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PART FIVE : Chapter 14

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

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Levin had been married three months. 
He was happy, but not at all in the way he had expected
to be.  At every step he found his former dreams
disappointed, and new, unexpected surprises of happiness. 
He was happy; but on entering upon family life he
saw at every step that it was utterly different from
what he had imagined.  At every step he experienced
what a man would experience who, after admiring the
smooth, happy course of a little boat on a lake, should
get himself into that little boat.  He saw that
it was not all sitting still, floating smoothly; that
one had to think too, not for an instant to forget
where one was floating; and that there was water under
one, and that one must row; and that his unaccustomed
hands would be sore; and that it was only to look
at it that was easy; but that doing it, though very
delightful, was very difficult.

As a bachelor, when he had watched
other people’s married life, seen the petty
cares, the squabbles, the jealousy, he had only smiled
contemptuously in his heart.  In his future married
life there could be, he was convinced, nothing of
that sort; even the external forms, indeed, he fancied,
must be utterly unlike the life of others in everything. 
And all of a sudden, instead of his life with his
wife being made on an individual pattern, it was,
on the contrary, entirely made up of the pettiest details,
which he had so despised before, but which now, by
no will of his own, had gained an extraordinary importance
that it was useless to contend against.  And
Levin saw that the organization of all these details
was by no means so easy as he had fancied before. 
Although Levin believed himself to have the most exact
conceptions of domestic life, unconsciously, like all
men, he pictured domestic life as the happiest enjoyment
of love, with nothing to hinder and no petty cares
to distract.  He ought, as he conceived the position,
to do his work, and to find repose from it in the
happiness of love.  She ought to be beloved, and
nothing more.  But, like all men, he forgot that
she too would want work.  And he was surprised
that she, his poetic, exquisite Kitty, could, not
merely in the first weeks, but even in the first days
of their married life, think, remember, and busy herself
about tablecloths, and furniture, about mattresses
for visitors, about a tray, about the cook, and the
dinner, and so on.  While they were still engaged,
he had been struck by the definiteness with which
she had declined the tour abroad and decided to go
into the country, as though she knew of something
she wanted, and could still think of something outside
her love.  This had jarred upon him then, and
now her trivial cares and anxieties jarred upon him
several times.  But he saw that this was essential
for her.  And, loving her as he did, though he
did not understand the reason of them, and jeered
at these domestic pursuits, he could not help admiring
them.  He jeered at the way in which she arranged
the furniture they had brought from Moscow; rearranged
their room; hung up curtains; prepared rooms for visitors;
a room for Dolly; saw after an abode for her new maid;
ordered dinner of the old cook; came into collision
with Agafea Mihalovna, taking from her the charge
of the stores.  He saw how the old cook smiled,
admiring her, and listening to her inexperienced,
impossible orders, how mournfully and tenderly Agafea
Mihalovna shook her head over the young mistress’s
new arrangements.  He saw that Kitty was extraordinarily
sweet when, laughing and crying, she came to tell
him that her maid, Masha, was used to looking upon
her as her young lady, and so no one obeyed her. 
It seemed to him sweet, but strange, and he thought
it would have been better without this.

He did not know how great a sense
of change she was experiencing; she, who at home had
sometimes wanted some favorite dish, or sweets, without
the possibility of getting either, now could order
what she liked, buy pounds of sweets, spend as much
money as she liked, and order any puddings she pleased.

She was dreaming with delight now
of Dolly’s coming to them with her children,
especially because she would order for the children
their favorite puddings and Dolly would appreciate
all her new housekeeping.  She did not know herself
why and wherefore, but the arranging of her house
had an irresistible attraction for her.  Instinctively
feeling the approach of spring, and knowing that there
would be days of rough weather too, she built her nest
as best she could, and was in haste at the same time
to build it and to learn how to do it.

This care for domestic details in
Kitty, so opposed to Levin’s ideal of exalted
happiness, was at first one of the disappointments;
and this sweet care of her household, the aim of which
he did not understand, but could not help loving, was
one of the new happy surprises.

