Anna karenina, p.77
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       Anna Karenina, p.77
 

          

  Chapter 8

  Towards the end of May, when everything had been more or lesssatisfactorily arranged, she received her husband's answer to hercomplaints of the disorganized state of things in the country. He wrotebegging her forgiveness for not having thought of everything before, andpromised to come down at the first chance. This chance did not presentitself, and till the beginning of June Darya Alexandrovna stayed alonein the country.

  On the Sunday in St. Peter's week Darya Alexandrovna drove to mass forall her children to take the sacrament. Darya Alexandrovna in herintimate, philosophical talks with her sister, her mother, and herfriends very often astonished them by the freedom of her views in regardto religion. She had a strange religion of transmigration of souls allher own, in which she had firm faith, troubling herself little about thedogmas of the Church. But in her family she was strict in carrying outall that was required by the Church--and not merely in order to set anexample, but with all her heart in it. The fact that the children hadnot been at the sacrament for nearly a year worried her extremely, andwith the full approval and sympathy of Marya Philimonovna she decidedthat this should take place now in the summer.

  For several days before, Darya Alexandrovna was busily deliberating onhow to dress all the children. Frocks were made or altered and washed,seams and flounces were let out, buttons were sewn on, and ribbons gotready. One dress, Tanya's, which the English governess had undertaken,cost Darya Alexandrovna much loss of temper. The English governess inaltering it had made the seams in the wrong place, had taken up thesleeves too much, and altogether spoilt the dress. It was so narrow onTanya's shoulders that it was quite painful to look at her. But MaryaPhilimonovna had the happy thought of putting in gussets, and adding alittle shoulder-cape. The dress was set right, but there was nearly aquarrel with the English governess. On the morning, however, all washappily arranged, and towards ten o'clock--the time at which they hadasked the priest to wait for them for the mass--the children in theirnew dresses, with beaming faces, stood on the step before the carriagewaiting for their mother.

  To the carriage, instead of the restive Raven, they had harnessed,thanks to the representations of Marya Philimonovna, the bailiff'shorse, Brownie, and Darya Alexandrovna, delayed by anxiety over her ownattire, came out and got in, dressed in a white muslin gown.

  Darya Alexandrovna had done her hair, and dressed with care andexcitement. In the old days she had dressed for her own sake to lookpretty and be admired. Later on, as she got older, dress became more andmore distasteful to her. She saw that she was losing her good looks. Butnow she began to feel pleasure and interest in dress again. Now she didnot dress for her own sake, not for the sake of her own beauty, butsimply that as the mother of those exquisite creatures she might notspoil the general effect. And looking at herself for the last time inthe looking-glass she was satisfied with herself. She looked nice. Notnice as she would have wished to look nice in old days at a ball, butnice for the object which she now had in view.

  In the church there was no one but the peasants, the servants and theirwomen-folk. But Darya Alexandrovna saw, or fancied she saw, thesensation produced by her children and her. The children were not onlybeautiful to look at in their smart little dresses, but they werecharming in the way they behaved. Aliosha, it is true, did not standquite correctly; he kept turning round, trying to look at his littlejacket from behind; but all the same he was wonderfully sweet. Tanyabehaved like a grownup person, and looked after the little ones. And thesmallest, Lily, was bewitching in her naive astonishment at everything,and it was difficult not to smile when, after taking the sacrament, shesaid in English, "Please, some more."

  On the way home the children felt that something solemn had happened,and were very sedate.

  Everything went happily at home too; but at lunch Grisha beganwhistling, and, what was worse, was disobedient to the Englishgoverness, and was forbidden to have any tart. Darya Alexandrovna wouldnot have let things go so far on such a day had she been present; butshe had to support the English governess's authority, and she upheld herdecision that Grisha should have no tart. This rather spoiled thegeneral good humor. Grisha cried, declaring that Nikolinka had whistledtoo, and he was not punished, and that he wasn't crying for the tart--hedidn't care--but at being unjustly treated. This was really too tragic,and Darya Alexandrovna made up her mind to persuade the Englishgoverness to forgive Grisha, and she went to speak to her. But on theway, as she passed the drawing room, she beheld a scene, filling herheart with such pleasure that the tears came into her eyes, and sheforgave the delinquent herself.

