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Chapter 8


Towards the end of May, when everything had been more or less
satisfactorily arranged, she received her husband's answer to her
complaints of the disorganized state of things in the country.
He wrote begging her forgiveness for not having thought of
everything before, and promised to come down at the first chance.
This chance did not present itself, and till the beginning of
June Darya Alexandrovna stayed alone in the country.

On the Sunday in St. Peter's week Darya Alexandrovna drove to
mass for all her children to take the sacrament. Darya
Alexandrovna in her intimate, philosophical talks with her
sister, her mother, and her friends very often astonished them by
the freedom of her views in regard to religion. She had a
strange religion of transmigration of souls all her own, in which
she had firm faith, troubling herself little about the dogmas of
the Church. But in her family she was strict in carrying out all
that was required by the Church--and not merely in order to set
an example, but with all her heart in it. The fact that the
children had not been at the sacrament for nearly a year worried
her extremely, and with the full approval and sympathy of Marya
Philimonovna she decided that this should take place now in the
summer.

For several days before, Darya Alexandrovna was busily
deliberating on how to dress all the children. Frocks were made
or altered and washed, seams and flounces were let out, buttons
were sewn on, and ribbons got ready. One dress, Tanya's, which
the English governess had undertaken, cost Darya Alexandrovna
much loss of temper. The English governess in altering it had
made the seams in the wrong place, had taken up the sleeves too
much, and altogether spoilt the dress. It was so narrow on
Tanya's shoulders that it was quite painful to look at her. But
Marya Philimonovna had the happy thought of putting in gussets,
and adding a little shoulder-cape. The dress was set right, but
there was nearly a quarrel with the English governess. On the
morning, however, all was happily arranged, and towards ten
o'clock--the time at which they had asked the priest to wait for
them for the mass--the children in their new dresses, with
beaming faces stood on the step before the carriage waiting for
their mother.

To the carriage, instead of the restive Raven, they had
harnessed, thanks to the representations of Marya Philimonovna,
the bailiff's horse, Brownie, and Darya Alexandrovna, delayed by
anxiety over her own attire, came out and got in, dressed in a
white muslin gown.

Darya Alexandrovna had done her hair, and dressed with care and
excitement. In the old days she had dressed for her own sake to
look pretty and be admired. Later on, as she got older, dress
became more and more distasteful to her. She saw that she was
losing her good looks. But now she began to feel pleasure and
interest in dress again. Now she did not dress for her own sake,
not for the sake of her own beauty, but simply that as the mother
of those exquisite creatures she might not spoil the general
effect. And looking at herself for the last time in the
looking-glass she was satisfied with herself. She looked nice.
Not nice as she would have wished to look nice in old days at a
ball, but nice for the object which she now had in view.

In the church there was no one but the peasants, the servants and
their women-folk. But Darya Alexandrovna saw, or fancied she
saw, the sensation produced by her children and her. The
children were not only beautiful to look at in their smart little
dresses, but they were charming in the way they behaved.
Aliosha, it is true, did not stand quite correctly; he kept
turning round, trying to look at his little jacket from behind;
but all the same he was wonderfully sweet. Tanya behaved like a
grownup person, and looked after the little ones. And the
smallest, Lily, was bewitching in her naive astonishment at
everything, and it was difficult not to smile when, after taking
the sacrament, she said in English, "Please, some more."

On the way home the children felt that something solemn had
happened, and were very sedate.

Everything went happily at home too; but at lunch Grisha began
whistling, and, what was worse, was disobedient to the English
governess, and was forbidden to have any tart. Darya
Alexandrovna would not have let things go so far on such a day
had she been present; but she had to support the English
governess's authority, and she upheld her decision that Grisha
should have no tart. This rather spoiled the general good humor.
Grisha cried, declaring that Nikolinka had whistled too, and he
was not punished, and that he wasn't crying for the tart--he
didn't care--but at being unjustly treated. This was really too
tragic, and Darya Alexandrovna made up her mind to persuade the
English governess to forgive Grisha, and she went to speak to
her. But on the way, as she passed the drawing room, she beheld
a scene, filling her heart with such pleasure that the tears came
into her eyes, and she forgave the delinquent herself.

