“Mothers see something extraordinary in their children, that is ordained by nature,” said Yulia. “A mother will stand for hours together by the baby’s cot looking at its little ears and eyes and nose, and fascinated by them. If any one else kisses her baby the poor thing imagines that it gives him immense pleasure. And a mother talks of nothing but her baby. I know that weakness in mothers, and I keep watch over myself, but my Olga really is exceptional. How she looks at me when I’m nursing her! How she laughs! She’s only eight months old, but, upon my word, I’ve never seen such intelligent eyes in a child of three.”
“Tell me, by the way,” asked Yartsev: “which do you love most— your husband or your baby?”
Yulia shrugged her shoulders.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I never was so very fond of my husband, and Olga is in reality my first love. You know that I did not marry Alexey for love. In old days I was foolish and miserable, and thought that I had ruined my life and his, and now I see that love is not necessary—that it is all nonsense.”
“But if it is not love, what feeling is it that binds you to your husband? Why do you go on living with him?”
“I don’t know. . . . I suppose it must be habit. I respect him, I miss him when he’s away for long, but that’s—not love. He is a clever, honest man, and that’s enough to make me happy. He is very kind and good-hearted. . . .”
“Alyosha’s intelligent, Alyosha’s good,” said Kostya, raising his head lazily; “but, my dear girl, to find out that he is intelligent, good, and interesting, you have to eat a hundredweight of salt with him. . . . And what’s the use of his goodness and intelligence? He can fork out money as much as you want, but when character is needed to resist insolence or aggressiveness, he is faint-hearted and overcome with nervousness. People like your amiable Alyosha are splendid people, but they are no use at all for fighting. In fact, they are no use for anything.”
At last the train came in sight. Coils of perfectly pink smoke from the funnels floated over the copse, and two windows in the last compartment flashed so brilliantly in the sun, that it hurt their eyes to look at it.
“Tea-time!” said Yulia Sergeyevna, getting up.
She had grown somewhat stouter of late, and her movements were already a little matronly, a little indolent.
“It’s bad to be without love though,” said Yartsev, walking behind her. “We talk and read of nothing else but love, but we do very little loving ourselves, and that’s really bad.”
“All that’s nonsense, Ivan Gavrilitch,” said Yulia. “That’s not what gives happiness.”
They had tea in the little garden, where mignonette, stocks, and tobacco plants were in flower, and spikes of early gladiolus were just opening. Yartsev and Kotchevoy could see from Yulia’s face that she was passing through a happy period of inward peace and serenity, that she wanted nothing but what she had, and they, too, had a feeling of peace and comfort in their hearts. Whatever was said sounded apt and clever; the pines were lovely—the fragrance of them was exquisite as it had never been before; and the cream was very nice; and Sasha was a good, intelligent child.