FictionForest

PART FIVE : Chapter 16

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

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When Levin went upstairs, his wife
was sitting near the new silver samovar behind the
new tea service, and, having settled old Agafea Mihalovna
at a little table with a full cup of tea, was reading
a letter from Dolly, with whom they were in continual
and frequent correspondence.

“You see, your good lady’s
settled me here, told me to sit a bit with her,”
said Agafea Mihalovna, smiling affectionately at Kitty.

In these words of Agafea Mihalovna,
Levin read the final act of the drama which had been
enacted of late between her and Kitty.  He saw
that, in spite of Agafea Mihalovna’s feelings
being hurt by a new mistress taking the reins of government
out of her hands, Kitty had yet conquered her and
made her love her.

“Here, I opened your letter
too,” said Kitty, handing him an illiterate
letter.  “It’s from that woman, I
think, your brother’s…” she said. 
“I did not read it through.  This is from
my people and from Dolly.  Fancy!  Dolly
took Tanya and Grisha to a children’s ball at
the Sarmatskys’:  Tanya was a French marquise.”

But Levin did not hear her. 
Flushing, he took the letter from Marya Nikolaevna,
his brother’s former mistress, and began to
read it.  This was the second letter he had received
from Marya Nikolaevna.  In the first letter,
Marya Nikolaevna wrote that his brother had sent her
away for no fault of hers, and, with touching simplicity,
added that though she was in want again, she asked
for nothing, and wished for nothing, but was only tormented
by the thought that Nikolay Dmitrievitch would come
to grief without her, owing to the weak state of his
health, and begged his brother to look after him. 
Now she wrote quite differently.  She had found
Nikolay Dmitrievitch, had again made it up with him
in Moscow, and had moved with him to a provincial town,
where he had received a post in the government service. 
But that he had quarreled with the head official,
and was on his way back to Moscow, only he had been
taken so ill on the road that it was doubtful if he
would ever leave his bed again, she wrote.  “It’s
always of you he has talked, and, besides, he has no
more money left.”

“Read this; Dolly writes about
you,” Kitty was beginning, with a smile; but
she stopped suddenly, noticing the changed expression
on her husband’s face.

“What is it?  What’s the matter?”

“She writes to me that Nikolay,
my brother, is at death’s door.  I shall
go to him.”

Kitty’s face changed at once. 
Thoughts of Tanya as a marquise, of Dolly, all had
vanished.

“When are you going?” she said.

“Tomorrow.”

“And I will go with you, can I?” she said.

“Kitty!  What are you thinking of?”
he said reproachfully.

“How do you mean?” offended
that he should seem to take her suggestion unwillingly
and with vexation.  “Why shouldn’t
I go?  I shan’t be in your way.  I…”

“I’m going because my
brother is dying,” said Levin.  “Why
should you…”

“Why?  For the same reason as you.”

“And, at a moment of such gravity
for me, she only thinks of her being dull by herself,”
thought Levin.  And this lack of candor in a
matter of such gravity infuriated him.

“It’s out of the question,” he said
sternly.

Agafea Mihalovna, seeing that it was
coming to a quarrel, gently put down her cup and withdrew. 
Kitty did not even notice her.  The tone in which
her husband had said the last words wounded her, especially
because he evidently did not believe what she had
said.

“I tell you, that if you go,
I shall come with you; I shall certainly come,”
she said hastily and wrathfully.  “Why out
of the question?  Why do you say it’s out
of the question?”

“Because it’ll be going
God knows where, by all sorts of roads and to all
sorts of hotels.  You would be a hindrance to
me,” said Levin, trying to be cool.

“Not at all.  I don’t
want anything.  Where you can go, I can….”

“Well, for one thing then, because
this woman’s there whom you can’t meet.”

“I don’t know and don’t
care to know who’s there and what.  I know
that my husband’s brother is dying and my husband
is going to him, and I go with my husband too….”

“Kitty!  Don’t get
angry.  But just think a little:  this is
a matter of such importance that I can’t bear
to think that you should bring in a feeling of weakness,
of dislike to being left alone.  Come, you’ll
be dull alone, so go and stay at Moscow a little.”

“There, you always ascribe base,
vile motives to me,” she said with tears of
wounded pride and fury.  “I didn’t
mean, it wasn’t weakness, it wasn’t…I
feel that it’s my duty to be with my husband
when he’s in trouble, but you try on purpose
to hurt me, you try on purpose not to understand….”

“No; this is awful!  To
be such a slave!” cried Levin, getting up, and
unable to restrain his anger any longer.  But
at the same second he felt that he was beating himself.

“Then why did you marry? 
You could have been free.  Why did you, if you
regret it?” she said, getting up and running
away into the drawing room.

When he went to her, she was sobbing.

He began to speak, trying to find
words not to dissuade but simply to soothe her. 
But she did not heed him, and would not agree to
anything.  He bent down to her and took her hand,
which resisted him.  He kissed her hand, kissed
her hair, kissed her hand again ­still she
was silent.  But when he took her face in both
his hands and said “Kitty!” she suddenly
recovered herself, and began to cry, and they were
reconciled.

It was decided that they should go
together the next day.  Levin told his wife that
he believed she wanted to go simply in order to be
of use, agreed that Marya Nikolaevna’s being
with his brother did not make her going improper,
but he set off at the bottom of his heart dissatisfied
both with her and with himself.  He was dissatisfied
with her for being unable to make up her mind to let
him go when it was necessary (and how strange it was
for him to think that he, so lately hardly daring
to believe in such happiness as that she could love
him ­now was unhappy because she loved him
too much!), and he was dissatisfied with himself for
not showing more strength of will.  Even greater
was the feeling of disagreement at the bottom of his
heart as to her not needing to consider the woman
who was with his brother, and he thought with horror
of all the contingencies they might meet with. 
The mere idea of his wife, his Kitty, being in the
same room with a common wench, set him shuddering
with horror and loathing.

 

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