After dinner, and till the beginning of the evening, Kitty was feeling a sensation akin to the sensation of a young man before a battle. Her heart throbbed violently, and her thoughts would not rest on anything.
She felt that this evening, when they would both meet for the first time, would be a turning point in her life. And she was continually picturing them to herself, at one moment each separately, and then both together. When she mused on the past, she dwelt with pleasure, with tenderness, on the memories of her relations with Levin. The memories of childhood and of Levin's friendship with her dead brother gave a special poetic charm to her relations with him. His love for her, of which she felt certain, was flattering and delightful to her; and it was pleasant for her to think of Levin. In her memories of Vronsky there always entered a certain element of awkwardness, though he was in the highest degree well-bred and at ease, as though there were some false note—not in Vronsky, he was very simple and nice, but in herself, while with Levin she felt perfectly simple and clear. But, on the other hand, directly she thought of the future with Vronsky, there arose before her a perspective of brilliant happiness; with Levin the future seemed misty.
When she went upstairs to dress, and looked into the looking-glass, she noticed with joy that it was one of her good days, and that she was in complete possession of all her forces,—she needed this so for what lay before her: she was conscious of external composure and free grace in her movements.
At half-past seven she had only just gone down into the drawing-room, when the footman announced, "Konstantin Dmitrievitch Levin." The princess was still in her room, and the prince had not come in. "So it is to be," thought Kitty, and all the blood seemed to rush to her heart. She was horrified at her paleness, as she glanced into the looking-glass. At that moment she knew beyond doubt that he had come early on purpose to find her alone and to make her an offer. And only then for the first time the whole thing presented itself in a new, different aspect; only then she realized that the question did not affect her only—with whom she would be happy, and whom she loved—but that she would have that moment to wound a man whom she liked. And to wound him cruelly. What for? Because he, dear fellow, loved her, was in love with her. But there was no help for it, so it must be, so it would have to be.
"My God! shall I myself really have to say it to him?" she thought. "Can I tell him I don't love him? That will be a lie. What am I to say to him? That I love someone else? No, that's impossible. I'm going away, I'm going away."
She had reached the door, when she heard his step. "No! it's not honest. What have I to be afraid of? I have done nothing wrong. What is to be, will be! I'll tell the truth. And with him one can't be ill at ease. Here he is," she said to herself, seeing his powerful, shy figure, with his shining eyes fixed on her. She looked straight into his face, as though imploring him to spare her, and gave her hand.
"It's not time yet; I think I'm too early," he said glancing round the empty drawing-room. When he saw that his expectations were realized, that there was nothing to prevent him from speaking, his face became gloomy.
"Oh, no," said Kitty, and sat down at the table.
"But this was just what I wanted, to find you alone," he began, not sitting down, and not looking at her, so as not to lose courage.
"Mamma will be down directly. She was very much tired.... Yesterday...."
She talked on, not knowing what her lips were uttering, and not taking her supplicating and caressing eyes off him.
He glanced at her; she blushed, and ceased speaking.
"I told you I did not know whether I should be here long ... that it depended on you...."
She dropped her head lower and lower, not knowing herself what answer she should make to what was coming.
"That it depended on you," he repeated. "I meant to say ... I meant to say ... I came for this ... to be my wife!" he brought out, not knowing what he was saying; but feeling that the most terrible thing was said, he stopped short and looked at her....
She was breathing heavily, not looking at him. She was feeling ecstasy. Her soul was flooded with happiness. She had never anticipated that the utterance of love would produce such a powerful effect on her. But it lasted only an instant. She remembered Vronsky. She lifted her clear, truthful eyes, and seeing his desperate face, she answered hastily:
"That cannot be ... forgive me."
A moment ago, and how close she had been to him, of what importance in his life! And how aloof and remote from him she had become now!
"It was bound to be so," he said, not looking at her.
He bowed, and was meaning to retreat.
But at that very moment the princess came in. There was a look of horror on her face when she saw them alone, and their disturbed faces. Levin bowed to her, and said nothing. Kitty did not speak nor lift her eyes. "Thank God, she has refused him," thought the mother, and her face lighted up with the habitual smile with which she greeted her guests on Thursdays. She sat down and began questioning Levin about his life in the country. He sat down again, waiting for other visitors to arrive, in order to retreat unnoticed.
Five minutes later there came in a friend of Kitty's, married the preceding winter, Countess Nordston.
She was a thin, sallow, sickly, and nervous woman, with brilliant black eyes. She was fond of Kitty, and her affection for her showed itself, as the affection of married women for girls always does, in the desire to make a match for Kitty after her own ideal of married happiness; she wanted her to marry Vronsky. Levin she had often met at the Shtcherbatskys' early in the winter, and she had always disliked him. Her invariable and favorite pursuit, when they met, consisted in making fun of him.
"I do like it when he looks down at me from the height of his grandeur, or breaks off his learned conversation with me because I'm a fool, or is condescending to me. I like that so; to see him condescending! I am so glad he can't bear me," she used to say of him.
She was right, for Levin actually could not bear her, and despised her for what she was proud of and regarded as a fine characteristic—her nervousness, her delicate contempt and indifference for everything coarse and earthly.
The Countess Nordston and Levin got into that relation with one another not seldom seen in society, when two persons, who remain externally on friendly terms, despise each other to such a degree that they cannot even take each other seriously, and cannot even be offended by each other.
The Countess Nordston pounced upon Levin at once.
"Ah, Konstantin Dmitrievitch! So you've come back to our corrupt Babylon," she said, giving him her tiny, yellow hand, and recalling what he had chanced to say early in the winter, that Moscow was a Babylon. "Come, is Babylon reformed, or have you degenerated?" she added, glancing with a simper at Kitty.
"It's very flattering for me, countess, that you remember my words so well," responded Levin, who had succeeded in recovering his composure, and at once from habit dropped into his tone of joking hostility to the Countess Nordston. "They must certainly make a great impression on you."
"Oh, I should think so! I always note them all down. Well, Kitty, have you been skating again?..."
And she began talking to Kitty. Awkward as it was for Levin to withdraw now, it would still have been easier for him to perpetrate this awkwardness than to remain all the evening and see Kitty, who glanced at him now and then and avoided his eyes. He was on the point of getting up, when the princess, noticing that he was silent, addressed him.
"Shall you be long in Moscow? You're busy with the district council, though, aren't you, and can't be away for long?"
"No, princess, I'm no longer a member of the council," he said. "I have come up for a few days."
"There's something the matter with him," thought Countess Nordston, glancing at his stern, serious face. "He isn't in his old argumentative mood. But I'll draw him out. I do love making a fool of him before Kitty, and I'll do it."
"Konstantin Dmitrievitch," she said to him, "do explain to me, please, what's the meaning of it. You know all about such things. At home in our village of Kaluga all the peasants and all the women have drunk up all they possessed, and now they can't pay us any rent. What's the meaning of that? You always praise the peasants so."
At that instant another lady came into the room, and Levin got up.
"Excuse me, countess, but I really know nothing about it, and can't tell you anything," he said, and looked round at the officer who came in behind the lady.
"That must be Vronsky," thought Levin, and, to be sure of it, glanced at Kitty. She had already had time to look at Vronsky, and looked round at Levin. And simply from the look in her eyes, that grew unconsciously brighter, Levin knew that she loved that man, knew it as surely as if she had told him so in words. But what sort of a man was he? Now, whether for good or for ill, Levin could not choose but remain; he must find out what the man was like whom she loved.
There are people who, on meeting a successful rival, no matter in what, are at once disposed to turn their backs on everything good in him, and to see only what is bad. There are people, on the other hand, who desire above all to find in that lucky rival the qualities by which he has outstripped them, and seek with a throbbing ache at heart only what is good. Levin belonged to the second class. But he had no difficulty in finding what was good and attractive in Vronsky. It was apparent at the first glance. Vronsky was a squarely built, dark man, not very tall, with a good-humored, handsome, and exceedingly calm and resolute face. Everything about his face and figure, from his short-cropped black hair and freshly shaven chin down to his loosely fitting, brand-new uniform, was simple and at the same time elegant. Making way for the lady who had come in, Vronsky went up to the princess and then to Kitty.
As he approached her, his beautiful eyes shone with a specially tender light, and with a faint, happy, and modestly triumphant smile (so it seemed to Levin), bowing carefully and respectfully over her, he held out his small broad hand to her.
Greeting and saying a few words to everyone, he sat down without once glancing at Levin, who had never taken his eyes off him.
"Let me introduce you," said the princess, indicating Levin. "Konstantin Dmitrievitch Levin, Count Alexey Kirillovitch Vronsky."
Vronsky got up and, looking cordially at Levin, shook hands with him.
"I believe I was to have dined with you this winter," he said, smiling his simple and open smile; "but you had unexpectedly left for the country."
"Konstantin Dmitrievitch despises and hates town and us townspeople," said Countess Nordston.
"My words must make a deep impression on you, since you remember them so well," said Levin, and, suddenly conscious that he had said just the same thing before, he reddened.
Vronsky looked at Levin and Countess Nordston, and smiled.
"Are you always in the country?" he inquired. "I should think it must be dull in the winter."
"It's not dull if one has work to do; besides, one's not dull by oneself," Levin replied abruptly.
"I am fond of the country," said Vronsky, noticing, and affecting not to notice, Levin's tone.
"But I hope, count, you would not consent to live in the country always," said Countess Nordston.
"I don't know; I have never tried for long. I experienced a queer feeling once," he went on. "I never longed so for the country, Russian country, with bast shoes and peasants, as when I was spending a winter with my mother in Nice. Nice itself is dull enough, you know. And indeed, Naples and Sorrento are only pleasant for a short time. And it's just there that Russia comes back to me most vividly, and especially the country. It's as though...."
He talked on, addressing both Kitty and Levin, turning his serene, friendly eyes from one to the other, and saying obviously just what came into his head.
Noticing that Countess Nordston wanted to say something, he stopped short without finishing what he had begun, and listened attentively to her.
The conversation did not flag for an instant, so that the princess, who always kept in reserve, in case a subject should be lacking, two heavy guns—the relative advantages of classical and of modern education, and universal military service—had not to move out either of them, while Countess Nordston had not a chance of chaffing Levin.
Levin wanted to, and could not, take part in the general conversation; saying to himself every instant, "Now go," he still did not go, as though waiting for something.
The conversation fell upon table-turning and spirits, and Countess Nordston, who believed in spiritualism, began to describe the marvels she had seen.
"Ah, countess, you really must take me, for pity's sake do take me to see them! I have never seen anything extraordinary, though I am always on the lookout for it everywhere," said Vronsky, smiling.
"Very well, next Saturday," answered Countess Nordston. "But you, Konstantin Dmitrievitch, do you believe in it?" she asked Levin.
"Why do you ask me? You know what I shall say."
"But I want to hear your opinion."
"My opinion," answered Levin, "is only that this table-turning simply proves that educated society—so called—is no higher than the peasants. They believe in the evil eye, and in witchcraft and omens, while we...."
"Oh, then you don't believe in it?"
"I can't believe in it, countess."
