During the whole of that day, in the extremely different conversations in which he took part, only as it were with the top layer of his mind, in spite of the disappointment of not finding the change he expected in himself, Levin had been all the while joyfully conscious of the fulness of his heart.
After the rain it was too wet to go for a walk; besides, the storm clouds still hung about the horizon, and gathered here and there, black and thundery, on the rim of the sky. The whole party spent the rest of the day in the house.
No more discussions sprang up; on the contrary, after dinner everyone was in the most amiable frame of mind.
At first Katavasov amused the ladies by his original jokes, which always pleased people on their first acquaintance with him. Then Sergey Ivanovitch induced him to tell them about the very interesting observations he had made on the habits and characteristics of common houseflies, and their life. Sergey Ivanovitch, too, was in good spirits, and at tea his brother drew him on to explain his views of the future of the Eastern question, and he spoke so simply and so well, that everyone listened eagerly.
Kitty was the only one who did not hear it all—she was summoned to give Mitya his bath.
A few minutes after Kitty had left the room she sent for Levin to come to the nursery.
Leaving his tea, and regretfully interrupting the interesting conversation, and at the same time uneasily wondering why he had been sent for, as this only happened on important occasions, Levin went to the nursery.
Although he had been much interested by Sergey Ivanovitch’s views of the new epoch in history that would be created by the emancipation of forty millions of men of Slavonic race acting with Russia, a conception quite new to him, and although he was disturbed by uneasy wonder at being sent for by Kitty, as soon as he came out of the drawing-room and was alone, his mind reverted at once to the thoughts of the morning. And all the theories of the significance of the Slav element in the history of the world seemed to him so trivial compared with what was passing in his own soul, that he instantly forgot it all and dropped back into the same frame of mind that he had been in that morning.
He did not, as he had done at other times, recall the whole train of thought—that he did not need. He fell back at once into the feeling which had guided him, which was connected with those thoughts, and he found that feeling in his soul even stronger and more definite than before. He did not, as he had had to do with previous attempts to find comforting arguments, need to revive a whole chain of thought to find the feeling. Now, on the contrary, the feeling of joy and peace was keener than ever, and thought could not keep pace with feeling.
He walked across the terrace and looked at two stars that had come out in the darkening sky, and suddenly he remembered. “Yes, looking at the sky, I thought that the dome that I see is not a deception, and then I thought something, I shirked facing something,” he mused. “But whatever it was, there can be no disproving it! I have but to think, and all will come clear!”
Just as he was going into the nursery he remembered what it was he had shirked facing. It was that if the chief proof of the Divinity was His revelation of what is right, how is it this revelation is confined to the Christian church alone? What relation to this revelation have the beliefs of the Buddhists, Mohammedans, who preached and did good too?
It seemed to him that he had an answer to this question; but he had not time to formulate it to himself before he went into the nursery.
Kitty was standing with her sleeves tucked up over the baby in the bath. Hearing her husband’s footstep, she turned towards him, summoning him to her with her smile. With one hand she was supporting the fat baby that lay floating and sprawling on its back, while with the other she squeezed the sponge over him.
“Come, look, look!” she said, when her husband came up to her. “Agafea Mihalovna’s right. He knows us!”
Mitya had on that day given unmistakable, incontestable signs of recognizing all his friends.
As soon as Levin approached the bath, the experiment was tried, and it was completely successful. The cook, sent for with this object, bent over the baby. He frowned and shook his head disapprovingly. Kitty bent down to him, he gave her a beaming smile, propped his little hands on the sponge and chirruped, making such a queer little contented sound with his lips, that Kitty and the nurse were not alone in their admiration. Levin, too, was surprised and delighted.
The baby was taken out of the bath, drenched with water, wrapped in towels, dried, and after a piercing scream, handed to his mother.
“Well, I am glad you are beginning to love him,” said Kitty to her husband, when she had settled herself comfortably in her usual place, with the baby at her breast. “I am so glad! It had begun to distress me. You said you had no feeling for him.”
“No; did I say that? I only said I was disappointed.”
“What! disappointed in him?”
“Not disappointed in him, but in my own feeling; I had expected more. I had expected a rush of new delightful emotion to come as a surprise. And then instead of that—disgust, pity….”
She listened attentively, looking at him over the baby, while she put back on her slender fingers the rings she had taken off while giving Mitya his bath.
“And most of all, at there being far more apprehension and pity than pleasure. Today, after that fright during the storm, I understand how I love him.”
Kitty’s smile was radiant.
“Were you very much frightened?” she said. “So was I too, but I feel it more now that it’s over. I’m going to look at the oak. How nice Katavasov is! And what a happy day we’ve had altogether. And you’re so nice with Sergey Ivanovitch, when you care to be…. Well, go back to them. It’s always so hot and steamy here after the bath.”