Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy

Chapter 6


During the time of the children's tea the grown-up people sat in the balcony and talked as though nothing had happened, though they all, especially Sergey Ivanovitch and Varenka, were very well aware that there had happened an event which, though negative, was of very great importance. They both had the same feeling, rather like that of a schoolboy after an examination, which has left him in the same class or shut him out of the school forever. Every one present, feeling too that something had happened, talked eagerly about extraneous subjects. Levin and Kitty were particularly happy and conscious of their love that evening. And their happiness in their love seemed to imply a disagreeable slur on those who would have liked to feel the same and could not--and they felt a prick of conscience.

"Mark my words, Alexander will not come," said the old princess.

That evening they were expecting Stepan Arkadyevitch to come down by train, and the old prince had written that possibly he might come too.

"And I know why," the princess went on; "he says that young people ought to be left alone for a while at first."

"But papa has left us alone. We've never seen him," said Kitty. "Besides, we're not young people!--we're old, married people by now."

"Only if he doesn't come, I shall say good-bye to you children," said the princess, sighing mournfully.

"What nonsense, mamma!" both the daughters fell upon her at once. "How do you suppose he is feeling? Why, now . . ."

And suddenly there was an unexpected quiver in the princess's voice. Her daughters were silent, and looked at one another. "Maman always finds something to be miserable about," they said in that glance. They did not know that happy as the princess was in her daughter's house, and useful as she felt herself to be there, she had been extremely miserable, both on her own account and her husband's, ever since they had married their last and favorite daughter, and the old home had been left empty.

"What is it, Agafea Mihalovna?" Kitty asked suddenly of Agafea Mihalovna, who was standing with a mysterious air, and a face full of meaning.

"About supper."

"Well, that's right," said Dolly; "you go and arrange about it, and I'll go and hear Grisha repeat his lesson, or else he will have nothing done all day." "That's my lesson! No, Dolly, I'm going," said Levin, jumping up.

Grisha, who was by now at a high school, had to go over the lessons of the term in the summer holidays. Darya Alexandrovna, who had been studying Latin with her son in Moscow before, had made it a rule on coming to the Levins' to go over with him, at least once a day, the most difficult lessons of Latin and arithmetic. Levin had offered to take her place, but the mother, having once overheard~Levin's lesson, and noticing that it was not given exactly as the teacher in Moscow had given it, said resolutely, though with much embarrassment and anxiety not to mortify Levin, that they must keep strictly to the book as the teacher had done, and that she had better undertake it again herself. Levin was amazed both at Stepan Arkadyevitch, who, by neglecting his duty, threw upon the mother the supervision of studies of which she had no comprehension, and at the teachers for teaching the children so badly. But he promised his sister-in-law to give the lessons exactly as she wished. And he went on teaching Grisha, not in his own way, but by the book, and so took little interest in it, and often forgot the hour of the lesson. So it had been to-day.

"No, I'm going, Dolly, you sit still," he said. "We'll do it all properly, like the book. Only when Stiva comes, and we go out shooting, then we shall have to miss it."

And Levin went to Grisha.

Varenka was saying the same thing to Kitty. Even in the happy, wellordered household of the Levins Varenka had succeeded in making herself useful.

"I'll see to the supper, you sit still," she said, and got up to go to Agafea Mihalovna.

"Yes, yes, most likely they've not been able to get chickens. If so, ours . . ."

"Agafea Mihalovna and I will see about it," and Varenka vanished with her.

"What a nice girl!" said the princess.

"Not nice, maman; she's an exquisite girl; there's no one else like her."

"So you are expecting Stepan Arkadyevitch to-day?" said Sergey Ivanovitch, evidently not disposed to pursue the conversation about Varenka. "It would be difficult to find two sons-in-law more unlike than yours," he said with a subtle smile. "One all movement, only living in society, like a fish in water; the other our Kostya, lively, alert, quick in everything, but as soon as he is in society, he either sinks into apathy, or struggles helplessly like a fish on land."

"Yes, he's very heedless," said the princess, addressing Sergey Ivano. vitch. "I've been meaning, indeed, to ask you to tell him that it's out of the question for her" (she indicated Kitty) "to stay here; that she positively must come to Moscow. He talks of getting a doctor down . . ."

