Anna karenina, p.6
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       Anna Karenina, p.6

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 6

  When Oblonsky asked Levin what had brought him to town, Levin blushed,and was furious with himself for blushing, because he could not answer,"I have come to make your sister-in-law an offer," though that wasprecisely what he had come for.

  The families of the Levins and the Shtcherbatskys were old, noble Moscowfamilies, and had always been on intimate and friendly terms. Thisintimacy had grown still closer during Levin's student days. He had bothprepared for the university with the young Prince Shtcherbatsky, thebrother of Kitty and Dolly, and had entered at the same time with him.In those days Levin used often to be in the Shtcherbatskys' house, andhe was in love with the Shtcherbatsky household. Strange as it mayappear, it was with the household, the family, that Konstantin Levin wasin love, especially with the feminine half of the household. Levin didnot remember his own mother, and his only sister was older than he was,so that it was in the Shtcherbatskys' house that he saw for the firsttime that inner life of an old, noble, cultivated, and honorable familyof which he had been deprived by the death of his father and mother. Allthe members of that family, especially the feminine half, were picturedby him, as it were, wrapped about with a mysterious poetical veil, andhe not only perceived no defects whatever in them, but under thepoetical veil that shrouded them he assumed the existence of theloftiest sentiments and every possible perfection. Why it was the threeyoung ladies had one day to speak French, and the next English; why itwas that at certain hours they played by turns on the piano, the soundsof which were audible in their brother's room above, where the studentsused to work; why they were visited by those professors of Frenchliterature, of music, of drawing, of dancing; why at certain hours allthe three young ladies, with Mademoiselle Linon, drove in the coach tothe Tversky boulevard, dressed in their satin cloaks, Dolly in a longone, Natalia in a half-long one, and Kitty in one so short that hershapely legs in tightly-drawn red stockings were visible to allbeholders; why it was they had to walk about the Tversky boulevardescorted by a footman with a gold cockade in his hat--all this and muchmore that was done in their mysterious world he did not understand, buthe was sure that everything that was done there was very good, and hewas in love precisely with the mystery of the proceedings.

  In his student days he had all but been in love with the eldest, Dolly,but she was soon married to Oblonsky. Then he began being in love withthe second. He felt, as it were, that he had to be in love with one ofthe sisters, only he could not quite make out which. But Natalia, too,had hardly made her appearance in the world when she married thediplomat Lvov. Kitty was still a child when Levin left the university.Young Shtcherbatsky went into the navy, was drowned in the Baltic, andLevin's relations with the Shtcherbatskys, in spite of his friendshipwith Oblonsky, became less intimate. But when early in the winter ofthis year Levin came to Moscow, after a year in the country, and saw theShtcherbatskys, he realized which of the three sisters he was indeeddestined to love.

  One would have thought that nothing could be simpler than for him, a manof good family, rather rich than poor, and thirty-two years old, to makethe young Princess Shtcherbatskaya an offer of marriage; in alllikelihood he would at once have been looked upon as a good match. ButLevin was in love, and so it seemed to him that Kitty was so perfect inevery respect that she was a creature far above everything earthly; andthat he was a creature so low and so earthly that it could not even beconceived that other people and she herself could regard him as worthyof her.

  After spending two months in Moscow in a state of enchantment, seeingKitty almost every day in society, into which he went so as to meet her,he abruptly decided that it could not be, and went back to the country.

  Levin's conviction that it could not be was founded on the idea that inthe eyes of her family he was a disadvantageous and worthless match forthe charming Kitty, and that Kitty herself could not love him. In herfamily's eyes he had no ordinary, definite career and position insociety, while his contemporaries by this time, when he was thirty-two,were already, one a colonel, and another a professor, another directorof a bank and railways, or president of a board like Oblonsky. But he(he knew very well how he must appear to others) was a countrygentleman, occupied in breeding cattle, shooting game, and buildingbarns; in other words, a fellow of no ability, who had not turned outwell, and who was doing just what, according to the ideas of the world,is done by people fit for nothing else.

  The mysterious, enchanting Kitty herself could not love such an uglyperson as he conceived himself to be, and, above all, such an ordinary,in no way striking person. Moreover, his attitude to Kitty in thepast--the attitude of a grown-up person to a child, arising from hisfriendship with her brother--seemed to him yet another obstacle to love.An ugly, good-natured man, as he considered himself, might, he supposed,be liked as a friend; but to be loved with such a love as that withwhich he loved Kitty, one would need to be a handsome and, still more, adistinguished man.

  He had heard that women often did care for ugly and ordinary men, but hedid not believe it, for he judged by himself, and he could not himselfhave loved any but beautiful, mysterious, and exceptional women.

  But after spending two months alone in the country, he was convincedthat this was not one of those passions of which he had had experiencein his early youth; that this feeling gave him not an instant's rest;that he could not live without deciding the question, would she or wouldshe not be his wife, and that his despair had arisen only from his ownimaginings, that he had no sort of proof that he would be rejected. Andhe had now come to Moscow with a firm determination to make an offer,and get married if he were accepted. Or ... he could not conceive whatwould become of him if he were rejected.

 
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