The culprit was sitting at the window in the corner of the
drawing room; beside him was standing Tanya with a plate. On the
pretext of wanting to give some dinner to her dolls, she had
asked the governess's permission to take her share of tart to the
nursery, and had taken it instead to her brother. While still
weeping over the injustice of his punishment, he was eating the
tart, and kept saying through his sobs, "Eat yourself; let's eat
it together...together."

Tanya had at first been under the influence of her pity for
Grisha, then of a sense of her noble action, and tears were
standing in her eyes too; but she did not refuse, and ate her
share.

On catching sight of their mother they were dismayed, but,
looking into her face, they saw they were not doing wrong. They
burst out laughing, and, with their mouths full of tart, they
began wiping their smiling lips with their hands, and smearing
their radiant faces all over with tears and jam.

"Mercy! Your new white frock; Tanya! Grisha!" said their
mother, trying to save the frock, but with tears in her eyes,
smiling a blissful, rapturous smile.

The new frocks were taken off, and orders were given for the
little girls to have their blouses put on, and the boys their old
jackets, and the wagonette to be harnessed; with Brownie, to the
bailiff's annoyance, again in the shafts, to drive out for
mushroom picking and bathing. A roar of delighted shrieks arose
in the nursery, and never ceased till they had set off for the
bathing-place.

They gathered a whole basketful of mushrooms; even Lily found a
birch mushroom. It had always happened before that Miss Hoole
found them and pointed them out to her; but this time she found a
big one quite of herself, and there was a general scream of
delight, "Lily has found a mushroom!"

Then they reached the river, put the horses under the birch
trees, and went to the bathing-place. The coachman, Terenty,
fastened the horses, who kept whisking away the flies, to a tree,
and, treading down the grass, lay down in the shade of a birch
and smoked his shag, while the never-ceasing shrieks of delight
of the children floated across to him from the bathing-place.

Though it was hard work to look after all the children and
restrain their wild pranks, though it was difficult too to keep
in one's head and not mix up all the stockings, little breeches,
and shoes for the different legs, and to undo and to do up again
all the tapes and buttons, Darya Alexandrovna, who had always
liked bathing herself, and believed it to be very good for the
children, enjoyed nothing so much as bathing with all the
children. To go over all those fat little legs, pulling on their
stockings, to take in her arms and dip those little naked bodies,
and to hear their screams of delight and alarm, to see the
breathless faces with wide-open, scared, and happy eyes of all
her splashing cherubs, was a great pleasure to her.

When half the children had been dressed, some peasant women in
holiday dress, out picking herbs, came up to the bathing-shed and
stopped shyly. Marya Philimonovna called one of them and handed
her a sheet and a shirt that had dropped into the water for her
to dry them, and Darya Alexandrovna began to talk to the women.
At first they laughed behind their hands and did not understand
her questions, but soon they grew bolder and began to talk,
winning Darya Alexandrovna's heart at once by the genuine
admiration of the children that they showed.

"My, what a beauty! as white as sugar," said one, admiring
Tanitchka, and shaking her head; "but thin..."

"Yes, she has been ill."

"And so they've been bathing you too," said another to the baby.

"No; he's only three months old," answered Darya Alexandrovna
with pride.

"You don't say so!"

"And have you any children?"

"I've had four; I've two living--a boy and a girl. I weaned her
last carnival."

"How old is she?"

"Why, two years old."

"Why did you nurse her so long?"

"It's our custom; for three fasts..."

And the conversation became most interesting to Darya
Alexandrovna. What sort of time did she have? What was the
matter with the boy? Where was her husband? Did it often
happen?

Darya Alexandrovna felt disinclined to leave the peasant women,
so interesting to her was their conversation, so completely
identical were all their interests. What pleased her most of all
was that she saw clearly what all the women admired more than
anything was her having so many children, and such fine ones.
The peasant women even made Darya Alexandrovna laugh, and
offended the English governess, because she was the cause of the
laughter she did not understand. One of the younger women kept
staring at the Englishwoman, who was dressing after all the rest,
and when she put on her third petticoat she could not refrain
from the remark, "My, she keeps putting on and putting on, and
she'll never have done!" she said, and they all went off into
roars.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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