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Chapter 14

Levin had been married three months. He was happy, but not at
all in the way he had expected to be. At every step he found his
former dreams disappointed, and new, unexpected surprises of
happiness. He was happy; but on entering upon family life he saw
at every step that it was utterly different from what he had
imagined. At every step he experienced what a man would
experience who, after admiring the smooth, happy course of a
little boat on a lake, should get himself into that little boat.
He saw that it was not all sitting still, floating smoothly; that
one had to think too, not for an instant to forget where one was
floating; and that there was water under one, and that one must
row; and that his unaccustomed hands would be sore; and that it
was only to look at it that was easy; but that doing it, though
very delightful, was very difficult.

As a bachelor, when he had watched other people's married life,
seen the petty cares, the squabbles, the jealousy, he had only
smiled contemptuously in his heart. In his future married life
there could be, he was convinced, nothing of that sort; even the
external forms, indeed, he fancied, must be utterly unlike the
life of others in everything. And all of a sudden, instead of
his life with his wife being made on an individual pattern, it
was, on the contrary, entirely made up of the pettiest details,
which he had so despised before, but which now, by no will of his
own, had gained an extraordinary importance that it was useless
to contend against. And Levin saw that the organization of all
these details was by no means so easy as he had fancied before.
Although Levin believed himself to have the most exact
conceptions of domestic life, unconsciously, like all men, he
pictured domestic life as the happiest enjoyment of love, with
nothing to hinder and no petty cares to distract. He ought, as
he conceived the position, to do his work, and to find repose
from it in the happiness of love. She ought to be beloved, and
nothing more. But, like all men, he forgot that she too would
want work. And he was surprised that she, his poetic, exquisite
Kitty, could, not merely in the first weeks, but even in the
first days of their married life, think, remember, and busy
herself about tablecloths, and furniture, about mattresses for
visitors, about a tray, about the cook, and the dinner, and so
on. While they were still engaged, he had been struck by the
definiteness with which she had declined the tour abroad and
decided to go into the country, as though she knew of something
she wanted, and could still think of something outside her love.
This had jarred upon him then, and now her trivial cares and
anxieties jarred upon him several times. But he saw that this
was essential for her. And, loving her as he did, though he did
not understand the reason of them, and jeered at these domestic
pursuits, he could not help admiring them. He jeered at the way
in which she arranged the furniture they had brought from Moscow;
rearranged their room; hung up curtains; prepared rooms for
visitors; a room for Dolly; saw after an abode for her new maid;
ordered dinner of the old cook; came into collision with Agafea
Mihalovna, taking from her the charge of the stores. He saw how
the old cook smiled, admiring her, and listening to her
inexperienced, impossible orders, how mournfully and tenderly
Agafea Mihalovna shook her head over the young mistress's new
arrangements. He saw that Kitty was extraordinarily sweet when,
laughing and crying, she came to tell him that her maid, Masha,
was used to looking upon her as her young lady, and so no one
obeyed her. It seemed to him sweet, but strange, and he thought
it would have been better without this.

He did not know how great a sense of change she was experiencing;
she, who at home had sometimes wanted some favorite dish, or
sweets, without the possibility of getting either, now could
order what she liked, buy pounds of sweets, spend as much money
as she liked, and order any puddings she pleased.

She was dreaming with delight now of Dolly's coming to them with
her children, especially because she would order for the children
their favorite puddings and Dolly would appreciate all her new
housekeeping. She did not know herself why and wherefore, but
the arranging of her house had an irresistible attraction for
her. Istinctively feeling the approach of spring, and knowing
that there would be days of rough weather too, she built her nest
as best she could, and was in haste at the same time to build it
and to learn how to do it.

This care for domestic details in Kitty, so opposed to Levin's
ideal of exalted happiness, was at first one of the
disappointments; and this sweet care of her household, the aim of
which he did not understand, but could not help loving, was one
of the new happy surprises.

Another disappointment and happy surprise came in their quarrels.
Levin could never have conceived that between him and his wife
any relations could arise other than tender, respectful and
loving, and all at once in the very early days they quarreled, so
that she said he did not care for her, that he cared for no one
but himself, burst into tears, and wrung her arms.

This first quarrel arose from Levin's having gone out to a new
farmhouse and having been away half an hour too long, because he
had tried to get home by a short cut and had lost his way. He
drove home thinking of nothing but her, of her love, of his own
happiness, and the nearer he drew to home, the warmer was his
tenderness for her. He ran into the room with the same feeling,
with an even stronger feeling than he had had when he reached the
Shtcherbatskys' house to make his offer. And suddenly he was met
by a lowering expression he had never seen in her. He would have
kissed her; she pushed him away.

"What is it?"

"You've been enjoying yourself," she began, trying to be calm and
spiteful. But as soon as she opened her mouth, a stream of
reproach, of senseless jealousy, of all that had been torturing
her during that half hour which she had spent sitting motionless
at the window, burst from her. It was only then, for the first
time, that he clearly understood what he had not understood when
he led her out of the church after the wedding. He felt now that
he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he
ended and she began. He felt this from the agonizing sensation
of division that he experienced at that instant. He was offended
for the first instant, but the very same second he felt that he
could not be offended by her, that she was himself. He felt for
the first moment as a man feels when, having suddenly received a
violent blow from behind, he turns round, angry and eager to
avenge himself, to look for his antagonist, and finds that it is
he himself who has accidentally struck himself, that there is no
one to be angry with, and that he must put up with and try to
soothe the pain.

Never afterwards did he feel it with such intensity, but this
first time he could not for a long while get over it. His
natural feeling urged him to defend himself, to prove to her she
was wrong; but to prove her wrong would mean irritating her still
more and making the rupture greater that was the cause of all his
suffering. One habitual feeling impelled him to get rid of the
blame and to pass it on her. Another feeling, even stronger,
impelled him as quickly as possible to smooth over the rupture
without letting it grow greater. To remain under such undeserved
reproach was wretched, but to make her suffer by justifying
himself was worse still. Like a man half-awake in an agony of
pain, he wanted to tear out, to fling away the aching place, and
coming to his senses, he felt that the aching place was himself.
He could do nothing but try to help the aching place to bear it,
and this he tried to do.

They made peace. She, recognizing that she was wrong, though she
did not say so, became tenderer to him, and they experienced new,
redoubled happiness in their love. But that did not prevent such
quarrels from happening again, and exceedingly often too, on the
most unexpected and trivial grounds. These quarrels frequently
arose from the fact that they did not yet know what was of
importance to each other and that all this early period they were
both often in a bad temper. When one was in a good temper, and
the other in a bad temper, the peace was not broken; but when
both happened to be in an ill-humor, quarrels sprang up from such
incomprehensibly trifling causes, that they could never remember
afterwards what they had quarreled about. It is true that when
they were both in a good temper their enjoyment of life was
redoubled. But still this first period of their married life was
a difficult time for them.

During all this early time they had a peculiarly vivid sense of
tension, as it were, a tugging in opposite directions of the
chain by which they were bound. Altogether their honeymoon--that
is to say, the month after their wedding--from which from
tradition Levin expected so much, was not merely not a time of
sweetness, but remained in the memories of both as the bitterest
and most humiliating period in their lives. They both alike
tried in later life to blot out from their memories all the
monstrous, shameful incidents of that morbid period, when both
were rarely in a normal frame of mind, both were rarely quite

It was only in the third month of their married life, after their
return from Moscow, where they had been staying for a month, that
their life began to go more smoothly.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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