"But if I've seen it myself?"
"The peasant women too tell us they have seen goblins."
"Then you think I tell a lie?"
And she laughed a mirthless laugh.
"Oh, no, Masha, Konstantin Dmitrievitch said he could not believe in it," said Kitty, blushing for Levin, and Levin saw this, and, still more exasperated, would have answered, but Vronsky with his bright frank smile rushed to the support of the conversation, which was threatening to become disagreeable.
"You do not admit the conceivability at all?" he queried. "But why not? We admit the existence of electricity, of which we know nothing. Why should there not be some new force, still unknown to us, which...."
"When electricity was discovered," Levin interrupted hurriedly, "it was only the phenomenon that was discovered, and it was unknown from what it proceeded and what were its effects, and ages passed before its applications were conceived. But the spiritualists have begun with tables writing for them, and spirits appearing to them, and have only later started saying that it is an unknown force."
Vronsky listened attentively to Levin, as he always did listen, obviously interested in his words.
"Yes, but the spiritualists say we don't know at present what this force is, but there is a force, and these are the conditions in which it acts. Let the scientific men find out what the force consists in. No, I don't see why there should not be a new force, if it...."
"Why, because with electricity," Levin interrupted again, "every time you rub tar against wool, a recognized phenomenon is manifested, but in this case it does not happen every time, and so it follows it is not a natural phenomenon."
Feeling probably that the conversation was taking a tone too serious for a drawing-room, Vronsky made no rejoinder, but by way of trying to change the conversation, he smiled brightly, and turned to the ladies.
"Do let us try at once, countess," he said; but Levin would finish saying what he thought.
"I think," he went on, "that this attempt of the spiritualists to explain their marvels as some sort of new natural force is most futile. They boldly talk of spiritual force, and then try to subject it to material experiment."
Everyone was waiting for him to finish, and he felt it.
"And I think you would be a first-rate medium," said Countess Nordston; "there's something enthusiastic in you."
Levin opened his mouth, was about to say something, reddened, and said nothing.
"Do let us try table-turning at once, please," said Vronsky. "Princess, will you allow it?"
And Vronsky stood up, looking for a little table.
Kitty got up to fetch a table, and as she passed, her eyes met Levin's. She felt for him with her whole heart, the more because she was pitying him for suffering of which she was herself the cause. "If you can forgive me, forgive me," said her eyes, "I am so happy."
"I hate them all, and you, and myself," his eyes responded, and he took up his hat. But he was not destined to escape. Just as they were arranging themselves round the table, and Levin was on the point of retiring, the old prince came in, and after greeting the ladies, addressed Levin.
"Ah!" he began joyously. "Been here long, my boy? I didn't even know you were in town. Very glad to see you." The old prince embraced Levin, and talking to him did not observe Vronsky, who had risen, and was serenely waiting till the prince should turn to him.
Kitty felt how distasteful her father's warmth was to Levin after what had happened. She saw, too, how coldly her father responded at last to Vronsky's bow, and how Vronsky looked with amiable perplexity at her father, as though trying and failing to understand how and why anyone could be hostilely disposed towards him, and she flushed.
"Prince, let us have Konstantin Dmitrievitch," said Countess Nordston; "we want to try an experiment."
"What experiment? Table-turning? Well, you must excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, but to my mind it is better fun to play the ring game," said the old prince, looking at Vronsky, and guessing that it had been his suggestion. "There's some sense in that, anyway."
Vronsky looked wonderingly at the prince with his resolute eyes, and, with a faint smile, began immediately talking to Countess Nordston of the great ball that was to come off next week.
"I hope you will be there?" he said to Kitty. As soon as the old prince turned away from him, Levin went out unnoticed, and the last impression he carried away with him of that evening was the smiling, happy face of Kitty answering Vronsky's inquiry about the ball.
At the end of the evening Kitty told her mother of her conversation with Levin, and in spite of all the pity she felt for Levin, she was glad at the thought that she had received an offer. She had no doubt that she had acted rightly. But after she had gone to bed, for a long while she could not sleep. One impression pursued her relentlessly. It was Levin’s face, with his scowling brows, and his kind eyes looking out in dark dejection below them, as he stood listening to her father, and glancing at her and at Vronsky. And she felt so sorry for him that tears came into her eyes. But immediately she thought of the man for whom she had given him up. She vividly recalled his manly, resolute face, his noble self-possession, and the good nature conspicuous in everything towards everyone. She remembered the love for her of the man she loved, and once more all was gladness in her soul, and she lay on the pillow, smiling with happiness. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry; but what could I do? It’s not my fault,” she said to herself; but an inner voice told her something else. Whether she felt remorse at having won Levin’s love, or at having refused him, she did not know. But her happiness was poisoned by doubts. “Lord, have pity on us; Lord, have pity on us; Lord, have pity on us!” she repeated to herself, till she fell asleep.
Meanwhile there took place below, in the prince’s little library, one of the scenes so often repeated between the parents on account of their favorite daughter.
“What? I’ll tell you what!” shouted the prince, waving his arms, and at once wrapping his squirrel-lined dressing-gown round him again. “That you’ve no pride, no dignity; that you’re disgracing, ruining your daughter by this vulgar, stupid matchmaking!”
“But, really, for mercy’s sake, prince, what have I done?” said the princess, almost crying.
She, pleased and happy after her conversation with her daughter, had gone to the prince to say good-night as usual, and though she had no intention of telling him of Levin’s offer and Kitty’s refusal, still she hinted to her husband that she fancied things were practically settled with Vronsky, and that he would declare himself so soon as his mother arrived. And thereupon, at those words, the prince had all at once flown into a passion, and began to use unseemly language.
“What have you done? I’ll tell you what. First of all, you’re trying to catch an eligible gentleman, and all Moscow will be talking of it, and with good reason. If you have evening parties, invite everyone, don’t pick out the possible suitors. Invite all the young bucks. Engage a piano player, and let them dance, and not as you do things nowadays, hunting up good matches. It makes me sick, sick to see it, and you’ve gone on till you’ve turned the poor wench’s head. Levin’s a thousand times the better man. As for this little Petersburg swell, they’re turned out by machinery, all on one pattern, and all precious rubbish. But if he were a prince of the blood, my daughter need not run after anyone.”
“But what have I done?”
“Why, you’ve....” The prince was crying wrathfully.
“I know if one were to listen to you,” interrupted the princess, “we should never marry our daughter. If it’s to be so, we’d better go into the country.”
“Well, and we had better.”
“But do wait a minute. Do I try and catch them? I don’t try to catch them in the least. A young man, and a very nice one, has fallen in love with her, and she, I fancy....”
“Oh, yes, you fancy! And how if she really is in love, and he’s no more thinking of marriage than I am!... Oh, that I should live to see it! Ah! spiritualism! Ah! Nice! Ah! the ball!” And the prince, imagining that he was mimicking his wife, made a mincing curtsey at each word. “And this is how we’re preparing wretchedness for Kitty; and she’s really got the notion into her head....”
“But what makes you suppose so?”
“I don’t suppose; I know. We have eyes for such things, though women-folk haven’t. I see a man who has serious intentions, that’s Levin: and I see a peacock, like this feather-head, who’s only amusing himself.”
“Oh, well, when once you get an idea into your head!...”
“Well, you’ll remember my words, but too late, just as with Dolly.”
“Well, well, we won’t talk of it,” the princess stopped him, recollecting her unlucky Dolly.
“By all means, and good-night!”
And signing each other with the cross, the husband and wife parted with a kiss, feeling that they each remained of their own opinion.
The princess had at first been quite certain that that evening had settled Kitty’s future, and that there could be no doubt of Vronsky’s intentions, but her husband’s words had disturbed her. And returning to her own room, in terror before the unknown future, she, too, like Kitty, repeated several times in her heart, “Lord, have pity; Lord, have pity; Lord, have pity.”
Vronsky had never had a real home life. His mother had been in her youth a brilliant society woman, who had had during her married life, and still more afterwards, many love affairs notorious in the whole fashionable world. His father he scarcely remembered, and he had been educated in the Corps of Pages.
Leaving the school very young as a brilliant officer, he had at once got into the circle of wealthy Petersburg army men. Although he did go more or less into Petersburg society, his love affairs had always hitherto been outside it.
In Moscow he had for the first time felt, after his luxurious and coarse life at Petersburg, all the charm of intimacy with a sweet and innocent girl of his own rank, who cared for him. It never even entered his head that there could be any harm in his relations with Kitty. At balls he danced principally with her. He was a constant visitor at their house. He talked to her as people commonly do talk in society—all sorts of nonsense, but nonsense to which he could not help attaching a special meaning in her case. Although he said nothing to her that he could not have said before everybody, he felt that she was becoming more and more dependent upon him, and the more he felt this, the better he liked it, and the tenderer was his feeling for her. He did not know that his mode of behavior in relation to Kitty had a definite character, that it is courting young girls with no intention of marriage, and that such courting is one of the evil actions common among brilliant young men such as he was. It seemed to him that he was the first who had discovered this pleasure, and he was enjoying his discovery.
If he could have heard what her parents were saying that evening, if he could have put himself at the point of view of the family and have heard that Kitty would be unhappy if he did not marry her, he would have been greatly astonished, and would not have believed it. He could not believe that what gave such great and delicate pleasure to him, and above all to her, could be wrong. Still less could he have believed that he ought to marry.
Marriage had never presented itself to him as a possibility. He not only disliked family life, but a family, and especially a husband was, in accordance with the views general in the bachelor world in which he lived, conceived as something alien, repellant, and, above all, ridiculous.
But though Vronsky had not the least suspicion what the parents were saying, he felt on coming away from the Shtcherbatskys’ that the secret spiritual bond which existed between him and Kitty had grown so much stronger that evening that some step must be taken. But what step could and ought to be taken he could not imagine.
“What is so exquisite,” he thought, as he returned from the Shtcherbatskys’, carrying away with him, as he always did, a delicious feeling of purity and freshness, arising partly from the fact that he had not been smoking for a whole evening, and with it a new feeling of tenderness at her love for him—“what is so exquisite is that not a word has been said by me or by her, but we understand each other so well in this unseen language of looks and tones, that this evening more clearly than ever she told me she loves me. And how secretly, simply, and most of all, how trustfully! I feel myself better, purer. I feel that I have a heart, and that there is a great deal of good in me. Those sweet, loving eyes! When she said: ‘Indeed I do....’
“Well, what then? Oh, nothing. It’s good for me, and good for her.” And he began wondering where to finish the evening.
He passed in review of the places he might go to. “Club? a game of bezique, champagne with Ignatov? No, I’m not going. Château des Fleurs; there I shall find Oblonsky, songs, the cancan. No, I’m sick of it. That’s why I like the Shtcherbatskys’, that I’m growing better. I’ll go home.” He went straight to his room at Dussots’ Hotel, ordered supper, and then undressed, and as soon as his head touched the pillow, fell into a sound sleep.
Next day at eleven o’clock in the morning Vronsky drove to the station of the Petersburg railway to meet his mother, and the first person he came across on the great flight of steps was Oblonsky, who was expecting his sister by the same train.
