Darya Alexandrovna spent the summer with her children at Pokrovskoe, at her sister Kitty Levin’s. The house on her own estate was quite in ruins, and Levin and his wife had persuaded her to spend the summer with them. Stepan Arkadyevitch greatly approved of the arrangement. He said he was very sorry his official duties prevented him from spending the summer in the country with his family, which would have been the greatest happiness for him; and remaining in Moscow, he came down to the country from time to time for a day or two. Besides the Oblonskys, with all their children and their governess, the old princess too came to stay that summer with the Levins, as she considered it her duty to watch over her inexperienced daughter in her interesting condition. Moreover, Varenka, Kitty’s friend abroad, kept her promise to come to Kitty when she was married, and stayed with her friend. All of these were friends or relations of Levin’s wife. And though he liked them all, he rather regretted his own Levin world and ways, which was smothered by this influx of the “Shtcherbatsky element,” as he called it to himself. Of his own relations there stayed with him only Sergey Ivanovitch, but he too was a man of the Koznishev and not the Levin stamp, so that the Levin spirit was utterly obliterated.
In the Levins’ house, so long deserted, there were now so many people that almost all the rooms were occupied, and almost every day it happened that the old princess, sitting down to table, counted them all over, and put the thirteenth grandson or granddaughter at a separate table. And Kitty, with her careful housekeeping, had no little trouble to get all the chickens, turkeys, and geese, of which so many were needed to satisfy the summer appetites of the visitors and children.
The whole family were sitting at dinner. Dolly’s children, with their governess and Varenka, were making plans for going to look for mushrooms. Sergey Ivanovitch, who was looked up to by all the party for his intellect and learning, with a respect that almost amounted to awe, surprised everyone by joining in the conversation about mushrooms.
“Take me with you. I am very fond of picking mushrooms,” he said, looking at Varenka; “I think it’s a very nice occupation.”
“Oh, we shall be delighted,” answered Varenka, coloring a little. Kitty exchanged meaningful glances with Dolly. The proposal of the learned and intellectual Sergey Ivanovitch to go looking for mushrooms with Varenka confirmed certain theories of Kitty’s with which her mind had been very busy of late. She made haste to address some remark to her mother, so that her look should not be noticed. After dinner Sergey Ivanovitch sat with his cup of coffee at the drawing-room window, and while he took part in a conversation he had begun with his brother, he watched the door through which the children would start on the mushroom-picking expedition. Levin was sitting in the window near his brother.
Kitty stood beside her husband, evidently awaiting the end of a conversation that had no interest for her, in order to tell him something.
“You have changed in many respects since your marriage, and for the better,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, smiling to Kitty, and obviously little interested in the conversation, “but you have remained true to your passion for defending the most paradoxical theories.”
“Katya, it’s not good for you to stand,” her husband said to her, putting a chair for her and looking significantly at her.
“Oh, and there’s no time either,” added Sergey Ivanovitch, seeing the children running out.
At the head of them all Tanya galloped sideways, in her tightly-drawn stockings, and waving a basket and Sergey Ivanovitch’s hat, she ran straight up to him.
Boldly running up to Sergey Ivanovitch with shining eyes, so like her father’s fine eyes, she handed him his hat and made as though she would put it on for him, softening her freedom by a shy and friendly smile.
“Varenka’s waiting,” she said, carefully putting his hat on, seeing from Sergey Ivanovitch’s smile that she might do so.
Varenka was standing at the door, dressed in a yellow print gown, with a white kerchief on her head.
“I’m coming, I’m coming, Varvara Andreevna,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, finishing his cup of coffee, and putting into their separate pockets his handkerchief and cigar-case.
“And how sweet my Varenka is! eh?” said Kitty to her husband, as soon as Sergey Ivanovitch rose. She spoke so that Sergey Ivanovitch could hear, and it was clear that she meant him to do so. “And how good-looking she is—such a refined beauty! Varenka!” Kitty shouted. “Shall you be in the mill copse? We’ll come out to you.”
“You certainly forget your condition, Kitty,” said the old princess, hurriedly coming out at the door. “You mustn’t shout like that.”
Varenka, hearing Kitty’s voice and her mother’s reprimand, went with light, rapid steps up to Kitty. The rapidity of her movement, her flushed and eager face, everything betrayed that something out of the common was going on in her. Kitty knew what this was, and had been watching her intently. She called Varenka at that moment merely in order mentally to give her a blessing for the important event which, as Kitty fancied, was bound to come to pass that day after dinner in the wood.
“Varenka, I should be very happy if a certain something were to happen,” she whispered as she kissed her.
“And are you coming with us?” Varenka said to Levin in confusion, pretending not to have heard what had been said.
“I am coming, but only as far as the threshing-floor, and there I shall stop.”
“Why, what do you want there?” said Kitty.
“I must go to have a look at the new wagons, and to check the invoice,” said Levin; “and where will you be?”
“On the terrace.”
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