"How shall we go? It's a splendid marsh, I see, and there are hawks," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, pointing to two great birds hovering over the reeds. "Where there are hawks, there is sure to be game."
"Now, gentlemen," said Levin, pulling up his boots and examining the lock of his gun with rather a gloomy expression, "do you see those reeds?" He pointed to an oasis of blackish green in the huge half-mown wet meadow that stretched along the right bank of the river. "The marsh begins here, straight in front of us, do you see—where it is greener? From here it runs to the right where the horses are; there are breeding places there, and grouse, and all round those reeds as far as that alder, and right up to the mill. Over there, do you see, where the pools are? That's the best place. There I once shot seventeen snipe. We'll separate with the dogs and go in different directions, and then meet over there at the mill."
"Well, which shall go to left and which to right?" asked Stepan Arkadyevitch. "It's wider to the right; you two go that way and I'll take the left," he said with apparent carelessness.
"Capital! we'll make the bigger bag! Yes, come along, come along!" Vassenka exclaimed.
Levin could do nothing but agree, and they divided.
As soon as they entered the marsh, the two dogs began hunting about together and made towards the green, slime-covered pool. Levin knew Laska's method, wary and indefinite; he knew the place too and expected a whole covey of snipe.
"Veslovsky, beside me, walk beside me!" he said in a faint voice to his companion splashing in the water behind him. Levin could not help feeling an interest in the direction his gun was pointed, after that casual shot near the Kolpensky marsh.
"Oh, I won't get in your way, don't trouble about me."
But Levin could not help troubling, and recalled Kitty's words at parting: "Mind you don't shoot one another." The dogs came nearer and nearer, passed each other, each pursuing its own scent. The expectation of snipe was so intense that to Levin the squelching sound of his own heel, as he drew it up out of the mire, seemed to be the call of a snipe, and he clutched and pressed the lock of his gun.
"Bang! bang!" sounded almost in his ear. Vassenka had fired at a flock of ducks which was hovering over the marsh and flying at that moment towards the sportsmen, far out of range. Before Levin had time to look round, there was the whir of one snipe, another, a third, and some eight more rose one after another.
Stepan Arkadyevitch hit one at the very moment when it was beginning its zigzag movements, and the snipe fell in a heap into the mud. Oblonsky aimed deliberately at another, still flying low in the reeds, and together with the report of the shot, that snipe too fell, and it could be seen fluttering out where the sedge had been cut, its unhurt wing showing white beneath.
Levin was not so lucky: he aimed at his first bird too low, and missed; he aimed at it again, just as it was rising, but at that instant another snipe flew up at his very feet, distracting him so that he missed again.
While they were loading their guns, another snipe rose, and Veslovsky, who had had time to load again, sent two charges of small-shot into the water. Stepan Arkadyevitch picked up his snipe, and with sparkling eyes looked at Levin.
"Well, now let us separate," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, and limping on his left foot, holding his gun in readiness and whistling to his dog, he walked off in one direction. Levin and Veslovsky walked in the other.
It always happened with Levin that when his first shots were a failure he got hot and out of temper, and shot badly the whole day. So it was that day. The snipe showed themselves in numbers. They kept flying up from just under the dogs, from under the sportsmen's legs, and Levin might have retrieved his ill luck. But the more he shot, the more he felt disgraced in the eyes of Veslovsky, who kept popping away merrily and indiscriminately, killing nothing, and not in the slightest abashed by his ill success. Levin, in feverish haste, could not restrain himself, got more and more out of temper, and ended by shooting almost without a hope of hitting. Laska, indeed, seemed to understand this. She began looking more languidly, and gazed back at the sportsmen, as it were, with perplexity or reproach in her eyes. Shots followed shots in rapid succession. The smoke of the powder hung about the sportsmen, while in the great roomy net of the game bag there were only three light little snipe. And of these one had been killed by Veslovsky alone, and one by both of them together. Meanwhile from the other side of the marsh came the sound of Stepan Arkadyevitch's shots, not frequent, but, as Levin fancied, well-directed, for almost after each they heard "Krak, Krak, apporte!"
This excited Levin still more. The snipe were floating continually in the air over the reeds. Their whirring wings close to the earth, and their harsh cries high in the air, could be heard on all sides; the snipe that had risen first and flown up into the air, settled again before the sportsmen. Instead of two hawks there were now dozens of them hovering with shrill cries over the marsh.
After walking through the larger half of the marsh, Levin and Veslovsky reached the place where the peasants' mowing-grass was divided into long strips reaching to the reeds, marked off in one place by the trampled grass, in another by a path mown through it. Half of these strips had already been mown.
Though there was not so much hope of finding birds in the uncut part as the cut part, Levin had promised Stepan Arkadyevitch to meet him, and so he walked on with his companion through the cut and uncut patches.
"Hi, sportsmen!" shouted one of a group of peasants, sitting on an unharnessed cart; "come and have some lunch with us! Have a drop of wine!"
Levin looked round.
"Come along, it's all right!" shouted a good-humored-looking bearded peasant with a red face, showing his white teeth in a grin, and holding up a greenish bottle that flashed in the sunlight.
"Qu'est-ce qu'ils disent?" asked Veslovsky.
"They invite you to have some vodka. Most likely they've been dividing the meadow into lots. I should have some," said Levin, not without some guile, hoping Veslovsky would be tempted by the vodka, and would go away to them.
"Why do they offer it?"
"Oh, they're merry-making. Really, you should join them. You would be interested."
"Allons, c'est curieux."
"You go, you go, you'll find the way to the mill!" cried Levin, and looking round he perceived with satisfaction that Veslovsky, bent and stumbling with weariness, holding his gun out at arm's length, was making his way out of the marsh towards the peasants.
"You come too!" the peasants shouted to Levin. "Never fear! You taste our cake!"
Levin felt a strong inclination to drink a little vodka and to eat some bread. He was exhausted, and felt it a great effort to drag his staggering legs out of the mire, and for a minute he hesitated. But Laska was setting. And immediately all his weariness vanished, and he walked lightly through the swamp towards the dog. A snipe flew up at his feet; he fired and killed it. Laska still pointed.—"Fetch it!" Another bird flew up close to the dog. Levin fired. But it was an unlucky day for him; he missed it, and when he went to look for the one he had shot, he could not find that either. He wandered all about the reeds, but Laska did not believe he had shot it, and when he sent her to find it, she pretended to hunt for it, but did not really. And in the absence of Vassenka, on whom Levin threw the blame of his failure, things went no better. There were plenty of snipe still, but Levin made one miss after another.
The slanting rays of the sun were still hot; his clothes, soaked through with perspiration, stuck to his body; his left boot full of water weighed heavily on his leg and squeaked at every step; the sweat ran in drops down his powder-grimed face, his mouth was full of the bitter taste, his nose of the smell of powder and stagnant water, his ears were ringing with the incessant whir of the snipe; he could not touch the stock of his gun, it was so hot; his heart beat with short, rapid throbs; his hands shook with excitement, and his weary legs stumbled and staggered over the hillocks and in the swamp, but still he walked on and still he shot. At last, after a disgraceful miss, he flung his gun and his hat on the ground.
"No, I must control myself," he said to himself. Picking up his gun and his hat, he called Laska, and went out of the swamp. When he got on to dry ground he sat down, pulled off his boot and emptied it, then walked to the marsh, drank some stagnant-tasting water, moistened his burning hot gun, and washed his face and hands. Feeling refreshed, he went back to the spot where a snipe had settled, firmly resolved to keep cool.
He tried to be calm, but it was the same again. His finger pressed the cock before he had taken a good aim at the bird. It got worse and worse.
He had only five birds in his game-bag when he walked out of the marsh towards the alders where he was to rejoin Stepan Arkadyevitch.
Before he caught sight of Stepan Arkadyevitch he saw his dog. Krak darted out from behind the twisted root of an alder, black all over with the stinking mire of the marsh, and with the air of a conqueror sniffed at Laska. Behind Krak there came into view in the shade of the alder tree the shapely figure of Stepan Arkadyevitch. He came to meet him, red and perspiring, with unbuttoned neckband, still limping in the same way.
"Well? You have been popping away!" he said, smiling good-humoredly.
"How have you got on?" queried Levin. But there was no need to ask, for he had already seen the full game bag.
"Oh, pretty fair."
He had fourteen birds.
"A splendid marsh! I've no doubt Veslovsky got in your way. It's awkward too, shooting with one dog," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, to soften his triumph.
When Levin and Stepan Arkadyevitch reached the peasant's hut where Levin always used to stay, Veslovsky was already there. He was sitting in the middle of the hut, clinging with both hands to the bench from which he was being pulled by a soldier, the brother of the peasant's wife, who was helping him off with his miry boots. Veslovsky was laughing his infectious, good-humored laugh.
"I've only just come. Ils ont ete charmants. Just fancy, they gave me drink, fed me! Such bread, it was exquisite! Delicieux! And the vodka, I never tasted any better. And they would not take a penny for anything. And they kept saying: 'Excuse our homely ways.'"
"What should they take anything for? They were entertaining you, to be sure. Do you suppose they keep vodka for sale?" said the soldier, succeeding at last in pulling the soaked boot off the blackened stocking.
