“Oh, no, he is so fond of you, and I am always so glad when my people like you....”
“Yes, he’s very nice to me; but...”
“It’s not as it was with poor Nikolay...you really cared for each other,” Levin finished. “Why not speak of him?” he added. “I sometimes blame myself for not; it ends in one’s forgetting. Ah, how terrible and dear he was!... Yes, what were we talking about?” Levin said, after a pause.
“You think he can’t fall in love,” said Kitty, translating into her own language.
“It’s not so much that he can’t fall in love,” Levin said, smiling, “but he has not the weakness necessary.... I’ve always envied him, and even now, when I’m so happy, I still envy him.”
“You envy him for not being able to fall in love?”
“I envy him for being better than I,” said Levin. “He does not live for himself. His whole life is subordinated to his duty. And that’s why he can be calm and contented.”
“And you?” Kitty asked, with an ironical and loving smile.
She could never have explained the chain of thought that made her smile; but the last link in it was that her husband, in exalting his brother and abasing himself, was not quite sincere. Kitty knew that this insincerity came from his love for his brother, from his sense of shame at being too happy, and above all from his unflagging craving to be better—she loved it in him, and so she smiled.
“And you? What are you dissatisfied with?” she asked, with the same smile.
Her disbelief in his self-dissatisfaction delighted him, and unconsciously he tried to draw her into giving utterance to the grounds of her disbelief.
“I am happy, but dissatisfied with myself...” he said.
“Why, how can you be dissatisfied with yourself if you are happy?”
“Well, how shall I say?... In my heart I really care for nothing whatever but that you should not stumble—see? Oh, but really you mustn’t skip about like that!” he cried, breaking off to scold her for too agile a movement in stepping over a branch that lay in the path. “But when I think about myself, and compare myself with others, especially with my brother, I feel I’m a poor creature.”
“But in what way?” Kitty pursued with the same smile. “Don’t you too work for others? What about your co-operative settlement, and your work on the estate, and your book?...”
“Oh, but I feel, and particularly just now—it’s your fault,” he said, pressing her hand—“that all that doesn’t count. I do it in a way halfheartedly. If I could care for all that as I care for you!... Instead of that, I do it in these days like a task that is set me.”
“Well, what would you say about papa?” asked Kitty. “Is he a poor creature then, as he does nothing for the public good?”
“He?—no! But then one must have the simplicity, the straightforwardness, the goodness of your father: and I haven’t got that. I do nothing, and I fret about it. It’s all your doing. Before there was you—and this too,” he added with a glance towards her waist that she understood—“I put all my energies into work; now I can’t, and I’m ashamed; I do it just as though it were a task set me, I’m pretending....”