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PART THREE : Chapter 9

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

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On the drive home, as Darya Alexandrovna,
with all her children round her, their heads still
wet from their bath, and a kerchief tied over her
own head, was getting near the house, the coachman
said, “There’s some gentleman coming: 
the master of Pokrovskoe, I do believe.”

Darya Alexandrovna peeped out in front,
and was delighted when she recognized in the gray
hat and gray coat the familiar figure of Levin walking
to meet them.  She was glad to see him at any
time, but at this moment she was specially glad he
should see her in all her glory.  No one was
better able to appreciate her grandeur than Levin.

Seeing her, he found himself face
to face with one of the pictures of his daydream of
family life.

“You’re like a hen with
your chickens, Darya Alexandrovna.”

“Ah, how glad I am to see you!”
she said, holding out her hand to him.

“Glad to see me, but you didn’t
let me know.  My brother’s staying with
me.  I got a note from Stiva that you were here.”

“From Stiva?” Darya Alexandrovna
asked with surprise.

“Yes; he writes that you are
here, and that he thinks you might allow me to be
of use to you,” said Levin, and as he said it
he became suddenly embarrassed, and, stopping abruptly,
he walked on in silence by the wagonette, snapping
off the buds of the lime trees and nibbling them. 
He was embarrassed through a sense that Darya Alexandrovna
would be annoyed by receiving from an outsider help
that should by rights have come from her own husband. 
Darya Alexandrovna certainly did not like this little
way of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s of foisting his
domestic duties on others.  And she was at once
aware that Levin was aware of this.  It was just
for this fineness of perception, for this delicacy,
that Darya Alexandrovna liked Levin.

“I know, of course,” said
Levin, “that that simply means that you would
like to see me, and I’m exceedingly glad. 
Though I can fancy that, used to town housekeeping
as you are, you must feel in the wilds here, and if
there’s anything wanted, I’m altogether
at your disposal.”

“Oh, no!” said Dolly. 
“At first things were rather uncomfortable,
but now we’ve settled everything capitally ­
thanks to my old nurse,” she said, indicating
Marya Philimonovna, who, seeing that they were speaking
of her, smiled brightly and cordially to Levin. 
She knew him, and knew that he would be a good match
for her young lady, and was very keen to see the matter
settled.

“Won’t you get in, sir,
we’ll make room this side!” she said to
him.

“No, I’ll walk. 
Children, who’d like to race the horses with
me?” The children knew Levin very little, and
could not remember when they had seen him, but they
experienced in regard to him none of that strange
feeling of shyness and hostility which children so
often experience towards hypocritical, grown-up people,
and for which they are so often and miserably punished. 
Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest
and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake
of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it,
however ingeniously it may be disguised.  Whatever
faults Levin had, there was not a trace of hypocrisy
in him, and so the children showed him the same friendliness
that they saw in their mother’s face.  On
his invitation, the two elder ones at once jumped
out to him and ran with him as simply as they would
have done with their nurse or Miss Hoole or their
mother.  Lily, too, began begging to go to him,
and her mother handed her to him; he sat her on his
shoulder and ran along with her.

“Don’t be afraid, don’t
be afraid, Darya Alexandrovna!” he said, smiling
good-humoredly to the mother; “there’s
no chance of my hurting or dropping her.”

And, looking at his strong, agile,
assiduously careful and needlessly wary movements,
the mother felt her mind at rest, and smiled gaily
and approvingly as she watched him.

Here, in the country, with children,
and with Darya Alexandrovna, with whom he was in sympathy,
Levin was in a mood not infrequent with him, of childlike
light-heartedness that she particularly liked in him. 
As he ran with the children, he taught them gymnastic
feats, set Miss Hoole laughing with his queer English
accent, and talked to Darya Alexandrovna of his pursuits
in the country.

After dinner, Darya Alexandrovna,
sitting alone with him on the balcony, began to speak
of Kitty.

“You know, Kitty’s coming
here, and is going to spend the summer with me.”

“Really,” he said, flushing,
and at once, to change the conversation, he said: 
“Then I’ll send you two cows, shall I? 
If you insist on a bill you shall pay me five roubles
a month; but it’s really too bad of you.”

“No, thank you.  We can manage very well
now.”

“Oh, well, then, I’ll
have a look at your cows, and if you’ll allow
me, I’ll give directions about their food. 
Everything depends on their food.”

And Levin, to turn the conversation,
explained to Darya Alexandrovna the theory of cow-keeping,
based on the principle that the cow is simply a machine
for the transformation of food into milk, and so on.

He talked of this, and passionately
longed to hear more of Kitty, and, at the same time,
was afraid of hearing it.  He dreaded the breaking
up of the inward peace he had gained with such effort.

“Yes, but still all this has
to be looked after, and who is there to look after
it?” Darya Alexandrovna responded, without
interest.

She had by now got her household matters
so satisfactorily arranged, thanks to Marya Philimonovna,
that she was disinclined to make any change in them;
besides, she had no faith in Levin’s knowledge
of farming.  General principles, as to the cow
being a machine for the production of milk, she looked
on with suspicion.  It seemed to her that such
principles could only be a hindrance in farm management. 
It all seemed to her a far simpler matter:  all
that was needed, as Marya Philimonovna had explained,
was to give Brindle and Whitebreast more food and
drink, and not to let the cook carry all the kitchen
slops to the laundry maid’s cow.  That was
clear.  But general propositions as to feeding
on meal and on grass were doubtful and obscure. 
And, what was most important, she wanted to talk
about Kitty.

 

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