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Chapter 15


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!b 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 etre jaloux, mais 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!..."



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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