In spite of the dirtiness of the hut, which was all muddied by their boots and the filthy dogs licking themselves clean, and the smell of marsh mud and powder that filled the room, and the absence of knives and forks, the party drank their tea and ate their supper with a relish only known to sportsmen. Washed and clean, they went into a hay-barn swept ready for them, where the coachman had been making up beds for the gentlemen.
Though it was dusk, not one of them wanted to go to sleep.
After wavering among reminiscences and anecdotes of guns, of dogs, and of former shooting parties, the conversation rested on a topic that interested all of them. After Vassenka had several times over expressed his appreciation of this delightful sleeping place among the fragrant hay, this delightful broken cart (he supposed it to be broken because the shafts had been taken out), of the good nature of the peasants that had treated him to vodka, of the dogs who lay at the feet of their respective masters, Oblonsky began telling them of a delightful shooting party at Malthus's, where he had stayed the previous summer.
Malthus was a well-known capitalist, who had made his money by speculation in railway shares. Stepan Arkadyevitch described what grouse moors this Malthus had bought in the Tver province, and how they were preserved, and of the carriages and dogcarts in which the shooting party had been driven, and the luncheon pavilion that had been rigged up at the marsh.
"I don't understand you," said Levin, sitting up in the hay; "how is it such people don't disgust you? I can understand a lunch with Lafitte is all very pleasant, but don't you dislike just that very sumptuousness? All these people, just like our spirit monopolists in old days, get their money in a way that gains them the contempt of everyone. They don't care for their contempt, and then they use their dishonest gains to buy off the contempt they have deserved."
"Perfectly true!" chimed in Vassenka Veslovsky. "Perfectly! Oblonsky, of course, goes out of bonhomie, but other people say: 'Well, Oblonsky stays with them.'..."
"Not a bit of it." Levin could hear that Oblonsky was smiling as he spoke. "I simply don't consider him more dishonest than any other wealthy merchant or nobleman. They've all made their money alike—by their work and their intelligence."
"Oh, by what work? Do you call it work to get hold of concessions and speculate with them?"
"Of course it's work. Work in this sense, that if it were not for him and others like him, there would have been no railways."
"But that's not work, like the work of a peasant or a learned profession."
"Granted, but it's work in the sense that his activity produces a result—the railways. But of course you think the railways useless."
"No, that's another question; I am prepared to admit that they're useful. But all profit that is out of proportion to the labor expended is dishonest."
"But who is to define what is proportionate?"
"Making profit by dishonest means, by trickery," said Levin, conscious that he could not draw a distinct line between honesty and dishonesty. "Such as banking, for instance," he went on. "It's an evil—the amassing of huge fortunes without labor, just the same thing as with the spirit monopolies, it's only the form that's changed. Le roi est mort, vive le roi. No sooner were the spirit monopolies abolished than the railways came up, and banking companies; that, too, is profit without work."
"Yes, that may all be very true and clever.... Lie down, Krak!" Stepan Arkadyevitch called to his dog, who was scratching and turning over all the hay. He was obviously convinced of the correctness of his position, and so talked serenely and without haste. "But you have not drawn the line between honest and dishonest work. That I receive a bigger salary than my chief clerk, though he knows more about the work than I do—that's dishonest, I suppose?"
"I can't say."
"Well, but I can tell you: your receiving some five thousand, let's say, for your work on the land, while our host, the peasant here, however hard he works, can never get more than fifty roubles, is just as dishonest as my earning more than my chief clerk, and Malthus getting more than a station-master. No, quite the contrary; I see that society takes up a sort of antagonistic attitude to these people, which is utterly baseless, and I fancy there's envy at the bottom of it...."
"No, that's unfair," said Veslovsky; "how could envy come in? There is something not nice about that sort of business."
"You say," Levin went on, "that it's unjust for me to receive five thousand, while the peasant has fifty; that's true. It is unfair, and I feel it, but..."
"It really is. Why is it we spend our time riding, drinking, shooting, doing nothing, while they are forever at work?" said Vassenka Veslovsky, obviously for the first time in his life reflecting on the question, and consequently considering it with perfect sincerity.
"Yes, you feel it, but you don't give him your property," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, intentionally, as it seemed, provoking Levin.
There had arisen of late something like a secret antagonism between the two brothers-in-law; as though, since they had married sisters, a kind of rivalry had sprung up between them as to which was ordering his life best, and now this hostility showed itself in the conversation, as it began to take a personal note.
"I don't give it away, because no one demands that from me, and if I wanted to, I could not give it away," answered Levin, "and have no one to give it to."
"Give it to this peasant, he would not refuse it."
"Yes, but how am I to give it up? Am I to go to him and make a deed of conveyance?"
"I don't know; but if you are convinced that you have no right..."
"I'm not at all convinced. On the contrary, I feel I have no right to give it up, that I have duties both to the land and to my family."
"No, excuse me, but if you consider this inequality is unjust, why is it you don't act accordingly?..."
"Well, I do act negatively on that idea, so far as not trying to increase the difference of position existing between him and me."
"No, excuse me, that's a paradox."
"Yes, there's something of a sophistry about that," Veslovsky agreed. "Ah! our host; so you're not asleep yet?" he said to the peasant who came into the barn, opening the creaking door. "How is it you're not asleep?"
"No, how's one to sleep! I thought our gentlemen would be asleep, but I heard them chattering. I want to get a hook from here. She won't bite?" he added, stepping cautiously with his bare feet.
"And where are you going to sleep?"
"We are going out for the night with the beasts."
"Ah, what a night!" said Veslovsky, looking out at the edge of the hut and the unharnessed wagonette that could be seen in the faint light of the evening glow in the great frame of the open doors. "But listen, there are women's voices singing, and, on my word, not badly too. Who's that singing, my friend?"
"That's the maids from hard by here."
"Let's go, let's have a walk! We shan't go to sleep, you know. Oblonsky, come along!"
"If one could only do both, lie here and go," answered Oblonsky, stretching. "It's capital lying here."
"Well, I shall go by myself," said Veslovsky, getting up eagerly, and putting on his shoes and stockings. "Good-bye, gentlemen. If it's fun, I'll fetch you. You've treated me to some good sport, and I won't forget you."
"He really is a capital fellow, isn't he?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, when Veslovsky had gone out and the peasant had closed the door after him.
"Yes, capital," answered Levin, still thinking of the subject of their conversation just before. It seemed to him that he had clearly expressed his thoughts and feelings to the best of his capacity, and yet both of them, straightforward men and not fools, had said with one voice that he was comforting himself with sophistries. This disconcerted him.
"It's just this, my dear boy. One must do one of two things: either admit that the existing order of society is just, and then stick up for one's rights in it; or acknowledge that you are enjoying unjust privileges, as I do, and then enjoy them and be satisfied."
"No, if it were unjust, you could not enjoy these advantages and be satisfied—at least I could not. The great thing for me is to feel that I'm not to blame."
"What do you say, why not go after all?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, evidently weary of the strain of thought. "We shan't go to sleep, you know. Come, let's go!"
Levin did not answer. What they had said in the conversation, that he acted justly only in a negative sense, absorbed his thoughts. "Can it be that it's only possible to be just negatively?" he was asking himself.
"How strong the smell of the fresh hay is, though," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting up. "There's not a chance of sleeping. Vassenka has been getting up some fun there. Do you hear the laughing and his voice? Hadn't we better go? Come along!"
"No, I'm not coming," answered Levin.
"Surely that's not a matter of principle too," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling, as he felt about in the dark for his cap.
"It's not a matter of principle, but why should I go?"
"But do you know you are preparing trouble for yourself," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, finding his cap and getting up.
"Do you suppose I don't see the line you've taken up with your wife? I heard how it's a question of the greatest consequence, whether or not you're to be away for a couple of days' shooting. That's all very well as an idyllic episode, but for your whole life that won't answer. A man must be independent; he has his masculine interests. A man has to be manly," said Oblonsky, opening the door.
"In what way? To go running after servant girls?" said Levin.
"Why not, if it amuses him? Ca ne tire pas a consequence. It won't do my wife any harm, and it'll amuse me. The great thing is to respect the sanctity of the home. There should be nothing in the home. But don't tie your own hands."
"Perhaps so," said Levin dryly, and he turned on his side. "Tomorrow, early, I want to go shooting, and I won't wake anyone, and shall set off at daybreak."
"Messieurs, venez vite!" they heard the voice of Veslovsky coming back. "Charmante! I've made such a discovery. Charmante! a perfect Gretchen, and I've already made friends with her. Really, exceedingly pretty," he declared in a tone of approval, as though she had been made pretty entirely on his account, and he was expressing his satisfaction with the entertainment that had been provided for him.
Levin pretended to be asleep, while Oblonsky, putting on his slippers, and lighting a cigar, walked out of the barn, and soon their voices were lost.
For a long while Levin could not get to sleep. He heard the horses munching hay, then he heard the peasant and his elder boy getting ready for the night, and going off for the night watch with the beasts, then he heard the soldier arranging his bed on the other side of the barn, with his nephew, the younger son of their peasant host. He heard the boy in his shrill little voice telling his uncle what he thought about the dogs, who seemed to him huge and terrible creatures, and asking what the dogs were going to hunt next day, and the soldier in a husky, sleepy voice, telling him the sportsmen were going in the morning to the marsh, and would shoot with their guns; and then, to check the boy's questions, he said, "Go to sleep, Vaska; go to sleep, or you'll catch it," and soon after he began snoring himself, and everything was still. He could only hear the snort of the horses, and the guttural cry of a snipe.
