Anna karenina, p.161
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       Anna Karenina, p.161

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 4

  Varenka, with her white kerchief on her black hair, surrounded by thechildren, gaily and good-humoredly looking after them, and at the sametime visibly excited at the possibility of receiving a declaration fromthe man she cared for, was very attractive. Sergey Ivanovitch walkedbeside her, and never left off admiring her. Looking at her, he recalledall the delightful things he had heard from her lips, all the good heknew about her, and became more and more conscious that the feeling hehad for her was something special that he had felt long, long ago, andonly once, in his early youth. The feeling of happiness in being nearher continually grew, and at last reached such a point that, as he put ahuge, slender-stalked agaric fungus in her basket, he looked straightinto her face, and noticing the flush of glad and alarmed excitementthat overspread her face, he was confused himself, and smiled to her insilence a smile that said too much.

  "If so," he said to himself, "I ought to think it over and make up mymind, and not give way like a boy to the impulse of a moment."

  "I'm going to pick by myself apart from all the rest, or else my effortswill make no show," he said, and he left the edge of the forest wherethey were walking on low silky grass between old birch trees standingfar apart, and went more into the heart of the wood, where between thewhite birch trunks there were gray trunks of aspen and dark bushes ofhazel. Walking some forty paces away, Sergey Ivanovitch, knowing he wasout of sight, stood still behind a bushy spindle-tree in full flowerwith its rosy red catkins. It was perfectly still all round him. Onlyoverhead in the birches under which he stood, the flies, like a swarm ofbees, buzzed unceasingly, and from time to time the children's voiceswere floated across to him. All at once he heard, not far from the edgeof the wood, the sound of Varenka's contralto voice, calling Grisha, anda smile of delight passed over Sergey Ivanovitch's face. Conscious ofthis smile, he shook his head disapprovingly at his own condition, andtaking out a cigar, he began lighting it. For a long while he could notget a match to light against the trunk of a birch tree. The soft scalesof the white bark rubbed off the phosphorus, and the light went out. Atlast one of the matches burned, and the fragrant cigar smoke, hoveringuncertainly in flat, wide coils, stretched away forwards and upwardsover a bush under the overhanging branches of a birch tree. Watching thestreak of smoke, Sergey Ivanovitch walked gently on, deliberating on hisposition.

  "Why not?" he thought. "If it were only a passing fancy or a passion, ifit were only this attraction--this mutual attraction (I can call it a_mutual_ attraction), but if I felt that it was in contradiction withthe whole bent of my life--if I felt that in giving way to thisattraction I should be false to my vocation and my duty ... but it's notso. The only thing I can say against it is that, when I lost Marie, Isaid to myself that I would remain faithful to her memory. That's theonly thing I can say against my feeling.... That's a great thing,"Sergey Ivanovitch said to himself, feeling at the same time that thisconsideration had not the slightest importance for him personally, butwould only perhaps detract from his romantic character in the eyes ofothers. "But apart from that, however much I searched, I should neverfind anything to say against my feeling. If I were choosing byconsiderations of suitability alone, I could not have found anythingbetter."

  However many women and girls he thought of whom he knew, he could notthink of a girl who united to such a degree all, positively all, thequalities he would wish to see in his wife. She had all the charm andfreshness of youth, but she was not a child; and if she loved him, sheloved him consciously as a woman ought to love; that was one thing.Another point: she was not only far from being worldly, but had anunmistakable distaste for worldly society, and at the same time she knewthe world, and had all the ways of a woman of the best society, whichwere absolutely essential to Sergey Ivanovitch's conception of the womanwho was to share his life. Thirdly: she was religious, and not like achild, unconsciously religious and good, as Kitty, for example, was, buther life was founded on religious principles. Even in trifling matters,Sergey Ivanovitch found in her all that he wanted in his wife: she waspoor and alone in the world, so she would not bring with her a mass ofrelations and their influence into her husband's house, as he saw now inKitty's case. She would owe everything to her husband, which was what hehad always desired too for his future family life. And this girl, whounited all these qualities, loved him. He was a modest man, but he couldnot help seeing it. And he loved her. There was one considerationagainst it--his age. But he came of a long-lived family, he had not asingle gray hair, no one would have taken him for forty, and heremembered Varenka's saying that it was only in Russia that men of fiftythought themselves old, and that in France a man of fifty considershimself _dans la force de l'age_, while a man of forty is _un jeunehomme_. But what did the mere reckoning of years matter when he felt asyoung in heart as he had been twenty years ago? Was it not youth to feelas he felt now, when coming from the other side to the edge of the woodhe saw in the glowing light of the slanting sunbeams the gracious figureof Varenka in her yellow gown with her basket, walking lightly by thetrunk of an old birch tree, and when this impression of the sight ofVarenka blended so harmoniously with the beauty of the view, of theyellow oatfield lying bathed in the slanting sunshine, and beyond it thedistant ancient forest flecked with yellow and melting into the blue ofthe distance? His heart throbbed joyously. A softened feeling came overhim. He felt that he had made up his mind. Varenka, who had justcrouched down to pick a mushroom, rose with a supple movement and lookedround. Flinging away the cigar, Sergey Ivanovitch advanced with resolutesteps towards her.

 
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