“Kitty writes to me that there’s nothing she longs for so much as quiet and solitude,” Dolly said after the silence that had followed.
“And how is she—better?” Levin asked in agitation.
“Thank God, she’s quite well again. I never believed her lungs were affected.”
“Oh, I’m very glad!” said Levin, and Dolly fancied she saw something touching, helpless, in his face as he said this and looked silently into her face.
“Let me ask you, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” said Darya Alexandrovna, smiling her kindly and rather mocking smile, “why is it you are angry with Kitty?”
“I? I’m not angry with her,” said Levin.
“Yes, you are angry. Why was it you did not come to see us nor them when you were in Moscow?”
“Darya Alexandrovna,” he said, blushing up to the roots of his hair, “I wonder really that with your kind heart you don’t feel this. How it is you feel no pity for me, if nothing else, when you know….”
“What do I know?”
“You know I made an offer and that I was refused,” said Levin, and all the tenderness he had been feeling for Kitty a minute before was replaced by a feeling of anger for the slight he had suffered.
“What makes you suppose I know?”
“Because everybody knows it….”
“That’s just where you are mistaken; I did not know it, though I had guessed it was so.”
“Well, now you know it.”
“All I knew was that something had happened that made her dreadfully miserable, and that she begged me never to speak of it. And if she would not tell me, she would certainly not speak of it to anyone else. But what did pass between you? Tell me.”
“I have told you.”
“When was it?”
“When I was at their house the last time.”
“Do you know that,” said Darya Alexandrovna, “I am awfully, awfully sorry for her. You suffer only from pride….”
“Perhaps so,” said Levin, “but….”
She interrupted him.
“But she, poor girl … I am awfully, awfully sorry for her. Now I see it all.”
“Well, Darya Alexandrovna, you must excuse me,” he said, getting up. “Good-bye, Darya Alexandrovna, till we meet again.”
“No, wait a minute,” she said, clutching him by the sleeve. “Wait a minute, sit down.”
“Please, please, don’t let us talk of this,” he said, sitting down, and at the same time feeling rise up and stir within his heart a hope he had believed to be buried.
“If I did not like you,” she said, and tears came into her eyes; “if I did not know you, as I do know you….”
The feeling that had seemed dead revived more and more, rose up and took possession of Levin’s heart.
“Yes, I understand it all now,” said Darya Alexandrovna. “You can’t understand it; for you men, who are free and make your own choice, it’s always clear whom you love. But a girl’s in a position of suspense, with all a woman’s or maiden’s modesty, a girl who sees you men from afar, who takes everything on trust,—a girl may have, and often has, such a feeling that she cannot tell what to say.”
“Yes, if the heart does not speak….”
“No, the heart does speak; but just consider: you men have views about a girl, you come to the house, you make friends, you criticize, you wait to see if you have found what you love, and then, when you are sure you love her, you make an offer….”
“Well, that’s not quite it.”
“Anyway you make an offer, when your love is ripe or when the balance has completely turned between the two you are choosing from. But a girl is not asked. She is expected to make her choice, and yet she cannot choose, she can only answer ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”
“Yes, to choose between me and Vronsky,” thought Levin, and the dead thing that had come to life within him died again, and only weighed on his heart and set it aching.
“Darya Alexandrovna,” he said, “that’s how one chooses a new dress or some purchase or other, not love. The choice has been made, and so much the better…. And there can be no repeating it.”
“Ah, pride, pride!” said Darya Alexandrovna, as though despising him for the baseness of this feeling in comparison with that other feeling which only women know. “At the time when you made Kitty an offer she was just in a position in which she could not answer. She was in doubt. Doubt between you and Vronsky. Him she was seeing every day, and you she had not seen for a long while. Supposing she had been older … I, for instance, in her place could have felt no doubt. I always disliked him, and so it has turned out.”
Levin recalled Kitty’s answer. She had said: “No, that cannot be….”
“Darya Alexandrovna,” he said dryly, “I appreciate your confidence in me; I believe you are making a mistake. But whether I am right or wrong, that pride you so despise makes any thought of Katerina Alexandrovna out of the question for me,—you understand, utterly out of the question.”
“I will only say one thing more: you know that I am speaking of my sister, whom I love as I love my own children. I don’t say she cared for you, all I meant to say is that her refusal at that moment proves nothing.”
“I don’t know!” said Levin, jumping up. “If you only knew how you are hurting me. It’s just as if a child of yours were dead, and they were to say to you: He would have been like this and like that, and he might have lived, and how happy you would have been in him. But he’s dead, dead, dead!…”
“How absurd you are!” said Darya Alexandrovna, looking with mournful tenderness at Levin’s excitement. “Yes, I see it all more and more clearly,” she went on musingly. “So you won’t come to see us, then, when Kitty’s here?”
“No, I shan’t come. Of course I won’t avoid meeting Katerina Alexandrovna, but as far as I can, I will try to save her the annoyance of my presence.”
“You are very, very absurd,” repeated Darya Alexandrovna, looking with tenderness into his face. “Very well then, let it be as though we had not spoken of this. What have you come for, Tanya?” she said in French to the little girl who had come in.
“Where’s my spade, mamma?”
“I speak French, and you must too.”
The little girl tried to say it in French, but could not remember the French for spade; the mother prompted her, and then told her in French where to look for the spade. And this made a disagreeable impression on Levin.
Everything in Darya Alexandrovna’s house and children struck him now as by no means so charming as a little while before. “And what does she talk French with the children for?” he thought; “how unnatural and false it is! And the children feel it so: Learning French and unlearning sincerity,” he thought to himself, unaware that Darya Alexandrovna had thought all that over twenty times already, and yet, even at the cost of some loss of sincerity, believed it necessary to teach her children French in that way.
“But why are you going? Do stay a little.”
Levin stayed to tea; but his good-humor had vanished, and he felt ill at ease.
After tea he went out into the hall to order his horses to be put in, and, when he came back, he found Darya Alexandrovna greatly disturbed, with a troubled face, and tears in her eyes. While Levin had been outside, an incident had occurred which had utterly shattered all the happiness she had been feeling that day, and her pride in her children. Grisha and Tanya had been fighting over a ball. Darya Alexandrovna, hearing a scream in the nursery, ran in and saw a terrible sight. Tanya was pulling Grisha’s hair, while he, with a face hideous with rage, was beating her with his fists wherever he could get at her. Something snapped in Darya Alexandrovna’s heart when she saw this. It was as if darkness had swooped down upon her life; she felt that these children of hers, that she was so proud of, were not merely most ordinary, but positively bad, ill-bred children, with coarse, brutal propensities—wicked children.
She could not talk or think of anything else, and she could not speak to Levin of her misery.
Levin saw she was unhappy and tried to comfort her, saying that it showed nothing bad, that all children fight; but, even as he said it, he was thinking in his heart: “No, I won’t be artificial and talk French with my children; but my children won’t be like that. All one has to do is not spoil children, not to distort their nature, and they’ll be delightful. No, my children won’t be like that.”
He said good-bye and drove away, and she did not try to keep him.