FictionForest

PART FIVE : Chapter 15

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

Light off Small Medium Large

They had just come back from Moscow,
and were glad to be alone.  He was sitting at
the writing table in his study, writing.  She,
wearing the dark lilac dress she had worn during the
first days of their married life, and put on again
today, a dress particularly remembered and loved by
him, was sitting on the sofa, the same old-fashioned
leather sofa which had always stood in the study in
Levin’s father’s and grandfather’s
days.  She was sewing at broderie anglaise
He thought and wrote, never losing the happy consciousness
of her presence.  His work, both on the land
and on the book, in which the principles of the new
land system were to be laid down, had not been abandoned;
but just as formerly these pursuits and ideas had
seemed to him petty and trivial in comparison with
the darkness that overspread all life, now they seemed
as unimportant and petty in comparison with the life
that lay before him suffused with the brilliant light
of happiness.  He went on with his work, but
he felt now that the center of gravity of his attention
had passed to something else, and that consequently
he looked at his work quite differently and more clearly. 
Formerly this work had been for him an escape from
life.  Formerly he had felt that without this
work his life would be too gloomy.  Now these
pursuits were necessary for him that life might not
be too uniformly bright.  Taking up his manuscript,
reading through what he had written, he found with
pleasure that the work was worth his working at. 
Many of his old ideas seemed to him superfluous and
extreme, but many blanks became distinct to him when
he reviewed the whole thing in his memory.  He
was writing now a new chapter on the causes of the
present disastrous condition of agriculture in Russia. 
He maintained that the poverty of Russia arises not
merely from the anomalous distribution of landed property
and misdirected reforms, but that what had contributed
of late years to this result was the civilization
from without abnormally grafted upon Russia, especially
facilities of communication, as railways, leading
to centralization in towns, the development of luxury,
and the consequent development of manufactures, credit
and its accompaniment of speculation ­all
to the detriment of agriculture.  It seemed to
him that in a normal development of wealth in a state
all these phenomena would arise only when a considerable
amount of labor had been put into agriculture, when
it had come under regular, or at least definite, conditions;
that the wealth of a country ought to increase proportionally,
and especially in such a way that other sources of
wealth should not outstrip agriculture; that in harmony
with a certain stage of agriculture there should be
means of communication corresponding to it, and that
in our unsettled condition of the land, railways,
called into being by political and not by economic
needs, were premature, and instead of promoting agriculture,
as was expected of them, they were competing with
agriculture and promoting the development of manufactures
and credit, and so arresting its progress; and that
just as the one-sided and premature development of
one organ in an animal would hinder its general development,
so in the general development of wealth in Russia,
credit, facilities of communication, manufacturing
activity, indubitably necessary in Europe, where they
had arisen in their proper time, had with us only
done harm, by throwing into the background the chief
question calling for settlement ­the question
of the organization of agriculture.

While he was writing his ideas she
was thinking how unnaturally cordial her husband had
been to young Prince Tcharsky, who had, with great
want of tact, flirted with her the day before they
left Moscow.  “He’s jealous,”
she thought.  “Goodness! how sweet and
silly he is!  He’s jealous of me! 
If he knew that I think no more of them than of Piotr
the cook,” she thought, looking at his head
and red neck with a feeling of possession strange to
herself.  “Though it’s a pity to take
him from his work (but he has plenty of time!), I
must look at his face; will he feel I’m looking
at him?  I wish he’d turn round…I’ll
will him to!” and she opened her eyes
wide, as though to intensify the influence of her
gaze.

“Yes, they draw away all the
sap and give a false appearance of prosperity,”
he muttered, stopping to write, and, feeling that
she was looking at him and smiling, he looked round.

“Well?” he queried, smiling, and getting
up.

“He looked round,” she thought.

“It’s nothing; I wanted
you to look round,” she said, watching him,
and trying to guess whether he was vexed at being
interrupted or not.

“How happy we are alone together! ­I
am, that is,” he said, going up to her with
a radiant smile of happiness.

“I’m just as happy. 
I’ll never go anywhere, especially not to Moscow.”

“And what were you thinking about?”

“I?  I was thinking…. 
No, no, go along, go on writing; don’t break
off,” she said, pursing up her lips, “and
I must cut out these little holes now, do you see?”

She took up her scissors and began cutting them out.

“No; tell me, what was it?”
he said, sitting down beside her and watching the
tiny scissors moving round.

“Oh! what was I thinking about? 
I was thinking about Moscow, about the back of your
head.”

“Why should I, of all people,
have such happiness!  It’s unnatural, too
good,” he said, kissing her hand.

“I feel quite the opposite;
the better things are, the more natural it seems to
me.”

“And you’ve got a little
curl loose,” he said, carefully turning her
head round.

“A little curl, oh yes. 
No, no, we are busy at our work!”

Work did not progress further, and
they darted apart from one another like culprits when
Kouzma came in to announce that tea was ready.

“Have they come from the town?” Levin
asked Kouzma.

“They’ve just come; they’re unpacking
the things.”

“Come quickly,” she said
to him as she went out of the study, “or else
I shall read your letters without you.”

Left alone, after putting his manuscripts
together in the new portfolio bought by her, he washed
his hands at the new washstand with the elegant fittings,
that had all made their appearance with her. 
Levin smiled at his own thoughts, and shook his head
disapprovingly at those thoughts; a feeling akin to
remorse fretted him.  There was something shameful,
effeminate, Capuan, as he called it to himself, in
his present mode of life.  “It’s
not right to go on like this,” he thought. 
“It’ll soon be three months, and I’m
doing next to nothing.  Today, almost for the
first time, I set to work seriously, and what happened? 
I did nothing but begin and throw it aside. 
Even my ordinary pursuits I have almost given up. 
On the land I scarcely walk or drive about at all
to look after things.  Either I am loath to leave
her, or I see she’s dull alone.  And I used
to think that, before marriage, life was nothing much,
somehow didn’t count, but that after marriage,
life began in earnest.  And here almost three
months have passed, and I have spent my time so idly
and unprofitably.  No, this won’t do; I
must begin.  Of course, it’s not her fault. 
She’s not to blame in any way.  I ought
myself to be firmer, to maintain my masculine independence
of action; or else I shall get into such ways, and
she’ll get used to them too….  Of course
she’s not to blame,” he told himself.

But it is hard for anyone who is dissatisfied
not to blame someone else, and especially the person
nearest of all to him, for the ground of his dissatisfaction. 
And it vaguely came into Levin’s mind that
she herself was not to blame (she could not be to
blame for anything), but what was to blame was her
education, too superficial and frivolous. (“That
fool Tcharsky:  she wanted, I know, to stop him,
but didn’t know how to.”) “Yes, apart
from her interest in the house (that she has), apart
from dress and broderie anglaise, she has no
serious interests.  No interest in her work,
in the estate, in the peasants, nor in music, though
she’s rather good at it, nor in reading. 
She does nothing, and is perfectly satisfied.” 
Levin, in his heart, censured this, and did not as
yet understand that she was preparing for that period
of activity which was to come for her when she would
at once be the wife of her husband and mistress of
the house, and would bear, and nurse, and bring up
children.  He knew not that she was instinctively
aware of this, and preparing herself for this time
of terrible toil, did not reproach herself for the
moments of carelessness and happiness in her love
that she enjoyed now while gaily building her nest
for the future.

 

Leave a Reply