"Is it really only negative?" he repeated to himself. "Well, what of it? It's not my fault." And he began thinking about the next day.
"Tomorrow I'll go out early, and I'll make a point of keeping cool. There are lots of snipe; and there are grouse too. When I come back there'll be the note from Kitty. Yes, Stiva may be right, I'm not manly with her, I'm tied to her apron-strings.... Well, it can't be helped! Negative again...."
Half asleep, he heard the laughter and mirthful talk of Veslovsky and Stepan Arkadyevitch. For an instant he opened his eyes: the moon was up, and in the open doorway, brightly lighted up by the moonlight, they were standing talking. Stepan Arkadyevitch was saying something of the freshness of one girl, comparing her to a freshly peeled nut, and Veslovsky with his infectious laugh was repeating some words, probably said to him by a peasant: "Ah, you do your best to get round her!" Levin, half asleep, said:
"Gentlemen, tomorrow before daylight!" and fell asleep.
Waking up at earliest dawn, Levin tried to wake his companions. Vassenka, lying on his stomach, with one leg in a stocking thrust out, was sleeping so soundly that he could elicit no response. Oblonsky, half asleep, declined to get up so early. Even Laska, who was asleep, curled up in the hay, got up unwillingly, and lazily stretched out and straightened her hind legs one after the other. Getting on his boots and stockings, taking his gun, and carefully opening the creaking door of the barn, Levin went out into the road. The coachmen were sleeping in their carriages, the horses were dozing. Only one was lazily eating oats, dipping its nose into the manger. It was still gray out-of-doors.
"Why are you up so early, my dear?" the old woman, their hostess, said, coming out of the hut and addressing him affectionately as an old friend.
"Going shooting, granny. Do I go this way to the marsh?"
"Straight out at the back; by our threshing floor, my dear, and hemp patches; there's a little footpath." Stepping carefully with her sunburnt, bare feet, the old woman conducted Levin, and moved back the fence for him by the threshing floor.
"Straight on and you'll come to the marsh. Our lads drove the cattle there yesterday evening."
Laska ran eagerly forward along the little path. Levin followed her with a light, rapid step, continually looking at the sky. He hoped the sun would not be up before he reached the marsh. But the sun did not delay. The moon, which had been bright when he went out, by now shone only like a crescent of quicksilver. The pink flush of dawn, which one could not help seeing before, now had to be sought to be discerned at all. What were before undefined, vague blurs in the distant countryside could now be distinctly seen. They were sheaves of rye. The dew, not visible till the sun was up, wetted Levin's legs and his blouse above his belt in the high growing, fragrant hemp patch, from which the pollen had already fallen out. In the transparent stillness of morning the smallest sounds were audible. A bee flew by Levin's ear with the whizzing sound of a bullet. He looked carefully, and saw a second and a third. They were all flying from the beehives behind the hedge, and they disappeared over the hemp patch in the direction of the marsh. The path led straight to the marsh. The marsh could be recognized by the mist which rose from it, thicker in one place and thinner in another, so that the reeds and willow bushes swayed like islands in this mist. At the edge of the marsh and the road, peasant boys and men, who had been herding for the night, were lying, and in the dawn all were asleep under their coats. Not far from them were three hobbled horses. One of them clanked a chain. Laska walked beside her master, pressing a little forward and looking round. Passing the sleeping peasants and reaching the first reeds, Levin examined his pistols and let his dog off. One of the horses, a sleek, dark-brown three-year-old, seeing the dog, started away, switched its tail and snorted. The other horses too were frightened, and splashing through the water with their hobbled legs, and drawing their hoofs out of the thick mud with a squelching sound, they bounded out of the marsh. Laska stopped, looking ironically at the horses and inquiringly at Levin. Levin patted Laska, and whistled as a sign that she might begin.
Laska ran joyfully and anxiously through the slush that swayed under her.
Running into the marsh among the familiar scents of roots, marsh plants, and slime, and the extraneous smell of horse dung, Laska detected at once a smell that pervaded the whole marsh, the scent of that strong-smelling bird that always excited her more than any other. Here and there among the moss and marsh plants this scent was very strong, but it was impossible to determine in which direction it grew stronger or fainter. To find the direction, she had to go farther away from the wind. Not feeling the motion of her legs, Laska bounded with a stiff gallop, so that at each bound she could stop short, to the right, away from the wind that blew from the east before sunrise, and turned facing the wind. Sniffing in the air with dilated nostrils, she felt at once that not their tracks only but they themselves were here before her, and not one, but many. Laska slackened her speed. They were here, but where precisely she could not yet determine. To find the very spot, she began to make a circle, when suddenly her master's voice drew her off. "Laska! here?" he asked, pointing her to a different direction. She stopped, asking him if she had better not go on doing as she had begun. But he repeated his command in an angry voice, pointing to a spot covered with water, where there could not be anything. She obeyed him, pretending she was looking, so as to please him, went round it, and went back to her former position, and was at once aware of the scent again. Now when he was not hindering her, she knew what to do, and without looking at what was under her feet, and to her vexation stumbling over a high stump into the water, but righting herself with her strong, supple legs, she began making the circle which was to make all clear to her. The scent of them reached her, stronger and stronger, and more and more defined, and all at once it became perfectly clear to her that one of them was here, behind this tuft of reeds, five paces in front of her; she stopped, and her whole body was still and rigid. On her short legs she could see nothing in front of her, but by the scent she knew it was sitting not more than five paces off. She stood still, feeling more and more conscious of it, and enjoying it in anticipation. Her tail was stretched straight and tense, and only wagging at the extreme end. Her mouth was slightly open, her ears raised. One ear had been turned wrong side out as she ran up, and she breathed heavily but warily, and still more warily looked round, but more with her eyes than her head, to her master. He was coming along with the face she knew so well, though the eyes were always terrible to her. He stumbled over the stump as he came, and moved, as she thought, extraordinarily slowly. She thought he came slowly, but he was running.
Noticing Laska's special attitude as she crouched on the ground, as it were, scratching big prints with her hind paws, and with her mouth slightly open, Levin knew she was pointing at grouse, and with an inward prayer for luck, especially with the first bird, he ran up to her. Coming quite close up to her, he could from his height look beyond her, and he saw with his eyes what she was seeing with her nose. In a space between two little thickets, at a couple of yards' distance, he could see a grouse. Turning its head, it was listening. Then lightly preening and folding its wings, it disappeared round a corner with a clumsy wag of its tail.
"Fetch it, fetch it!" shouted Levin, giving Laska a shove from behind.
"But I can't go," thought Laska. "Where am I to go? From here I feel them, but if I move forward I shall know nothing of where they are or who they are." But then he shoved her with his knee, and in an excited whisper said, "Fetch it, Laska."
"Well, if that's what he wishes, I'll do it, but I can't answer for myself now," she thought, and darted forward as fast as her legs would carry her between the thick bushes. She scented nothing now; she could only see and hear, without understanding anything.
Ten paces from her former place a grouse rose with a guttural cry and the peculiar round sound of its wings. And immediately after the shot it splashed heavily with its white breast on the wet mire. Another bird did not linger, but rose behind Levin without the dog. When Levin turned towards it, it was already some way off. But his shot caught it. Flying twenty paces further, the second grouse rose upwards, and whirling round like a ball, dropped heavily on a dry place.
"Come, this is going to be some good!" thought Levin, packing the warm and fat grouse into his game bag. "Eh, Laska, will it be good?"
When Levin, after loading his gun, moved on, the sun had fully risen, though unseen behind the storm-clouds. The moon had lost all of its luster, and was like a white cloud in the sky. Not a single star could be seen. The sedge, silvery with dew before, now shone like gold. The stagnant pools were all like amber. The blue of the grass had changed to yellow-green. The marsh birds twittered and swarmed about the brook and upon the bushes that glittered with dew and cast long shadows. A hawk woke up and settled on a haycock, turning its head from side to side and looking discontentedly at the marsh. Crows were flying about the field, and a bare-legged boy was driving the horses to an old man, who had got up from under his long coat and was combing his hair. The smoke from the gun was white as milk over the green of the grass.
One of the boys ran up to Levin.
"Uncle, there were ducks here yesterday!" he shouted to him, and he walked a little way off behind him.
And Levin was doubly pleased, in sight of the boy, who expressed his approval, at killing three snipe, one after another, straight off.
The sportsman's saying, that if the first beast or the first bird is not missed, the day will be lucky, turned out correct.
At ten o'clock Levin, weary, hungry, and happy after a tramp of twenty miles, returned to his night's lodging with nineteen head of fine game and one duck, which he tied to his belt, as it would not go into the game bag. His companions had long been awake, and had had time to get hungry and have breakfast.
"Wait a bit, wait a bit, I know there are nineteen," said Levin, counting a second time over the grouse and snipe, that looked so much less important now, bent and dry and bloodstained, with heads crooked aside, than they did when they were flying.
