Anna karenina, p.81
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       Anna Karenina, p.81
 

          

  Chapter 12

  The load was tied on. Ivan jumped down and took the quiet, sleek horseby the bridle. The young wife flung the rake up on the load, and with abold step, swinging her arms, she went to join the women, who wereforming a ring for the haymakers' dance. Ivan drove off to the road andfell into line with the other loaded carts. The peasant women, withtheir rakes on their shoulders, gay with bright flowers, and chatteringwith ringing, merry voices, walked behind the hay cart. One wilduntrained female voice broke into a song, and sang it alone through averse, and then the same verse was taken up and repeated by half ahundred strong healthy voices, of all sorts, coarse and fine, singing inunison.

  The women, all singing, began to come close to Levin, and he felt asthough a storm were swooping down upon him with a thunder of merriment.The storm swooped down, enveloped him and the haycock on which he waslying, and the other haycocks, and the wagon-loads, and the whole meadowand distant fields all seemed to be shaking and singing to the measuresof this wild merry song with its shouts and whistles and clapping. Levinfelt envious of this health and mirthfulness; he longed to take part inthe expression of this joy of life. But he could do nothing, and had tolie and look on and listen. When the peasants, with their singing, hadvanished out of sight and hearing, a weary feeling of despondency at hisown isolation, his physical inactivity, his alienation from this world,came over Levin.

  Some of the very peasants who had been most active in wrangling with himover the hay, some whom he had treated with contumely, and who had triedto cheat him, those very peasants had greeted him goodhumoredly, andevidently had not, were incapable of having any feeling of rancoragainst him, any regret, any recollection even of having tried todeceive him. All that was drowned in a sea of merry common labor. Godgave the day, God gave the strength. And the day and the strength wereconsecrated to labor, and that labor was its own reward. For whom thelabor? What would be its fruits? These were idle considerations--besidethe point.

  Often Levin had admired this life, often he had a sense of envy of themen who led this life; but today for the first time, especially underthe influence of what he had seen in the attitude of Ivan Parmenov tohis young wife, the idea presented itself definitely to his mind that itwas in his power to exchange the dreary, artificial, idle, andindividualistic life he was leading for this laborious, pure, andsocially delightful life.

  The old man who had been sitting beside him had long ago gone home; thepeople had all separated. Those who lived near had gone home, whilethose who came from far were gathered into a group for supper, and tospend the night in the meadow. Levin, unobserved by the peasants, stilllay on the haycock, and still looked on and listened and mused. Thepeasants who remained for the night in the meadow scarcely slept all theshort summer night. At first there was the sound of merry talk andlaughing all together over the supper, then singing again and laughter.

  All the long day of toil had left no trace in them but lightness ofheart. Before the early dawn all was hushed. Nothing was to be heard butthe night sounds of the frogs that never ceased in the marsh, and thehorses snorting in the mist that rose over the meadow before themorning. Rousing himself, Levin got up from the haycock, and looking atthe stars, he saw that the night was over.

  "Well, what am I going to do? How am I to set about it?" he said tohimself, trying to express to himself all the thoughts and feelings hehad passed through in that brief night. All the thoughts and feelings hehad passed through fell into three separate trains of thought. One wasthe renunciation of his old life, of his utterly useless education. Thisrenunciation gave him satisfaction, and was easy and simple. Anotherseries of thoughts and mental images related to the life he longed tolive now. The simplicity, the purity, the sanity of this life he feltclearly, and he was convinced he would find in it the content, thepeace, and the dignity, of the lack of which he was so miserablyconscious. But a third series of ideas turned upon the question how toeffect this transition from the old life to the new. And there nothingtook clear shape for him. "Have a wife? Have work and the necessity ofwork? Leave Pokrovskoe? Buy land? Become a member of a peasantcommunity? Marry a peasant girl? How am I to set about it?" he askedhimself again, and could not find an answer. "I haven't slept all night,though, and I can't think it out clearly," he said to himself. "I'llwork it out later. One thing's certain, this night has decided my fate.All my old dreams of home life were absurd, not the real thing," he toldhimself. "It's all ever so much simpler and better..."

  "How beautiful!" he thought, looking at the strange, as it were,mother-of-pearl shell of white fleecy cloudlets resting right over hishead in the middle of the sky. "How exquisite it all is in thisexquisite night! And when was there time for that cloud-shell to form?Just now I looked at the sky, and there was nothing in it--only twowhite streaks. Yes, and so imperceptibly too my views of life changed!"

  He went out of the meadow and walked along the highroad towards thevillage. A slight wind arose, and the sky looked gray and sullen. Thegloomy moment had come that usually precedes the dawn, the full triumphof light over darkness.

  Shrinking from the cold, Levin walked rapidly, looking at the ground."What's that? Someone coming," he thought, catching the tinkle of bells,and lifting his head. Forty paces from him a carriage with four horsesharnessed abreast was driving towards him along the grassy road on whichhe was walking. The shaft-horses were tilted against the shafts by theruts, but the dexterous driver sitting on the box held the shaft overthe ruts, so that the wheels ran on the smooth part of the road.

  This was all Levin noticed, and without wondering who it could be, hegazed absently at the coach.

  In the coach was an old lady dozing in one corner, and at the window,evidently only just awake, sat a young girl holding in both hands theribbons of a white cap. With a face full of light and thought, full of asubtle, complex inner life, that was remote from Levin, she was gazingbeyond him at the glow of the sunrise.

  At the very instant when this apparition was vanishing, the truthfuleyes glanced at him. She recognized him, and her face lighted up withwondering delight.

  He could not be mistaken. There were no other eyes like those in theworld. There was only one creature in the world that could concentratefor him all the brightness and meaning of life. It was she. It wasKitty. He understood that she was driving to Ergushovo from the railwaystation. And everything that had been stirring Levin during thatsleepless night, all the resolutions he had made, all vanished at once.He recalled with horror his dreams of marrying a peasant girl. Thereonly, in the carriage that had crossed over to the other side of theroad, and was rapidly disappearing, there only could he find thesolution of the riddle of his life, which had weighed so agonizinglyupon him of late.

  She did not look out again. The sound of the carriage-springs was nolonger audible, the bells could scarcely be heard. The barking of dogsshowed the carriage had reached the village, and all that was left wasthe empty fields all round, the village in front, and he himselfisolated and apart from it all, wandering lonely along the desertedhighroad.

  He glanced at the sky, expecting to find there the cloud shell he hadbeen admiring and taking as the symbol of the ideas and feelings of thatnight. There was nothing in the sky in the least like a shell. There, inthe remote heights above, a mysterious change had been accomplished.There was no trace of shell, and there was stretched over fully half thesky an even cover of tiny and ever tinier cloudlets. The sky had grownblue and bright; and with the same softness, but with the sameremoteness, it met his questioning gaze.

  "No," he said to himself, "however good that life of simplicity and toilmay be, I cannot go back to it. I love _her_."

 
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