“Ah! your excellency!” cried Oblonsky, “whom are you meeting?”
“My mother,” Vronsky responded, smiling, as everyone did who met Oblonsky. He shook hands with him, and together they ascended the steps. “She is to be here from Petersburg today.”
“I was looking out for you till two o’clock last night. Where did you go after the Shtcherbatskys’?”
“Home,” answered Vronsky. “I must own I felt so well content yesterday after the Shtcherbatskys’ that I didn’t care to go anywhere.”
“I know a gallant steed by tokens sure,
And by his eyes I know a youth in love,”
declaimed Stepan Arkadyevitch, just as he had done before to Levin.
Vronsky smiled with a look that seemed to say that he did not deny it, but he promptly changed the subject.
“And whom are you meeting?” he asked.
“I? I’ve come to meet a pretty woman,” said Oblonsky.
“You don’t say so!”
“Honi soit qui mal y pense! My sister Anna.”
“Ah! that’s Madame Karenina,” said Vronsky.
“You know her, no doubt?”
“I think I do. Or perhaps not ... I really am not sure,” Vronsky answered heedlessly, with a vague recollection of something stiff and tedious evoked by the name Karenina.
“But Alexey Alexandrovitch, my celebrated brother-in-law, you surely must know. All the world knows him.”
“I know him by reputation and by sight. I know that he’s clever, learned, religious somewhat.... But you know that’s not ... not in my line,” said Vronsky in English.
“Yes, he’s a very remarkable man; rather a conservative, but a splendid man,” observed Stepan Arkadyevitch, “a splendid man.”
“Oh, well, so much the better for him,” said Vronsky smiling. “Oh, you’ve come,” he said, addressing a tall old footman of his mother’s, standing at the door; “come here.”
Besides the charm Oblonsky had in general for everyone, Vronsky had felt of late specially drawn to him by the fact that in his imagination he was associated with Kitty.
“Well, what do you say? Shall we give a supper on Sunday for the diva?” he said to him with a smile, taking his arm.
“Of course. I’m collecting subscriptions. Oh, did you make the acquaintance of my friend Levin?” asked Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Yes; but he left rather early.”
“He’s a capital fellow,” pursued Oblonsky. “Isn’t he?”
“I don’t know why it is,” responded Vronsky, “in all Moscow people—present company of course excepted,” he put in jestingly, “there’s something uncompromising. They are all on the defensive, lose their tempers, as though they all want to make one feel something....”
“Yes, that’s true, it is so,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, laughing good-humoredly.
“Will the train soon be in?” Vronsky asked a railway official.
“The train’s signaled,” answered the man.
The approach of the train was more and more evident by the preparatory bustle in the station, the rush of porters, the movement of policemen and attendants, and people meeting the train. Through the frosty vapor could be seen workmen in short sheepskins and soft felt boots crossing the rails of the curving line. The hiss of the boiler could be heard on the distant rails, and the rumble of something heavy.
“No,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, who felt a great inclination to tell Vronsky of Levin’s intentions in regard to Kitty. “No, you’ve not got a true impression of Levin. He’s a very nervous man, and is sometimes out of humor, it’s true, but then he is often very nice. He’s such a true, honest nature, and a heart of gold. But yesterday there were special reasons,” pursued Stepan Arkadyevitch, with a meaning smile, totally oblivious of the genuine sympathy he had felt the day before for his friend, and feeling the same sympathy now, only for Vronsky. “Yes, there were reasons why he could not help being either particularly happy or particularly unhappy.”
Vronsky stood still and asked directly: “How so? Do you mean he made your belle-sœur an offer yesterday?”
“Maybe,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “I fancied something of the sort yesterday. Yes, if he went away early, and was out of humor too, it must mean it.... He’s been so long in love, and I’m very sorry for him.”
“So that’s it! I should imagine, though, she might reckon on a better match,” said Vronsky, drawing himself up and walking about again, “though I don’t know him, of course,” he added. “Yes, that is a hateful position! That’s why most fellows prefer to have to do with Klaras. If you don’t succeed with them it only proves that you’ve not enough cash, but in this case one’s dignity’s at stake. But here’s the train.”
The engine had already whistled in the distance. A few instants later the platform was quivering, and with puffs of steam hanging low in the air from the frost, the engine rolled up, with the lever of the middle wheel rhythmically moving up and down, and the stooping figure of the engine-driver covered with frost. Behind the tender, setting the platform more and more slowly swaying, came the luggage van with a dog whining in it. At last the passenger carriages rolled in, oscillating before coming to a standstill.
A smart guard jumped out, giving a whistle, and after him one by one the impatient passengers began to get down: an officer of the guards, holding himself erect, and looking severely about him; a nimble little merchant with a satchel, smiling gaily; a peasant with a sack over his shoulder.
Vronsky, standing beside Oblonsky, watched the carriages and the passengers, totally oblivious of his mother. What he had just heard about Kitty excited and delighted him. Unconsciously he arched his chest, and his eyes flashed. He felt himself a conqueror.
“Countess Vronskaya is in that compartment,” said the smart guard, going up to Vronsky.
The guard’s words roused him, and forced him to think of his mother and his approaching meeting with her. He did not in his heart respect his mother, and without acknowledging it to himself, he did not love her, though in accordance with the ideas of the set in which he lived, and with his own education, he could not have conceived of any behavior to his mother not in the highest degree respectful and obedient, and the more externally obedient and respectful his behavior, the less in his heart he respected and loved her.
Vronsky followed the guard to the carriage, and at the door of the compartment he stopped short to make room for a lady who was getting out.
With the insight of a man of the world, from one glance at this lady’s appearance Vronsky classified her as belonging to the best society. He begged pardon, and was getting into the carriage, but felt he must glance at her once more; not that she was very beautiful, not on account of the elegance and modest grace which were apparent in her whole figure, but because in the expression of her charming face, as she passed close by him, there was something peculiarly caressing and soft. As he looked round, she too turned her head. Her shining gray eyes, that looked dark from the thick lashes, rested with friendly attention on his face, as though she were recognizing him, and then promptly turned away to the passing crowd, as though seeking someone. In that brief look Vronsky had time to notice the suppressed eagerness which played over her face, and flitted between the brilliant eyes and the faint smile that curved her red lips. It was as though her nature were so brimming over with something that against her will it showed itself now in the flash of her eyes, and now in her smile. Deliberately she shrouded the light in her eyes, but it shone against her will in the faintly perceptible smile.
Vronsky stepped into the carriage. His mother, a dried-up old lady with black eyes and ringlets, screwed up her eyes, scanning her son, and smiled slightly with her thin lips. Getting up from the seat and handing her maid a bag, she gave her little wrinkled hand to her son to kiss, and lifting his head from her hand, kissed him on the cheek.
“You got my telegram? Quite well? Thank God.”
“You had a good journey?” said her son, sitting down beside her, and involuntarily listening to a woman’s voice outside the door. He knew it was the voice of the lady he had met at the door.
“All the same I don’t agree with you,” said the lady’s voice.
“It’s the Petersburg view, madame.”
“Not Petersburg, but simply feminine,” she responded.
“Well, well, allow me to kiss your hand.”
“Good-bye, Ivan Petrovitch. And could you see if my brother is here, and send him to me?” said the lady in the doorway, and stepped back again into the compartment.
“Well, have you found your brother?” said Countess Vronskaya, addressing the lady.
Vronsky understood now that this was Madame Karenina.
“Your brother is here,” he said, standing up. “Excuse me, I did not know you, and, indeed, our acquaintance was so slight,” said Vronsky, bowing, “that no doubt you do not remember me.”
“Oh, no,” said she, “I should have known you because your mother and I have been talking, I think, of nothing but you all the way.” As she spoke she let the eagerness that would insist on coming out show itself in her smile. “And still no sign of my brother.”
“Do call him, Alexey,” said the old countess. Vronsky stepped out onto the platform and shouted:
Madame Karenina, however, did not wait for her brother, but catching sight of him she stepped out with her light, resolute step. And as soon as her brother had reached her, with a gesture that struck Vronsky by its decision and its grace, she flung her left arm around his neck, drew him rapidly to her, and kissed him warmly. Vronsky gazed, never taking his eyes from her, and smiled, he could not have said why. But recollecting that his mother was waiting for him, he went back again into the carriage.
“She’s very sweet, isn’t she?” said the countess of Madame Karenina. “Her husband put her with me, and I was delighted to have her. We’ve been talking all the way. And so you, I hear ... vous filez le parfait amour. Tant mieux, mon cher, tant mieux.”
“I don’t know what you are referring to, maman,” he answered coldly. “Come, maman, let us go.”
Madame Karenina entered the carriage again to say good-bye to the countess.
“Well, countess, you have met your son, and I my brother,” she said. “And all my gossip is exhausted. I should have nothing more to tell you.”
“Oh, no,” said the countess, taking her hand. “I could go all around the world with you and never be dull. You are one of those delightful women in whose company it’s sweet to be silent as well as to talk. Now please don’t fret over your son; you can’t expect never to be parted.”
Madame Karenina stood quite still, holding herself very erect, and her eyes were smiling.
“Anna Arkadyevna,” the countess said in explanation to her son, “has a little son eight years old, I believe, and she has never been parted from him before, and she keeps fretting over leaving him.”
“Yes, the countess and I have been talking all the time, I of my son and she of hers,” said Madame Karenina, and again a smile lighted up her face, a caressing smile intended for him.
“I am afraid that you must have been dreadfully bored,” he said, promptly catching the ball of coquetry she had flung him. But apparently she did not care to pursue the conversation in that strain, and she turned to the old countess.
“Thank you so much. The time has passed so quickly. Good-bye, countess.”
“Good-bye, my love,” answered the countess. “Let me have a kiss of your pretty face. I speak plainly, at my age, and I tell you simply that I’ve lost my heart to you.”
Stereotyped as the phrase was, Madame Karenina obviously believed it and was delighted by it. She flushed, bent down slightly, and put her cheek to the countess’s lips, drew herself up again, and with the same smile fluttering between her lips and her eyes, she gave her hand to Vronsky. He pressed the little hand she gave him, and was delighted, as though at something special, by the energetic squeeze with which she freely and vigorously shook his hand. She went out with the rapid step which bore her rather fully-developed figure with such strange lightness.
“Very charming,” said the countess.
That was just what her son was thinking. His eyes followed her till her graceful figure was out of sight, and then the smile remained on his face. He saw out of the window how she went up to her brother, put her arm in his, and began telling him something eagerly, obviously something that had nothing to do with him, Vronsky, and at that he felt annoyed.
“Well, maman, are you perfectly well?” he repeated, turning to his mother.
“Everything has been delightful. Alexander has been very good, and Marie has grown very pretty. She’s very interesting.”
And she began telling him again of what interested her most—the christening of her grandson, for which she had been staying in Petersburg, and the special favor shown her elder son by the Tsar.
“Here’s Lavrenty,” said Vronsky, looking out of the window; “now we can go, if you like.”
