Anna karenina, p.172
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       Anna Karenina, p.172

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 15

  After escorting his wife upstairs, Levin went to Dolly's part of thehouse. Darya Alexandrovna, for her part, was in great distress too thatday. She was walking about the room, talking angrily to a little girl,who stood in the corner roaring.

  "And you shall stand all day in the corner, and have your dinner allalone, and not see one of your dolls, and I won't make you a new frock,"she said, not knowing how to punish her.

  "Oh, she is a disgusting child!" she turned to Levin. "Where does sheget such wicked propensities?"

  "Why, what has she done?" Levin said without much interest, for he hadwanted to ask her advice, and so was annoyed that he had come at anunlucky moment.

  "Grisha and she went into the raspberries, and there ... I can't tellyou really what she did. It's a thousand pities Miss Elliot's not withus. This one sees to nothing--she's a machine.... _Figurez-vous que lapetite_?..."

  And Darya Alexandrovna described Masha's crime.

  "That proves nothing; it's not a question of evil propensities at all,it's simply mischief," Levin assured her.

  "But you are upset about something? What have you come for?" askedDolly. "What's going on there?"

  And in the tone of her question Levin heard that it would be easy forhim to say what he had meant to say.

  "I've not been in there, I've been alone in the garden with Kitty. We'vehad a quarrel for the second time since ... Stiva came."

  Dolly looked at him with her shrewd, comprehending eyes.

  "Come, tell me, honor bright, has there been ... not in Kitty, but inthat gentleman's behavior, a tone which might be unpleasant--notunpleasant, but horrible, offensive to a husband?"

  "You mean, how shall I say.... Stay, stay in the corner!" she said toMasha, who, detecting a faint smile in her mother's face, had beenturning round. "The opinion of the world would be that he is behaving asyoung men do behave. _Il fait la cour a une jeune et jolie femme_, and ahusband who's a man of the world should only be flattered by it."

  "Yes, yes," said Levin gloomily; "but you noticed it?"

  "Not only I, but Stiva noticed it. Just after breakfast he said to me inso many words, _Je crois que Veslovsky fait un petit brin de cour aKitty_."

  "Well, that's all right then; now I'm satisfied. I'll send him away,"said Levin.

  "What do you mean! Are you crazy?" Dolly cried in horror; "nonsense,Kostya, only think!" she said, laughing. "You can go now to Fanny," shesaid to Masha. "No, if you wish it, I'll speak to Stiva. He'll take himaway. He can say you're expecting visitors. Altogether he doesn't fitinto the house."

  "No, no, I'll do it myself."

  "But you'll quarrel with him?"

  "Not a bit. I shall so enjoy it," Levin said, his eyes flashing withreal enjoyment. "Come, forgive her, Dolly, she won't do it again," hesaid of the little sinner, who had not gone to Fanny, but was standingirresolutely before her mother, waiting and looking up from under herbrows to catch her mother's eye.

  The mother glanced at her. The child broke into sobs, hid her face onher mother's lap, and Dolly laid her thin, tender hand on her head.

  "And what is there in common between us and him?" thought Levin, and hewent off to look for Veslovsky.

  As he passed through the passage he gave orders for the carriage to begot ready to drive to the station.

  "The spring was broken yesterday," said the footman.

  "Well, the covered trap, then, and make haste. Where's the visitor?"

  "The gentleman's gone to his room."

  Levin came upon Veslovsky at the moment when the latter, having unpackedhis things from his trunk, and laid out some new songs, was putting onhis gaiters to go out riding.

  Whether there was something exceptional in Levin's face, or thatVassenka was himself conscious that _ce petit brin de cour_ he wasmaking was out of place in this family, but he was somewhat (as much asa young man in society can be) disconcerted at Levin's entrance.

  "You ride in gaiters?"

  "Yes, it's much cleaner," said Vassenka, putting his fat leg on a chair,fastening the bottom hook, and smiling with simple-hearted good humor.

  He was undoubtedly a good-natured fellow, and Levin felt sorry for himand ashamed of himself, as his host, when he saw the shy look onVassenka's face.