The number was verified, and Stepan Arkadyevitch's envy pleased Levin. He was pleased too on returning to find the man sent by Kitty with a note was already there.
"I am perfectly well and happy. If you were uneasy about me, you can feel easier than ever. I've a new bodyguard, Marya Vlasyevna,"—this was the midwife, a new and important personage in Levin's domestic life. "She has come to have a look at me. She found me perfectly well, and we have kept her till you are back. All are happy and well, and please, don't be in a hurry to come back, but, if the sport is good, stay another day."
These two pleasures, his lucky shooting and the letter from his wife, were so great that two slightly disagreeable incidents passed lightly over Levin. One was that the chestnut trace horse, who had been unmistakably overworked on the previous day, was off his feed and out of sorts. The coachman said he was "Overdriven yesterday, Konstantin Dmitrievitch. Yes, indeed! driven ten miles with no sense!"
The other unpleasant incident, which for the first minute destroyed his good humor, though later he laughed at it a great deal, was to find that of all the provisions Kitty had provided in such abundance that one would have thought there was enough for a week, nothing was left. On his way back, tired and hungry from shooting, Levin had so distinct a vision of meat-pies that as he approached the hut he seemed to smell and taste them, as Laska had smelt the game, and he immediately told Philip to give him some. It appeared that there were no pies left, nor even any chicken.
"Well, this fellow's appetite!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, laughing and pointing at Vassenka Veslovsky. "I never suffer from loss of appetite, but he's really marvelous!..."
"Well, it can't be helped," said Levin, looking gloomily at Veslovsky. "Well, Philip, give me some beef, then."
"The beef's been eaten, and the bones given to the dogs," answered Philip.
Levin was so hurt that he said, in a tone of vexation, "You might have left me something!" and he felt ready to cry.
"Then put away the game," he said in a shaking voice to Philip, trying not to look at Vassenka, "and cover them with some nettles. And you might at least ask for some milk for me."
But when he had drunk some milk, he felt ashamed immediately at having shown his annoyance to a stranger, and he began to laugh at his hungry mortification.
In the evening they went shooting again, and Veslovsky had several successful shots, and in the night they drove home.
Their homeward journey was as lively as their drive out had been. Veslovsky sang songs and related with enjoyment his adventures with the peasants, who had regaled him with vodka, and said to him, "Excuse our homely ways," and his night's adventures with kiss-in-the-ring and the servant-girl and the peasant, who had asked him was he married, and on learning that he was not, said to him, "Well, mind you don't run after other men's wives—you'd better get one of your own." These words had particularly amused Veslovsky.
"Altogether, I've enjoyed our outing awfully. And you, Levin?"
"I have, very much," Levin said quite sincerely. It was particularly delightful to him to have got rid of the hostility he had been feeling towards Vassenka Veslovsky at home, and to feel instead the most friendly disposition to him.
Next day at ten o'clock Levin, who had already gone his rounds, knocked at the room where Vassenka had been put for the night.
"Entrez!" Veslovsky called to him. "Excuse me, I've only just finished my ablutions," he said, smiling, standing before him in his underclothes only.
"Don't mind me, please." Levin sat down in the window. "Have you slept well?"
"Like the dead. What sort of day is it for shooting?"
"What will you take, tea or coffee?"
"Neither. I'll wait till lunch. I'm really ashamed. I suppose the ladies are down? A walk now would be capital. You show me your horses."
After walking about the garden, visiting the stable, and even doing some gymnastic exercises together on the parallel bars, Levin returned to the house with his guest, and went with him into the drawing room.
"We had splendid shooting, and so many delightful experiences!" said Veslovsky, going up to Kitty, who was sitting at the samovar. "What a pity ladies are cut off from these delights!"
"Well, I suppose he must say something to the lady of the house," Levin said to himself. Again he fancied something in the smile, in the all-conquering air with which their guest addressed Kitty....
The princess, sitting on the other side of the table with Marya Vlasyevna and Stepan Arkadyevitch, called Levin to her side, and began to talk to him about moving to Moscow for Kitty's confinement, and getting ready rooms for them. Just as Levin had disliked all the trivial preparations for his wedding, as derogatory to the grandeur of the event, now he felt still more offensive the preparations for the approaching birth, the date of which they reckoned, it seemed, on their fingers. He tried to turn a deaf ear to these discussions of the best patterns of long clothes for the coming baby; tried to turn away and avoid seeing the mysterious, endless strips of knitting, the triangles of linen, and so on, to which Dolly attached special importance. The birth of a son (he was certain it would be a son) which was promised him, but which he still could not believe in—so marvelous it seemed—presented itself to his mind, on one hand, as a happiness so immense, and therefore so incredible; on the other, as an event so mysterious, that this assumption of a definite knowledge of what would be, and consequent preparation for it, as for something ordinary that did happen to people, jarred on him as confusing and humiliating.
But the princess did not understand his feelings, and put down his reluctance to think and talk about it to carelessness and indifference, and so she gave him no peace. She had commissioned Stepan Arkadyevitch to look at a flat, and now she called Levin up.
"I know nothing about it, princess. Do as you think fit," he said.
"You must decide when you will move."
"I really don't know. I know millions of children are born away from Moscow, and doctors...why..."
"But if so..."
"Oh, no, as Kitty wishes."
"We can't talk to Kitty about it! Do you want me to frighten her? Why, this spring Natalia Golitzina died from having an ignorant doctor."
"I will do just what you say," he said gloomily.
The princess began talking to him, but he did not hear her. Though the conversation with the princess had indeed jarred upon him, he was gloomy, not on account of that conversation, but from what he saw at the samovar.
"No, it's impossible," he thought, glancing now and then at Vassenka bending over Kitty, telling her something with his charming smile, and at her, flushed and disturbed.
There was something not nice in Vassenka's attitude, in his eyes, in his smile. Levin even saw something not nice in Kitty's attitude and look. And again the light died away in his eyes. Again, as before, all of a sudden, without the slightest transition, he felt cast down from a pinnacle of happiness, peace, and dignity, into an abyss of despair, rage, and humiliation. Again everything and everyone had become hateful to him.
"You do just as you think best, princess," he said again, looking round.
"Heavy is the cap of Monomach," Stepan Arkadyevitch said playfully, hinting, evidently, not simply at the princess's conversation, but at the cause of Levin's agitation, which he had noticed.
"How late you are today, Dolly!"
Everyone got up to greet Darya Alexandrovna. Vassenka only rose for an instant, and with the lack of courtesy to ladies characteristic of the modern young man, he scarcely bowed, and resumed his conversation again, laughing at something.
"I've been worried about Masha. She did not sleep well, and is dreadfully tiresome today," said Dolly.
The conversation Vassenka had started with Kitty was running on the same lines as on the previous evening, discussing Anna, and whether love is to be put higher than worldly considerations. Kitty disliked the conversation, and she was disturbed both by the subject and the tone in which it was conducted, and also by the knowledge of the effect it would have on her husband. But she was too simple and innocent to know how to cut short this conversation, or even to conceal the superficial pleasure afforded her by the young man's very obvious admiration. She wanted to stop it, but she did not know what to do. Whatever she did she knew would be observed by her husband, and the worst interpretation put on it. And, in fact, when she asked Dolly what was wrong with Masha, and Vassenka, waiting till this uninteresting conversation was over, began to gaze indifferently at Dolly, the question struck Levin as an unnatural and disgusting piece of hypocrisy.
"What do you say, shall we go and look for mushrooms today?" said Dolly.
"By all means, please, and I shall come too," said Kitty, and she blushed. She wanted from politeness to ask Vassenka whether he would come, and she did not ask him. "Where are you going, Kostya?" she asked her husband with a guilty face, as he passed by her with a resolute step. This guilty air confirmed all his suspicions.
"The mechanician came when I was away; I haven't seen him yet," he said, not looking at her.
He went downstairs, but before he had time to leave his study he heard his wife's familiar footsteps running with reckless speed to him.
"What do you want?" he said to her shortly. "We are busy."
"I beg your pardon," she said to the German mechanician; "I want a few words with my husband."
The German would have left the room, but Levin said to him:
"Don't disturb yourself."
"The train is at three?" queried the German. "I mustn't be late."
Levin did not answer him, but walked out himself with his wife.
"Well, what have you to say to me?" he said to her in French.
He did not look her in the face, and did not care to see that she in her condition was trembling all over, and had a piteous, crushed look.
"I...I want to say that we can't go on like this; that this is misery..." she said.
"The servants are here at the sideboard," he said angrily; "don't make a scene."
"Well, let's go in here!"
They were standing in the passage. Kitty would have gone into the next room, but there the English governess was giving Tanya a lesson.
"Well, come into the garden."
In the garden they came upon a peasant weeding the path. And no longer considering that the peasant could see her tear-stained and his agitated face, that they looked like people fleeing from some disaster, they went on with rapid steps, feeling that they must speak out and clear up misunderstandings, must be alone together, and so get rid of the misery they were both feeling.
"We can't go on like this! It's misery! I am wretched; you are wretched. What for?" she said, when they had at last reached a solitary garden seat at a turn in the lime tree avenue.
"But tell me one thing: was there in his tone anything unseemly, not nice, humiliatingly horrible?" he said, standing before her again in the same position with his clenched fists on his chest, as he had stood before her that night.
