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Chapter 4

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'age, 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.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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