Another disappointment and happy surprise
came in their quarrels.  Levin could never have
conceived that between him and his wife any relations
could arise other than tender, respectful and loving,
and all at once in the very early days they quarreled,
so that she said he did not care for her, that he
cared for no one but himself, burst into tears, and
wrung her arms.

This first quarrel arose from Levin’s
having gone out to a new farmhouse and having been
away half an hour too long, because he had tried to
get home by a short cut and had lost his way. 
He drove home thinking of nothing but her, of her
love, of his own happiness, and the nearer he drew
to home, the warmer was his tenderness for her. 
He ran into the room with the same feeling, with
an even stronger feeling than he had had when he reached
the Shtcherbatskys’ house to make his offer. 
And suddenly he was met by a lowering expression
he had never seen in her.  He would have kissed
her; she pushed him away.

“What is it?”

“You’ve been enjoying
yourself,” she began, trying to be calm and
spiteful.  But as soon as she opened her mouth,
a stream of reproach, of senseless jealousy, of all
that had been torturing her during that half hour
which she had spent sitting motionless at the window,
burst from her.  It was only then, for the first
time, that he clearly understood what he had not understood
when he led her out of the church after the wedding. 
He felt now that he was not simply close to her,
but that he did not know where he ended and she began. 
He felt this from the agonizing sensation of division
that he experienced at that instant.  He was offended
for the first instant, but the very same second he
felt that he could not be offended by her, that she
was himself.  He felt for the first moment as
a man feels when, having suddenly received a violent
blow from behind, he turns round, angry and eager to
avenge himself, to look for his antagonist, and finds
that it is he himself who has accidentally struck
himself, that there is no one to be angry with, and
that he must put up with and try to soothe the pain.

Never afterwards did he feel it with
such intensity, but this first time he could not for
a long while get over it.  His natural feeling
urged him to defend himself, to prove to her she was
wrong; but to prove her wrong would mean irritating
her still more and making the rupture greater that
was the cause of all his suffering.  One habitual
feeling impelled him to get rid of the blame and to
pass it on to her.  Another feeling, even stronger,
impelled him as quickly as possible to smooth over
the rupture without letting it grow greater. 
To remain under such undeserved reproach was wretched,
but to make her suffer by justifying himself was worse
still.  Like a man half-awake in an agony of
pain, he wanted to tear out, to fling away the aching
place, and coming to his senses, he felt that the
aching place was himself.  He could do nothing
but try to help the aching place to bear it, and this
he tried to do.

They made peace.  She, recognizing
that she was wrong, though she did not say so, became
tenderer to him, and they experienced new, redoubled
happiness in their love.  But that did not prevent
such quarrels from happening again, and exceedingly
often too, on the most unexpected and trivial grounds. 
These quarrels frequently arose from the fact that
they did not yet know what was of importance to each
other and that all this early period they were both
often in a bad temper.  When one was in a good
temper, and the other in a bad temper, the peace was
not broken; but when both happened to be in an ill-humor,
quarrels sprang up from such incomprehensibly trifling
causes, that they could never remember afterwards
what they had quarreled about.  It is true that
when they were both in a good temper their enjoyment
of life was redoubled.  But still this first
period of their married life was a difficult time
for them.

During all this early time they had
a peculiarly vivid sense of tension, as it were, a
tugging in opposite directions of the chain by which
they were bound.  Altogether their honeymoon ­that
is to say, the month after their wedding ­from
which from tradition Levin expected so much, was not
merely not a time of sweetness, but remained in the
memories of both as the bitterest and most humiliating
period in their lives.  They both alike tried
in later life to blot out from their memories all the
monstrous, shameful incidents of that morbid period,
when both were rarely in a normal frame of mind, both
were rarely quite themselves.

It was only in the third month of
their married life, after their return from Moscow,
where they had been staying for a month, that their
life began to go more smoothly.

 

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