Part 8, Chapter 17 Summary
The old prince and Sergey Ivanovitch drive the carriage; everyone else walks hurriedly back to the house. Despite their haste, they do not arrive before the swiftly moving rain clouds descend on them. They are still two hundred yards from home when the violent winds begin; the rain is imminent. The children run ahead, and Dolly does her best to follow them, despite her entangling skirts. The men hold their hats on and take long strides to close the gap. They all just arrive at the steps when the first huge drop falls, and everyone races into the safety of the house without getting wet.
As soon as Levin enters the house, he asks the housekeeper where his wife and son are; she tells him they, and the nurse, must still be in the copse. Levin snatches up some blankets and runs toward the woods. In the short time he had been inside, the storm clouds have completely covered the sun and it is as dark as an eclipse. The wind stubbornly tries to impede his progress, twisting everything in its path. The peasant girls working in the garden run shrieking into the servants’ quarters, and the rain swoops toward the copse.
Levin strains to make forward progress and just catches sight of something moving ahead of him when there is a sudden flash and a murderous crash of thunder. The earth seems as if it is on fire, but Levin opens his blinded eyes just in time to see the top of a familiar oak tree beginning to move, “uncannily changing position.” His first thought is that it may have been struck by lightning, but he hardly has time to formulate this thought before the tree topples, vanishing behind the other trees with an enormous crash.
All of these extraordinary sights and sounds instantaneously merge into one overwhelming sense of terror for Levin. He prays that the tree did not fall on his family. He knows it is a senseless prayer now that the tree has already fallen, but he does not know anything better to do and prays some more.
Levin runs to the spot where Kitty and the nurse usually take the boy, but they are not there. He hears the women calling him and is relieved to see them, soaking wet, standing next to a stroller just as the sky begins to lighten. Once he knows Mitya is unharmed, dry, and fast asleep, Levin scolds his wife. She defends herself, explaining that the storm came too quickly, but Levin interrupts and simply thanks God that they are all okay. The nurse gathers the boy, and Levin squeezes Kitty’s hand as they walk back to the house.