The old butler, who had traveled with the countess, came to the carriage to announce that everything was ready, and the countess got up to go.
“Come; there’s not such a crowd now,” said Vronsky.
The maid took a handbag and the lap dog, the butler and a porter the other baggage. Vronsky gave his mother his arm; but just as they were getting out of the carriage several men ran suddenly by with panic-stricken faces. The station-master, too, ran by in his extraordinary colored cap. Obviously something unusual had happened. The crowd who had left the train were running back again.
“What?... What?... Where?... Flung himself!... Crushed!...” was heard among the crowd. Stepan Arkadyevitch, with his sister on his arm, turned back. They too looked scared, and stopped at the carriage door to avoid the crowd.
The ladies got in, while Vronsky and Stepan Arkadyevitch followed the crowd to find out details of the disaster.
A guard, either drunk or too much muffled up in the bitter frost, had not heard the train moving back, and had been crushed.
Before Vronsky and Oblonsky came back the ladies heard the facts from the butler.
Oblonsky and Vronsky had both seen the mutilated corpse. Oblonsky was evidently upset. He frowned and seemed ready to cry.
“Ah, how awful! Ah, Anna, if you had seen it! Ah, how awful!” he said.
Vronsky did not speak; his handsome face was serious, but perfectly composed.
“Oh, if you had seen it, countess,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “And his wife was there.... It was awful to see her!... She flung herself on the body. They say he was the only support of an immense family. How awful!”
“Couldn’t one do anything for her?” said Madame Karenina in an agitated whisper.
Vronsky glanced at her, and immediately got out of the carriage.
“I’ll be back directly, maman,” he remarked, turning round in the doorway.
When he came back a few minutes later, Stepan Arkadyevitch was already in conversation with the countess about the new singer, while the countess was impatiently looking towards the door, waiting for her son.
“Now let us be off,” said Vronsky, coming in. They went out together. Vronsky was in front with his mother. Behind walked Madame Karenina with her brother. Just as they were going out of the station the station-master overtook Vronsky.
“You gave my assistant two hundred roubles. Would you kindly explain for whose benefit you intend them?”
“For the widow,” said Vronsky, shrugging his shoulders. “I should have thought there was no need to ask.”
“You gave that?” cried Oblonsky, behind, and, pressing his sister’s hand, he added: “Very nice, very nice! Isn’t he a splendid fellow? Good-bye, countess.”
And he and his sister stood still, looking for her maid.
When they went out the Vronsky’s carriage had already driven away. People coming in were still talking of what happened.
“What a horrible death!” said a gentleman, passing by. “They say he was cut in two pieces.”
“On the contrary, I think it’s the easiest—instantaneous,” observed another.
“How is it they don’t take proper precautions?” said a third.
Madame Karenina seated herself in the carriage, and Stepan Arkadyevitch saw with surprise that her lips were quivering, and she was with difficulty restraining her tears.
“What is it, Anna?” he asked, when they had driven a few hundred yards.
“It’s an omen of evil,” she said.
“What nonsense!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “You’ve come, that’s the chief thing. You can’t conceive how I’m resting my hopes on you.”
“Have you known Vronsky long?” she asked.
“Yes. You know we’re hoping he will marry Kitty.”
“Yes?” said Anna softly. “Come now, let us talk of you,” she added, tossing her head, as though she would physically shake off something superfluous oppressing her. “Let us talk of your affairs. I got your letter, and here I am.”
“Yes, all my hopes are in you,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Well, tell me all about it.”
And Stepan Arkadyevitch began to tell his story.
On reaching home Oblonsky helped his sister out, sighed, pressed her hand, and set off to his office.
When Anna went into the room, Dolly was sitting in the little drawing-room with a white-headed fat little boy, already like his father, giving him a lesson in French reading. As the boy read, he kept twisting and trying to tear off a button that was nearly off his jacket. His mother had several times taken his hand from it, but the fat little hand went back to the button again. His mother pulled the button off and put it in her pocket.
“Keep your hands still, Grisha,” she said, and she took up her work, a coverlet she had long been making. She always set to work on it at depressed moments, and now she knitted at it nervously, twitching her fingers and counting the stitches. Though she had sent word the day before to her husband that it was nothing to her whether his sister came or not, she had made everything ready for her arrival, and was expecting her sister-in-law with emotion.
Dolly was crushed by her sorrow, utterly swallowed up by it. Still she did not forget that Anna, her sister-in-law, was the wife of one of the most important personages in Petersburg, and was a Petersburg grande dame. And, thanks to this circumstance, she did not carry out her threat to her husband—that is to say, she remembered that her sister-in-law was coming. “And, after all, Anna is in no wise to blame,” thought Dolly. “I know nothing of her except the very best, and I have seen nothing but kindness and affection from her towards myself.” It was true that as far as she could recall her impressions at Petersburg at the Karenins’, she did not like their household itself; there was something artificial in the whole framework of their family life. “But why should I not receive her? If only she doesn’t take it into her head to console me!” thought Dolly. “All consolation and counsel and Christian forgiveness, all that I have thought over a thousand times, and it’s all no use.”
All these days Dolly had been alone with her children. She did not want to talk of her sorrow, but with that sorrow in her heart she could not talk of outside matters. She knew that in one way or another she would tell Anna everything, and she was alternately glad at the thought of speaking freely, and angry at the necessity of speaking of her humiliation with her, his sister, and of hearing her ready-made phrases of good advice and comfort. She had been on the lookout for her, glancing at her watch every minute, and, as so often happens, let slip just that minute when her visitor arrived, so that she did not hear the bell.
Catching a sound of skirts and light steps at the door, she looked round, and her care-worn face unconsciously expressed not gladness, but wonder. She got up and embraced her sister-in-law.
“What, here already!” she said as she kissed her.
“Dolly, how glad I am to see you!”
“I am glad, too,” said Dolly, faintly smiling, and trying by the expression of Anna’s face to find out whether she knew. “Most likely she knows,” she thought, noticing the sympathy in Anna’s face. “Well, come along, I’ll take you to your room,” she went on, trying to defer as long as possible the moment of confidences.
“Is this Grisha? Heavens, how he’s grown!” said Anna; and kissing him, never taking her eyes off Dolly, she stood still and flushed a little. “No, please, let us stay here.”
She took off her kerchief and her hat, and catching it in a lock of her black hair, which was a mass of curls, she tossed her head and shook her hair down.
“You are radiant with health and happiness!” said Dolly, almost with envy.
“I?... Yes,” said Anna. “Merciful heavens, Tanya! You’re the same age as my Seryozha,” she added, addressing the little girl as she ran in. She took her in her arms and kissed her. “Delightful child, delightful! Show me them all.”
She mentioned them, not only remembering the names, but the years, months, characters, illnesses of all the children, and Dolly could not but appreciate that.
“Very well, we will go to them,” she said. “It’s a pity Vassya’s asleep.”
After seeing the children, they sat down, alone now, in the drawing-room, to coffee. Anna took the tray, and then pushed it away from her.
“Dolly,” she said, “he has told me.”
Dolly looked coldly at Anna; she was waiting now for phrases of conventional sympathy, but Anna said nothing of the sort.
“Dolly, dear,” she said, “I don’t want to speak for him to you, nor to try to comfort you; that’s impossible. But, darling, I’m simply sorry, sorry from my heart for you!”
Under the thick lashes of her shining eyes tears suddenly glittered. She moved nearer to her sister-in-law and took her hand in her vigorous little hand. Dolly did not shrink away, but her face did not lose its frigid expression. She said:
“To comfort me’s impossible. Everything’s lost after what has happened, everything’s over!”
And directly she had said this, her face suddenly softened. Anna lifted the wasted, thin hand of Dolly, kissed it and said:
“But, Dolly, what’s to be done, what’s to be done? How is it best to act in this awful position—that’s what you must think of.”
“All’s over, and there’s nothing more,” said Dolly. “And the worst of all is, you see, that I can’t cast him off: there are the children, I am tied. And I can’t live with him! it’s a torture to me to see him.”
“Dolly, darling, he has spoken to me, but I want to hear it from you: tell me about it.”
Dolly looked at her inquiringly.
Sympathy and love unfeigned were visible on Anna’s face.
“Very well,” she said all at once. “But I will tell you it from the beginning. You know how I was married. With the education mamma gave us I was more than innocent, I was stupid. I knew nothing. I know they say men tell their wives of their former lives, but Stiva”—she corrected herself—“Stepan Arkadyevitch told me nothing. You’ll hardly believe it, but till now I imagined that I was the only woman he had known. So I lived eight years. You must understand that I was so far from suspecting infidelity, I regarded it as impossible, and then—try to imagine it—with such ideas, to find out suddenly all the horror, all the loathsomeness.... You must try and understand me. To be fully convinced of one’s happiness, and all at once....” continued Dolly, holding back her sobs, “to get a letter ... his letter to his mistress, my governess. No, it’s too awful!” She hastily pulled out her handkerchief and hid her face in it. “I can understand being carried away by feeling,” she went on after a brief silence, “but deliberately, slyly deceiving me ... and with whom?... To go on being my husband together with her ... it’s awful! You can’t understand....”
“Oh, yes, I understand! I understand! Dolly, dearest, I do understand,” said Anna, pressing her hand.
“And do you imagine he realizes all the awfulness of my position?” Dolly resumed. “Not the slightest! He’s happy and contented.”
“Oh, no!” Anna interposed quickly. “He’s to be pitied, he’s weighed down by remorse....”
“Is he capable of remorse?” Dolly interrupted, gazing intently into her sister-in-law’s face.
“Yes. I know him. I could not look at him without feeling sorry for him. We both know him. He’s good-hearted, but he’s proud, and now he’s so humiliated. What touched me most....” (and here Anna guessed what would touch Dolly most) “he’s tortured by two things: that he’s ashamed for the children’s sake, and that, loving you—yes, yes, loving you beyond everything on earth,” she hurriedly interrupted Dolly, who would have answered—“he has hurt you, pierced you to the heart. ‘No, no, she cannot forgive me,’ he keeps saying.”
Dolly looked dreamily away beyond her sister-in-law as she listened to her words.
“Yes, I can see that his position is awful; it’s worse for the guilty than the innocent,” she said, “if he feels that all the misery comes from his fault. But how am I to forgive him, how am I to be his wife again after her? For me to live with him now would be torture, just because I love my past love for him....”
And sobs cut short her words. But as though of set design, each time she was softened she began to speak again of what exasperated her.
“She’s young, you see, she’s pretty,” she went on. “Do you know, Anna, my youth and my beauty are gone, taken by whom? By him and his children. I have worked for him, and all I had has gone in his service, and now of course any fresh, vulgar creature has more charm for him. No doubt they talked of me together, or, worse still, they were silent. Do you understand?”
Again her eyes glowed with hatred.
“And after that he will tell me.... What! can I believe him? Never! No, everything is over, everything that once made my comfort, the reward of my work, and my sufferings.... Would you believe it, I was teaching Grisha just now: once this was a joy to me, now it is a torture. What have I to strive and toil for? Why are the children here? What’s so awful is that all at once my heart’s turned, and instead of love and tenderness, I have nothing but hatred for him; yes, hatred. I could kill him.”