"Yes," she said in a shaking voice; "but, Kostya, surely you see I'm not to blame? All the morning I've been trying to take a tone...but such people ...Why did he come? How happy we were!" she said, breathless with the sobs that shook her.
Although nothing had been pursuing them, and there was nothing to run away from, and they could not possibly have found anything very delightful on that garden seat, the gardener saw with astonishment that they passed him on their way home with comforted and radiant faces.
After escorting his wife upstairs, Levin went to Dolly's part of the house. Darya Alexandrovna, for her part, was in great distress too that day. She was walking about the room, talking angrily to a little girl, who stood in the corner roaring.
"And you shall stand all day in the corner, and have your dinner all alone, and not see one of your dolls, and I won't make you a new frock," she said, not knowing how to punish her.
"Oh, she is a disgusting child!" she turned to Levin. "Where does she get such wicked propensities?"
"Why, what has she done?" Levin said without much interest, for he had wanted to ask her advice, and so was annoyed that he had come at an unlucky moment.
"Grisha and she went into the raspberries, and there...I can't tell you really what she did. It's a thousand pities Miss Elliot's not with us. This one sees to nothing—she's a machine.... Figurez-vous que la petite?..."
And Darya Alexandrovna described Masha's crime.
"That proves nothing; it's not a question of evil propensities at all, it's simply mischief," Levin assured her.
"But you are upset about something? What have you come for?" asked Dolly. "What's going on there?"
And in the tone of her question Levin heard that it would be easy for him to say what he had meant to say.
"I've not been in there, I've been alone in the garden with Kitty. We've had a quarrel for the second time since...Stiva came."
Dolly looked at him with her shrewd, comprehending eyes.
"Come, tell me, honor bright, has there been...not in Kitty, but in that gentleman's behavior, a tone which might be unpleasant— not unpleasant, but horrible, offensive to a husband?"
"You mean, how shall I say.... Stay, stay in the corner!" she said to Masha, who, detecting a faint smile in her mother's face, had been turning round. "The opinion of the world would be that he is behaving as young men do behave. Il fait la cour a une jeune et jolie femme, and a husband who's a man of the world should only be flattered by it."
"Yes, yes," said Levin gloomily; "but you noticed it?"
"Not only I, but Stiva noticed it. Just after breakfast he said to me in so many words, Je crois que Veslovsky fait un petit brin de cour a Kitty."
"Well, that's all right then; now I'm satisfied. I'll send him away," said Levin.
"What do you mean! Are you crazy?" Dolly cried in horror; "nonsense, Kostya, only think!" she said, laughing. "You can go now to Fanny," she said to Masha. "No, if you wish it, I'll speak to Stiva. He'll take him away. He can say you're expecting visitors. Altogether he doesn't fit into the house."
"No, no, I'll do it myself."
"But you'll quarrel with him?"
"Not a bit. I shall so enjoy it," Levin said, his eyes flashing with real enjoyment. "Come, forgive her, Dolly, she won't do it again," he said of the little sinner, who had not gone to Fanny, but was standing irresolutely before her mother, waiting and looking up from under her brows to catch her mother's eye.
The mother glanced at her. The child broke into sobs, hid her face on her mother's lap, and Dolly laid her thin, tender hand on her head.
"And what is there in common between us and him?" thought Levin, and he went off to look for Veslovsky.
As he passed through the passage he gave orders for the carriage to be got ready to drive to the station.
"The spring was broken yesterday," said the footman.
"Well, the covered trap, then, and make haste. Where's the visitor?"
"The gentleman's gone to his room."
Levin came upon Veslovsky at the moment when the latter, having unpacked his things from his trunk, and laid out some new songs, was putting on his gaiters to go out riding.
Whether there was something exceptional in Levin's face, or that Vassenka was himself conscious that ce petit brin de cour he was making was out of place in this family, but he was somewhat (as much as a young man in society can be) disconcerted at Levin's entrance.
"You ride in gaiters?"
"Yes, it's much cleaner," said Vassenka, putting his fat leg on a chair, fastening the bottom hook, and smiling with simple-hearted good humor.
He was undoubtedly a good-natured fellow, and Levin felt sorry for him and ashamed of himself, as his host, when he saw the shy look on Vassenka's face.
On the table lay a piece of stick which they had broken together that morning, trying their strength. Levin took the fragment in his hands and began smashing it up, breaking bits off the stick, not knowing how to begin.
"I wanted...." He paused, but suddenly, remembering Kitty and everything that had happened, he said, looking him resolutely in the face: "I have ordered the horses to be put-to for you."
"How so?" Vassenka began in surprise. "To drive where?"
"For you to drive to the station," Levin said gloomily.
"Are you going away, or has something happened?"
"It happens that I expect visitors," said Levin, his strong fingers more and more rapidly breaking off the ends of the split stick. "And I'm not expecting visitors, and nothing has happened, but I beg you to go away. You can explain my rudeness as you like."
Vassenka drew himself up.
"I beg you to explain..." he said with dignity, understanding at last.
"I can't explain," Levin said softly and deliberately, trying to control the trembling of his jaw; "and you'd better not ask."
And as the split ends were all broken off, Levin clutched the thick ends in his finger, broke the stick in two, and carefully caught the end as it fell.
Probably the sight of those nervous fingers, of the muscles he had proved that morning at gymnastics, of the glittering eyes, the soft voice, and quivering jaws, convinced Vassenka better than any words. He bowed, shrugging his shoulders, and smiling contemptuously.
"Can I not see Oblonsky?"
The shrug and the smile did not irritate Levin.
"What else was there for him to do?" he thought.
"I'll send him to you at once."
"What madness is this?" Stepan Arkadyevitch said when, after hearing from his friend that he was being turned out of the house, he found Levin in the garden, where he was walking about waiting for his guest's departure. "Mais c'est ridicule! What fly has stung you? Mais c'est du dernier ridicule! What did you think, if a young man..."
But the place where Levin had been stung was evidently still sore, for he turned pale again, when Stepan Arkadyevitch would have enlarged on the reason, and he himself cut him short.
"Please don't go into it! I can't help it. I feel ashamed of how I'm treating you and him. But it won't be, I imagine, a great grief to him to go, and his presence was distasteful to me and to my wife."
"But it's insulting to him! Et puis c'est ridicule."
"And to me it's both insulting and distressing! And I'm not at fault in any way, and there's no need for me to suffer."
"Well, this I didn't expect of you! On peut etre jaloux, mais a ce point, c'est du dernier ridicule!"
Levin turned quickly, and walked away from him into the depths of the avenue, and he went on walking up and down alone. Soon he heard the rumble of the trap, and saw from behind the trees how Vassenka, sitting in the hay (unluckily there was no seat in the trap) in his Scotch cap, was driven along the avenue, jolting up and down over the ruts.
"What's this?" Levin thought, when a footman ran out of the house and stopped the trap. It was the mechanician, whom Levin had totally forgotten. The mechanician, bowing low, said something to Veslovsky, then clambered into the trap, and they drove off together.
Stepan Arkadyevitch and the princess were much upset by Levin's action. And he himself felt not only in the highest degree ridicule, but also utterly guilty and disgraced. But remembering what sufferings he and his wife had been through, when he asked himself how he should act another time, he answered that he should do just the same again.
In spite of all this, towards the end of that day, everyone except the princess, who could not pardon Levin's action, became extraordinarily lively and good humored, like children after a punishment or grown-up people after a dreary, ceremonious reception, so that by the evening Vassenka's dismissal was spoken of, in the absence of the princess, as though it were some remote event. And Dolly, who had inherited her father's gift of humorous storytelling, made Varenka helpless with laughter as she related for the third and fourth time, always with fresh humorous additions, how she had only just put on her new shoes for the benefit of the visitor, and on going into the drawing room, heard suddenly the rumble of the trap. And who should be in the trap but Vassenka himself, with his Scotch cap, and his songs and his gaiters, and all, sitting in the hay.
"If only you'd ordered out the carriage! But no! and then I hear: 'Stop!' Oh, I thought they've relented. I look out, and behold a fat German being sat down by him and driving away.... And my new shoes all for nothing!..."
Darya Alexandrovna carried out her intention and went to see Anna. She was sorry to annoy her sister and to do anything Levin disliked. She quite understood how right the Levins were in not wishing to have anything to do with Vronsky. But she felt she must go and see Anna, and show her that her feelings could not be changed, in spite of the change in her position. That she might be independent of the Levins in this expedition, Darya Alexandrovna sent to the village to hire horses for the drive; but Levin learning of it went to her to protest.
"What makes you suppose that I dislike your going? But, even if I did dislike it, I should still more dislike your not taking my horses," he said. "You never told me that you were going for certain. Hiring horses in the village is disagreeable to me, and, what's of more importance, they'll undertake the job and never get you there. I have horses. And if you don't want to wound me, you'll take mine."
Darya Alexandrovna had to consent, and on the day fixed Levin had ready for his sister-in-law a set of four horses and relays, getting them together from the farm- and saddle-horses—not at all a smart-looking set, but capable of taking Darya Alexandrovna the whole distance in a single day. At that moment, when horses were wanted for the princess, who was going, and for the midwife, it was a difficult matter for Levin to make up the number, but the duties of hospitality would not let him allow Darya Alexandrovna to hire horses when staying in his house. Moreover, he was well aware that the twenty roubles that would be asked for the journey were a serious matter for her; Darya Alexandrovna's pecuniary affairs, which were in a very unsatisfactory state, were taken to heart by the Levins as if they were their own.
