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Chapter 17


The old prince and Sergey Ivanovitch got into the trap and drove
off; the rest of the party hastened homewards on foot.

But the storm-clouds, turning white and then black, moved down so
quickly that they had to quicken their pace to get home before
the rain. The foremost clouds, lowering and black as soot-laden
smoke, rushed with extraordinary swiftness over the sky. They
were still two hundred paces from home and a gust of wind had
already blown up, and every second the downpour might be looked
for.

The children ran ahead with frightened and gleeful shrieks.
Darya Alexandrovna, struggling painfully with her skirts that
clung round her legs, was not walking, but running, her eyes
fixed on the children. The men of the party, holding their hats
on, strode with long steps beside her. They were just at the
steps when a big drop fell splashing on the edge of the iron
guttering. The children and their elders after them ran into the
shelter of the house, talking merrily.

"Katerina Alexandrovna?" Levin asked of Agafea Mihalovna, who met
them with kerchiefs and rugs in the hall.

"We thought she was with you," she said.

"And Mitya?"

"In the copse, he must be, and the nurse with him."

Levin snatched up the rugs and ran towards the copse.

In that brief interval of time the storm clouds had moved on,
covering the sun so completely that it was dark as an eclipse.
Stubbornly, as though insisting on its rights, the wind stopped
Levin, and tearing the leaves and flowers off the lime trees and
stripping the white birch branches into strange unseemly
nakedness, it twisted everything on one side--acacias, flowers,
burdocks, long grass, and tall tree-tops. The peasant girls
working in the garden ran shrieking into shelter in the servants'
quarters. The streaming rain had already flung its white veil
over all the distant forest and half the fields close by, and was
rapidly swooping down upon the copse. The wet of the rain
spurting up in tiny drops could be smelt in the air.

Holding his head bent down before him, and struggling with the
wind that strove to tear the wraps away from him, Levin was
moving up to the copse and had just caught sight of something
white behind the oak tree, when there was a sudden flash, the
whole earth seemed on fire, and the vault of heaven seemed
crashing overhead. Opening his blinded eyes, Levin gazed through
the thick veil of rain that separated him now from the copse, and
to his horror the first thing he saw was the green crest of the
familiar oak-tree in the middle of the copse uncannily changing
its position. "Can it have been struck?" Levin hardly had time
to think when, moving more and more rapidly, the oak tree
vanished behind the other trees, and he heard the crash of the
great tree falling upon the others.

The flash of lightning, the crash of thunder, and the
instantaneous chill that ran through him were all merged for
Levin in one sense of terror.

"My God! my God! not on them!" he said.

And though he thought at once how senseless was his prayer that
they should not have been killed by the oak which had fallen now,
he repeated it, knowing that he could do nothing better than
utter this senseless prayer.

Running up to the place where they usually went, he did not find
them there.

They were at the other end of the copse under an old lime-tree;
they were calling him. Two figures in dark dresses (they had
been light summer dresses when they started out) were standing
bending over something. It was Kitty with the nurse. The rain
was already ceasing, and it was beginning to get light when Levin
reached them. The nurse was not wet on the lower part of her
dress, but Kitty was drenched through, and her soaked clothes
clung to her. Though the rain was over, they still stood in the
same position in which they had been standing when the storm
broke. Both stood bending over a perambulator with a green
umbrella.

"Alive? Unhurt? Thank God!" he said, splashing with his soaked
boots through the standing water and running up to them.

Kitty's rosy wet face was turned towards him, and she smiled
timidly under her shapeless sopped hat.

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself? I can't think how you can be so
reckless!" he said angrily to his wife.

"It wasn't my fault, really. We were just meaning to go, when he
made such a to-do that we had to change him. We were just..."
Kitty began defending herself.

Mitya was unharmed, dry, and still fast asleep.

"Well, thank God! I don't know what I'm saying!"

They gathered up the baby's wet belongings; the nurse picked up
the baby and carried it. Levin walked beside his wife, and,
penitent for having been angry, he squeezed her hand when the
nurse was not looking.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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