“Darling Dolly, I understand, but don’t torture yourself. You are so distressed, so overwrought, that you look at many things mistakenly.”
Dolly grew calmer, and for two minutes both were silent.
“What’s to be done? Think for me, Anna, help me. I have thought over everything, and I see nothing.”
Anna could think of nothing, but her heart responded instantly to each word, to each change of expression of her sister-in-law.
“One thing I would say,” began Anna. “I am his sister, I know his character, that faculty of forgetting everything, everything” (she waved her hand before her forehead), “that faculty for being completely carried away, but for completely repenting too. He cannot believe it, he cannot comprehend now how he can have acted as he did.”
“No; he understands, he understood!” Dolly broke in. “But I ... you are forgetting me ... does it make it easier for me?”
“Wait a minute. When he told me, I will own I did not realize all the awfulness of your position. I saw nothing but him, and that the family was broken up. I felt sorry for him, but after talking to you, I see it, as a woman, quite differently. I see your agony, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am for you! But, Dolly, darling, I fully realize your sufferings, only there is one thing I don’t know; I don’t know ... I don’t know how much love there is still in your heart for him. That you know—whether there is enough for you to be able to forgive him. If there is, forgive him!”
“No,” Dolly was beginning, but Anna cut her short, kissing her hand once more.
“I know more of the world than you do,” she said. “I know how men like Stiva look at it. You speak of his talking of you with her. That never happened. Such men are unfaithful, but their home and wife are sacred to them. Somehow or other these women are still looked on with contempt by them, and do not touch on their feeling for their family. They draw a sort of line that can’t be crossed between them and their families. I don’t understand it, but it is so.”
“Yes, but he has kissed her....”
“Dolly, hush, darling. I saw Stiva when he was in love with you. I remember the time when he came to me and cried, talking of you, and all the poetry and loftiness of his feeling for you, and I know that the longer he has lived with you the loftier you have been in his eyes. You know we have sometimes laughed at him for putting in at every word: ‘Dolly’s a marvelous woman.’ You have always been a divinity for him, and you are that still, and this has not been an infidelity of the heart....”
“But if it is repeated?”
“It cannot be, as I understand it....”
“Yes, but could you forgive it?”
“I don’t know, I can’t judge.... Yes, I can,” said Anna, thinking a moment; and grasping the position in her thought and weighing it in her inner balance, she added: “Yes, I can, I can, I can. Yes, I could forgive it. I could not be the same, no; but I could forgive it, and forgive it as though it had never been, never been at all....”
“Oh, of course,” Dolly interposed quickly, as though saying what she had more than once thought, “else it would not be forgiveness. If one forgives, it must be completely, completely. Come, let us go; I’ll take you to your room,” she said, getting up, and on the way she embraced Anna. “My dear, how glad I am you came. It has made things better, ever so much better.”
The whole of that day Anna spent at home, that’s to say at the Oblonskys’, and received no one, though some of her acquaintances had already heard of her arrival, and came to call the same day. Anna spent the whole morning with Dolly and the children. She merely sent a brief note to her brother to tell him that he must not fail to dine at home. “Come, God is merciful,” she wrote.
Oblonsky did dine at home: the conversation was general, and his wife, speaking to him, addressed him as “Stiva,” as she had not done before. In the relations of the husband and wife the same estrangement still remained, but there was no talk now of separation, and Stepan Arkadyevitch saw the possibility of explanation and reconciliation.
Immediately after dinner Kitty came in. She knew Anna Arkadyevna, but only very slightly, and she came now to her sister’s with some trepidation, at the prospect of meeting this fashionable Petersburg lady, whom everyone spoke so highly of. But she made a favorable impression on Anna Arkadyevna—she saw that at once. Anna was unmistakably admiring her loveliness and her youth: before Kitty knew where she was she found herself not merely under Anna’s sway, but in love with her, as young girls do fall in love with older and married women. Anna was not like a fashionable lady, nor the mother of a boy of eight years old. In the elasticity of her movements, the freshness and the unflagging eagerness which persisted in her face, and broke out in her smile and her glance, she would rather have passed for a girl of twenty, had it not been for a serious and at times mournful look in her eyes, which struck and attracted Kitty. Kitty felt that Anna was perfectly simple and was concealing nothing, but that she had another higher world of interests inaccessible to her, complex and poetic.
After dinner, when Dolly went away to her own room, Anna rose quickly and went up to her brother, who was just lighting a cigar.
“Stiva,” she said to him, winking gaily, crossing him and glancing towards the door, “go, and God help you.”
He threw down the cigar, understanding her, and departed through the doorway.
When Stepan Arkadyevitch had disappeared, she went back to the sofa where she had been sitting, surrounded by the children. Either because the children saw that their mother was fond of this aunt, or that they felt a special charm in her themselves, the two elder ones, and the younger following their lead, as children so often do, had clung about their new aunt since before dinner, and would not leave her side. And it had become a sort of game among them to sit as close as possible to their aunt, to touch her, hold her little hand, kiss it, play with her ring, or even touch the flounce of her skirt.
“Come, come, as we were sitting before,” said Anna Arkadyevna, sitting down in her place.
And again Grisha poked his little face under her arm, and nestled with his head on her gown, beaming with pride and happiness.
“And when is your next ball?” she asked Kitty.
“Next week, and a splendid ball. One of those balls where one always enjoys oneself.”
“Why, are there balls where one always enjoys oneself?” Anna said, with tender irony.
“It’s strange, but there are. At the Bobrishtchevs’ one always enjoys oneself, and at the Nikitins’ too, while at the Mezhkovs’ it’s always dull. Haven’t you noticed it?”
“No, my dear, for me there are no balls now where one enjoys oneself,” said Anna, and Kitty detected in her eyes that mysterious world which was not open to her. “For me there are some less dull and tiresome.”
“How can you be dull at a ball?”
“Why should not I be dull at a ball?” inquired Anna.
Kitty perceived that Anna knew what answer would follow.
“Because you always look nicer than anyone.”
Anna had the faculty of blushing. She blushed a little, and said:
“In the first place it’s never so; and secondly, if it were, what difference would it make to me?”
“Are you coming to this ball?” asked Kitty.
“I imagine it won’t be possible to avoid going. Here, take it,” she said to Tanya, who was pulling the loosely-fitting ring off her white, slender-tipped finger.
“I shall be so glad if you go. I should so like to see you at a ball.”
“Anyway, if I do go, I shall comfort myself with the thought that it’s a pleasure to you ... Grisha, don’t pull my hair. It’s untidy enough without that,” she said, putting up a straying lock, which Grisha had been playing with.
“I imagine you at the ball in lilac.”
“And why in lilac precisely?” asked Anna, smiling. “Now, children, run along, run along. Do you hear? Miss Hoole is calling you to tea,” she said, tearing the children from her, and sending them off to the dining-room.
“I know why you press me to come to the ball. You expect a great deal of this ball, and you want everyone to be there to take part in it.”
“How do you know? Yes.”
“Oh! what a happy time you are at,” pursued Anna. “I remember, and I know that blue haze like the mist on the mountains in Switzerland. That mist which covers everything in that blissful time when childhood is just ending, and out of that vast circle, happy and gay, there is a path growing narrower and narrower, and it is delightful and alarming to enter the ballroom, bright and splendid as it is.... Who has not been through it?”
Kitty smiled without speaking. “But how did she go through it? How I should like to know all her love story!” thought Kitty, recalling the unromantic appearance of Alexey Alexandrovitch, her husband.
“I know something. Stiva told me, and I congratulate you. I liked him so much,” Anna continued. “I met Vronsky at the railway station.”
“Oh, was he there?” asked Kitty, blushing. “What was it Stiva told you?”
“Stiva gossiped about it all. And I should be so glad ... I traveled yesterday with Vronsky’s mother,” she went on; “and his mother talked without a pause of him, he’s her favorite. I know mothers are partial, but....”
“What did his mother tell you?”
“Oh, a great deal! And I know that he’s her favorite; still one can see how chivalrous he is.... Well, for instance, she told me that he had wanted to give up all his property to his brother, that he had done something extraordinary when he was quite a child, saved a woman out of the water. He’s a hero, in fact,” said Anna, smiling and recollecting the two hundred roubles he had given at the station.
But she did not tell Kitty about the two hundred roubles. For some reason it was disagreeable to her to think of it. She felt that there was something that had to do with her in it, and something that ought not to have been.
“She pressed me very much to go and see her,” Anna went on; “and I shall be glad to go to see her tomorrow. Stiva is staying a long while in Dolly’s room, thank God,” Anna added, changing the subject, and getting up, Kitty fancied, displeased with something.
“No, I’m first! No, I!” screamed the children, who had finished tea, running up to their Aunt Anna.
“All together,” said Anna, and she ran laughing to meet them, and embraced and swung round all the throng of swarming children, shrieking with delight.undefined
Dolly came out of her room to the tea of the grown-up people. Stepan Arkadyevitch did not come out. He must have left his wife's room by the other door.
"I am afraid you'll be cold upstairs," observed Dolly, addressing Anna; "I want to move you downstairs, and we shall be nearer."
"Oh, please, don't trouble about me," answered Anna, looking intently into Dolly's face, trying to make out whether there had been a reconciliation or not.
"It will be lighter for you here," answered her sister-in-law.
"I assure you that I sleep everywhere, and always like a marmot."
"What's the question?" inquired Stepan Arkadyevitch, coming out of his room and addressing his wife.
From his tone both Kitty and Anna knew that a reconciliation had taken place.
"I want to move Anna downstairs, but we must hang up blinds. No one knows how to do it; I must see to it myself," answered Dolly addressing him.
"God knows whether they are fully reconciled," thought Anna, hearing her tone, cold and composed.
"Oh, nonsense, Dolly, always making difficulties," answered her husband. "Come, I'll do it all, if you like...."
"Yes, they must be reconciled," thought Anna.
"I know how you do everything," answered Dolly. "You tell Matvey to do what can't be done, and go away yourself, leaving him to make a muddle of everything," and her habitual, mocking smile curved the corners of Dolly's lips as she spoke.
"Full, full reconciliation, full," thought Anna; "thank God!" and rejoicing that she was the cause of it, she went up to Dolly and kissed her.
"Not at all. Why do you always look down on me and Matvey?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling hardly perceptibly, and addressing his wife.
The whole evening Dolly was, as always, a little mocking in her tone to her husband, while Stepan Arkadyevitch was happy and cheerful, but not so as to seem as though, having been forgiven, he had forgotten his offense.
At half-past nine o'clock a particularly joyful and pleasant family conversation over the tea-table at the Oblonskys' was broken up by an apparently simple incident. But this simple incident for some reason struck everyone as strange. Talking about common acquaintances in Petersburg, Anna got up quickly.
"She is in my album," she said; "and, by the way, I'll show you my Seryozha," she added, with a mother's smile of pride.
