After escorting his wife upstairs, Levin went to Dolly’s part of the house. Darya Alexandrovna, for her part, was in great distress too that day. She was walking about the room, talking angrily to a little girl, who stood in the corner roaring.
“And you shall stand all day in the corner, and have your dinner all alone, and not see one of your dolls, and I won’t make you a new frock,” she said, not knowing how to punish her.
“Oh, she is a disgusting child!” she turned to Levin. “Where does she get such wicked propensities?”
“Why, what has she done?” Levin said without much interest, for he had wanted to ask her advice, and so was annoyed that he had come at an unlucky moment.
“Grisha and she went into the raspberries, and there ... I can’t tell you really what she did. It’s a thousand pities Miss Elliot’s not with us. This one sees to nothing—she’s a machine.... Figurez-vous que la petite?...”
And Darya Alexandrovna described Masha’s crime.
“That proves nothing; it’s not a question of evil propensities at all, it’s simply mischief,” Levin assured her.
“But you are upset about something? What have you come for?” asked Dolly. “What’s going on there?”
And in the tone of her question Levin heard that it would be easy for him to say what he had meant to say.
“I’ve not been in there, I’ve been alone in the garden with Kitty. We’ve had a quarrel for the second time since ... Stiva came.”
Dolly looked at him with her shrewd, comprehending eyes.
“Come, tell me, honor bright, has there been ... not in Kitty, but in that gentleman’s behavior, a tone which might be unpleasant—not unpleasant, but horrible, offensive to a husband?”
“You mean, how shall I say.... Stay, stay in the corner!” she said to Masha, who, detecting a faint smile in her mother’s face, had been turning round. “The opinion of the world would be that he is behaving as young men do behave. Il fait la cour à une jeune et jolie femme, and a husband who’s a man of the world should only be flattered by it.”
“Yes, yes,” said Levin gloomily; “but you noticed it?”
“Not only I, but Stiva noticed it. Just after breakfast he said to me in so many words, Je crois que Veslovsky fait un petit brin de cour à Kitty.”
“Well, that’s all right then; now I’m satisfied. I’ll send him away,” said Levin.
“What do you mean! Are you crazy?” Dolly cried in horror; “nonsense, Kostya, only think!” she said, laughing. “You can go now to Fanny,” she said to Masha. “No, if you wish it, I’ll speak to Stiva. He’ll take him away. He can say you’re expecting visitors. Altogether he doesn’t fit into the house.”
“No, no, I’ll do it myself.”
“But you’ll quarrel with him?”
“Not a bit. I shall so enjoy it,” Levin said, his eyes flashing with real enjoyment. “Come, forgive her, Dolly, she won’t do it again,” he said of the little sinner, who had not gone to Fanny, but was standing irresolutely before her mother, waiting and looking up from under her brows to catch her mother’s eye.
The mother glanced at her. The child broke into sobs, hid her face on her mother’s lap, and Dolly laid her thin, tender hand on her head.
“And what is there in common between us and him?” thought Levin, and he went off to look for Veslovsky.
As he passed through the passage he gave orders for the carriage to be got ready to drive to the station.
“The spring was broken yesterday,” said the footman.
“Well, the covered trap, then, and make haste. Where’s the visitor?”
“The gentleman’s gone to his room.”
Levin came upon Veslovsky at the moment when the latter, having unpacked his things from his trunk, and laid out some new songs, was putting on his gaiters to go out riding.
Whether there was something exceptional in Levin’s face, or that Vassenka was himself conscious that ce petit brin de cour he was making was out of place in this family, but he was somewhat (as much as a young man in society can be) disconcerted at Levin’s entrance.
“You ride in gaiters?”
“Yes, it’s much cleaner,” said Vassenka, putting his fat leg on a chair, fastening the bottom hook, and smiling with simple-hearted good humor.
He was undoubtedly a good-natured fellow, and Levin felt sorry for him and ashamed of himself, as his host, when he saw the shy look on Vassenka’s face.
