Anna karenina, p.138
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       Anna Karenina, p.138
 

          

  Chapter 14

  Levin had been married three months. He was happy, but not at all in theway he had expected to be. At every step he found his former dreamsdisappointed, and new, unexpected surprises of happiness. He was happy;but on entering upon family life he saw at every step that it wasutterly different from what he had imagined. At every step heexperienced what a man would experience who, after admiring the smooth,happy course of a little boat on a lake, should get himself into thatlittle boat. He saw that it was not all sitting still, floatingsmoothly; that one had to think too, not for an instant to forget whereone was floating; and that there was water under one, and that one mustrow; and that his unaccustomed hands would be sore; and that it was onlyto look at it that was easy; but that doing it, though very delightful,was very difficult.

  As a bachelor, when he had watched other people's married life, seen thepetty cares, the squabbles, the jealousy, he had only smiledcontemptuously in his heart. In his future married life there could be,he was convinced, nothing of that sort; even the external forms, indeed,he fancied, must be utterly unlike the life of others in everything. Andall of a sudden, instead of his life with his wife being made on anindividual pattern, it was, on the contrary, entirely made up of thepettiest details, which he had so despised before, but which now, by nowill of his own, had gained an extraordinary importance that it wasuseless to contend against. And Levin saw that the organization of allthese details was by no means so easy as he had fancied before. AlthoughLevin believed himself to have the most exact conceptions of domesticlife, unconsciously, like all men, he pictured domestic life as thehappiest enjoyment of love, with nothing to hinder and no petty cares todistract. He ought, as he conceived the position, to do his work, and tofind repose from it in the happiness of love. She ought to be beloved,and nothing more. But, like all men, he forgot that she too would wantwork. And he was surprised that she, his poetic, exquisite Kitty, could,not merely in the first weeks, but even in the first days of theirmarried life, think, remember, and busy herself about tablecloths, andfurniture, about mattresses for visitors, about a tray, about the cook,and the dinner, and so on. While they were still engaged, he had beenstruck by the definiteness with which she had declined the tour abroadand decided to go into the country, as though she knew of something shewanted, and could still think of something outside her love. This hadjarred upon him then, and now her trivial cares and anxieties jarredupon him several times. But he saw that this was essential for her. And,loving her as he did, though he did not understand the reason of them,and jeered at these domestic pursuits, he could not help admiring them.He jeered at the way in which she arranged the furniture they hadbrought from Moscow; rearranged their room; hung up curtains; preparedrooms for visitors; a room for Dolly; saw after an abode for her newmaid; ordered dinner of the old cook; came into collision with AgafeaMihalovna, taking from her the charge of the stores. He saw how the oldcook smiled, admiring her, and listening to her inexperienced,impossible orders, how mournfully and tenderly Agafea Mihalovna shookher head over the young mistress's new arrangements. He saw that Kittywas extraordinarily sweet when, laughing and crying, she came to tellhim that her maid, Masha, was used to looking upon her as her younglady, and so no one obeyed her. It seemed to him sweet, but strange, andhe thought it would have been better without this.

  He did not know how great a sense of change she was experiencing; she,who at home had sometimes wanted some favorite dish, or sweets, withoutthe possibility of getting either, now could order what she liked, buypounds of sweets, spend as much money as she liked, and order anypuddings she pleased.

  She was dreaming with delight now of Dolly's coming to them with herchildren, especially because she would order for the children theirfavorite puddings and Dolly would appreciate all her new housekeeping.She did not know herself why and wherefore, but the arranging of herhouse had an irresistible attraction for her. Instinctively feeling theapproach of spring, and knowing that there would be days of roughweather too, she built her nest as best she could, and was in haste atthe same time to build it and to learn how to do it.

  This care for domestic details in Kitty, so opposed to Levin's ideal ofexalted happiness, was at first one of the disappointments; and thissweet care of her household, the aim of which he did not understand, butcould not help loving, was one of the new happy surprises.

  Another disappointment and happy surprise came in their quarrels. Levincould never have conceived that between him and his wife any relationscould arise other than tender, respectful and loving, and all at once inthe very early days they quarreled, so that she said he did not care forher, that he cared for no one but himself, burst into tears, and wrungher arms.

  This first quarrel arose from Levin's having gone out to a new farmhouseand having been away half an hour too long, because he had tried to gethome by a short cut and had lost his way. He drove home thinking ofnothing but her, of her love, of his own happiness, and the nearer hedrew to home, the warmer was his tenderness for her. He ran into theroom with the same feeling, with an even stronger feeling than he hadhad when he reached the Shtcherbatskys' house to make his offer. Andsuddenly he was met by a lowering expression he had never seen in her.He would have kissed her; she pushed him away.

  "What is it?"

  "You've been enjoying yourself," she began, trying to be calm andspiteful. But as soon as she opened her mouth, a stream of reproach, ofsenseless jealousy, of all that had been torturing her during that halfhour which she had spent sitting motionless at the window, burst fromher. It was only then, for the first time, that he clearly understoodwhat he had not understood when he led her out of the church after thewedding. He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that hedid not know where he ended and she began. He felt this from theagonizing sensation of division that he experienced at that instant. Hewas offended for the first instant, but the very same second he feltthat he could not be offended by her, that she was himself. He felt forthe first moment as a man feels when, having suddenly received a violentblow from behind, he turns round, angry and eager to avenge himself, tolook for his antagonist, and finds that it is he himself who hasaccidentally struck himself, that there is no one to be angry with, andthat he must put up with and try to soothe the pain.

  Never afterwards did he feel it with such intensity, but this first timehe could not for a long while get over it. His natural feeling urged himto defend himself, to prove to her she was wrong; but to prove her wrongwould mean irritating her still more and making the rupture greater thatwas the cause of all his suffering. One habitual feeling impelled him toget rid of the blame and to pass it on to her. Another feeling, evenstronger, impelled him as quickly as possible to smooth over the rupturewithout letting it grow greater. To remain under such undeservedreproach was wretched, but to make her suffer by justifying himself wasworse still. Like a man half-awake in an agony of pain, he wanted totear out, to fling away the aching place, and coming to his senses, hefelt that the aching place was himself. He could do nothing but try tohelp the aching place to bear it, and this he tried to do.

  They made peace. She, recognizing that she was wrong, though she did notsay so, became tenderer to him, and they experienced new, redoubledhappiness in their love. But that did not prevent such quarrels fromhappening again, and exceedingly often too, on the most unexpected andtrivial grounds. These quarrels frequently arose from the fact that theydid not yet know what was of importance to each other and that all thisearly period they were both often in a bad temper. When one was in agood temper, and the other in a bad temper, the peace was not broken;but when both happened to be in an ill-humor, quarrels sprang up fromsuch incomprehensibly trifling causes, that they could never rememberafterwards what they had quarreled about. It is true that when they wereboth in a good temper their enjoyment of life was redoubled. But stillthis first period of their married life was a difficult time for them.

  During all this early time they had a peculiarly vivid sense of tension,as it were, a tugging
in opposite directions of the chain by which theywere bound. Altogether their honeymoon--that is to say, the month aftertheir wedding--from which from tradition Levin expected so much, was notmerely not a time of sweetness, but remained in the memories of both asthe bitterest and most humiliating period in their lives. They bothalike tried in later life to blot out from their memories all themonstrous, shameful incidents of that morbid period, when both wererarely in a normal frame of mind, both were rarely quite themselves.

  It was only in the third month of their married life, after their returnfrom Moscow, where they had been staying for a month, that their lifebegan to go more smoothly.

 
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