Darya Alexandrovna, by Levin's advice, started before daybreak. The road was good, the carriage comfortable, the horses trotted along merrily, and on the box, besides the coachman, sat the counting-house clerk, whom Levin was sending instead of a groom for greater security. Darya Alexandrovna dozed and waked up only on reaching the inn where the horses were to be changed.
After drinking tea at the same well-to-do peasant's with whom Levin had stayed on the way to Sviazhsky's, and chatting with the women about their children, and with the old man about Count Vronsky, whom the latter praised very highly, Darya Alexandrovna, at ten o'clock, went on again. At home, looking after her children, she had no time to think. So now, after this journey of four hours, all the thoughts she had suppressed before rushed swarming into her brain, and she thought over all her life as she never had before, and from the most different points of view. Her thoughts seemed strange even to herself. At first she thought about the children, about whom she was uneasy, although the princess and Kitty (she reckoned more upon her) had promised to look after them. "If only Masha does not begin her naughty tricks, if Grisha isn't kicked by a horse, and Lily's stomach isn't upset again!" she thought. But these questions of the present were succeeded by questions of the immediate future. She began thinking how she had to get a new flat in Moscow for the coming winter, to renew the drawing room furniture, and to make her elder girl a cloak. Then questions of the more remote future occurred to her: how she was to place her children in the world. "The girls are all right," she thought; "but the boys?"
"It's very well that I'm teaching Grisha, but of course that's only because I am free myself now, I'm not with child. Stiva, of course, there's no counting on. And with the help of good-natured friends I can bring them up; but if there's another baby coming?..." And the thought struck her how untruly it was said that the curse laid on woman was that in sorrow she should bring forth children.
"The birth itself, that's nothing; but the months of carrying the child—that's what's so intolerable," she thought, picturing to herself her last pregnancy, and the death of the last baby. And she recalled the conversation she had just had with the young woman at the inn. On being asked whether she had any children, the handsome young woman had answered cheerfully:
"I had a girl baby, but God set me free; I buried her last Lent."
"Well, did you grieve very much for her?" asked Darya Alexandrovna.
"Why grieve? The old man has grandchildren enough as it is. It was only a trouble. No working, nor nothing. Only a tie."
This answer had struck Darya Alexandrovna as revolting in spite of the good-natured and pleasing face of the young woman; but now she could not help recalling these words. In those cynical words there was indeed a grain of truth.
"Yes, altogether," thought Darya Alexandrovna, looking back over her whole existence during those fifteen years of her married life, "pregnancy, sickness, mental incapacity, indifference to everything, and most of all—hideousness. Kitty, young and pretty as she is, even Kitty has lost her looks; and I when I'm with child become hideous, I know it. The birth, the agony, the hideous agonies, that last moment...then the nursing, the sleepless nights, the fearful pains...."
Darya Alexandrovna shuddered at the mere recollection of the pain from sore breasts which she had suffered with almost every child. "Then the children's illnesses, that everlasting apprehension; then bringing them up; evil propensities" (she thought of little Masha's crime among the raspberries), "education, Latin—it's all so incomprehensible and difficult. And on the top of it all, the death of these children." And there rose again before her imagination the cruel memory, that always tore her mother's heart, of the death of her last little baby, who had died of croup; his funeral, the callous indifference of all at the little pink coffin, and her own torn heart, and her lonely anguish at the sight of the pale little brow with its projecting temples, and the open, wondering little mouth seen in the coffin at the moment when it was being covered with the little pink lid with a cross braided on it.
"And all this, what's it for? What is to come of it all? That I'm wasting my life, never having a moment's peace, either with child, or nursing a child, forever irritable, peevish, wretched myself and worrying others, repulsive to my husband, while the children are growing up unhappy, badly educated, and penniless. Even now, if it weren't for spending the summer at the Levins', I don't know how we should be managing to live. Of course Kostya and Kitty have so much tact that we don't feel it; but it can't go on. They'll have children, they won't be able to keep us; it's a drag on them as it is. How is papa, who has hardly anything left for himself, to help us? So that I can't even bring the children up by myself, and may find it hard with the help of other people, at the cost of humiliation. Why, even if we suppose the greatest good luck, that the children don't die, and I bring them up somehow. At the very best they'll simply be decent people. That's all I can hope for. And to gain simply that—what agonies, what toil!... One's whole life ruined!" Again she recalled what the young peasant woman had said, and again she was revolted at the thought; but she could not help admitting that there was a grain of brutal truth in the words.
"Is it far now, Mihail?" Darya Alexandrovna asked the counting house clerk, to turn her mind from thoughts that were frightening her.
"From this village, they say, it's five miles." The carriage drove along the village street and onto a bridge. On the bridge was a crowd of peasant women with coils of ties for the sheaves on their shoulders, gaily and noisily chattering. They stood still on the bridge, staring inquisitively at the carriage. All the faces turned to Darya Alexandrovna looked to her healthy and happy, making her envious of their enjoyment of life. "They're all living, they're all enjoying life," Darya Alexandrovna still mused when she had passed the peasant women and was driving uphill again at a trot, seated comfortably on the soft springs of the old carriage, "while I, let out, as it were from prison, from the world of worries that fret me to death, am only looking about me now for an instant. They all live; those peasant women and my sister Natalia and Varenka and Anna, whom I am going to see—all, but not I.
"And they attack Anna. What for? am I any better? I have, anyway, a husband I love—not as I should like to love him, still I do love him, while Anna never loved hers. How is she to blame? She wants to live. God has put that in our hearts. Very likely I should have done the same. Even to this day I don't feel sure I did right in listening to her at that terrible time when she came to me in Moscow. I ought then to have cast off my husband and have begun my life fresh. I might have loved and have been loved in reality. And is it any better as it is? I don't respect him. He's necessary to me," she thought about her husband, "and I put up with him. Is that any better? At that time I could still have been admired, I had beauty left me still," Darya Alexandrovna pursued her thoughts, and she would have liked to look at herself in the looking glass. She had a traveling looking glass in her handbag, and she wanted to take it out; but looking at the backs of the coachman and the swaying counting house clerk, she felt that she would be ashamed if either of them were to look round, and she did not take out the glass.
But without looking in the glass, she thought that even now it was not too late; and she thought of Sergey Ivanovitch, who was always particularly attentive to her, of Stiva's good-hearted friend, Turovtsin, who had helped her nurse her children through the scarlatina, and was in love with her. And there was someone else, a quite young man, who—her husband had told her it as a joke—thought her more beautiful than either of her sisters. And the most passionate and impossible romances rose before Darya Alexandrovna's imagination. "Anna did quite right, and certainly I shall never reproach her for it. She is happy, she makes another person happy, and she's not broken down as I am, but most likely just as she always was, bright, clever, open to every impression," thought Darya Alexandrovna,—and a sly smile curved her lips, for, as she pondered on Anna's love affair, Darya Alexandrovna constructed on parallel lines an almost identical love affair for herself, with an imaginary composite figure, the ideal man who was in love with her. She, like Anna, confessed the whole affair to her husband. And the amazement and perplexity of Stepan Arkadyevitch at this avowal made her smile.
In such daydreams she reached the turning of the highroad that led to Vozdvizhenskoe.
The coachman pulled up his four horses and looked round to the right, to a field of rye, where some peasants were sitting on a cart. The counting house clerk was just going to jump down, but on second thoughts he shouted peremptorily to the peasants instead, and beckoned to them to come up. The wind, that seemed to blow as they drove, dropped when the carriage stood still; gadflies settled on the steaming horses that angrily shook them off. The metallic clank of a whetstone against a scythe, that came to them from the cart, ceased. One of the peasants got up and came towards the carriage.
"Well, you are slow!" the counting house clerk shouted angrily to the peasant who was stepping slowly with his bare feet over the ruts of the rough dry road. "Come along, do!"
A curly-headed old man with a bit of bast tied round his hair, and his bent back dark with perspiration, came towards the carriage, quickening his steps, and took hold of the mud-guard with his sunburnt hand.
"Vozdvizhenskoe, the manor house? the count's?" he repeated; "go on to the end of this track. Then turn to the left. Straight along the avenue and you'll come right upon it. But whom do you want? The count himself?"
"Well, are they at home, my good man?" Darya Alexandrovna said vaguely, not knowing how to ask about Anna, even of this peasant.
"At home for sure," said the peasant, shifting from one bare foot to the other, and leaving a distinct print of five toes and a heel in the dust. "Sure to be at home," he repeated, evidently eager to talk. "Only yesterday visitors arrived. There's a sight of visitors come. What do you want?" He turned round and called to a lad, who was shouting something to him from the cart. "Oh! They all rode by here not long since, to look at a reaping machine. They'll be home by now. And who will you be belonging to?..."
"We've come a long way," said the coachman, climbing onto the box. "So it's not far?"
"I tell you, it's just here. As soon as you get out..." he said, keeping hold all the while of the carriage.
A healthy-looking, broad-shouldered young fellow came up too.