  The culprit was sitting at the window in the corner of the drawing room;beside him was standing Tanya with a plate. On the pretext of wanting togive some dinner to her dolls, she had asked the governess's permissionto take her share of tart to the nursery, and had taken it instead toher brother. While still weeping over the injustice of his punishment,he was eating the tart, and kept saying through his sobs, "Eat yourself;let's eat it together ... together."

  Tanya had at first been under the influence of her pity for Grisha, thenof a sense of her noble action, and tears were standing in her eyes too;but she did not refuse, and ate her share.

  On catching sight of their mother they were dismayed, but, looking intoher face, they saw they were not doing wrong. They burst out laughing,and, with their mouths full of tart, they began wiping their smilinglips with their hands, and smearing their radiant faces all over withtears and jam.

  "Mercy! Your new white frock! Tanya! Grisha!" said their mother, tryingto save the frock, but with tears in her eyes, smiling a blissful,rapturous smile.

  The new frocks were taken off, and orders were given for the littlegirls to have their blouses put on, and the boys their old jackets, andthe wagonette to be harnessed; with Brownie, to the bailiff's annoyance,again in the shafts, to drive out for mushroom picking and bathing. Aroar of delighted shrieks arose in the nursery, and never ceased tillthey had set off for the bathing-place.

  They gathered a whole basketful of mushrooms; even Lily found a birchmushroom. It had always happened before that Miss Hoole found them andpointed them out to her; but this time she found a big one quite ofherself, and there was a general scream of delight, "Lily has found amushroom!"

  Then they reached the river, put the horses under the birch trees, andwent to the bathing-place. The coachman, Terenty, fastened the horses,who kept whisking away the flies, to a tree, and, treading down thegrass, lay down in the shade of a birch and smoked his shag, while thenever-ceasing shrieks of delight of the children floated across to himfrom the bathing-place.

  Though it was hard work to look after all the children and restraintheir wild pranks, though it was difficult too to keep in one's head andnot mix up all the stockings, little breeches, and shoes for thedifferent legs, and to undo and to do up again all the tapes andbuttons, Darya Alexandrovna, who had always liked bathing herself, andbelieved it to be very good for the children, enjoyed nothing so much asbathing with all the children. To go over all those fat little legs,pulling on their stockings, to take in her arms and dip those littlenaked bodies, and to hear their screams of delight and alarm, to see thebreathless faces with wide-open, scared, and happy eyes of all hersplashing cherubs, was a great pleasure to her.

  When half the children had been dressed, some peasant women in holidaydress, out picking herbs, came up to the bathing-shed and stopped shyly.Marya Philimonovna called one of them and handed her a sheet and a shirtthat had dropped into the water for her to dry them, and DaryaAlexandrovna began to talk to the women. At first they laughed behindtheir hands and did not understand her questions, but soon they grewbolder and began to talk, winning Darya Alexandrovna's heart at once bythe genuine admiration of the children that they showed.

  "My, what a beauty! as white as sugar," said one, admiring Tanitchka,and shaking her head; "but thin..."

  "Yes, she has been ill."

  "And so they've been bathing you too," said another to the baby.

  "
No; he's only three months old," answered Darya Alexandrovna withpride.

  "You don't say so!"

  "And have you any children?"

  "I've had four; I've two living--a boy and a girl. I weaned her lastcarnival."

  "How old is she?"

  "Why, two years old."

  "Why did you nurse her so long?"

  "It's our custom; for three fasts..."

  And the conversation became most interesting to Darya Alexandrovna. Whatsort of time did she have? What was the matter with the boy? Where washer husband? Did it often happen?

  Darya Alexandrovna felt disinclined to leave the peasant women, sointeresting to her was their conversation, so completely identical wereall their interests. What pleased her most of all was that she sawclearly what all the women admired more than anything was her having somany children, and such fine ones. The peasant women even made DaryaAlexandrovna laugh, and offended the English governess, because she wasthe cause of the laughter she did not understand. One of the youngerwomen kept staring at the Englishwoman, who was dressing after all therest, and when she put on her third petticoat she could not refrain fromthe remark, "My, she keeps putting on and putting on, and she'll neverhave done!" she said, and they all went off into roars.

 
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