FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 4

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

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Varenka, with her white kerchief on
her black hair, surrounded by the children, gaily
and good-humoredly looking after them, and at the
same time visibly excited at the possibility of receiving
a declaration from the man she cared for, was very
attractive.  Sergey Ivanovitch walked beside her,
and never left off admiring her.  Looking at
her, he recalled all the delightful things he had
heard from her lips, all the good he knew about her,
and became more and more conscious that the feeling
he had for her was something special that he had felt
long, long ago, and only once, in his early youth. 
The feeling of happiness in being near her continually
grew, and at last reached such a point that, as he
put a huge, slender-stalked agaric fungus in her basket,
he looked straight into her face, and noticing the
flush of glad and alarmed excitement that overspread
her face, he was confused himself, and smiled to her
in silence a smile that said too much.

“If so,” he said to himself,
“I ought to think it over and make up my mind,
and not give way like a boy to the impulse of a moment.”

“I’m going to pick by
myself apart from all the rest, or else my efforts
will make no show,” he said, and he left the
edge of the forest where they were walking on low
silky grass between old birch trees standing far apart,
and went more into the heart of the wood, where between
the white birch trunks there were gray trunks of aspen
and dark bushes of hazel.  Walking some forty
paces away, Sergey Ivanovitch, knowing he was out of
sight, stood still behind a bushy spindle-tree in
full flower with its rosy red catkins.  It was
perfectly still all round him.  Only overhead
in the birches under which he stood, the flies, like
a swarm of bees, buzzed unceasingly, and from time
to time the children’s voices were floated across
to him.  All at once he heard, not far from the
edge of the wood, the sound of Varenka’s contralto
voice, calling Grisha, and a smile of delight passed
over Sergey Ivanovitch’s face.  Conscious
of this smile, he shook his head disapprovingly at
his own condition, and taking out a cigar, he began
lighting it.  For a long while he could not get
a match to light against the trunk of a birch tree. 
The soft scales of the white bark rubbed off the
phosphorus, and the light went out.  At last
one of the matches burned, and the fragrant cigar
smoke, hovering uncertainly in flat, wide coils, stretched
away forwards and upwards over a bush under the overhanging
branches of a birch tree.  Watching the streak
of smoke, Sergey Ivanovitch walked gently on, deliberating
on his position.

“Why not?” he thought. 
“If it were only a passing fancy or a passion,
if it were only this attraction ­this mutual
attraction (I can call it a mutual attraction),
but if I felt that it was in contradiction with the
whole bent of my life ­if I felt that in
giving way to this attraction I should be false to
my vocation and my duty…but it’s not so. 
The only thing I can say against it is that, when
I lost Marie, I said to myself that I would remain
faithful to her memory.  That’s the only
thing I can say against my feeling….  That’s
a great thing,” Sergey Ivanovitch said to himself,
feeling at the same time that this consideration had
not the slightest importance for him personally, but
would only perhaps detract from his romantic character
in the eyes of others.  “But apart from
that, however much I searched, I should never find
anything to say against my feeling.  If I were
choosing by considerations of suitability alone, I
could not have found anything better.”

However many women and girls he thought
of whom he knew, he could not think of a girl who
united to such a degree all, positively all, the qualities
he would wish to see in his wife.  She had all
the charm and freshness of youth, but she was not a
child; and if she loved him, she loved him consciously
as a woman ought to love; that was one thing. 
Another point:  she was not only far from being
worldly, but had an unmistakable distaste for worldly
society, and at the same time she knew the world, and
had all the ways of a woman of the best society, which
were absolutely essential to Sergey Ivanovitch’s
conception of the woman who was to share his life. 
Thirdly:  she was religious, and not like a child,
unconsciously religious and good, as Kitty, for example,
was, but her life was founded on religious principles. 
Even in trifling matters, Sergey Ivanovitch found
in her all that he wanted in his wife:  she was
poor and alone in the world, so she would not bring
with her a mass of relations and their influence into
her husband’s house, as he saw now in Kitty’s
case.  She would owe everything to her husband,
which was what he had always desired too for his future
family life.  And this girl, who united all these
qualities, loved him.  He was a modest man, but
he could not help seeing it.  And he loved her. 
There was one consideration against it ­his
age.  But he came of a long-lived family, he
had not a single gray hair, no one would have taken
him for forty, and he remembered Varenka’s saying
that it was only in Russia that men of fifty thought
themselves old, and that in France a man of fifty
considers himself dans la force de l’âgé,
while a man of forty is un jeune homme
But what did the mere reckoning of years matter when
he felt as young in heart as he had been twenty years
ago?  Was it not youth to feel as he felt now,
when coming from the other side to the edge of the
wood he saw in the glowing light of the slanting sunbeams
the gracious figure of Varenka in her yellow gown
with her basket, walking lightly by the trunk of an
old birch tree, and when this impression of the sight
of Varenka blended so harmoniously with the beauty
of the view, of the yellow oatfield lying bathed in
the slanting sunshine, and beyond it the distant ancient
forest flecked with yellow and melting into the blue
of the distance?  His heart throbbed joyously. 
A softened feeling came over him.  He felt that
he had made up his mind.  Varenka, who had just
crouched down to pick a mushroom, rose with a supple
movement and looked round.  Flinging away the
cigar, Sergey Ivanovitch advanced with resolute steps
towards her.

 

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