Anna karenina, p.160
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       Anna Karenina, p.160

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 3

  Kitty was particularly glad of a chance of being alone with her husband,for she had noticed the shade of mortification that had passed over hisface--always so quick to reflect every feeling--at the moment when hehad come onto the terrace and asked what they were talking of, and hadgot no answer.

  When they had set off on foot ahead of the others, and had come out ofsight of the house onto the beaten dusty road, marked with rusty wheelsand sprinkled with grains of corn, she clung faster to his arm andpressed it closer to her. He had quite forgotten the momentaryunpleasant impression, and alone with her he felt, now that the thoughtof her approaching motherhood was never for a moment absent from hismind, a new and delicious bliss, quite pure from all alloy of sense, inthe being near to the woman he loved. There was no need of speech, yethe longed to hear the sound of her voice, which like her eyes hadchanged since she had been with child. In her voice, as in her eyes,there was that softness and gravity which is found in people continuallyconcentrated on some cherished pursuit.

  "So you're not tired? Lean more on me," said he.

  "No, I'm so glad of a chance of being alone with you, and I must own,though I'm happy with them, I do regret our winter evenings alone."

  "That was good, but this is even better. Both are better," he said,squeezing her hand.

  "Do you know what we were talking about when you came in?"

  "About jam?"

  "Oh, yes, about jam too; but afterwards, about how men make offers."

  "Ah!" said Levin, listening more to the sound of her voice than to thewords she was saying, and all the while paying attention to the road,which passed now through the forest, and avoiding places where she mightmake a false step.

  "And about Sergey Ivanovitch and Varenka. You've noticed?... I'm veryanxious for it," she went on. "What do you think about it?" And shepeeped into his face.

  "I don't know what to think," Levin answered, smiling. "Sergey seemsvery strange to me in that way. I told you, you know..."

  "Yes, that he was in love with that girl who died...."

  "That was when I was a child; I know about it from hearsay andtradition. I remember him then. He was wonderfully sweet. But I'vewatched him since with women; he is friendly, some of them he likes, butone feels that to him they're simply people, not women."

  "Yes, but now with Varenka ... I fancy there's something..."

  "Perhaps there is.... But one has to know him.... He's a peculiar,wonderful person. He lives a spiritual life only. He's too pure, tooexalted a nature."

  "Why? Would this lower him, then?"

  "No, but he's so used to a spiritual life that he can't reconcilehimself with actual fact, and Varenka is after all fact."

  Levin had grown used by now to uttering his thought boldly, withouttaking the trouble of clothing it in exact language. He knew that hiswife, in such moments of loving tenderness as now, would understand whathe meant to say from a hint, and she did understand him.

  "Yes, but there's not so much of that actual fact about her as about me.I can see that he would never have cared for me. She is altogetherspiritual."

  "Oh, no, he is so fond of you, and I am always so glad when my peoplelike you...."

  "Yes, he's very nice to me; but..."

  "It's not as it was with poor Nikolay ... you really cared for eachother," Levin finished. "Why not speak of him?" he added. "I sometimesblame myself for not; it ends in one's forgetting. Ah, how terrible anddear he was!... Yes, what were we talking about?" Levin said, after apause.

  "You think he can't fall in love," said Kitty, translating into her ownlanguage.

  "It's not so much that he can't fall in love," Levin said, smiling, "buthe has not the weakness necessary.... I've always envied him, and evennow, when I'm so happy, I still envy him."

  "You envy him for not being able to fall in love?"

  "I envy him for being better than I," said Levin. "He does not live forhimself. His whole life is subordinated to his duty. And that's why hecan be calm and contented."

  "And you?" Kitty asked, with an ironical and loving smile.

  She could never have explained the chain of thought that made her smile;but the last link in it was that her husband, in exalting his brotherand abasing himself, was not quite sincere. Kitty knew that thisinsincerity came from his love for his brother, from his sense of shameat being too happy, and above all from his unflagging craving to bebetter--she loved it in him, and so she smiled.

  "And you? What are you dissatisfied with?" she asked, with the samesmile.

  Her disbelief in his self-dissatisfaction delighted him, andunconsciously he tried to draw her into giving utterance to the groundsof her disbelief.

  "I am happy, but dissatisfied with myself..." he said.

  "Why, how can you be dissatisfied with yourself if you are happy?"

  "Well, how shall I say?... In my heart I really care for nothingwhatever but that you should not stumble--see? Oh, but really youmustn't skip about like that!" he cried, breaking off to scold her fortoo agile a movement in stepping over a branch that lay in the path."But when I think about myself, and compare myself with others,especially with my brother, I feel I'm a poor creature."

  "But in what way?" Kitty pursued with the same smile. "Don't you toowork for others? What about your co-operative settlement, and your workon the estate, and your book?..."

  "Oh, but I feel, and particularly just now--it's your fault," he said,pressing her hand--"that all that doesn't count. I do it in a wayhalfheartedly. If I could care for all that as I care for you!...Instead of that, I do it in these days like a task that is set me."

  "Well, what would you say about papa?" asked Kitty. "Is he a poorcreature then, as he does nothing for the public good?"

  "He?--no! But then one must have the simplicity, thestraightforwardness, the goodness of your father: and I haven't gotthat. I do nothing, and I fret about it. It's all your doing. Beforethere was you--and _this_ too," he added with a glance towards her waistthat she understood--"I put all my energies into work; now I can't, andI'm ashamed; I do it just as though it were a task set me, I'mpretending...."

  "Well, but would you like to change this minute with Sergey Ivanovitch?"said Kitty. "Would you like to do this work for the general good, and tolove the task set you, as he does, and nothing else?"

  "Of course not," said Levin. "But I'm so happy that I don't understandanything. So you think he'll make her an offer today?" he added after abrief silence.

  "I think so, and I don't think so. Only, I'm awfully anxious for it.Here, wait a minute." She stooped down and picked a wild camomile at theedge of the path. "Come, count: he does propose, he doesn't," she said,giving him the flower.

  "He does, he doesn't," said Levin, tearing off the white petals.

  "No, no!" Kitty, snatching at his hand, stopped him. She had beenwatching his fingers with interest. "You picked off two."

  "Oh, but see, this little one shan't count to make up," said Levin,tearing off a little half-grown petal. "Here's the wagonette overtakingus."

  "Aren't you tired, Kitty?" called the princess.

  "Not in the least."

  "If you are you can get in, as the horses are quiet and walking."

  But it was not worth while to get in, they were quite near the place,and all walked on together.

 

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