"What, is it laborers they want for the harvest?" he asked.
"I don't know, my boy."
"So you keep to the left, and you'll come right on it," said the peasant, unmistakably loth to let the travelers go, and eager to converse.
The coachman started the horses, but they were only just turning off when the peasant shouted: "Stop! Hi, friend! Stop!" called the two voices. The coachman stopped.
"They're coming! They're yonder!" shouted the peasant. "See what a turn-out!" he said, pointing to four persons on horseback, and two in a char-a-banc, coming along the road.
They were Vronsky with a jockey, Veslovsky and Anna on horseback, and Princess Varvara and Sviazhsky in the char-a-banc. They had gone out to look at the working of a new reaping machine.
When the carriage stopped, the party on horseback were coming at a walking pace. Anna was in front beside Veslovsky. Anna, quietly walking her horse, a sturdy English cob with cropped mane and short tail, her beautiful head with her black hair straying loose under her high hat, her full shoulders, her slender waist in her black riding habit, and all the ease and grace of her deportment, impressed Dolly.
For the first minute it seemed to her unsuitable for Anna to be on horseback. The conception of riding on horseback for a lady was, in Darya Alexandrovna's mind, associated with ideas of youthful flirtation and frivolity, which, in her opinion, was unbecoming in Anna's position. But when she had scrutinized her, seeing her closer, she was at once reconciled to her riding. In spite of her elegance, everything was so simple, quiet, and dignified in the attitude, the dress and the movements of Anna, that nothing could have been more natural.
Beside Anna, on a hot-looking gray cavalry horse, was Vassenka Veslovsky in his Scotch cap with floating ribbons, his stout legs stretched out in front, obviously pleased with his own appearance. Darya Alexandrovna could not suppress a good-humored smile as she recognized him. Behind rode Vronsky on a dark bay mare, obviously heated from galloping. He was holding her in, pulling at the reins.
After him rode a little man in the dress of a jockey. Sviazhsky and Princess Varvara in a new char-a-banc with a big, raven-black trotting horse, overtook the party on horseback.
Anna's face suddenly beamed with a joyful smile at the instant when, in the little figure huddled in a corner of the old carriage, she recognized Dolly. She uttered a cry, started in the saddle, and set her horse into a gallop. On reaching the carriage she jumped off without assistance, and holding up her riding habit, she ran up to greet Dolly.
"I thought it was you and dared not think it. How delightful! You can't fancy how glad I am!" she said, at one moment pressing her face against Dolly and kissing her, and at the next holding her off and examining her with a smile.
"Here's a delightful surprise, Alexey!" she said, looking round at Vronsky, who had dismounted, and was walking towards them.
Vronsky, taking off his tall gray hat, went up to Dolly.
"You wouldn't believe how glad we are to see you," he said, giving peculiar significance to the words, and showing his strong white teeth in a smile.
Vassenka Veslovsky, without getting off his horse, took off his cap and greeted the visitor by gleefully waving the ribbons over his head.
"That's Princess Varvara," Anna said in reply to a glance of inquiry from Dolly as the char-a-banc drove up.
"Ah!" said Darya Alexandrovna, and unconsciously her face betrayed her dissatisfaction.
Princess Varvara was her husband's aunt, and she had long known her, and did not respect her. She knew that Princess Varvara had passed her whole life toadying on her rich relations, but that she should now be sponging on Vronsky, a man who was nothing to her, mortified Dolly on account of her kinship with her husband. Anna noticed Dolly's expression, and was disconcerted by it. She blushed, dropped her riding habit, and stumbled over it.
Darya Alexandrovna went up to the char-a-banc and coldly greeted Princess Varvara. Sviazhsky too she knew. He inquired how his queer friend with the young wife was, and running his eyes over the ill-matched horses and the carriage with its patched mud-guards, proposed to the ladies that they should get into the char-a-banc.
"And I'll get into this vehicle," he said. "The horse is quiet, and the princess drives capitally."
"No, stay as you were," said Anna, coming up, "and we'll go in the carriage," and taking Dolly's arm, she drew her away.
Darya Alexandrovna's eyes were fairly dazzled by the elegant carriage of a pattern she had never seen before, the splendid horses, and the elegant and gorgeous people surrounding her. But what struck her most of all was the change that had taken place in Anna, whom she knew so well and loved. Any other woman, a less close observer, not knowing Anna before, or not having thought as Darya Alexandrovna had been thinking on the road, would not have noticed anything special in Anna. But now Dolly was struck by that temporary beauty, which is only found in women during the moments of love, and which she saw now in Anna's face. Everything in her face, the clearly marked dimples in her cheeks and chin, the line of her lips, the smile which, as it were, fluttered about her face, the brilliance of her eyes, the grace and rapidity of her movements, the fulness of the notes of her voice, even the manner in which, with a sort of angry friendliness, she answered Veslovsky when he asked permission to get on her cob, so as to teach it to gallop with the right leg foremost—it was all peculiarly fascinating, and it seemed as if she were herself aware of it, and rejoicing in it.
When both the women were seated in the carriage, a sudden embarrassment came over both of them. Anna was disconcerted by the intent look of inquiry Dolly fixed upon her. Dolly was embarrassed because after Sviazhsky's phrase about "this vehicle," she could not help feeling ashamed of the dirty old carriage in which Anna was sitting with her. The coachman Philip and the counting house clerk were experiencing the same sensation. The counting house clerk, to conceal his confusion, busied himself settling the ladies, but Philip the coachman became sullen, and was bracing himself not to be overawed in future by this external superiority. He smiled ironically, looking at the raven horse, and was already deciding in his own mind that this smart trotter in the char-a-banc was only good for promenade, and wouldn't do thirty miles straight off in the heat.
The peasants had all got up from the cart and were inquisitively and mirthfully staring at the meeting of the friends, making their comments on it.
"They're pleased, too; haven't seen each other for a long while," said the curly-headed old man with the bast round his hair.
"I say, Uncle Gerasim, if we could take that raven horse now, to cart the corn, that 'ud be quick work!"
"Look-ee! Is that a woman in breeches?" said one of them, pointing to Vassenka Veslovsky sitting in a side saddle.
"Nay, a man! See how smartly he's going it!"
"Eh, lads! seems we're not going to sleep, then?"
"What chance of sleep today!" said the old man, with a sidelong look at the sun. "Midday's past, look-ee! Get your hooks, and come along!"
Anna looked at Dolly's thin, care-worn face, with its wrinkles filled with dust from the road, and she was on the point of saying what she was thinking, that is, that Dolly had got thinner. But, conscious that she herself had grown handsomer, and that Dolly's eyes were telling her so, she sighed and began to speak about herself.
"You are looking at me," she said, "and wondering how I can be happy in my position? Well! it's shameful to confess, but I... I'm inexcusably happy. Something magical has happened to me, like a dream, when you're frightened, panic-stricken, and all of a sudden you wake up and all the horrors are no more. I have waked up. I have lived through the misery, the dread, and now for a long while past, especially since we've been here, I've been so happy!..." she said, with a timid smile of inquiry looking at Dolly.
"How glad I am!" said Dolly smiling, involuntarily speaking more coldly than she wanted to. "I'm very glad for you. Why haven't you written to me?"
"Why?... Because I hadn't the courage.... You forget my position..."
"To me? Hadn't the courage? If you knew how I...I look at..."
Darya Alexandrovna wanted to express her thoughts of the morning, but for some reason it seemed to her now out of place to do so.
"But of that we'll talk later. What's this, what are all these buildings?" she asked, wanting to change the conversation and pointing to the red and green roofs that came into view behind the green hedges of acacia and lilac. "Quite a little town."
But Anna did not answer.
"No, no! How do you look at my position, what do you think of it?" she asked.
"I consider..." Darya Alexandrovna was beginning, but at that instant Vassenka Veslovsky, having brought the cob to gallop with the right leg foremost, galloped past them, bumping heavily up and down in his short jacket on the chamois leather of the side saddle. "He's doing it, Anna Arkadyevna!" he shouted.
Anna did not even glance at him; but again it seemed to Darya Alexandrovna out of place to enter upon such a long conversation in the carriage, and so she cut short her thought.
"I don't think anything," she said, "but I always loved you, and if one loves anyone, one loves the whole person, just as they are and not as one would like them to be...."
Anna, taking her eyes off her friend's face and dropping her eyelids (this was a new habit Dolly had not seen in her before), pondered, trying to penetrate the full significance of the words. And obviously interpreting them as she would have wished, she glanced at Dolly.
"If you had any sins," she said, "they would all be forgiven you for your coming to see me and these words."
And Dolly saw that tears stood in her eyes. She pressed Anna's hand in silence.
"Well, what are these buildings? How many there are of them!" After a moment's silence she repeated her question.
