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Chapter 14


Next day at ten o'clock Levin, who had already gone his rounds,
knocked at the room where Vassenka had been put for the night.

"Entrez!" Veslovsky called to him. "Excuse me, I've only just
finished my ablutions," he said, smiling, standing before him in
his underclothes only.

"Don't mind me, please." Levin sat down in the window. "Have
you slept well?"

"Like the dead. What sort of day is it for shooting?"

"What will you take, tea or coffee?"

"Neither. I'll wait till lunch. I'm really ashamed. I suppose
the ladies are down? A walk now would be capital. You show me
your horses."

After walking about the garden, visiting the stable, and even
doing some gymnastic exercises together on the parallel bars,
Levin returned to the house with his guest, and went with him
into the drawing room.

"We had splendid shooting, and so many delightful experiences!"
said Veslovsky, going up to Kitty, who was sitting at the
samovar. "What a pity ladies are cut off from these delights!"

"Well, I suppose he must say something to the lady of the house,"
Levin said to himself. Again he fancied something in the smile,
in the all-conquering air with which their guest addressed
Kitty....

The princess, sitting on the other side of the table with Marya
Vlasyevna and Stepan Arkadyevitch, called Levin to her side, and
began to talk to him about moving to Moscow for Kitty's
confinement, and getting ready rooms for them. Just as Levin
had disliked all the trivial preparations for his wedding, as
derogatory to the grandeur of the event, now he felt still more
offensive the preparations for the approaching birth, the date of
which they reckoned, it seemed, on their fingers. He tried to
turn a deaf ear to these discussions of the best patterns of long
clothes for the coming baby; tried to turn away and avoid seeing
the mysterious, endless strips of knitting, the triangles of
linen, and so on, to which Dolly attached special importance.
The birth of a son (he was certain it would be a son) which was
promised him, but which he still could not believe in--so
marvelous it seemed--presented itself to his mind, on one hand,
as a happiness so immense, and therefore so incredible; on the
other, as an event so mysterious, that this assumption of a
definite knowledge of what would be, and consequent preparation
for it, as for something ordinary that did happen to people,
jarred on him as confusing and humiliating.

But the princess did not understand his feelings, and put down
his reluctance to think and talk about it to carelessness and
indifference, and so she gave him no peace. She had commissioned
Stepan Arkadyevitch to look at a fiat, and now she called Levin
up.

"I know nothing about it, princess. Do as you think fit," he
said.

"You must decide when you will move."

"I really don't know. I know millions of children are born away
from Moscow, and doctors...why..."

"But if so..."

"Oh, no, as Kitty wishes."

"We can't talk to Kitty about it! Do you want me to frighten
her? Why, this spring Natalia Golitzina died from having an
ignorant doctor."

"I will do just what you say," he said gloomily.

The princess began talking to him, but he did not hear her.
Though the conversation with the princess had indeed jarred upon
him, he was gloomy, not on account of that conversation, but from
what he saw at the samovar.

"No, it's impossible," he thought, glancing now and then at
Vassenka bending over Kitty, telling her something with his
charming smile, and at her, flushed and disturbed.

There was something not nice in Vassenka's attitude, in his eyes,
in his smile. Levin even saw something not nice in Kitty's
attitude and look. And again the light died away in his eyes.
Again, as before, all of a sudden, without the slightest
transition, he felt cast down from a pinnacle of happiness,
peace, and dignity, into an abyss of despair, rage, and
humiliation. Again everything and everyone had become hateful to
him.

"You do just as you think best, princess," he said again, looking
round.

"Heavy is the cap of Monomach," Stepan Arkadyevitch said
playfully, hinting, evidently, not simply at the princess's
conversation, but at the cause of Levin's agitation, which he had
noticed.

"How late you are today, Dolly!"

Everyone got up to greet Darya Alexandrovna. Vassenka only rose
for an instant, and with the lack of courtesy to ladies
characteristic of the modern young man, he scarcely bowed, and
resumed his conversation again, laughing at something.

"I've been worried about Masha. She did not sleep well, and is
dreadfully tiresome today," said Dolly.

The conversation Vassenka had started with Kitty was running on
the same lines as on the previous evening, discussing Anna, and
whether love is to be put higher than worldly considerations.
Kitty disliked the conversation, and she was disturbed both by
the subject and the tone in which it was conducted, and also by
the knowledge of the effect it would have on her husband. But
she was too simple and innocent to know how to cut short this
conversation, or even to conceal the superficial pleasure
afforded her by the young man's very obvious admiration. She
wanted to stop it, but she did not know what to do. Whatever she
did she knew would be observed by her husband, and the worst
interpretation put on it. And, in fact, when she asked Dolly
what was wrong with Masha, and Vassenka, waiting till this
uninteresting conversation was over, began to gaze indifferently
at Dolly, the question struck Levin as an unnatural and
disgusting piece of hypocrisy.

"What do you say, shall we go and look for mushrooms today?" said
Dolly.

"By all means, please, and I shall come too," said Kitty, and she
blushed. She wanted from politeness to ask Vassenka whether he
would come, and she did not ask him. "Where are you going,
Kostya?" she asked her husband with a guilty face, as he passed
by her with a resolute step. This guilty air confirmed all his
suspicions.

"The mechanician came when I was away; I haven't seen him yet,"
he said, not looking at her.

He went downstairs, but before he had time to leave his study he
heard his wife's familiar footsteps running with reckless speed
to him.

"What do you want?" he said to her shortly. "We are busy."

"I beg your pardon," she said to the German mechanician; "I want
a few words with my husband."

The German would have left the room, but Levin said to him:

"Don't disturb yourself."

"The train is at three?" queried the German. "I mustn't be
late."

Levin did not answer him, but walked out himself with his wife.

"Well, what have you to say to me?" he said to her in French.

He did not look her in the face, and did not care to see that she
in her condition was trembling all over, and had a piteous,
crushed look.

"I...I want to say that we can't go on like this; that this
is misery..." she said.

"The servants are here at the sideboard," he said angrily; "don't
make a scene."

"Well, let's go in here!"

They were standing in the passage. Kitty would have gone into
the next room, but there the English governess was giving Tanya a
lesson.

"Well, come into the garden."

In the garden they came upon a peasant weeding the path. And no
longer considering that the peasant could see her tear-stained
and his agitated face, that they looked like people fleeing from
some disaster, they went on with rapid steps, feeling that they
must speak out and clear up misunderstandings, must be alone
together, and so get rid of the misery they were both feeling.

"We can't go on like this! It's misery! I am wretched; you are
wretched. What for?" she said, when they had at last reached a
solitary garden seat at a turn in the lime tree avenue.

"But tell me one thing: was there in his tone anything unseemly,
not nice, humiliatingly horrible?" he said, standing before her
again in the same position with his clenched fists on his chest,
as he had stood before her that night.

"Yes," she said in a shaking voice; "but, Kostya, surely you see
I'm not to blame? All the morning I've been trying to take a
tone...but such people ...Why did he come? How happy we were!"
she said, breathless with the sobs that shook her.

Although nothing had been pursuing them, and there was nothing to
run away from, and they could not possibly have found anything
very delightful on that garden seat, the gardener saw with
astonishment that they passed him on their way home with
comforted and radiant faces.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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