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PART FOUR : Chapter 14

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

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When Kitty had gone and Levin was
left alone, he felt such uneasiness without her, and
such an impatient longing to get as quickly, as quickly
as possible, to tomorrow morning, when he would see
her again and be plighted to her forever, that he felt
afraid, as though of death, of those fourteen hours
that he had to get through without her.  It was
essential for him to be with someone to talk to, so
as not to be left alone, to kill time.  Stepan
Arkadyevitch would have been the companion most congenial
to him, but he was going out, he said, to a soiree,
in reality to the ballet.  Levin only had time
to tell him he was happy, and that he loved him, and
would never, never forget what he had done for him. 
The eyes and the smile of Stepan Arkadyevitch showed
Levin that he comprehended that feeling fittingly.

“Oh, so it’s not time
to die yet?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, pressing
Levin’s hand with emotion.

“N-n-no!” said Levin.

Darya Alexandrovna too, as she said
good-bye to him, gave him a sort of congratulation,
saying, “How glad I am you have met Kitty again! 
One must value old friends.”  Levin did
not like these words of Darya Alexandrovna’s. 
She could not understand how lofty and beyond her
it all was, and she ought not to have dared to allude
to it.  Levin said good-bye to them, but, not
to be left alone, he attached himself to his brother.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to a meeting.”

“Well, I’ll come with you.  May I?”

“What for?  Yes, come along,”
said Sergey Ivanovitch, smiling.  “What
is the matter with you today?”

“With me?  Happiness is
the matter with me!” said Levin, letting down
the window of the carriage they were driving in. 
“You don’t mind? ­it’s
so stifling.  It’s happiness is the matter
with me!  Why is it you have never married?”

Sergey Ivanovitch smiled.

“I am very glad, she seems a
nice gi…”  Sergey Ivanovitch was beginning.

“Don’t say it! don’t
say it!” shouted Levin, clutching at the collar
of his fur coat with both hands, and muffling him up
in it.  “She’s a nice girl”
were such simple, humble words, so out of harmony
with his feeling.

Sergey Ivanovitch laughed outright
a merry laugh, which was rare with him.  “Well,
anyway, I may say that I’m very glad of it.”

“That you may do tomorrow, tomorrow
and nothing more!  Nothing, nothing, silence,”
said Levin, and muffling him once more in his fur
coat, he added:  “I do like you so! 
Well, is it possible for me to be present at the
meeting?”

“Of course it is.”

“What is your discussion about
today?” asked Levin, never ceasing smiling.

They arrived at the meeting. 
Levin heard the secretary hesitatingly read the minutes
which he obviously did not himself understand; but
Levin saw from this secretary’s face what a good,
nice, kind-hearted person he was.  This was evident
from his confusion and embarrassment in reading the
minutes.  Then the discussion began.  They
were disputing about the misappropriation of certain
sums and the laying of certain pipes, and Sergey Ivanovitch
was very cutting to two members, and said something
at great length with an air of triumph; and another
member, scribbling something on a bit of paper, began
timidly at first, but afterwards answered him very
viciously and delightfully.  And then Sviazhsky
(he was there too) said something too, very handsomely
and nobly.  Levin listened to them, and saw clearly
that these missing sums and these pipes were not anything
real, and that they were not at all angry, but were
all the nicest, kindest people, and everything was
as happy and charming as possible among them. 
They did no harm to anyone, and were all enjoying
it.  What struck Levin was that he could see through
them all today, and from little, almost imperceptible
signs knew the soul of each, and saw distinctly that
they were all good at heart.  And Levin himself
in particular they were all extremely fond of that
day.  That was evident from the way they spoke
to him, from the friendly, affectionate way even those
he did not know looked at him.

“Well, did you like it?”
Sergey Ivanovitch asked him.

“Very much.  I never supposed
it was so interesting!  Capital!  Splendid!”

Sviazhsky went up to Levin and invited
him to come round to tea with him.  Levin was
utterly at a loss to comprehend or recall what it
was he had disliked in Sviazhsky, what he had failed
to find in him.  He was a clever and wonderfully
good-hearted man.