"These are the servants' houses, barns, and stables," answered Anna. "And there the park begins. It had all gone to ruin, but Alexey had everything renewed. He is very fond of this place, and, what I never expected, he has become intensely interested in looking after it. But his is such a rich nature! Whatever he takes up, he does splendidly. So far from being bored by it, he works with passionate interest. He—with his temperament as I know it—he has become careful and businesslike, a first-rate manager, he positively reckons every penny in his management of the land. But only in that. When it's a question of tens of thousands, he doesn't think of money." She spoke with that gleefully sly smile with which women often talk of the secret characteristics only known to them—of those they love. "Do you see that big building? that's the new hospital. I believe it will cost over a hundred thousand; that's his hobby just now. And do you know how it all came about? The peasants asked him for some meadowland, I think it was, at a cheaper rate, and he refused, and I accused him of being miserly. Of course it was not really because of that, but everything together, he began this hospital to prove, do you see, that he was not miserly about money. C'est une petitesse, if you like, but I love him all the more for it. And now you'll see the house in a moment. It was his grandfather's house, and he has had nothing changed outside."
"How beautiful!" said Dolly, looking with involuntary admiration at the handsome house with columns, standing out among the different-colored greens of the old trees in the garden.
"Isn't it fine? And from the house, from the top, the view is wonderful."
They drove into a courtyard strewn with gravel and bright with flowers, in which two laborers were at work putting an edging of stones round the light mould of a flower bed, and drew up in a covered entry.
"Ah, they're here already!" said Anna, looking at the saddle horses, which were just being led away from the steps. "It is a nice horse, isn't it? It's my cob; my favorite. Lead him here and bring me some sugar. Where is the count?" she inquired of two smart footmen who darted out. "Ah, there he is!" she said, seeing Vronsky coming to meet her with Veslovsky.
"Where are you going to put the princess?" said Vronsky in French, addressing Anna, and without waiting for a reply, he once more greeted Darya Alexandrovna, and this time he kissed her hand. "I think the big balcony room."
"Oh, no, that's too far off! Better in the corner room, we shall see each other more. Come, let's go up," said Anna, as she gave her favorite horse the sugar the footman had brought her.
"Et vous oubliez votre devoir," she said to Veslovsky, who came out too on the steps.
"Pardon, j'en ai tout plein les poches," he answered, smiling, putting his fingers in his waistcoat pocket.
"Mais vous venez trop tard," she said, rubbing her handkerchief on her hand, which the horse had made wet in taking the sugar.
Anna turned to Dolly. "You can stay some time? For one day only? That's impossible!"
"I promised to be back, and the children..." said Dolly, feeling embarrassed both because she had to get her bag out of the carriage, and because she knew her face must be covered with dust.
"No, Dolly, darling!... Well, we'll see. Come along, come along!" and Anna led Dolly to her room.
That room was not the smart guest chamber Vronsky had suggested, but the one of which Anna had said that Dolly would excuse it. And this room, for which excuse was needed, was more full of luxury than any in which Dolly had ever stayed, a luxury that reminded her of the best hotels abroad.
"Well, darling, how happy I am!" Anna said, sitting down in her riding habit for a moment beside Dolly. "Tell me about all of you. Stiva I had only a glimpse of, and he cannot tell one about the children. How is my favorite, Tanya? Quite a big girl, I expect?"
"Yes, she's very tall," Darya Alexandrovna answered shortly, surprised herself that she should respond so coolly about her children. "We are having a delightful stay at the Levins'," she added.
"Oh, if I had known," said Anna, "that you do not despise me!... You might have all come to us. Stiva's an old friend and a great friend of Alexey's, you know," she added, and suddenly she blushed.
"Yes, but we are all..." Dolly answered in confusion.
"But in my delight I'm talking nonsense. The one thing, darling, is that I am so glad to have you!" said Anna, kissing her again. "You haven't told me yet how and what you think about me, and I keep wanting to know. But I'm glad you will see me as I am. The chief thing I shouldn't like would be for people to imagine I want to prove anything. I don't want to prove anything; I merely want to live, to do no one harm but myself. I have the right to do that, haven't I? But it is a big subject, and we'll talk over everything properly later. Now I'll go and dress and send a maid to you."
Left alone, Darya Alexandrovna, with a good housewife's eye, scanned her room. All she had seen in entering the house and walking through it, and all she saw now in her room, gave her an impression of wealth and sumptuousness and of that modern European luxury of which she had only read in English novels, but had never seen in Russia and in the country. Everything was new from the new French hangings on the walls to the carpet which covered the whole floor. The bed had a spring mattress, and a special sort of bolster and silk pillowcases on the little pillows. The marble washstand, the dressing table, the little sofa, the tables, the bronze clock on the chimney piece, the window curtains, and the portieres were all new and expensive.
The smart maid, who came in to offer her services, with her hair done up high, and a gown more fashionable than Dolly's, was as new and expensive as the whole room. Darya Alexandrovna liked her neatness, her deferential and obliging manners, but she felt ill at ease with her. She felt ashamed of her seeing the patched dressing jacket that had unluckily been packed by mistake for her. She was ashamed of the very patches and darned places of which she had been so proud at home. At home it had been so clear that for six dressing jackets there would be needed twenty-four yards of nainsook at sixteen pence the yard, which was a matter of thirty shillings besides the cutting-out and making, and these thirty shillings had been saved. But before the maid she felt, if not exactly ashamed, at least uncomfortable.
Darya Alexandrovna had a great sense of relief when Annushka, whom she had known for years, walked in. The smart maid was sent for to go to her mistress, and Annushka remained with Darya Alexandrovna.
Annushka was obviously much pleased at that lady's arrival, and began to chatter away without a pause. Dolly observed that she was longing to express her opinion in regard to her mistress's position, especially as to the love and devotion of the count to Anna Arkadyevna, but Dolly carefully interrupted her whenever she began to speak about this.
"I grew up with Anna Arkadyevna; my lady's dearer to me than anything. Well, it's not for us to judge. And, to be sure, there seems so much love..."
"Kindly pour out the water for me to wash now, please," Darya Alexandrovna cut her short.
"Certainly. We've two women kept specially for washing small things, but most of the linen's done by machinery. The count goes into everything himself. Ah, what a husband!..."
Dolly was glad when Anna came in, and by her entrance put a stop to Annushka's gossip.
Anna had put on a very simple batiste gown. Dolly scrutinized that simple gown attentively. She knew what it meant, and the price at which such simplicity was obtained.
"An old friend," said Anna of Annushka.
Anna was not embarrassed now. She was perfectly composed and at ease. Dolly saw that she had now completely recovered from the impression her arrival had made on her, and had assumed that superficial, careless tone which, as it were, closed the door on that compartment in which her deeper feelings and ideas were kept.
"Well, Anna, and how is your little girl?" asked Dolly.
"Annie?" (This was what she called her little daughter Anna.) "Very well. She has got on wonderfully. Would you like to see her? Come, I'll show her to you. We had a terrible bother," she began telling her, "over nurses. We had an Italian wet-nurse. A good creature, but so stupid! We wanted to get rid of her, but the baby is so used to her that we've gone on keeping her still."
"But how have you managed?..." Dolly was beginning a question as to what name the little girl would have; but noticing a sudden frown on Anna's face, she changed the drift of her question.
"How did you manage? have you weaned her yet?"
But Anna had understood.
"You didn't mean to ask that? You meant to ask about her surname. Yes? That worries Alexey. She has no name—that is, she's a Karenina," said Anna, dropping her eyelids till nothing could be seen but the eyelashes meeting. "But we'll talk about all that later," her face suddenly brightening. "Come, I'll show you her. Elle est tres gentille. She crawls now."
In the nursery the luxury which had impressed Dolly in the whole house struck her still more. There were little go-carts ordered from England, and appliances for learning to walk, and a sofa after the fashion of a billiard table, purposely constructed for crawling, and swings and baths, all of special pattern, and modern. They were all English, solid, and of good make, and obviously very expensive. The room was large, and very light and lofty.
When they went in, the baby, with nothing on but her little smock, was sitting in a little elbow chair at the table, having her dinner of broth, which she was spilling all over her little chest. The baby was being fed, and the Russian nursery maid was evidently sharing her meal. Neither the wet-nurse nor the head nurse were there; they were in the next room, from which came the sound of their conversation in the queer French which was their only means of communication.
Hearing Anna's voice, a smart, tall, English nurse with a disagreeable face and a dissolute expression walked in at the door, hurriedly shaking her fair curls, and immediately began to defend herself though Anna had not found fault with her. At every word Anna said, the English nurse said hurriedly several times, "Yes, my lady."
The rosy baby with her black eyebrows and hair, her sturdy red little body with tight goose-flesh skin, delighted Darya Alexandrovna in spite of the cross expression with which she stared at the stranger. She positively envied the baby's healthy appearance. She was delighted, too, at the baby's crawling. Not one of her own children had crawled like that. When the baby was put on the carpet and its little dress tucked up behind, it was wonderfully charming. Looking round like some little wild animal at the grown-up big people with her bright black eyes, she smiled, unmistakably pleased at their admiring her, and holding her legs sideways, she pressed vigorously on her arms, and rapidly drew her whole back up after, and then made another step forward with her little arms.
But the whole atmosphere of the nursery, and especially the English nurse, Darya Alexandrovna did not like at all. It was only on the supposition that no good nurse would have entered so irregular a household as Anna's that Darya Alexandrovna could explain to herself how Anna with her insight into people could take such an unprepossessing, disreputable-looking woman as nurse to her child.
Besides, from a few words that were dropped, Darya Alexandrovna saw at once that Anna, the two nurses, and the child had no common existence, and that the mother's visit was something exceptional. Anna wanted to get the baby her plaything, and could not find it.