Anna karenina, p.48
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       Anna Karenina, p.48

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 14

  As he rode up to the house in the happiest frame of mind, Levin heardthe bell ring at the side of the principal entrance of the house.

  "Yes, that's someone from the railway station," he thought, "just thetime to be here from the Moscow train ... Who could it be? What if it'sbrother Nikolay? He did say: 'Maybe I'll go to the waters, or maybe I'llcome down to you.'" He felt dismayed and vexed for the first minute,that his brother Nikolay's presence should come to disturb his happymood of spring. But he felt ashamed of the feeling, and at once heopened, as it were, the arms of his soul, and with a softened feeling ofjoy and expectation, now he hoped with all his heart that it was hisbrother. He pricked up his horse, and riding out from behind the acaciashe saw a hired three-horse sledge from the railway station, and agentleman in a fur coat. It was not his brother. "Oh, if it were onlysome nice person one could talk to a little!" he thought.

  "Ah," cried Levin joyfully, flinging up both his hands. "Here's adelightful visitor! Ah, how glad I am to see you!" he shouted,recognizing Stepan Arkadyevitch.

  "I shall find out for certain whether she's married, or when she's goingto be married," he thought. And on that delicious spring day he feltthat the thought of her did not hurt him at all.

  "Well, you didn't expect me, eh?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting outof the sledge, splashed with mud on the bridge of his nose, on hischeek, and on his eyebrows, but radiant with health and good spirits."I've come to see you in the first place," he said, embracing andkissing him, "to have some stand-shooting second, and to sell the forestat Ergushovo third."

  "Delightful! What a spring we're having! How ever did you get along in asledge?"

  "In a cart it would have been worse still, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,"answered the driver, who knew him.

  "Well, I'm very, very glad to see you," said Levin, with a genuine smileof childlike delight.

  Levin led his friend to the room set apart for visitors, where StepanArkadyevitch's things were carried also--a bag, a gun in a case, asatchel for cigars. Leaving him there to wash and change his clothes,Levin went off to the counting house to speak about the ploughing andclover. Agafea Mihalovna, always very anxious for the credit of thehouse, met him in the hall with inquiries about dinner.

  "Do just as you like, only let it be as soon as possible," he said, andwent to the bailiff.

  When he came back, Stepan Arkadyevitch, washed and combed, came out ofhis room with a beaming smile, and they went upstairs together.

  "Well, I am glad I managed to get away to you! Now I shall understandwhat the mysterious business is that you are always absorbed in here.No, really, I envy you. What a house, how nice it all is! So bright, socheerful!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, forgetting that it was not alwaysspring and fine weather like that day. "And your nurse is simplycharming! A pretty maid in an apron might be even more agreeable,perhaps; but for your severe monastic style it does very well."

  Stepan Arkadyevitch told him many interesting pieces of news; especiallyinteresting to Levin was the news that his brother, Sergey Ivanovitch,was intending to pay him a visit in the summer.

  Not one word did Stepan Arkadyevitch say in reference to Kitty and theShtcherbatskys; he merely gave him greetings from his wife. Levin wasgrateful to him for his delicacy and was very glad of his visitor. Asalways happened with him during his solitude, a mass of ideas andfeelings had been accumulating within him, which he could notcommunicate to those about him. And now he poured out upon StepanArkadyevitch his poetic joy in the spring, and his failures and plansfor the land, and his thoughts and criticisms on the books he had beenreading, and the idea of his own book, the basis of which really was,though he was unaware of it himself, a criticism of all the old books onagriculture. Stepan Arkadyevitch, always charming, understandingeverything at the slightest reference, was particularly charming on thisvisit, and Levin noticed in him a special tenderness, as it were, and anew tone of respect that flattered him.

  The efforts of Agafea Mihalovna and the cook, that the dinner should beparticularly good, only ended in the two famished friends attacking thepreliminary course, eating a great deal of bread and butter, salt gooseand salted mushrooms, and in Levin's finally ordering the soup to beserved without the accompaniment of little pies, with which the cook hadparticularly meant to impress their visitor. But though StepanArkadyevitch was accustomed to very different dinners, he thoughteverything excellent: the herb brandy, and the bread, and the butter,and above all the salt goose and the mushrooms, and the nettle soup, andthe chicken in white sauce, and the white Crimean wine--everything wassuperb and delicious.

