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Chapter 12


The load was tied on. Ivan jumped down and took the quiet, sleek
horse by the bridle. The young wife flung the rake up on the
load, and with a bold step, swinging her arms, she went to join
the women, who were forming a ring for the haymakers' dance.
Ivan drove off to the road and fell into line with the other
loaded carts. The peasant women, with their rakes on their
shoulders, gay with bright flowers, and chattering with ringing,
merry voices, walked behind the hay cart. One wild untrained
female voice broke into a song, and sang it alone through a
verse, and then the same verse was taken up and repeated by half
a hundred strong healthy voices, of all sorts, coarse and fine,
singing in unison.

The women, all singing, began to come close to Levin, and he felt
as though a storm were swooping down upon him with a thunder of
merriment. The storm swooped down, enveloped him and the haycock
on which he was lying, and the other haycocks, and the
wagon-loads, and the whole meadow and distant fields all seemed
to be shaking and singing to the measures of this wild merry song
with its shouts and whistles and clapping. Levin felt envious of
this health and mirthfulness; he longed to take part in the
expression of this joy of life. But he could do nothing, and had
to lie and look on and listen. When the peasants, with their
singing, had vanished out of sight and hearing, a weary feeling
of despondency at his own isolation, his physical inactivity, his
alienation from this world, came over Levin.

Some of the very peasants who had been most active in wrangling
with him over the hay, some whom he had treated with contumely,
and who had tried to cheat him, those very peasants had greeted
him goodhumoredly, and evidently had not, were incapable of
having any feeling of rancor against him, any regret, any
recollection even of having tried to deceive him. All that was
drowned in a sea of merry common labor. God gave the day, God
gave the strength. And the day and the strength were consecrated
to labor, and that labor was its own reward. For whom the labor?
What would be its fruits? These were idle considerations--
beside the point.

Often Levin had admired this life, often he had a sense of envy
of the men who led this life; but today for the first time,
especially under the influence of what he had seen in the
attitude of Ivan Parmenov to his young wife, the idea presented
itself definitely to his mind that it was in his power to
exchange the dreary, artificial, idle, and individualistic life
he was leading for this laborious, pure, and socially delightful
life.

The old man who had been sitting beside him had long ago gone
home; the people had all separated. Those who lived near had
gone home, while those who came from far were gathered into a
group for supper, and to spend the night in the meadow. Levin,
unobserved by the peasants, still lay on the haycock, and still
looked on and listened and mused. The peasants who remained for
the night in the meadow scarcely slept all the short summer
night. At first there was the sound of merry talk and laughing
all together over the supper, then singing again and laughter.

All the long day of toil had left no trace in them but lightness
of heart. Before the early dawn all was hushed. Nothing was to
be heard but the night sounds of the frogs that never ceased in
the marsh, and the horses snorting in the mist that rose over the
meadow before the morning. Rousing himself, Levin got up from
the haycock, and looking at the stars, he saw that the night was
over.

"Well, what am I going to do? How am I to set about it?" he
said to himself, trying to express to himself all the thoughts
and feelings he had passed through in that brief night. All the
thoughts and feelings he had passed through fell into three
separate trains of thought. One was the renunciation of his old
life, of his utterly useless education. This renunciation gave
him satisfaction, and was easy and simple. Another series of
thoughts and mental images related to the life he longed to live
now. The simplicity, the purity, the sanity of this life he felt
clearly, and he was convinced he would find in it the content,
the peace, and the dignity, of the lack of which he was so
miserably conscious. But a third series of ideas turned upon the
question how to effect this transition from the old life to the
new. And there nothing took clear shape for him. "Have a wife?
Have work and the necessity of work? Leave Pokrovskoe? Buy
land? Become a member of a peasant community? Marry a peasant
girl? How am I to set about it?" he asked himself again, and
could not find an answer. "I haven't slept all night, though,
and I can't think it out clearly," he said to himself. "I'll
work it out later. One thing's certain, this night has decided
my fate. All my old dreams of home life were absurd, not the
real thing," he told himself. "It's all ever so much simpler and
better..."

"How beautiful!" he thought, looking at the strange, as it were,
mother-of-pearl shell of white fleecy cloudless resting right
over his head in the middle of the sky. "How exquisite it all is
in this exquisite night! And when was there time for that
cloud-shell to form? Just now I looked at the sky, and there was
nothing in it--only two white streaks. Yes, and so
imperceptibly too my views of life changed!"

He went out of the meadow and walked along the highroad towards
the village. A slight wind arose, and the sky looked gray and
sullen. The gloomy moment had come that usually precedes the
dawn, the full triumph of light over darkness.

Shrinking from the cold, Levin walked rapidly, looking at the
ground. "What's that? Someone coming," he thought, catching the
tinkle of bells, and lifting his head. Forty paces from him a
carriage with four horses harnessed abreast was driving towards
him along the grassy road on which he was walking. The
shaft-horses were tilted against the shafts by the ruts, but the
dexterous driver sitting on the box held the shaft over the ruts,
so that the wheels ran on the smooth part of the road.

This was all Levin noticed, and without wondering who it could
be, he gazed absently at the coach.

In the coach was an old lady dozing in one corner, and at the
window, evidently only just awake, sat a young girl holding in
both hands the ribbons of a white cap. With a face full of light
and thought, full of a subtle, complex inner life, that was
remote from Levin, she was gazing beyond him at the glow of the
sunrise.

At the very instant when this apparition was vanishing, the
truthful eyes glanced at him. She recognized him, and her face
lighted up with wondering delight.

He could not be mistaken. There were no other eyes like those in
the world. There was only one creature in the world that could
concentrate for him all the brightness and meaning of life. It
was she. It was Kitty. He understood that she was driving to
Ergushovo from the railway station. And everything that had been
stirring Levin during that sleepless night, all the resolutions
he had made, all vanished at once. He recalled with horror his
dreams of marrying a peasant girl. There only, in the carriage
that had crossed over to the other side of the road, and was
rapidly disappearing, there only could he find the solution of
the riddle of his life, which had weighed so agonizingly upon him
of late.

She did not look out again. The sound of the carriage-springs
was no longer audible, the bells could scarcely be heard. The
barking of dogs showed the carriage had reached the village, and
all that was left was the empty fields all round, the village in
front, and he himself isolated and apart from it all, wandering
lonely along the deserted highroad.

He glanced at the sky, expecting to find there the cloud shell he
had been admiring and taking as the symbol of the ideas and
feelings of that night. There was nothing in the sky in the
least like a shell. There, in the remote heights above, a
mysterious change had been accomplished. There was no trace of
shell, and there was stretched over fully half the sky an even
cover of tiny and ever tinier cloudlets. The sky had grown blue
and bright; and with the same softness, but with the same
remoteness, it met his questioning gaze.

"No," he said to himself, "however good that life of simplicity
and toil may be, I cannot go back to it. I love HER."



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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