  On the table lay a piece of stick which they had broken together thatmorning, trying their strength. Levin took the fragment in his hands andbegan smashing it up, breaking bits off the stick, not knowing how tobegin.

  "I wanted...." He paused, but suddenly, remembering Kitty and everythingthat had happened, he said, looking him resolutely in the face: "I haveordered the horses to be put-to for you."

  "How so?" Vassenka began in surprise. "To drive where?"

  "For you to drive to the station," Levin said gloomily.

  "Are you going away, or has something happened?"

  "It happens that I expect visitors," said Levin, his strong fingers moreand more rapidly breaking off the ends of the split stick. "And I'm notexpecting visitors, and nothing has happened, but I beg you to go away.You can explain my rudeness as you like."

  Vassenka drew himself up.

  "I beg you to explain..." he said with dignity, understanding at last.

  "I can't explain," Levin said softly and deliberately, trying to controlthe trembling of his jaw; "and you'd better not ask."

  And as the split ends were all broken off, Levin clutched the thick endsin his finger, broke the stick in two, and carefully caught the end asit fell.

  Probably the sight of those nervous fingers, of the muscles he hadproved that morning at gymnastics, of the glittering eyes, the softvoice, and quivering jaws, convinced Vassenka better than any words. Hebowed, shrugging his shoulders, and smiling contemptuously.

  "Can I not see Oblonsky?"

  The shrug and the smile did not irritate Levin.

  "What else was there for him to do?" he thought.

  "I'll send him to you at once."

  "What madness is this?" Stepan Arkadyevitch said when, after hearingfrom his friend that he was being turned out of the house, he foundLevin in the garden, where he was walking about waiting for his guest'sdeparture. "_Mais c'est ridicule!_ What fly has stung you? _Mais c'estdu dernier ridicule!_ What did you think, if a young man..."

  But the place where Levin had been stung was evidently still sore, forhe turned pale again, when Stepan Arkadyevitch would have enlarged onthe reason, and he himself cut him short.

  "Please don't go into it! I can't help it. I feel ashamed of how I'mtreating you and him. But it won't be, I imagine, a great grief to himto go, and his presence was distasteful to me and to my wife."

  "But it's insulting to him! _Et puis c'est ridicule_."

  "And to me it's both insulting and distressing! And I'm not at fault inany way, and there's no need for me to suffer."

  "Well, this I didn't expect of you! _On peut etre jaloux, mais a cepoint, c'est du dernier ridicule!_"

  Levin turned quickly, and walked away from him into the depths of theavenue, and he went on walking up and down alone. Soon he heard therumble of the trap, and saw from behind the trees how Vassenka, sittingin the hay (unluckily there was no seat in the trap) in his Scotch cap,was driven along the avenue, jolting up and down over the ruts.

  "What's this?" Levin thought, when a footman ran out of the house andstopped the trap. It was the mechanician, whom Levin had totallyforgotten. The mechanician, bowing low, said something to Veslovsky,then clambered into the trap, and they drove off together.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch and the princess were much upset by Levin's action.And he himself felt not only in the highest degree _ridicule_, but alsoutterly guilty and disgraced. But remembering what sufferings he and hiswife had been through, when he asked himself how he should act anothertime, he answered that he should do just the same again.

  In spite of all this, towards the end of that day, everyone except theprincess, who could not pardon Levin's action, became extraordinarilylively and good humored, like c
hildren after a punishment or grown-uppeople after a dreary, ceremonious reception, so that by the eveningVassenka's dismissal was spoken of, in the absence of the princess, asthough it were some remote event. And Dolly, who had inherited herfather's gift of humorous storytelling, made Varenka helpless withlaughter as she related for the third and fourth time, always with freshhumorous additions, how she had only just put on her new shoes for thebenefit of the visitor, and on going into the drawing room, heardsuddenly the rumble of the trap. And who should be in the trap butVassenka himself, with his Scotch cap, and his songs and his gaiters,and all, sitting in the hay.

  "If only you'd ordered out the carriage! But no! and then I hear:'Stop!' Oh, I thought they've relented. I look out, and behold a fatGerman being sat down by him and driving away.... And my new shoes allfor nothing!..."

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