  "Splendid, splendid!" he said, lighting a fat cigar after the roast. "Ifeel as if, coming to you, I had landed on a peaceful shore after thenoise and jolting of a steamer. And so you maintain that the laborerhimself is an element to be studied and to regulate the choice ofmethods in agriculture. Of course, I'm an ignorant outsider; but Ishould fancy theory and its application will have its influence on thelaborer too."

  "Yes, but wait a bit. I'm not talking of political economy, I'm talkingof the science of agriculture. It ought to be like the natural sciences,and to observe given phenomena and the laborer in his economic,ethnographical..."

  At that instant Agafea Mihalovna came in with jam.

  "Oh, Agafea Mihalovna," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, kissing the tips ofhis plump fingers, "what salt goose, what herb brandy!... What do youthink, isn't it time to start, Kostya?" he added.

  Levin looked out of the window at the sun sinking behind the baretree-tops of the forest.

  "Yes, it's time," he said. "Kouzma, get ready the trap," and he randownstairs.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch, going down, carefully took the canvas cover off hisvarnished gun case with his own hands, and opening it, began to getready his expensive new-fashioned gun. Kouzma, who already scented a bigtip, never left Stepan Arkadyevitch's side, and put on him both hisstockings and boots, a task which Stepan Arkadyevitch readily left him.

  "Kostya, give orders that if the merchant Ryabinin comes ... I told himto come today, he's to be brought in and to wait for me..."

  "Why, do you mean to say you're selling the forest to Ryabinin?"

  "Yes. Do you know him?"

  "To be sure I do. I have had to do business with him, 'positively andconclusively.'"

  Stepan Arkadyevitch laughed. "Positively and conclusively" were themerchant's favorite words.

  "Yes, it's wonderfully funny the way he talks. She knows where hermaster's going!" he added, patting Laska, who hung about Levin, whiningand licking his hands, his boots, and his gun.

  The trap was already at the steps when they went out.

  "I told them to bring the trap round; or would you rather walk?"

  "No, we'd better drive," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting into thetrap. He sat down, tucked the tiger-skin rug round him, and lighted acigar. "How is it you don't smoke? A cigar is a sort of thing, notexactly a pleasure, but the crown and outward sign of pleasure. Come,this is life! How splendid it is! This is how I should like to live!"

  "Why, who prevents you?" said Levin, smiling.

  "No, you're a lucky man! You've got everything you like. You likehorses--and you have them; dogs--you have them; shooting--you have it;farming--you have it."

  "Perhaps because I rejoice in what I have, and don't fret for what Ihaven't," said Levin, thinking of Kitty.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch comprehended, looked at him, but said nothing.

  Levin was grateful to Oblonsky for noticing, with his never-failingtact, that he dreaded conversation about the Shtcherbatskys, and sosaying nothing about them. But now Levin was longing to find out whatwas tormenting him so, yet he had not the courage to begin.

  "Come, tell me how things are going with you," said Levin, bethinkinghimself that it was not nice of him to think only of himself.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch's eyes sparkled merrily.

  "You don't admit, I know, that one can be fond of new rolls when one hashad one's rations of
bread--to your mind it's a crime; but I don't countlife as life without love," he said, taking Levin's question his ownway. "What am I to do? I'm made that way. And really, one does so littleharm to anyone, and gives oneself so much pleasure..."

  "What! is there something new, then?" queried Levin.

  "Yes, my boy, there is! There, do you see, you know the type of Ossian'swomen.... Women, such as one sees in dreams.... Well, these women aresometimes to be met in reality ... and these women are terrible. Woman,don't you know, is such a subject that however much you study it, it'salways perfectly new."

  "Well, then, it would be better not to study it."

  "No. Some mathematician has said that enjoyment lies in the search fortruth, not in the finding it."

  Levin listened in silence, and in spite of all the efforts he made, hecould not in the least enter into the feelings of his friend andunderstand his sentiments and the charm of studying such women.

 

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