On the drive home, as Darya Alexandrovna, with all her children round her, their heads still wet from their bath, and a kerchief tied over her own head, was getting near the house, the coachman said, “There’s some gentleman coming: the master of Pokrovskoe, I do believe.”
Darya Alexandrovna peeped out in front, and was delighted when she recognized in the gray hat and gray coat the familiar figure of Levin walking to meet them. She was glad to see him at any time, but at this moment she was specially glad he should see her in all her glory. No one was better able to appreciate her grandeur than Levin.
Seeing her, he found himself face to face with one of the pictures of his daydream of family life.
“You’re like a hen with your chickens, Darya Alexandrovna.”
“Ah, how glad I am to see you!” she said, holding out her hand to him.
“Glad to see me, but you didn’t let me know. My brother’s staying with me. I got a note from Stiva that you were here.”
“From Stiva?” Darya Alexandrovna asked with surprise.
“Yes; he writes that you are here, and that he thinks you might allow me to be of use to you,” said Levin, and as he said it he became suddenly embarrassed, and, stopping abruptly, he walked on in silence by the wagonette, snapping off the buds of the lime trees and nibbling them. He was embarrassed through a sense that Darya Alexandrovna would be annoyed by receiving from an outsider help that should by rights have come from her own husband. Darya Alexandrovna certainly did not like this little way of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s of foisting his domestic duties on others. And she was at once aware that Levin was aware of this. It was just for this fineness of perception, for this delicacy, that Darya Alexandrovna liked Levin.
“I know, of course,” said Levin, “that that simply means that you would like to see me, and I’m exceedingly glad. Though I can fancy that, used to town housekeeping as you are, you must feel in the wilds here, and if there’s anything wanted, I’m altogether at your disposal.”
“Oh, no!” said Dolly. “At first things were rather uncomfortable, but now we’ve settled everything capitally—thanks to my old nurse,” she said, indicating Marya Philimonovna, who, seeing that they were speaking of her, smiled brightly and cordially to Levin. She knew him, and knew that he would be a good match for her young lady, and was very keen to see the matter settled.
“Won’t you get in, sir, we’ll make room this side!” she said to him.
“No, I’ll walk. Children, who’d like to race the horses with me?” The children knew Levin very little, and could not remember when they had seen him, but they experienced in regard to him none of that strange feeling of shyness and hostility which children so often experience towards hypocritical, grown-up people, and for which they are so often and miserably punished. Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised. Whatever faults Levin had, there was not a trace of hypocrisy in him, and so the children showed him the same friendliness that they saw in their mother’s face. On his invitation, the two elder ones at once jumped out to him and ran with him as simply as they would have done with their nurse or Miss Hoole or their mother. Lily, too, began begging to go to him, and her mother handed her to him; he sat her on his shoulder and ran along with her.
“Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, Darya Alexandrovna!” he said, smiling good-humoredly to the mother; “there’s no chance of my hurting or dropping her.”
And, looking at his strong, agile, assiduously careful and needlessly wary movements, the mother felt her mind at rest, and smiled gaily and approvingly as she watched him.
Here, in the country, with children, and with Darya Alexandrovna, with whom he was in sympathy, Levin was in a mood not infrequent with him, of childlike light-heartedness that she particularly liked in him. As he ran with the children, he taught them gymnastic feats, set Miss Hoole laughing with his queer English accent, and talked to Darya Alexandrovna of his pursuits in the country.
After dinner, Darya Alexandrovna, sitting alone with him on the balcony, began to speak of Kitty.
“You know, Kitty’s coming here, and is going to spend the summer with me.”
“Really,” he said, flushing, and at once, to change the conversation, he said: “Then I’ll send you two cows, shall I? If you insist on a bill you shall pay me five roubles a month; but it’s really too bad of you.”
“No, thank you. We can manage very well now.”
“Oh, well, then, I’ll have a look at your cows, and if you’ll allow me, I’ll give directions about their food. Everything depends on their food.”
And Levin, to turn the conversation, explained to Darya Alexandrovna the theory of cow-keeping, based on the principle that the cow is simply a machine for the transformation of food into milk, and so on.
He talked of this, and passionately longed to hear more of Kitty, and, at the same time, was afraid of hearing it. He dreaded the breaking up of the inward peace he had gained with such effort.
“Yes, but still all this has to be looked after, and who is there to look after it?” Darya Alexandrovna responded, without interest.
She had by now got her household matters so satisfactorily arranged, thanks to Marya Philimonovna, that she was disinclined to make any change in them; besides, she had no faith in Levin’s knowledge of farming. General principles, as to the cow being a machine for the production of milk, she looked on with suspicion. It seemed to her that such principles could only be a hindrance in farm management. It all seemed to her a far simpler matter: all that was needed, as Marya Philimonovna had explained, was to give Brindle and Whitebreast more food and drink, and not to let the cook carry all the kitchen slops to the laundry maid’s cow. That was clear. But general propositions as to feeding on meal and on grass were doubtful and obscure. And, what was most important, she wanted to talk about Kitty.