“It’s very well that I’m teaching Grisha, but of course that’s only because I am free myself now, I’m not with child. Stiva, of course, there’s no counting on. And with the help of good-natured friends I can bring them up; but if there’s another baby coming?...” And the thought struck her how untruly it was said that the curse laid on woman was that in sorrow she should bring forth children.
“The birth itself, that’s nothing; but the months of carrying the child—that’s what’s so intolerable,” she thought, picturing to herself her last pregnancy, and the death of the last baby. And she recalled the conversation she had just had with the young woman at the inn. On being asked whether she had any children, the handsome young woman had answered cheerfully:
“I had a girl baby, but God set me free; I buried her last Lent.”
“Well, did you grieve very much for her?” asked Darya Alexandrovna.
“Why grieve? The old man has grandchildren enough as it is. It was only a trouble. No working, nor nothing. Only a tie.”
This answer had struck Darya Alexandrovna as revolting in spite of the good-natured and pleasing face of the young woman; but now she could not help recalling these words. In those cynical words there was indeed a grain of truth.
“Yes, altogether,” thought Darya Alexandrovna, looking back over her whole existence during those fifteen years of her married life, “pregnancy, sickness, mental incapacity, indifference to everything, and most of all—hideousness. Kitty, young and pretty as she is, even Kitty has lost her looks; and I when I’m with child become hideous, I know it. The birth, the agony, the hideous agonies, that last moment...then the nursing, the sleepless nights, the fearful pains....”
Darya Alexandrovna shuddered at the mere recollection of the pain from sore breasts which she had suffered with almost every child. “Then the children’s illnesses, that everlasting apprehension; then bringing them up; evil propensities” (she thought of little Masha’s crime among the raspberries), “education, Latin—it’s all so incomprehensible and difficult. And on the top of it all, the death of these children.” And there rose again before her imagination the cruel memory, that always tore her mother’s heart, of the death of her last little baby, who had died of croup; his funeral, the callous indifference of all at the little pink coffin, and her own torn heart, and her lonely anguish at the sight of the pale little brow with its projecting temples, and the open, wondering little mouth seen in the coffin at the moment when it was being covered with the little pink lid with a cross braided on it.