Agafea Mihalovna went out on tiptoe;
the nurse let down the blind, chased a fly out from
under the muslin canopy of the crib, and a bumblebee
struggling on the window-frame, and sat down waving
a faded branch of birch over the mother and the baby.
“How hot it is! if God would
send a drop of rain,” she said.
“Yes, yes, sh sh sh ”
was all Kitty answered, rocking a little, and tenderly
squeezing the plump little arm, with rolls of fat
at the wrist, which Mitya still waved feebly as he
opened and shut his eyes. That hand worried
Kitty; she longed to kiss the little hand, but was
afraid to for fear of waking the baby. At last
the little hand ceased waving, and the eyes closed.
Only from time to time, as he went on sucking, the
baby raised his long, curly eyelashes and peeped at
his mother with wet eyes, that looked black in the
twilight. The nurse had left off fanning, and
was dozing. From above came the peals of the
old prince’s voice, and the chuckle of Katavasov.
“They have got into talk without
me,” thought Kitty, “but still it’s
vexing that Kostya’s out. He’s sure
to have gone to the bee house again. Though
it’s a pity he’s there so often, still
I’m glad. It distracts his mind.
He’s become altogether happier and better now
than in the spring. He used to be so gloomy and
worried that I felt frightened for him. And how
absurd he is!” she whispered, smiling.
She knew what worried her husband.
It was his unbelief. Although, if she had been
asked whether she supposed that in the future life,
if he did not believe, he would be damned, she would
have had to admit that he would be damned, his unbelief
did not cause her unhappiness. And she, confessing
that for an unbeliever there can be no salvation,
and loving her husband’s soul more than anything
in the world, thought with a smile of his unbelief,
and told herself that he was absurd.
“What does he keep reading philosophy
of some sort for all this year?” she wondered.
“If it’s all written in those books, he
can understand them. If it’s all wrong,
why does he read them? He says himself that
he would like to believe. Then why is it he
doesn’t believe? Surely from his thinking
so much? And he thinks so much from being solitary.
He’s always alone, alone. He can’t
talk about it all to us. I fancy he’ll
be glad of these visitors, especially Katavasov.
He likes discussions with them,” she thought,
and passed instantly to the consideration of where
it would be more convenient to put Katavasov, to sleep
alone or to share Sergey Ivanovitch’s room.
And then an idea suddenly struck her, which made
her shudder and even disturb Mitya, who glanced severely
at her. “I do believe the laundress hasn’t
sent the washing yet, and all the best sheets are
in use. If I don’t see to it, Agafea Mihalovna
will give Sergey Ivanovitch the wrong sheets,”
and at the very idea of this the blood rushed to Kitty’s
“Yes, I will arrange it,”
she decided, and going back to her former thoughts,
she remembered that some spiritual question of importance
had been interrupted, and she began to recall what.
“Yes, Kostya, an unbeliever,” she thought
again with a smile.
“Well, an unbeliever then!
Better let him always be one than like Madame Stahl,
or what I tried to be in those days abroad. No,
he won’t ever sham anything.”
And a recent instance of his goodness
rose vividly to her mind. A fortnight ago a penitent
letter had come from Stepan Arkadyevitch to Dolly.
He besought her to save his honor, to sell her estate
to pay his debts. Dolly was in despair, she
detested her husband, despised him, pitied him, resolved
on a separation, resolved to refuse, but ended by
agreeing to sell part of her property. After
that, with an irrepressible smile of tenderness, Kitty
recalled her husband’s shamefaced embarrassment,
his repeated awkward efforts to approach the subject,
and how at last, having thought of the one means of
helping Dolly without wounding her pride, he had suggested
to Kitty what had not occurred to her before that
she should give up her share of the property.
“He an unbeliever indeed!
With his heart, his dread of offending anyone, even
a child! Everything for others, nothing for
himself. Sergey Ivanovitch simply considers it
as Kostya’s duty to be his steward. And
it’s the same with his sister. Now Dolly
and her children are under his guardianship; all these
peasants who come to him every day, as though he were
bound to be at their service.”
“Yes, only be like your father,
only like him,” she said, handing Mitya over
to the nurse, and putting her lips to his cheek.