“Most delighted,” he said,
and asked after his wife and sister-in-law. 
And from a queer association of ideas, because in
his imagination the idea of Sviazhsky’s sister-in-law
was connected with marriage, it occurred to him that
there was no one to whom he could more suitably speak
of his happiness, and he was very glad to go and see
them.

Sviazhsky questioned him about his
improvements on his estate, presupposing, as he always
did, that there was no possibility of doing anything
not done already in Europe, and now this did not in
the least annoy Levin.  On the contrary, he felt
that Sviazhsky was right, that the whole business
was of little value, and he saw the wonderful softness
and consideration with which Sviazhsky avoided fully
expressing his correct view.  The ladies of the
Sviazhsky household were particularly delightful. 
It seemed to Levin that they knew all about it already
and sympathized with him, saying nothing merely from
delicacy.  He stayed with them one hour, two,
three, talking of all sorts of subjects but the one
thing that filled his heart, and did not observe that
he was boring them dreadfully, and that it was long
past their bedtime.

Sviazhsky went with him into the hall,
yawning and wondering at the strange humor his friend
was in.  It was past one o’clock. 
Levin went back to his hotel, and was dismayed at the
thought that all alone now with his impatience he
had ten hours still left to get through.  The
servant, whose turn it was to be up all night, lighted
his candles, and would have gone away, but Levin stopped
him.  This servant, Yegor, whom Levin had noticed
before, struck him as a very intelligent, excellent,
and, above all, good-hearted man.

“Well, Yegor, it’s hard
work not sleeping, isn’t it?”

“One’s got to put up with
it!  It’s part of our work, you see. 
In a gentleman’s house it’s easier; but
then here one makes more.”

It appeared that Yegor had a family,
three boys and a daughter, a sempstress, whom he wanted
to marry to a cashier in a saddler’s shop.

Levin, on hearing this, informed Yegor
that, in his opinion, in marriage the great thing
was love, and that with love one would always be happy,
for happiness rests only on oneself.  Yegor listened
attentively, and obviously quite took in Levin’s
idea, but by way of assent to it he enunciated, greatly
to Levin’s surprise, the observation that when
he had lived with good masters he had always been
satisfied with his masters, and now was perfectly
satisfied with his employer, though he was a Frenchman.

“Wonderfully good-hearted fellow!” thought
Levin.

“Well, but you yourself, Yegor,
when you got married, did you love your wife?”

“Ay! and why not?” responded Yegor.

And Levin saw that Yegor too was in
an excited state and intending to express all his
most heartfelt emotions.

“My life, too, has been a wonderful
one.  From a child up…” he was beginning
with flashing eyes, apparently catching Levin’s
enthusiasm, just as people catch yawning.

But at that moment a ring was heard. 
Yegor departed, and Levin was left alone.  He
had eaten scarcely anything at dinner, had refused
tea and supper at Sviazhsky’s, but he was incapable
of thinking of supper.  He had not slept the
previous night, but was incapable of thinking of sleep
either.  His room was cold, but he was oppressed
by heat.  He opened both the movable panes in
his window and sat down to the table opposite the
open panes.  Over the snow-covered roofs could
be seen a decorated cross with chains, and above it
the rising triangle of Charles’s Wain with the
yellowish light of Capella.  He gazed at the cross,
then at the stars, drank in the fresh freezing air
that flowed evenly into the room, and followed as
though in a dream the images and memories that rose
in his imagination.  At four o’clock he
heard steps in the passage and peeped out at the door. 
It was the gambler Myaskin, whom he knew, coming
from the club.  He walked gloomily, frowning
and coughing.  “Poor, unlucky fellow!”
thought Levin, and tears came into his eyes from love
and pity for this man.  He would have talked
with him, and tried to comfort him, but remembering
that he had nothing but his shirt on, he changed his
mind and sat down again at the open pane to bathe in
the cold air and gaze at the exquisite lines of the
cross, silent, but full of meaning for him, and the
mounting lurid yellow star.  At seven o’clock
there was a noise of people polishing the floors,
and bells ringing in some servants’ department,
and Levin felt that he was beginning to get frozen. 
He closed the pane, washed, dressed, and went out
into the street.

 

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