ON the drive home, as Darya Alexandrovna, with all her children round her, their heads still wet from their bathe, and a kerchief tied over her own head, was getting near the house, the coachman said, Theres some gentleman coming: the master of Pokrovskoe, I do believe.
Darya Alexandrovna peeped out in front, and was delighted when she recognised in the grey hat and grey 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.
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 her own husband. Darya Alexandrovna certainly did not like this little way of Stepan Arkadyevitchs 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 Im exceedingly glad. Though I can fancy that, used to town housekeeping as you are, you must feel in the wilds here, and if theres anything wanted, Im altogether at your disposal.
Oh no! said Dolly. At first things were rather uncomfortable, but now weve settled everything capitallythanks to my old nurse, she said, indicating Marya Filimonovna, 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.
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 wideawake of children recognises 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 mothers 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.
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.
Really, he said, flushing, and at once, to change the conversation, he said: Then Ill send you two cows, shall I? If you insist on a bill you shall pay me five roubles a month; but its really too bad of you.
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.
She had by now got her household matters so satisfactorily arranged, thanks to Marya Filimonovna, that she was disinclined to make any change in them; besides, she had no faith in Levins 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 Filimonovna 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-maids 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.