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.