FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 7

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

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Levin came back to the house only
when they sent to summon him to supper.  On the
stairs were standing Kitty and Agafea Mihalovna, consulting
about wines for supper.

“But why are you making all
this fuss?  Have what we usually do.”

“No, Stiva doesn’t drink…Kostya,
stop, what’s the matter?” Kitty began,
hurrying after him, but he strode ruthlessly away to
the dining room without waiting for her, and at once
joined in the lively general conversation which was
being maintained there by Vassenka Veslovsky and Stepan
Arkadyevitch.

“Well, what do you say, are
we going shooting tomorrow?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch.

“Please, do let’s go,”
said Veslovsky, moving to another chair, where he
sat down sideways, with one fat leg crossed under him.

“I shall be delighted, we will
go.  And have you had any shooting yet this year?”
said Levin to Veslovsky, looking intently at his leg,
but speaking with that forced amiability that Kitty
knew so well in him, and that was so out of keeping
with him.  “I can’t answer for our
finding grouse, but there are plenty of snipe. 
Only we ought to start early.  You’re not
tired?  Aren’t you tired, Stiva?”

“Me tired?  I’ve
never been tired yet.  Suppose we stay up all
night.  Let’s go for a walk!”

“Yes, really, let’s not
go to bed at all!  Capital!” Veslovsky
chimed in.

“Oh, we all know you can do
without sleep, and keep other people up too,”
Dolly said to her husband, with that faint note of
irony in her voice which she almost always had now
with her husband.  “But to my thinking,
it’s time for bed now….  I’m going,
I don’t want supper.”

“No, do stay a little, Dolly,”
said Stepan Arkadyevitch, going round to her side
behind the table where they were having supper. 
“I’ve so much still to tell you.”

“Nothing really, I suppose.”

“Do you know Veslovsky has been
at Anna’s, and he’s going to them again? 
You know they’re hardly fifty miles from you,
and I too must certainly go over there.  Veslovsky,
come here!”

Vassenka crossed over to the ladies,
and sat down beside Kitty.

“Ah, do tell me, please; you
have stayed with her?  How was she?” Darya
Alexandrovna appealed to him.

Levin was left at the other end of
the table, and though never pausing in his conversation
with the princess and Varenka, he saw that there was
an eager and mysterious conversation going on between
Stepan Arkadyevitch, Dolly, Kitty, and Veslovsky. 
And that was not all.  He saw on his wife’s
face an expression of real feeling as she gazed with
fixed eyes on the handsome face of Vassenka, who was
telling them something with great animation.

“It’s exceedingly nice
at their place,” Veslovsky was telling them
about Vronsky and Anna.  “I can’t,
of course, take it upon myself to judge, but in their
house you feel the real feeling of home.”

“What do they intend doing?”

“I believe they think of going to Moscow.”

“How jolly it would be for us
all to go over to them together!  When are you
going there?” Stepan Arkadyevitch asked Vassenka.

“I’m spending July there.”

“Will you go?” Stepan Arkadyevitch said
to his wife.

“I’ve been wanting to
a long while; I shall certainly go,” said Dolly. 
“I am sorry for her, and I know her.  She’s
a splendid woman.  I will go alone, when you
go back, and then I shall be in no one’s way. 
And it will be better indeed without you.”

“To be sure,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. 
“And you, Kitty?”

“I?  Why should I go?”
Kitty said, flushing all over, and she glanced round
at her husband.

“Do you know Anna Arkadyevna,
then?” Veslovsky asked her.  “She’s
a very fascinating woman.”

“Yes,” she answered Veslovsky,
crimsoning still more.  She got up and walked
across to her husband.

“Are you going shooting, then, tomorrow?”
she said.

His jealousy had in these few moments,
especially at the flush that had overspread her cheeks
while she was talking to Veslovsky, gone far indeed. 
Now as he heard her words, he construed them in his
own fashion.  Strange as it was to him afterwards
to recall it, it seemed to him at the moment clear
that in asking whether he was going shooting, all she
cared to know was whether he would give that pleasure
to Vassenka Veslovsky, with whom, as he fancied, she
was in love.

“Yes, I’m going,”
he answered her in an unnatural voice, disagreeable
to himself.

“No, better spend the day here
tomorrow, or Dolly won’t see anything of her
husband, and set off the day after,” said Kitty.

The motive of Kitty’s words
was interpreted by Levin thus:  “Don’t
separate me from him.  I don’t care
about your going, but do let me enjoy the society
of this delightful young man.”

“Oh, if you wish, we’ll
stay here tomorrow,” Levin answered, with peculiar
amiability.

Vassenka meanwhile, utterly unsuspecting
the misery his presence had occasioned, got up from
the table after Kitty, and watching her with smiling
and admiring eyes, he followed her.

Levin saw that look.  He turned
white, and for a minute he could hardly breathe. 
“How dare he look at my wife like that!”
was the feeling that boiled within him.

“Tomorrow, then?  Do, please,
let us go,” said Vassenka, sitting down on a
chair, and again crossing his leg as his habit was.