Towards ten o'clock, when she usually said good-night to her son, and often before going to a ball put him to bed herself, she felt depressed at being so far from him; and whatever she was talking about, she kept coming back in thought to her curly-headed Seryozha. She longed to look at his photograph and talk of him. Seizing the first pretext, she got up, and with her light, resolute step went for her album. The stairs up to her room came out on the landing of the great warm main staircase.
Just as she was leaving the drawing-room, a ring was heard in the hall.
"Who can that be?" said Dolly.
"It's early for me to be fetched, and for anyone else it's late," observed Kitty.
"Sure to be someone with papers for me," put in Stepan Arkadyevitch. When Anna was passing the top of the staircase, a servant was running up to announce the visitor, while the visitor himself was standing under a lamp. Anna glancing down at once recognized Vronsky, and a strange feeling of pleasure and at the same time of dread of something stirred in her heart. He was standing still, not taking off his coat, pulling something out of his pocket. At the instant when she was just facing the stairs, he raised his eyes, caught sight of her, and into the expression of his face there passed a shade of embarrassment and dismay. With a slight inclination of her head she passed, hearing behind her Stepan Arkadyevitch's loud voice calling him to come up, and the quiet, soft, and composed voice of Vronsky refusing.
When Anna returned with the album, he was already gone, and Stepan Arkadyevitch was telling them that he had called to inquire about the dinner they were giving next day to a celebrity who had just arrived. "And nothing would induce him to come up. What a queer fellow he is!" added Stepan Arkadyevitch.
Kitty blushed. She thought that she was the only person who knew why he had come, and why he would not come up. "He has been at home," she thought, "and didn't find me, and thought I should be here, but he did not come up because he thought it late, and Anna's here."
All of them looked at each other, saying nothing, and began to look at Anna's album.
There was nothing either exceptional or strange in a man's calling at half-past nine on a friend to inquire details of a proposed dinner party and not coming in, but it seemed strange to all of them. Above all, it seemed strange and not right to Anna.
The ball was only just beginning as Kitty and her mother walked up the great staircase, flooded with light, and lined with flowers and footmen in powder and red coats. From the rooms came a constant, steady hum, as from a hive, and the rustle of movement; and while on the landing between trees they gave last touches to their hair and dresses before the mirror, they heard from the ballroom the careful, distinct notes of the fiddles of the orchestra beginning the first waltz. A little old man in civilian dress, arranging his gray curls before another mirror, and diffusing an odor of scent, stumbled against them on the stairs, and stood aside, evidently admiring Kitty, whom he did not know. A beardless youth, one of those society youths whom the old Prince Shtcherbatsky called "young bucks," in an exceedingly open waistcoat, straightening his white tie as he went, bowed to them, and after running by, came back to ask Kitty for a quadrille. As the first quadrille had already been given to Vronsky, she had to promise this youth the second. An officer, buttoning his glove, stood aside in the doorway, and stroking his mustache, admired rosy Kitty.
Although her dress, her coiffure, and all the preparations for the ball had cost Kitty great trouble and consideration, at this moment she walked into the ballroom in her elaborate tulle dress over a pink slip as easily and simply as though all the rosettes and lace, all the minute details of her attire, had not cost her or her family a moment's attention, as though she had been born in that tulle and lace, with her hair done up high on her head, and a rose and two leaves on the top of it.
When, just before entering the ballroom, the princess, her mother, tried to turn right side out of the ribbon of her sash, Kitty had drawn back a little. She felt that everything must be right of itself, and graceful, and nothing could need setting straight.
It was one of Kitty's best days. Her dress was not uncomfortable anywhere; her lace berthe did not droop anywhere; her rosettes were not crushed nor torn off; her pink slippers with high, hollowed-out heels did not pinch, but gladdened her feet; and the thick rolls of fair chignon kept up on her head as if they were her own hair. All the three buttons buttoned up without tearing on the long glove that covered her hand without concealing its lines. The black velvet of her locket nestled with special softness round her neck. That velvet was delicious; at home, looking at her neck in the looking-glass, Kitty had felt that that velvet was speaking. About all the rest there might be a doubt, but the velvet was delicious. Kitty smiled here too, at the ball, when she glanced at it in the glass. Her bare shoulders and arms gave Kitty a sense of chill marble, a feeling she particularly liked. Her eyes sparkled, and her rosy lips could not keep from smiling from the consciousness of her own attractiveness. She had scarcely entered the ballroom and reached the throng of ladies, all tulle, ribbons, lace, and flowers, waiting to be asked to dance—Kitty was never one of that throng—when she was asked for a waltz, and asked by the best partner, the first star in the hierarchy of the ballroom, a renowned director of dances, a married man, handsome and well-built, Yegorushka Korsunsky. He had only just left the Countess Bonina, with whom he had danced the first half of the waltz, and, scanning his kingdom—that is to say, a few couples who had started dancing—he caught sight of Kitty, entering, and flew up to her with that peculiar, easy amble which is confined to directors of balls. Without even asking her if she cared to dance, he put out his arm to encircle her slender waist. She looked round for someone to give her fan to, and their hostess, smiling to her, took it.
"How nice you've come in good time," he said to her, embracing her waist; "such a bad habit to be late." Bending her left hand, she laid it on his shoulder, and her little feet in their pink slippers began swiftly, lightly, and rhythmically moving over the slippery floor in time to the music.
"It's a rest to waltz with you," he said to her, as they fell into the first slow steps of the waltz. "It's exquisite—such lightness, precision." He said to her the same thing he said to almost all his partners whom he knew well.
She smiled at his praise, and continued to look about the room over his shoulder. She was not like a girl at her first ball, for whom all faces in the ballroom melt into one vision of fairyland. And she was not a girl who had gone the stale round of balls till every face in the ballroom was familiar and tiresome. But she was in the middle stage between these two; she was excited, and at the same time she had sufficient self-possession to be able to observe. In the left corner of the ballroom she saw the cream of society gathered together. There—incredibly naked—was the beauty Lidi, Korsunsky's wife; there was the lady of the house; there shone the bald head of Krivin, always to be found where the best people were. In that direction gazed the young men, not venturing to approach. There, too, she descried Stiva, and there she saw the exquisite figure and head of Anna in a black velvet gown. And he was there. Kitty had not seen him since the evening she refused Levin. With her long-sighted eyes, she knew him at once, and was even aware that he was looking at her.
"Another turn, eh? You're not tired?" said Korsunsky, a little out of breath.
"No, thank you!"
"Where shall I take you?"
"Madame Karenina's here, I think ... take me to her."
"Wherever you command."
And Korsunsky began waltzing with measured steps straight towards the group in the left corner, continually saying, "Pardon, mesdames, pardon, pardon, mesdames"; and steering his course through the sea of lace, tulle, and ribbon, and not disarranging a feather, he turned his partner sharply round, so that her slim ankles, in light transparent stockings, were exposed to view, and her train floated out in fan shape and covered Krivin's knees. Korsunsky bowed, set straight his open shirt front, and gave her his arm to conduct her to Anna Arkadyevna. Kitty, flushed, took her train from Krivin's knees, and, a little giddy, looked round, seeking Anna. Anna was not in lilac, as Kitty had so urgently wished, but in a black, low-cut, velvet gown, showing her full throat and shoulders, that looked as though carved in old ivory, and her rounded arms, with tiny, slender wrists. The whole gown was trimmed with Venetian guipure. On her head, among her black hair—her own, with no false additions—was a little wreath of pansies, and a bouquet of the same in the black ribbon of her sash among white lace. Her coiffure was not striking. All that was noticeable was the little wilful tendrils of her curly hair that would always break free about her neck and temples. Round her well-cut, strong neck was a thread of pearls.
Kitty had been seeing Anna every day; she adored her, and had pictured her invariably in lilac. But now seeing her in black, she felt that she had not fully seen her charm. She saw her now as someone quite new and surprising to her. Now she understood that Anna could not have been in lilac, and that her charm was just that she always stood out against her attire, that her dress could never be noticeable on her. And her black dress, with its sumptuous lace, was not noticeable on her; it was only the frame, and all that was seen was she—simple, natural, elegant, and at the same time gay and eager.
She was standing holding herself, as always, very erect, and when Kitty drew near the group she was speaking to the master of the house, her head slightly turned towards him.
"No, I don't throw stones," she was saying, in answer to something, "though I can't understand it," she went on, shrugging her shoulders, and she turned at once with a soft smile of protection towards Kitty. With a flying, feminine glance she scanned her attire, and made a movement of her head, hardly perceptible, but understood by Kitty, signifying approval of her dress and her looks. "You came into the room dancing," she added.
"This is one of my most faithful supporters," said Korsunsky, bowing to Anna Arkadyevna, whom he had not yet seen. "The princess helps to make balls happy and successful. Anna Arkadyevna, a waltz?" he said, bending down to her.
"Why, have you met?" inquired their host.
"Is there anyone we have not met? My wife and I are like white wolves—everyone knows us," answered Korsunsky. "A waltz, Anna Arkadyevna?"
"I don't dance when it's possible not to dance," she said.
"But tonight it's impossible," answered Korsunsky.
At that instant Vronsky came up.
"Well, since it's impossible tonight, let us start," she said, not noticing Vronsky's bow, and she hastily put her hand on Korsunsky's shoulder.
"What is she vexed with him about?" thought Kitty, discerning that Anna had intentionally not responded to Vronsky's bow. Vronsky went up to Kitty reminding her of the first quadrille, and expressing his regret that he had not seen her all this time. Kitty gazed in admiration at Anna waltzing, and listened to him. She expected him to ask her for a waltz, but he did not, and she glanced wonderingly at him. He flushed slightly, and hurriedly asked her to waltz, but he had only just put his arm round her waist and taken the first step when the music suddenly stopped. Kitty looked into his face, which was so close to her own, and long afterwards—for several years after—that look, full of love, to which he made no response, cut her to the heart with an agony of shame.
"Pardon! pardon! Waltz! waltz!" shouted Korsunsky from the other side of the room, and seizing the first young lady he came across he began dancing himself.
Vronsky and Kitty waltzed several times round the room. After the first waltz Kitty went to her mother, and she had hardly time to say a few words to Countess Nordston when Vronsky came up again for the first quadrille. During the quadrille nothing of any significance was said: there was disjointed talk between them of the Korsunskys, husband and wife, whom he described very amusingly, as delightful children at forty, and of the future town theater; and only once the conversation touched her to the quick, when he asked her about Levin, whether he was here, and added that he liked him so much. But Kitty did not expect much from the quadrille. She looked forward with a thrill at her heart to the mazurka. She fancied that in the mazurka everything must be decided. The fact that he did not during the quadrille ask her for the mazurka did not trouble her. She felt sure she would dance the mazurka with him as she had done at former balls, and refused five young men, saying she was engaged for the mazurka. The whole ball up to the last quadrille was for Kitty an enchanted vision of delightful colors, sounds, and motions. She only sat down when she felt too tired and begged for a rest. But as she was dancing the last quadrille with one of the tiresome young men whom she could not refuse, she chanced to be vis-à-vis with Vronsky and Anna. She had not been near Anna again since the beginning of the evening, and now again she saw her suddenly quite new and surprising. She saw in her the signs of that excitement of success she knew so well in herself; she saw that she was intoxicated with the delighted admiration she was exciting. She knew that feeling and knew its signs, and saw them in Anna; saw the quivering, flashing light in her eyes, and the smile of happiness and excitement unconsciously playing on her lips, and the deliberate grace, precision, and lightness of her movements.
