FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 15

Leo TolstoyAug 25, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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After escorting his wife upstairs,
Levin went to Dolly’s part of the house. 
Darya Alexandrovna, for her part, was in great distress
too that day.  She was walking about the room,
talking angrily to a little girl, who stood in the
corner roaring.

“And you shall stand all day
in the corner, and have your dinner all alone, and
not see one of your dolls, and I won’t make you
a new frock,” she said, not knowing how to punish
her.

“Oh, she is a disgusting child!”
she turned to Levin.  “Where does she get
such wicked propensities?”

“Why, what has she done?”
Levin said without much interest, for he had wanted
to ask her advice, and so was annoyed that he had
come at an unlucky moment.

“Grisha and she went into the
raspberries, and there…I can’t tell you really
what she did.  It’s a thousand pities Miss
Elliot’s not with us.  This one sees to
nothing ­she’s a machine…. Figurez-vous
que la petite
?…”

And Darya Alexandrovna described Masha’s crime.

“That proves nothing; it’s
not a question of evil propensities at all, it’s
simply mischief,” Levin assured her.

“But you are upset about something? 
What have you come for?” asked Dolly. 
“What’s going on there?”

And in the tone of her question Levin
heard that it would be easy for him to say what he
had meant to say.

“I’ve not been in there,
I’ve been alone in the garden with Kitty. 
We’ve had a quarrel for the second time since…Stiva
came.”

Dolly looked at him with her shrewd,
comprehending eyes.

“Come, tell me, honor bright,
has there been…not in Kitty, but in that gentleman’s
behavior, a tone which might be unpleasant ­
not unpleasant, but horrible, offensive to a husband?”

“You mean, how shall I say…. 
Stay, stay in the corner!” she said to Masha,
who, detecting a faint smile in her mother’s
face, had been turning round.  “The opinion
of the world would be that he is behaving as young
men do behave. Il fait la cour a une jeune et
jolie femme
, and a husband who’s a man of
the world should only be flattered by it.”

“Yes, yes,” said Levin
gloomily; “but you noticed it?”

“Not only I, but Stiva noticed
it.  Just after breakfast he said to me in so
many words, Je crois que Veslovsky fait un petit
brin de cour a Kitty
.”

“Well, that’s all right
then; now I’m satisfied.  I’ll send
him away,” said Levin.

“What do you mean!  Are
you crazy?” Dolly cried in horror; “nonsense,
Kostya, only think!” she said, laughing. 
“You can go now to Fanny,” she said to
Masha.  “No, if you wish it, I’ll
speak to Stiva.  He’ll take him away. 
He can say you’re expecting visitors. 
Altogether he doesn’t fit into the house.”

“No, no, I’ll do it myself.”

“But you’ll quarrel with him?”

“Not a bit.  I shall so
enjoy it,” Levin said, his eyes flashing with
real enjoyment.  “Come, forgive her, Dolly,
she won’t do it again,” he said of the
little sinner, who had not gone to Fanny, but was
standing irresolutely before her mother, waiting and
looking up from under her brows to catch her mother’s
eye.

The mother glanced at her.  The
child broke into sobs, hid her face on her mother’s
lap, and Dolly laid her thin, tender hand on her head.

“And what is there in common
between us and him?” thought Levin, and he went
off to look for Veslovsky.

As he passed through the passage he
gave orders for the carriage to be got ready to drive
to the station.

“The spring was broken yesterday,” said
the footman.

“Well, the covered trap, then,
and make haste.  Where’s the visitor?”

“The gentleman’s gone to his room.”

Levin came upon Veslovsky at the moment
when the latter, having unpacked his things from his
trunk, and laid out some new songs, was putting on
his gaiters to go out riding.

Whether there was something exceptional
in Levin’s face, or that Vassenka was himself
conscious that ce petit brin de cour he was
making was out of place in this family, but he was
somewhat (as much as a young man in society can be)
disconcerted at Levin’s entrance.

“You ride in gaiters?”

“Yes, it’s much cleaner,”
said Vassenka, putting his fat leg on a chair, fastening
the bottom hook, and smiling with simple-hearted good
humor.

He was undoubtedly a good-natured
fellow, and Levin felt sorry for him and ashamed of
himself, as his host, when he saw the shy look on
Vassenka’s face.

