The house was big and old-fashioned, and Levin, though he lived alone, heated and used the whole house. He knew that this was stupid, he knew that it was even wrong, and contrary to his present new plans, but this house was a whole world to Levin. It was the world in which his father and mother had lived and died. They had lived just the life that to Levin seemed the ideal of perfection, and that he had dreamed of renewing with his wife, with his family.
Levin scarcely remembered his mother. His conception of her was for him a sacred memory, and his future wife was bound to be, in his imagination, a repetition of that exquisite, holy ideal of a woman that his mother had been.
He was so far from conceiving of love for woman apart from marriage that he positively pictured to himself first the family, and only secondarily the woman who would give him a family. His ideas of marriage were, consequently, quite unlike those of the great majority of his acquaintances, for whom getting married was merely one of the many affairs of everyday life. For Levin it was the chief affair of life, on which its whole happiness turned. And now he had to give up that!
When he had gone into the second drawing room, where he always had tea, and had settled himself in his armchair with a book, and Agathya Mikhailovna had brought him tea, and with her usual, `Well, I'll stay a while, my dear,' had taken a chair at the window, he felt that, however strange it might be, he had not parted from his daydreams, and that he could not live without them. Whether with her, or with another - it was still bound to be. He was reading his book, pondering on what he was reading, and pausing to listen to Agathya Mikhailovna, who gossiped away without flagging, and yet, with all that, all sorts of pictures of his work and a future family life rose disconnectedly before his imagination. He felt that in the depth of his soul something was steadying, settling down, and abating.
He heard Agathya Mikhailovna talking of how Prokhor had forgotten his duty to God, and, with the money Levin had given him to buy a horse, had been drinking without a letup, and had beaten his wife till he'd half-killed her. He listened, and read his book, and recalled the whole train of ideas suggested by his reading. It was Tyndall's Treatise on Heat. He recalled his own criticisms of Tyndall for his self-complacency in the cleverness of his experiments, and for his lack of philosophic insight. And suddenly there floated into his mind the joyful thought: `In two year's time I shall have two Dutch cows in my herd; Pava herself will perhaps still be alive; a dozen young daughters of Berkoot, and these three added for show - it would be marvelous!' He took up his book again. `Now well, electricity and heat are the same thing; but is it possible to substitute one quantity for the other in an equation for the solution of any problem? No. Well, then what of it? The connection between all the forces of nature is felt instinctively, anyway.... It'll be particularly pleasant when Pava's daughter will be a red-dappled cow like all the herd, to which the other three should be added! Splendid! I'll go out with my wife and visitors to meet the herd.... My wife says, ``Kostia and I looked after that heifer like a child.'' ``How can it interest you so much?'' says a visitor. ``Everything that interests him, interests me.'' But who will she be?' And he remembered what had happened at Moscow.... `Well, there's nothing to be done.... It's not my fault. But now everything shall go on in a new way. It's nonsense to pretend that life won't let one, that the past won't let one. One must struggle to live better - far better....' He raised his head, and sank into thought. Old Laska, who had not yet fully digested her delight at his return, and had run out into the yard to bark, came back wagging her tail, and crept up to him, bringing in the scent of the fresh air, put her head under his hand, and yelped plaintively, asking to be stroked.
`If she could but speak,' said Agathya Mikhailovna. `Even though it's a dog... Yet she understands that her master's come home, and that he's low-spirited.'
`Do you suppose I don't see it, my dear? It's high time I should know the gentlefolk. Why, I've grown up from a little thing with them. Never mind, sir, so long as one has health and a clear conscience.'
Levin looked intently at her, surprised at how well she had fathomed his thoughts.
`Shall I fetch you another cup?' she asked and, taking his cup, went out.
Laska kept poking her head under his hand. He stroked her, and she promptly curled up at his feet, laying her head on a protruding hand-paw. And in token of all now being well and satisfactory, she opened her mouth a little, smacked her lips, and settling her sticky lips more comfortably about her old teeth, she sank into blissful respose. Levin watched her last movements attentively.
`That's what I'll do,' he said to himself; `that's what I'll do! Never mind.... All's well.'