Levin’s jealousy went further
still.  Already he saw himself a deceived husband,
looked upon by his wife and her lover as simply necessary
to provide them with the conveniences and pleasures
of life….  But in spite of that he made polite
and hospitable inquiries of Vassenka about his shooting,
his gun, and his boots, and agreed to go shooting
next day.

Happily for Levin, the old princess
cut short his agonies by getting up herself and advising
Kitty to go to bed.  But even at this point Levin
could not escape another agony.  As he said good-night
to his hostess, Vassenka would again have kissed her
hand, but Kitty, reddening, drew back her hand and
said with a naïve bluntness, for which the old princess
scolded her afterwards: 

“We don’t like that fashion.”

In Levin’s eyes she was to blame
for having allowed such relations to arise, and still
more to blame for showing so awkwardly that she did
not like them.

“Why, how can one want to go
to bed!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, who, after
drinking several glasses of wine at supper, was now
in his most charming and sentimental humor. 
“Look, Kitty,” he said, pointing to the
moon, which had just risen behind the lime trees ­“how
exquisite!  Veslovsky, this is the time for a
serenade.  You know, he has a splendid voice;
we practiced songs together along the road. 
He has brought some lovely songs with him, two new
ones.  Varvara Andreevna and he must sing some
duets.”

When the party had broken up, Stepan
Arkadyevitch walked a long while about the avenue
with Veslovsky; their voices could be heard singing
one of the new songs.

Levin hearing these voices sat scowling
in an easy-chair in his wife’s bedroom, and
maintained an obstinate silence when she asked him
what was wrong.  But when at last with a timid
glance she hazarded the question:  “Was
there perhaps something you disliked about Veslovsky?” ­it
all burst out, and he told her all.  He was humiliated
himself at what he was saying, and that exasperated
him all the more.

He stood facing her with his eyes
glittering menacingly under his scowling brows, and
he squeezed his strong arms across his chest, as though
he were straining every nerve to hold himself in. 
The expression of his face would have been grim,
and even cruel, if it had not at the same time had
a look of suffering which touched her.  His jaws
were twitching, and his voice kept breaking.

“You must understand that I’m
not jealous, that’s a nasty word.  I can’t
be jealous, and believe that….  I can’t
say what I feel, but this is awful….  I’m
not jealous, but I’m wounded, humiliated that
anybody dare think, that anybody dare look at you
with eyes like that.”

“Eyes like what?” said
Kitty, trying as conscientiously as possible to recall
every word and gesture of that evening and every shade
implied in them.

At the very bottom of her heart she
did think there had been something precisely at the
moment when he had crossed over after her to the other
end of the table; but she dared not own it even to
herself, and would have been even more unable to bring
herself to say so to him, and so increase his suffering.

“And what can there possibly
be attractive about me as I am now?…”

“Ah!” he cried, clutching
at his head, “you shouldn’t say that!… 
If you had been attractive then…”

“Oh, no, Kostya, oh, wait a
minute, oh, do listen!” she said, looking at
him with an expression of pained commiseration. 
“Why, what can you be thinking about! 
When for me there’s no one in the world, no
one, no one!…  Would you like me never to see
anyone?”

For the first minute she had been
offended at his jealousy; she was angry that the slightest
amusement, even the most innocent, should be forbidden
her; but now she would readily have sacrificed, not
merely such trifles, but everything, for his peace
of mind, to save him from the agony he was suffering.

“You must understand the horror
and comedy of my position,” he went on in a
desperate whisper; “that he’s in my house,
that he’s done nothing improper positively except
his free and easy airs and the way he sits on his
legs.  He thinks it’s the best possible
form, and so I’m obliged to be civil to him.”

“But, Kostya, you’re exaggerating,”
said Kitty, at the bottom of her heart rejoicing at
the depth of his love for her, shown now in his jealousy.

“The most awful part of it all
is that you’re just as you always are, and especially
now when to me you’re something sacred, and
we’re so happy, so particularly happy ­and
all of a sudden a little wretch….  He’s
not a little wretch; why should I abuse him? 
I have nothing to do with him.  But why should
my, and your, happiness…”

“Do you know, I understand now
what it’s all come from,” Kitty was beginning.

“Well, what? what?”

“I saw how you looked while we were talking
at supper.”

“Well, well!” Levin said in dismay.

She told him what they had been talking
about.  And as she told him, she was breathless
with emotion.  Levin was silent for a space,
then he scanned her pale and distressed face, and suddenly
he clutched at his head.

“Katya, I’ve been worrying
you!  Darling, forgive me!  It’s madness! 
Katya, I’m a criminal.  And how could you
be so distressed at such idiocy?”

“Oh, I was sorry for you.”

“For me? for me?  How mad
I am!…  But why make you miserable?  It’s
awful to think that any outsider can shatter our happiness.”

“It’s humiliating too, of course.”

“Oh, then I’ll keep him
here all the summer, and will overwhelm him with civility,”
said Levin, kissing her hands.  “You shall
see.  Tomorrow….  Oh, yes, we are going
tomorrow.”

 

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