"Maman, he'll do everything; he has agreed to everything," Kitty said, angry with her mother for appealing to Sergey Ivanovitch to judge in such a matter.

In the middle of their conversation they heard the snorting of horses and the sound of wheels on the gravel. Dolly had not time to get up to go and meet her husband, when from the window of the room below, where Grisha was having his lesson, Levin leaped out and helped Grisha out after him.

"It's Stiva!" Levin shouted from under the balcony. "We've finished, Dolly, don't be afraid!" he added, and started running like a boy to meet the carriage.

"Is ea id, ejus, ejus, ejus!" shouted Grisha, skipping along the avenue.

"And some one else too! Papa, of course!" cried Levin, stopping at the entrance of the avenue. "Kitty, don't come down the steep staircase, go round."

But Levin had been mistaken in taking the person sitting in the carriage for the old prince. As he got nearer to the carriage he saw beside Stepan Arkadyevitch not the prince but a handsome, stout young man in a Scotch cap, with long ends of ribbon behind. This was Vassenka Veslovsky, a distant cousin of the Shtcherbatskys, a brilliant young gentleman in Petersburg and Moscow society. "A capital fellow, and a keen sportsman," as Stepan Arkadyevitch said, introducing him.

Not a whit abashed by the disappointment caused by his having come in place of the old prince, Veslovsky greeted Levin gaily, claiming acquaintance with him in the past, and snatching up Grisha into the carriage, lifted him over the pointer that Stepan Arkadyevitch had brought with him.

Levin did not get into the carriage, but walked behind. He was rather vexed at the non-arrival of the old prince, whom he liked more and more the more he saw of him, and also at the arrival of this Vassenka Veslovsky, a quite uncongenial and superfluous person. He seemed to him still more uncongenial and superfluous when, on approaching the steps where the whole party, children and grown-up, were gathered together in much excitement, Levin saw Vassenka Veslovsky, with a particularly warm and gallant air, kissing Kitty's hand.

"Your wife arid I are cousins and very old friends," said Vassenka Veslovsky, once more shaking Levin's hand with great warmth.

"Well, are there plenty of birds?" Stepan Arkadyevitch said to Levin, hardly leaving time for every one to utter their greetings. "We've come with the most savage intentions. Why, maman, they've not been in Moscow since! Look, Tanya, here's something for you! Get it, please, it's in the carriage, behind!" he talked in all directions. "How pretty you've grown, Dolly," he said to his wife, once more kissing her hand, holding it in one of his, and patting it with the other.

Levin, who a minute before had been in the happiest frame of mind, now looked darkly at every one, and everything displeased him.

"Who was it he kissed yesterday with those lips?" he thought, looking at Stepan Arkadyevitch's tender demonstrations to his wife. He looked at Dolly, and he did not like her either.

"She doesn't believe in his love. So what is she so pleased about? Revolting!" thought Levin. He looked at the princess, who had been so dear to him a minute before, and he did not like the manner in which she welcomed this Vassenka, with his ribbons, just as though she were in her own house.

Even Sergey Ivanovitch, who had come out too onto the steps, seemed to him unpleasant with the show of cordiality with which he met Stepan Arkadyevitch, though Levin knew that his brother neither liked nor respected Oblonsky.

And Varenka, even she seemed hateful, with her air sainte nitouche making the acquaintance of this gentleman, while all the while she was thinking of nothing but getting married.

And more hateful than any one was Kitty for falling in with the tone of gaiety with which this gentleman regarded his visit in the country, as though it were a holiday for himself and every one else. And, above all, unpleasant was that particular smile with which she responded to his smile.

Noisily talking, they all went into the house; but as soon as they were all seated, Levin turned and went out.

Kitty saw something was wrong with her husband. She tried to seize a moment to speak to him alone, but he made haste to get away from her, saying he was wanted at the counting-house. It was long since his own work on the estate had seemed to him so important as at that moment. "It's all holiday for them," he thought; "but these are no holiday matters, they won't wait, and there's no living without them."