Anna karenina, p.237
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       Anna Karenina, p.237

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 17

  The old prince and Sergey Ivanovitch got into the trap and drove off;the rest of the party hastened homewards on foot.

  But the storm-clouds, turning white and then black, moved down soquickly that they had to quicken their pace to get home before the rain.The foremost clouds, lowering and black as soot-laden smoke, rushed withextraordinary swiftness over the sky. They were still two hundred pacesfrom home and a gust of wind had already blown up, and every second thedownpour might be looked for.

  The children ran ahead with frightened and gleeful shrieks. DaryaAlexandrovna, struggling painfully with her skirts that clung round herlegs, was not walking, but running, her eyes fixed on the children. Themen of the party, holding their hats on, strode with long steps besideher. They were just at the steps when a big drop fell splashing on theedge of the iron guttering. The children and their elders after them raninto the shelter of the house, talking merrily.

  "Katerina Alexandrovna?" Levin asked of Agafea Mihalovna, who met themwith kerchiefs and rugs in the hall.

  "We thought she was with you," she said.

  "And Mitya?"

  "In the copse, he must be, and the nurse with him."

  Levin snatched up the rugs and ran towards the copse.

  In that brief interval of time the storm clouds had moved on, coveringthe sun so completely that it was dark as an eclipse. Stubbornly, asthough insisting on its rights, the wind stopped Levin, and tearing theleaves and flowers off the lime trees and stripping the white birchbranches into strange unseemly nakedness, it twisted everything on oneside--acacias, flowers, burdocks, long grass, and tall tree-tops. Thepeasant girls working in the garden ran shrieking into shelter in theservants' quarters. The streaming rain had already flung its white veilover all the distant forest and half the fields close by, and wasrapidly swooping down upon the copse. The wet of the rain spurting up intiny drops could be smelt in the air.

  Holding his head bent down before him, and struggling with the wind thatstrove to tear the wraps away from him, Levin was moving up to the copseand had just caught sight of something white behind the oak tree, whenthere was a sudden flash, the whole earth seemed on fire, and the vaultof heaven seemed crashing overhead. Opening his blinded eyes, Levingazed through the thick veil of rain that separated him now from thecopse, and to his horror the first thing he saw was the green crest ofthe familiar oak-tree in the middle of the copse uncannily changing itsposition. "Can it have been struck?" Levin hardly had time to thinkwhen, moving more and more rapidly, the oak tree vanished behind theother trees, and he heard the crash of the great tree falling upon theothers.

  The flash of lightning, the crash of thunder, and the instantaneouschill that ran through him were all merged for Levin in one sense ofterror.

  "My God! my God! not on them!" he said.

  And though he thought at once how senseless was his prayer that theyshould not have been killed by the oak which had fallen now, he repeatedit, knowing that he could do nothing better than utter this senselessprayer.

  Running up to the place where they usually went, he did not find themthere.

  They were at the other end of the copse under an old lime-tree; theywere calling him. Two figures in dark dresses (they had been lightsummer dresses when they started out) were standing bending oversomething. It was Kitty with the nurse. The rain was already ceasing,and it was beginning to get light when Levin reached them. The nurse wasnot wet on the lower part of her dress, but Kitty was drenched through,and her soaked clothes clung to her. Though the rain was over, theystill stood in the same position in which they had been standing whenthe storm broke. Both stood bending over a perambulator with a greenumbrella.

  "Alive? Unhurt? Thank God!" he said, splashing with his soaked bootsthrough the standing water and running up to them.

  Kitty's rosy wet face was turned towards him, and she smiled timidlyunder her shapeless sopped hat.

  "Aren't you ashamed of yourself? I can't think how you can be soreckless!" he said angrily to his wife.

  "It wasn't my fault, really. We were just meaning to go, when he madesuch a to-do that we had to change him. We were just..." Kitty begandefending herself.

  Mitya was unharmed, dry, and still fast asleep.

  "Well, thank God! I don't know what I'm saying!"

  They gathered up the baby's wet belongings; the nurse picked up the babyand carried it. Levin walked beside his wife, and, penitent for havingbeen angry, he squeezed her hand when the nurse was not looking.

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