Anna karenina, p.76
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       Anna Karenina, p.76

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 7

  Stephan Arkadyevitch had gone to Petersburg to perform the most naturaland essential official duty--so familiar to everyone in the governmentservice, though incomprehensible to outsiders--that duty, but for whichone could hardly be in government service, of reminding the ministry ofhis existence--and having, for the due performance of this rite, takenall the available cash from home, was gaily and agreeably spending hisdays at the races and in the summer villas. Meanwhile Dolly and thechildren had moved into the country, to cut down expenses as much aspossible. She had gone to Ergushovo, the estate that had been her dowry,and the one where in spring the forest had been sold. It was nearlyforty miles from Levin's Pokrovskoe. The big, old house at Ergushovo hadbeen pulled down long ago, and the old prince had had the lodge done upand built on to. Twenty years before, when Dolly was a child, the lodgehad been roomy and comfortable, though, like all lodges, it stoodsideways to the entrance avenue, and faced the south. But by now thislodge was old and dilapidated. When Stepan Arkadyevitch had gone down inthe spring to sell the forest, Dolly had begged him to look over thehouse and order what repairs might be needed. Stepan Arkadyevitch, likeall unfaithful husbands indeed, was very solicitous for his wife'scomfort, and he had himself looked over the house, and giveninstructions about everything that he considered necessary. What heconsidered necessary was to cover all the furniture with cretonne, toput up curtains, to weed the garden, to make a little bridge on thepond, and to plant flowers. But he forgot many other essential matters,the want of which greatly distressed Darya Alexandrovna later on.

  In spite of Stepan Arkadyevitch's efforts to be an attentive father andhusband, he never could keep in his mind that he had a wife andchildren. He had bachelor tastes, and it was in accordance with themthat he shaped his life. On his return to Moscow he informed his wifewith pride that everything was ready, that the house would be a littleparadise, and that he advised her most certainly to go. His wife'sstaying away in the country was very agreeable to Stepan Arkadyevitchfrom every point of view: it did the children good, it decreasedexpenses, and it left him more at liberty. Darya Alexandrovna regardedstaying in the country for the summer as essential for the children,especially for the little girl, who had not succeeded in regaining herstrength after the scarlatina, and also as a means of escaping the pettyhumiliations, the little bills owing to the wood-merchant, thefishmonger, the shoemaker, which made her miserable. Besides this, shewas pleased to go away to the country because she was dreaming ofgetting her sister Kitty to stay with her there. Kitty was to be backfrom abroad in the middle of the summer, and bathing had been prescribedfor her. Kitty wrote that no prospect was so alluring as to spend thesummer with Dolly at Ergushovo, full of childish associations for bothof them.

  The first days of her existence in the country were very hard for Dolly.She used to stay in the country as a child, and the impression she hadretained of it was that the country was a refuge from all theunpleasantness of the town, that life there, though not luxurious--Dollycould easily make up her mind to that--was cheap and comfortable; thatthere was plenty of everything, everything was cheap, everything couldbe got, and children were happy. But now coming to the country as thehead of a family, she perceived that it was all utterly unlike what shehad fancied.

  The day after their arrival there was a heavy fall of rain, and in thenight the water came through in the corridor and in the nursery, so thatthe beds had to be carried into the drawing room. There was no kitchenmaid to be found; of the nine cows, it appeared from the words of thecowherd-woman that some were about to calve, others had just calved,others were old, and others again hard-uddered; there was not butter normilk enough even for the children. There were no eggs. They could get nofowls; old, purplish, stringy cocks were all they had for roasting andboiling. Impossible to get women to scrub the floors--all werepotato-hoeing. Driving was out of the question, because one of thehorses was restive, and bolted in the shafts. There was no place wherethey could bathe; the whole of the river-bank was trampled by the cattleand open to the road; even walks were impossible, for the cattle strayedinto the garden through a gap in the hedge, and there was one terriblebull, who bellowed, and therefore might be expected to gore somebody.There were no proper cupboards for their clothes; what cupboards therewere either would not close at all, or burst open whenever anyone passedby them. There were no pots and pans; there was no copper in thewashhouse, nor even an ironing-board in the maids' room.

  Finding instead of peace and rest all these, from her point of view,fearful calamities, Darya Alexandrovna was at first in despair. Sheexerted herself to the utmost, felt the hopelessness of the position,and was every instant suppressing the tears that started into her eyes.The bailiff, a retired quartermaster, whom Stepan Arkadyevitch had takena fancy to and had appointed bailiff on account of his handsome andrespectful appearance as a hall-porter, showed no sympathy for DaryaAlexandrovna's woes. He said respectfully, "nothing can be done, thepeasants are such a wretched lot," and did nothing to help her.

  The position seemed hopeless. But in the Oblonskys' household, as in allfamilies indeed, there was one inconspicuous but most valuable anduseful person, Marya Philimonovna. She soothed her mistress, assured herthat everything would _come round_ (it was her expression, and Matveyhad borrowed it from her), and without fuss or hurry proceeded to set towork herself. She had immediately made friends with the bailiff's wife,and on the very first day she drank tea with her and the bailiff underthe acacias, and reviewed all the circumstances of the position. Verysoon Marya Philimonovna had established her club, so to say, under theacacias, and there it was, in this club, consisting of the bailiff'swife, the village elder, and the counting house clerk, that thedifficulties of existence were gradually smoothed away, and in a week'stime everything actually had come round. The roof was mended, a kitchenmaid was found--a crony of the village elder's--hens were bought, thecows began giving milk, the garden hedge was stopped up with stakes, thecarpenter made a mangle, hooks were put in the cupboards, and theyceased to burst open spontaneously, and an ironing-board covered witharmy cloth was placed across from the arm of a chair to the chest ofdrawers, and there was a smell of flatirons in the maids' room.

  "Just see, now, and you were quite in despair," said Marya Philimonovna,pointing to the ironing-board. They even rigged up a bathing-shed ofstraw hurdles. Lily began to bathe, and Darya Alexandrovna began torealize, if only in part, her expectations, if not of a peaceful, atleast of a comfortable, life in the country. Peaceful with six childrenDarya Alexandrovna could not be. One would fall ill, another mighteasily become so, a third would be without something necessary, a fourthwould show symptoms of a bad disposition, and so on. Rare indeed werethe brief periods of peace. But these cares and anxieties were for DaryaAlexandrovna the sole happiness possible. Had it not been for them, shewould have been left alone to brood over her husband who did not loveher. And besides, hard though it was for the mother to bear the dread ofillness, the illnesses themselves, and the grief of seeing signs of evilpropensities in her children--the children themselves were even nowrepaying her in small joys for her sufferings. Those joys were so smallthat they passed unnoticed, like gold in sand, and at bad moments shecould see nothing but the pain, nothing but sand; but there were goodmoments too when she saw nothing but the joy, nothing but gold.

  Now in the solitude of the country, she began to be more and morefrequently aware of those joys. Often, looking at them, she would makeevery possible effort to persuade herself that she was mistaken, thatshe as a mother was partial to her children. All the same, she could nothelp saying to herself that she had charming children, all six of themin different ways, but a set of children such as is not often to be metwith, and she was happy in them, and proud of them.

 

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