"Who?" she asked herself. "All or one?" And not assisting the harassed young man she was dancing with in the conversation, the thread of which he had lost and could not pick up again, she obeyed with external liveliness the peremptory shouts of Korsunsky starting them all into the grand rond, and then into the chaîne, and at the same time she kept watch with a growing pang at her heart. "No, it's not the admiration of the crowd has intoxicated her, but the adoration of one. And that one? can it be he?" Every time he spoke to Anna the joyous light flashed into her eyes, and the smile of happiness curved her red lips. she seemed to make an effort to control herself, to try not to show these signs of delight, but they came out on her face of themselves. "But what of him?" Kitty looked at him and was filled with terror. What was pictured so clearly to Kitty in the mirror of Anna's face she saw in him. What had become of his always self-possessed resolute manner, and the carelessly serene expression of his face? Now every time he turned to her, he bent his head, as though he would have fallen at her feet, and in his eyes there was nothing but humble submission and dread. "I would not offend you," his eyes seemed every time to be saying, "but I want to save myself, and I don't know how." On his face was a look such as Kitty had never seen before.
They were speaking of common acquaintances, keeping up the most trivial conversation, but to Kitty it seemed that every word they said was determining their fate and hers. And strange it was that they were actually talking of how absurd Ivan Ivanovitch was with his French, and how the Eletsky girl might have made a better match, yet these words had all the while consequence for them, and they were feeling just as Kitty did. The whole ball, the whole world, everything seemed lost in fog in Kitty's soul. Nothing but the stern discipline of her bringing-up supported her and forced her to do what was expected of her, that is, to dance, to answer questions, to talk, even to smile. But before the mazurka, when they were beginning to rearrange the chairs and a few couples moved out of the smaller rooms into the big room, a moment of despair and horror came for Kitty. She had refused five partners, and now she was not dancing the mazurka. She had not even a hope of being asked for it, because she was so successful in society that the idea would never occur to anyone that she had remained disengaged till now. She would have to tell her mother she felt ill and go home, but she had not the strength to do this. She felt crushed. She went to the furthest end of the little drawing-room and sank into a low chair. Her light, transparent skirts rose like a cloud about her slender waist; one bare, thin, soft, girlish arm, hanging listlessly, was lost in the folds of her pink tunic; in the other she held her fan, and with rapid, short strokes fanned her burning face. But while she looked like a butterfly, clinging to a blade of grass, and just about to open its rainbow wings for fresh flight, her heart ached with a horrible despair.
"But perhaps I am wrong, perhaps it was not so?" And again she recalled all she had seen.
"Kitty, what is it?" said Countess Nordston, stepping noiselessly over the carpet towards her. "I don't understand it."
Kitty's lower lip began to quiver; she got up quickly.
"Kitty, you're not dancing the mazurka?"
"No, no," said Kitty in a voice shaking with tears.
"He asked her for the mazurka before me," said Countess Nordston, knowing Kitty would understand who were "he" and "her." "She said: 'Why, aren't you going to dance it with Princess Shtcherbatskaya?'"
"Oh, I don't care!" answered Kitty.
No one but she herself understood her position; no one knew that she had just refused the man whom perhaps she loved, and refused him because she had put her faith in another.
Countess Nordston found Korsunsky, with whom she was to dance the mazurka, and told him to ask Kitty.
Kitty danced in the first couple, and luckily for her she had not to talk, because Korsunsky was all the time running about directing the figure. Vronsky and Anna sat almost opposite her. She saw them with her long-sighted eyes, and saw them, too, close by, when they met in the figures, and the more she saw of them the more convinced was she that her unhappiness was complete. She saw that they felt themselves alone in that crowded room. And on Vronsky's face, always so firm and independent, she saw that look that had struck her, of bewilderment and humble submissiveness, like the expression of an intelligent dog when it has done wrong.
Anna smiled, and her smile was reflected by him. She grew thoughtful, and he became serious. Some supernatural force drew Kitty's eyes to Anna's face. She was fascinating in her simple black dress, fascinating were her round arms with their bracelets, fascinating was her firm neck with its thread of pearls, fascinating the straying curls of her loose hair, fascinating the graceful, light movements of her little feet and hands, fascinating was that lovely face in its eagerness, but there was something terrible and cruel in her fascination.
Kitty admired her more than ever, and more and more acute was her suffering. Kitty felt overwhelmed, and her face showed it. When Vronsky saw her, coming across her in the mazurka, he did not at once recognize her, she was so changed.
"Delightful ball!" he said to her, for the sake of saying something.
"Yes," she answered.
In the middle of the mazurka, repeating a complicated figure, newly invented by Korsunsky, Anna came forward into the center of the circle, chose two gentlemen, and summoned a lady and Kitty. Kitty gazed at her in dismay as she went up. Anna looked at her with drooping eyelids, and smiled, pressing her hand. But, noticing that Kitty only responded to her smile by a look of despair and amazement, she turned away from her, and began gaily talking to the other lady.
"Yes, there is something uncanny, devilish and fascinating in her," Kitty said to herself.
Anna did not mean to stay to supper, but the master of the house began to press her to do so.
"Nonsense, Anna Arkadyevna," said Korsunsky, drawing her bare arm under the sleeve of his dress coat, "I've such an idea for a cotillion! Un bijou!"
And he moved gradually on, trying to draw her along with him. Their host smiled approvingly.
"No, I am not going to stay," answered Anna, smiling, but in spite of her smile, both Korsunsky and the master of the house saw from her resolute tone that she would not stay.
"No; why, as it is, I have danced more at your ball in Moscow than I have all the winter in Petersburg," said Anna, looking round at Vronsky, who stood near her. "I must rest a little before my journey."
"Are you certainly going tomorrow then?" asked Vronsky.
"Yes, I suppose so," answered Anna, as it were wondering at the boldness of his question; but the irrepressible, quivering brilliance of her eyes and her smile set him on fire as she said it.
Anna Arkadyevna did not stay to supper, but went home.
"Yes, there is something in me hateful, repulsive," thought Levin, as he came away from the Shtcherbatskys', and walked in the direction of his brother's lodgings. "And I don't get on with other people. Pride, they say. No, I have no pride. If I had any pride, I should not have put myself in such a position." And he pictured to himself Vronsky, happy, good-natured, clever, and self-possessed, certainly never placed in the awful position in which he had been that evening. "Yes, she was bound to choose him. So it had to be, and I cannot complain of anyone or anything. I am myself to blame. What right had I to imagine she would care to join her life to mine? Who am I and what am I? A nobody, not wanted by anyone, nor of use to anybody." And he recalled his brother Nikolay, and dwelt with pleasure on the thought of him. "Isn't he right that everything in the world is base and loathsome? And are we fair in our judgment of brother Nikolay? Of course, from the point of view of Prokofy, seeing him in a torn cloak and tipsy, he's a despicable person. But I know him differently. I know his soul, and know that we are like him. And I, instead of going to seek him out, went out to dinner, and came here." Levin walked up to a lamppost, read his brother's address, which was in his pocketbook, and called a sledge. All the long way to his brother's, Levin vividly recalled all the facts familiar to him of his brother Nikolay's life. He remembered how his brother, while at the university, and for a year afterwards, had, in spite of the jeers of his companions, lived like a monk, strictly observing all religious rites, services, and fasts, and avoiding every sort of pleasure, especially women. And afterwards, how he had all at once broken out: he had associated with the most horrible people, and rushed into the most senseless debauchery. He remembered later the scandal over a boy, whom he had taken from the country to bring up, and, in a fit of rage, had so violently beaten that proceedings were brought against him for unlawfully wounding. Then he recalled the scandal with a sharper, to whom he had lost money, and given a promissory note, and against whom he had himself lodged a complaint, asserting that he had cheated him. (This was the money Sergey Ivanovitch had paid.) Then he remembered how he had spent a night in the lockup for disorderly conduct in the street. He remembered the shameful proceedings he had tried to get up against his brother Sergey Ivanovitch, accusing him of not having paid him his share of his mother's fortune, and the last scandal, when he had gone to a western province in an official capacity, and there had got into trouble for assaulting a village elder.... It was all horribly disgusting, yet to Levin it appeared not at all in the same disgusting light as it inevitably would to those who did not know Nikolay, did not know all his story, did not know his heart.
Levin remembered that when Nikolay had been in the devout stage, the period of fasts and monks and church services, when he was seeking in religion a support and a curb for his passionate temperament, everyone, far from encouraging him, had jeered at him, and he, too, with the others. They had teased him, called him Noah, and monk; and, when he had broken out, no one had helped him, but everyone had turned away from him with horror and disgust.
Levin felt that, in spite of all the ugliness of his life, his brother Nikolay, in his soul, in the very depths of his soul, was no more in the wrong than the people who despised him. He was not to blame for having been born with his unbridled temperament and his somehow limited intelligence. But he had always wanted to be good. "I will tell him everything, without reserve, and I will make him speak without reserve, too, and I'll show him that I love him, and so understand him," Levin resolved to himself, as, towards eleven o'clock, he reached the hotel of which he had the address.
"At the top, 12 and 13," the porter answered Levin's inquiry.
"Sure to be at home."
The door of No. 12 was half open, and there came out into the streak of light thick fumes of cheap, poor tobacco, and the sound of a voice, unknown to Levin; but he knew at once that his brother was there; he heard his cough.
As he went in the door, the unknown voice was saying:
"It all depends with how much judgment and knowledge the thing's done."
Konstantin Levin looked in at the door, and saw that the speaker was a young man with an immense shock of hair, wearing a Russian jerkin, and that a pockmarked woman in a woolen gown, without collar or cuffs, was sitting on the sofa. His brother was not to be seen. Konstantin felt a sharp pang at his heart at the thought of the strange company in which his brother spent his life. No one had heard him, and Konstantin, taking off his galoshes, listened to what the gentleman in the jerkin was saying. He was speaking of some enterprise.
"Well, the devil flay them, the privileged classes," his brother's voice responded, with a cough. "Masha! get us some supper and some wine if there's any left; or else go and get some."
The woman rose, came out from behind the screen, and saw Konstantin.
"There's some gentleman, Nikolay Dmitrievitch," she said.
"Whom do you want?" said the voice of Nikolay Levin, angrily.
"It's I," answered Konstantin Levin, coming forward into the light.
"Who's I?" Nikolay's voice said again, still more angrily. He could be heard getting up hurriedly, stumbling against something, and Levin saw, facing him in the doorway, the big, scared eyes, and the huge, thin, stooping figure of his brother, so familiar, and yet astonishing in its weirdness and sickliness.
He was even thinner than three years before, when Konstantin Levin had seen him last. He was wearing a short coat, and his hands and big bones seemed huger than ever. His hair had grown thinner, the same straight mustaches hid his lips, the same eyes gazed strangely and naïvely at his visitor.