On the table lay a piece of stick which they had broken together that morning, trying their strength. Levin took the fragment in his hands and began smashing it up, breaking bits off the stick, not knowing how to begin.
“I wanted....” He paused, but suddenly, remembering Kitty and everything that had happened, he said, looking him resolutely in the face: “I have ordered the horses to be put-to for you.”
“How so?” Vassenka began in surprise. “To drive where?”
“For you to drive to the station,” Levin said gloomily.
“Are you going away, or has something happened?”
“It happens that I expect visitors,” said Levin, his strong fingers more and more rapidly breaking off the ends of the split stick. “And I’m not expecting visitors, and nothing has happened, but I beg you to go away. You can explain my rudeness as you like.”
Vassenka drew himself up.
“I beg you to explain....” he said with dignity, understanding at last.
“I can’t explain,” Levin said softly and deliberately, trying to control the trembling of his jaw; “and you’d better not ask.”
And as the split ends were all broken off, Levin clutched the thick ends in his finger, broke the stick in two, and carefully caught the end as it fell.
Probably the sight of those nervous fingers, of the muscles he had proved that morning at gymnastics, of the glittering eyes, the soft voice, and quivering jaws, convinced Vassenka better than any words. He bowed, shrugging his shoulders, and smiling contemptuously.
“Can I not see Oblonsky?”
The shrug and the smile did not irritate Levin.
“What else was there for him to do?” he thought.
“I’ll send him to you at once.”
“What madness is this?” Stepan Arkadyevitch said when, after hearing from his friend that he was being turned out of the house, he found Levin in the garden, where he was walking about waiting for his guest’s departure. “Mais c’est ridicule! What fly has stung you? Mais c’est du dernier ridicule! What did you think, if a young man....”
But the place where Levin had been stung was evidently still sore, for he turned pale again, when Stepan Arkadyevitch would have enlarged on the reason, and he himself cut him short.
“Please don’t go into it! I can’t help it. I feel ashamed of how I’m treating you and him. But it won’t be, I imagine, a great grief to him to go, and his presence was distasteful to me and to my wife.”
“But it’s insulting to him! Et puis c’est ridicule.”
“And to me it’s both insulting and distressing! And I’m not at fault in any way, and there’s no need for me to suffer.”
“Well, this I didn’t expect of you! On peut être jaloux, mais à ce point, c’est du dernier ridicule!”
Levin turned quickly, and walked away from him into the depths of the avenue, and he went on walking up and down alone. Soon he heard the rumble of the trap, and saw from behind the trees how Vassenka, sitting in the hay (unluckily there was no seat in the trap) in his Scotch cap, was driven along the avenue, jolting up and down over the ruts.
“What’s this?” Levin thought, when a footman ran out of the house and stopped the trap. It was the mechanician, whom Levin had totally forgotten. The mechanician, bowing low, said something to Veslovsky, then clambered into the trap, and they drove off together.
Stepan Arkadyevitch and the princess were much upset by Levin’s action. And he himself felt not only in the highest degree ridicule, but also utterly guilty and disgraced. But remembering what sufferings he and his wife had been through, when he asked himself how he should act another time, he answered that he should do just the same again.
In spite of all this, towards the end of that day, everyone except the princess, who could not pardon Levin’s action, became extraordinarily lively and good-humored, like children after a punishment or grown-up people after a dreary, ceremonious reception, so that by the evening Vassenka’s dismissal was spoken of, in the absence of the princess, as though it were some remote event. And Dolly, who had inherited her father’s gift of humorous storytelling, made Varenka helpless with laughter as she related for the third and fourth time, always with fresh humorous additions, how she had only just put on her new shoes for the benefit of the visitor, and on going into the drawing-room, heard suddenly the rumble of the trap. And who should be in the trap but Vassenka himself, with his Scotch cap, and his songs and his gaiters, and all, sitting in the hay.
“If only you’d ordered out the carriage! But no! and then I hear: ‘Stop!’ Oh, I thought they’ve relented. I look out, and behold a fat German being sat down by him and driving away.... And my new shoes all for nothing!...”
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