On the table lay a piece of stick
which they had broken together that morning, trying
their strength.  Levin took the fragment in his
hands and began smashing it up, breaking bits off the
stick, not knowing how to begin.

“I wanted….”  He
paused, but suddenly, remembering Kitty and everything
that had happened, he said, looking him resolutely
in the face:  “I have ordered the horses
to be put-to for you.”

“How so?” Vassenka began
in surprise.  “To drive where?”

“For you to drive to the station,”
Levin said gloomily.

“Are you going away, or has something happened?”

“It happens that I expect visitors,”
said Levin, his strong fingers more and more rapidly
breaking off the ends of the split stick.  “And
I’m not expecting visitors, and nothing has
happened, but I beg you to go away.  You can explain
my rudeness as you like.”

Vassenka drew himself up.

“I beg you to explain…”
he said with dignity, understanding at last.

“I can’t explain,”
Levin said softly and deliberately, trying to control
the trembling of his jaw; “and you’d better
not ask.”

And as the split ends were all broken
off, Levin clutched the thick ends in his finger,
broke the stick in two, and carefully caught the end
as it fell.

Probably the sight of those nervous
fingers, of the muscles he had proved that morning
at gymnastics, of the glittering eyes, the soft voice,
and quivering jaws, convinced Vassenka better than
any words.  He bowed, shrugging his shoulders,
and smiling contemptuously.

“Can I not see Oblonsky?”

The shrug and the smile did not irritate Levin.

“What else was there for him to do?” he
thought.

“I’ll send him to you at once.”

“What madness is this?”
Stepan Arkadyevitch said when, after hearing from
his friend that he was being turned out of the house,
he found Levin in the garden, where he was walking
about waiting for his guest’s departure. “Mais
c’est ridicule!
What fly has stung you?
Mais c’est du dernier ridicule! What
did you think, if a young man…”

But the place where Levin had been
stung was evidently still sore, for he turned pale
again, when Stepan Arkadyevitch would have enlarged
on the reason, and he himself cut him short.

“Please don’t go into
it!  I can’t help it.  I feel ashamed
of how I’m treating you and him.  But it
won’t be, I imagine, a great grief to him to
go, and his presence was distasteful to me and to
my wife.”

“But it’s insulting to
him! Et puis c’est ridicule.”

“And to me it’s both insulting
and distressing!  And I’m not at fault
in any way, and there’s no need for me to suffer.”

“Well, this I didn’t expect
of you! On peut être jaloux, maïs a ce point,
c’est du dernier ridicule!

Levin turned quickly, and walked away
from him into the depths of the avenue, and he went
on walking up and down alone.  Soon he heard
the rumble of the trap, and saw from behind the trees
how Vassenka, sitting in the hay (unluckily there
was no seat in the trap) in his Scotch cap, was driven
along the avenue, jolting up and down over the ruts.

“What’s this?” Levin
thought, when a footman ran out of the house and stopped
the trap.  It was the mechanician, whom Levin
had totally forgotten.  The mechanician, bowing
low, said something to Veslovsky, then clambered into
the trap, and they drove off together.

Stepan Arkadyevitch and the princess
were much upset by Levin’s action.  And
he himself felt not only in the highest degree ridicule,
but also utterly guilty and disgraced.  But remembering
what sufferings he and his wife had been through, when
he asked himself how he should act another time, he
answered that he should do just the same again.

In spite of all this, towards the
end of that day, everyone except the princess, who
could not pardon Levin’s action, became extraordinarily
lively and good humored, like children after a punishment
or grown-up people after a dreary, ceremonious reception,
so that by the evening Vassenka’s dismissal was
spoken of, in the absence of the princess, as though
it were some remote event.  And Dolly, who had
inherited her father’s gift of humorous storytelling,
made Varenka helpless with laughter as she related
for the third and fourth time, always with fresh humorous
additions, how she had only just put on her new shoes
for the benefit of the visitor, and on going into
the drawing room, heard suddenly the rumble of the
trap.  And who should be in the trap but Vassenka
himself, with his Scotch cap, and his songs and his
gaiters, and all, sitting in the hay.

“If only you’d ordered
out the carriage!  But no! and then I hear: 
‘Stop!’ Oh, I thought they’ve relented. 
I look out, and behold a fat German being sat down
by him and driving away….  And my new shoes
all for nothing!…”

 

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