"Ah, Kostya!" he exclaimed suddenly, recognizing his brother, and his eyes lit up with joy. But the same second he looked round at the young man, and gave the nervous jerk of his head and neck that Konstantin knew so well, as if his neckband hurt him; and a quite different expression, wild, suffering, and cruel, rested on his emaciated face.
"I wrote to you and Sergey Ivanovitch both that I don't know you and don't want to know you. What is it you want?"
He was not at all the same as Konstantin had been fancying him. The worst and most tiresome part of his character, what made all relations with him so difficult, had been forgotten by Konstantin Levin when he thought of him, and now, when he saw his face, and especially that nervous twitching of his head, he remembered it all.
"I didn't want to see you for anything," he answered timidly. "I've simply come to see you."
His brother's timidity obviously softened Nikolay. His lips twitched.
"Oh, so that's it?" he said. "Well, come in; sit down. Like some supper? Masha, bring supper for three. No, stop a minute. Do you know who this is?" he said, addressing his brother, and indicating the gentleman in the jerkin: "This is Mr. Kritsky, my friend from Kiev, a very remarkable man. He's persecuted by the police, of course, because he's not a scoundrel."
And he looked round in the way he always did at everyone in the room. Seeing that the woman standing in the doorway was moving to go, he shouted to her, "Wait a minute, I said." And with the inability to express himself, the incoherence that Konstantin knew so well, he began, with another look round at everyone, to tell his brother Kritsky's story: how he had been expelled from the university for starting a benefit society for the poor students and Sunday schools; and how he had afterwards been a teacher in a peasant school, and how he had been driven out of that too, and had afterwards been condemned for something.
"You're of the Kiev university?" said Konstantin Levin to Kritsky, to break the awkward silence that followed.
"Yes, I was of Kiev," Kritsky replied angrily, his face darkening.
"And this woman," Nikolay Levin interrupted him, pointing to her, "is the partner of my life, Marya Nikolaevna. I took her out of a bad house," and he jerked his neck saying this; "but I love her and respect her, and anyone who wants to know me," he added, raising his voice and knitting his brows, "I beg to love her and respect her. She's just the same as my wife, just the same. So now you know whom you've to do with. And if you think you're lowering yourself, well, here's the floor, there's the door."
And again his eyes traveled inquiringly over all of them.
"Why I should be lowering myself, I don't understand."
"Then, Masha, tell them to bring supper; three portions, spirits and wine.... No, wait a minute.... No, it doesn't matter.... Go along."
"So you see," pursued Nikolay Levin, painfully wrinkling his forehead and twitching.
It was obviously difficult for him to think of what to say and do.
"Here, do you see?"... He pointed to some sort of iron bars, fastened together with strings, lying in a corner of the room. "Do you see that? That's the beginning of a new thing we're going into. It's a productive association...."
Konstantin scarcely heard him. He looked into his sickly, consumptive face, and he was more and more sorry for him, and he could not force himself to listen to what his brother was telling him about the association. He saw that this association was a mere anchor to save him from self-contempt. Nikolay Levin went on talking:
"You know that capital oppresses the laborer. The laborers with us, the peasants, bear all the burden of labor, and are so placed that however much they work they can't escape from their position of beasts of burden. All the profits of labor, on which they might improve their position, and gain leisure for themselves, and after that education, all the surplus values are taken from them by the capitalists. And society's so constituted that the harder they work, the greater the profit of the merchants and landowners, while they stay beasts of burden to the end. And that state of things must be changed," he finished up, and he looked questioningly at his brother.
"Yes, of course," said Konstantin, looking at the patch of red that had come out on his brother's projecting cheekbones.
"And so we're founding a locksmiths' association, where all the production and profit and the chief instruments of production will be in common."
"Where is the association to be?" asked Konstantin Levin.
"In the village of Vozdrem, Kazan government."
"But why in a village? In the villages, I think, there is plenty of work as it is. Why a locksmiths' association in a village?"
"Why? Because the peasants are just as much slaves as they ever were, and that's why you and Sergey Ivanovitch don't like people to try and get them out of their slavery," said Nikolay Levin, exasperated by the objection.
Konstantin Levin sighed, looking meanwhile about the cheerless and dirty room. This sigh seemed to exasperate Nikolay still more.
"I know your and Sergey Ivanovitch's aristocratic views. I know that he applies all the power of his intellect to justify existing evils."
"No; and what do you talk of Sergey Ivanovitch for?" said Levin, smiling.
"Sergey Ivanovitch? I'll tell you what for!" Nikolay Levin shrieked suddenly at the name of Sergey Ivanovitch. "I'll tell you what for.... But what's the use of talking? There's only one thing.... What did you come to me for? You look down on this, and you're welcome to,—and go away, in God's name go away!" he shrieked, getting up from his chair. "And go away, and go away!"
"I don't look down on it at all," said Konstantin Levin timidly. "I don't even dispute it."
At that instant Marya Nikolaevna came back. Nikolay Levin looked round angrily at her. She went quickly to him, and whispered something.
"I'm not well; I've grown irritable," said Nikolay Levin, getting calmer and breathing painfully; "and then you talk to me of Sergey Ivanovitch and his article. It's such rubbish, such lying, such self-deception. What can a man write of justice who knows nothing of it? Have you read his article?" he asked Kritsky, sitting down again at the table, and moving back off half of it the scattered cigarettes, so as to clear a space.
"I've not read it," Kritsky responded gloomily, obviously not desiring to enter into the conversation.
"Why not?" said Nikolay Levin, now turning with exasperation upon Kritsky.
"Because I didn't see the use of wasting my time over it."
"Oh, but excuse me, how did you know it would be wasting your time? That article's too deep for many people—that's to say it's over their heads. But with me, it's another thing; I see through his ideas, and I know where its weakness lies."
Everyone was mute. Kritsky got up deliberately and reached his cap.
"Won't you have supper? All right, good-bye! Come round tomorrow with the locksmith."
Kritsky had hardly gone out when Nikolay Levin smiled and winked.
"He's no good either," he said. "I see, of course...."
But at that instant Kritsky, at the door, called him....
"What do you want now?" he said, and went out to him in the passage. Left alone with Marya Nikolaevna, Levin turned to her.
"Have you been long with my brother?" he said to her.
"Yes, more than a year. Nikolay Dmitrievitch's health has become very poor. Nikolay Dmitrievitch drinks a great deal," she said.
"That is ... how does he drink?"
"Drinks vodka, and it's bad for him."
"And a great deal?" whispered Levin.
"Yes," she said, looking timidly towards the doorway, where Nikolay Levin had reappeared.
"What were you talking about?" he said, knitting his brows, and turning his scared eyes from one to the other. "What was it?"
"Oh, nothing," Konstantin answered in confusion.
"Oh, if you don't want to say, don't. Only it's no good your talking to her. She's a wench, and you're a gentleman," he said with a jerk of the neck. "You understand everything, I see, and have taken stock of everything, and look with commiseration on my shortcomings," he began again, raising his voice.
"Nikolay Dmitrievitch, Nikolay Dmitrievitch," whispered Marya Nikolaevna, again going up to him.
"Oh, very well, very well!... But where's the supper? Ah, here it is," he said, seeing a waiter with a tray. "Here, set it here," he added angrily, and promptly seizing the vodka, he poured out a glassful and drank it greedily. "Like a drink?" he turned to his brother, and at once became better humored.
"Well, enough of Sergey Ivanovitch. I'm glad to see you, anyway. After all's said and done, we're not strangers. Come, have a drink. Tell me what you're doing," he went on, greedily munching a piece of bread, and pouring out another glassful. "How are you living?"
"I live alone in the country, as I used to. I'm busy looking after the land," answered Konstantin, watching with horror the greediness with which his brother ate and drank, and trying to conceal that he noticed it.
"Why don't you get married?"
"It hasn't happened so," Konstantin answered, reddening a little.
"Why not? For me now ... everything's at an end! I've made a mess of my life. But this I've said, and I say still, that if my share had been given me when I needed it, my whole life would have been different."
Konstantin made haste to change the conversation.
"Do you know your little Vanya's with me, a clerk in the countinghouse at Pokrovskoe."
Nikolay jerked his neck, and sank into thought.
"Yes, tell me what's going on at Pokrovskoe. Is the house standing still, and the birch trees, and our schoolroom? And Philip the gardener, is he living? How I remember the arbor and the seat! Now mind and don't alter anything in the house, but make haste and get married, and make everything as it used to be again. Then I'll come and see you, if your wife is nice."
"But come to me now," said Levin. "How nicely we would arrange it!"
"I'd come and see you if I were sure I should not find Sergey Ivanovitch."
"You wouldn't find him there. I live quite independently of him."
"Yes, but say what you like, you will have to choose between me and him," he said, looking timidly into his brother's face.
This timidity touched Konstantin.
"If you want to hear my confession of faith on the subject, I tell you that in your quarrel with Sergey Ivanovitch I take neither side. You're both wrong. You're more wrong externally, and he inwardly."
"Ah, ah! You see that, you see that!" Nikolay shouted joyfully.
"But I personally value friendly relations with you more because...."
Konstantin could not say that he valued it more because Nikolay was unhappy, and needed affection. But Nikolay knew that this was just what he meant to say, and scowling he took up the vodka again.
"Enough, Nikolay Dmitrievitch!" said Marya Nikolaevna, stretching out her plump, bare arm towards the decanter.
"Let it be! Don't insist! I'll beat you!" he shouted.
Marya Nikolaevna smiled a sweet and good-humored smile, which was at once reflected on Nikolay's face, and she took the bottle.
"And do you suppose she understands nothing?" said Nikolay. "She understands it all better than any of us. Isn't it true there's something good and sweet in her?"
"Were you never before in Moscow?" Konstantin said to her, for the sake of saying something.
"Only you mustn't be polite and stiff with her. It frightens her. No one ever spoke to her so but the justices of the peace who tried her for trying to get out of a house of ill-fame. Mercy on us, the senselessness in the world!" he cried suddenly. "These new institutions, these justices of the peace, rural councils, what hideousness it all is!"
And he began to enlarge on his encounters with the new institutions.
Konstantin Levin heard him, and the disbelief in the sense of all public institutions, which he shared with him, and often expressed, was distasteful to him now from his brother's lips.
"In another world we shall understand it all," he said lightly.
"In another world! Ah, I don't like that other world! I don't like it," he said, letting his scared eyes rest on his brother's eyes. "Here one would think that to get out of all the baseness and the mess, one's own and other people's, would be a good thing, and yet I'm afraid of death, awfully afraid of death." He shuddered. "But do drink something. Would you like some champagne? Or shall we go somewhere? Let's go to the Gypsies! Do you know I have got so fond of the Gypsies and Russian songs."
His speech had begun to falter, and he passed abruptly from one subject to another. Konstantin with the help of Masha persuaded him not to go out anywhere, and got him to bed hopelessly drunk.
Masha promised to write to Konstantin in case of need, and to persuade Nikolay Levin to go and stay with his brother.