THEY had just come back from Moscow, and were glad to be alone. He was sitting at the writing-table in his study, writing. She, wearing the dark lilac dress she had worn during the first days of their married life, and put on again to-day, a dress particularly remembered and loved by him, was sitting on the sofa, the same old-fashioned leather sofa which had always stood in the study in Levins fathers and grandfathers days. She was sewing at broderie anglaise. He thought and wrote, never losing the happy consciousness of her presence. His work, both on the land and on the book, in which the principles of the new land system were to be laid down, had not been abandoned; but just as formerly these pursuits and ideas had seemed to him petty and trivial in comparison with the darkness that overspread all life, now they seemed as unimportant and petty in comparison with the life that lay before him suffused with the brilliant light of happiness. He went on with his work, but he felt now that the centre of gravity of his attention had passed to something else, and that consequently he looked at his work quite differently and more clearly. Formerly this work had been for him an escape from life. Formerly he had felt that without this work his life would be too gloomy. Now these pursuits were necessary for him that life might not be too uniformly bright. Taking up his manuscript, reading through what he had written, he found with pleasure that the work was worth his working at. Many of his old ideas seemed to him superfluous and extreme, but many blanks became distinct to him when he reviewed the whole thing in his memory. He was writing now a new chapter on the causes of the present disastrous condition of agriculture in Russia. He maintained that the poverty of Russia arises not merely from the anomalous distribution of landed property and misdirected reforms, but that what had contributed of late years to this result was the civilisation from without abnormally grafted upon Russia, especially facilities of communication, as railways, leading to centralisation in towns, the development of luxury, and the consequent development of manufactures, credit and its accompaniment of speculationall to the detriment of agriculture. It seemed to him that in a normal development of wealth in a state all these phenomena would arise only when a considerable amount of labour had been put into agriculture, when it had come under regular, or at least definite, conditions; that the wealth of a country ought to increase proportionally, and especially in such a way that other sources of wealth should not outstrip agriculture; that in harmony with a certain stage of agriculture there should be means of communication corresponding to it, and that in our unsettled condition of the land, railways, called into being by political and not by economic needs, were premature, and instead of promoting agriculture, and promoting the development of manufactures and credit, and so arresting its progress; and that just as the one-sided and premature development of one organ in an animal would hinder its general development, so in the general development of wealth in Russia, credit, facilities of communication, manufacturing activity, indubitably necessary in Europe, where they had arisen in their proper time, had with us only done harm, by throwing into the background the chief question calling for settlementthe question of the organisation of agriculture.
While he was writing his ideas she was thinking how unnaturally cordial her husband had been to young Prince Tcharsky, who had, with great want of tact, flirted with her the day before they left Moscow. Hes jealous, she thought. Goodness! how sweet and silly he is! Hes jealous of me! If he knew that I think no more of them than of Piotr the cook, she thought, looking at his head and red neck with a feeling of possession strange to herself. Though its a pity to take him from his work (but he has plenty of time!), I must look at his face; will he feel Im looking at him? I wish hed turn round Ill will him to! and she opened her eyes wide, as though to intensify the influence of her gaze.
Left alone, after putting his manuscripts together in the new portfolio bought by her, he washed his hands at the new washstand with the elegant fittings, that had all made their appearance with her. Levin smiled at his own thoughts, and shook his head disapprovingly at those thoughts; a feeling akin to remorse fretted him. There was something shameful, effeminate, Capuan, as he called it to himself, in his present mode of life. Its not right to go on like this, he thought. Itll soon be three months, and Im doing next to nothing. To-day, almost for the first time, I set to work seriously, and what happened? I did nothing but begin and throw it aside. Even my ordinary pursuits I have almost given up. On the land I scarcely walk or drive about at all to look after things. Either I am loath to leave her, or I see shes dull alone. And I used to think that, before marriage, life was nothing much, somehow didnt count, but that after marriage, life began in earnest. And here almost three months have passed, and I have spent my time so idly and unprofitably. No, this wont do; I must begin. Of course, its not her fault. Shes not to blame in any way. I ought myself to be firmer, to maintain my masculine independence of action; or else I shall get into such ways, and shell get used to them too. Of course shes not to blame, he told himself.
But it is hard for any one who is dissatisfied not to blame some one else, and especially the person nearest of fall to them, for the ground of his dissatisfaction. And it vaguely came into Levins mind that she herself was not to blame (she could not be to blame for anything), but what was to blame was her education, too superficial and frivolous. (That fool Tcharsky: she wanted, I know, to stop him, but didnt know how to.) Yes, apart from her interest in the house (that she has), apart from dress and broderie anglaise, she has no serious interests. No interest in her work, in the estate, in the peasants, nor in music, though shes rather good at it, nor in reading. She does nothing, and is perfectly satisfied. Levin, in his heart, censured this, and did not as yet understand that she was preparing for that period of activity which was to come for her when she would at once be the wife of her husband and mistress of the house, and would bear, and nurse, and bring up children. He knew not that she was instinctively aware of this, and, preparing herself for this time of terrible toil, did not reproach herself for the moments of carelessness and happiness in her love that she enjoyed now while gaily building her nest for the future.