while he, with a face hideous
with rage, was beating her with his fists wherever
he could get at her.  Something snapped in Darya
Alexandrovna’s heart when she saw this. 
It was as if darkness had swooped down upon her life;
she felt that these children of hers, that she was
so proud of, were not merely most ordinary, but positively
bad, ill-bred children, with coarse, brutal propensities ­wicked
children.

She could not talk or think of anything
else, and she could not speak to Levin of her misery.

Levin saw she was unhappy and tried
to comfort her, saying that it showed nothing bad,
that all children fight; but, even as he said it,
he was thinking in his heart:  “No, I won’t
be artificial and talk French with my children; but
my children won’t be like that.  All one
has to do is not spoil children, not to distort their
nature, and they’ll be delightful.  No,
my children won’t be like that.”

He said good-bye and drove away, and
she did not try to keep him.

 

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