The Levins had been three months in Moscow. The date had long passed on which, according to the most trustworthy calculations of people learned in such matters, Kitty should have been confined. But she was still about, and there was nothing to show that her time was any nearer than two months ago. The doctor, the monthly nurse, and Dolly and her mother, and most of all Levin, who could not think of the approaching event without terror, began to be impatient and uneasy. Kitty was the only person who felt perfectly calm and happy.
She was distinctly conscious now of the birth of a new feeling of love for the future child, for her to some extent actually existing already, and she brooded blissfully over this feeling. He was not by now altogether a part of herself, but sometimes lived his own life independently of her. Often this separate being gave her pain, but at the same time she wanted to laugh with a strange new joy.
All the people she loved were with her, and all were so good to her, so attentively caring for her, so entirely pleasant was everything presented to her, that if she had not known and felt that it must all soon be over, she could not have wished for a better and pleasanter life. The only thing that spoiled the charm of this manner of life was that her husband was not here as she loved him to be, and as he was in the country.
She liked his serene, friendly, and hospitable manner in the country. In the town he seemed continually uneasy and on his guard, as though he were afraid someone would be rude to him, and still more to her. At home in the country, knowing himself distinctly to be in his right place, he was never in haste to be off elsewhere. He was never unoccupied. Here in town he was in a continual hurry, as though afraid of missing something, and yet he had nothing to do. And she felt sorry for him. To others, she knew, he did not appear an object of pity. On the contrary, when Kitty looked at him in society, as one sometimes looks at those one loves, trying to see him as if he were a stranger, so as to catch the impression he must make on others, she saw with a panic even of jealous fear that he was far indeed from being a pitiable figure, that he was very attractive with his fine breeding, his rather old-fashioned, reserved courtesy with women, his powerful figure, and striking, as she thought, and expressive face. But she saw him not from without, but from within; she saw that here he was not himself; that was the only way she could define his condition to herself. Sometimes she inwardly reproached him for his inability to live in the town; sometimes she recognized that it was really hard for him to order his life here so that he could be satisfied with it.
What had he to do, indeed? He did not care for cards; he did not go to a club. Spending the time with jovial gentlemen of Oblonsky’s type—she knew now what that meant ... it meant drinking and going somewhere after drinking. She could not think without horror of where men went on such occasions. Was he to go into society? But she knew he could only find satisfaction in that if he took pleasure in the society of young women, and that she could not wish for. Should he stay at home with her, her mother and her sisters? But much as she liked and enjoyed their conversations forever on the same subjects—“Aline-Nadine,” as the old prince called the sisters’ talks—she knew it must bore him. What was there left for him to do? To go on writing at his book he had indeed attempted, and at first he used to go to the library and make extracts and look up references for his book. But, as he told her, the more he did nothing, the less time he had to do anything. And besides, he complained that he had talked too much about his book here, and that consequently all his ideas about it were muddled and had lost their interest for him.
One advantage in this town life was that quarrels hardly ever happened between them here in town. Whether it was that their conditions were different, or that they had both become more careful and sensible in that respect, they had no quarrels in Moscow from jealousy, which they had so dreaded when they moved from the country.
One event, an event of great importance to both from that point of view, did indeed happen—that was Kitty’s meeting with Vronsky.
The old Princess Marya Borissovna, Kitty’s godmother, who had always been very fond of her, had insisted on seeing her. Kitty, though she did not go into society at all on account of her condition, went with her father to see the venerable old lady, and there met Vronsky.
The only thing Kitty could reproach herself for at this meeting was that at the instant when she recognized in his civilian dress the features once so familiar to her, her breath failed her, the blood rushed to her heart, and a vivid blush—she felt it—overspread her face. But this lasted only a few seconds. Before her father, who purposely began talking in a loud voice to Vronsky, had finished, she was perfectly ready to look at Vronsky, to speak to him, if necessary, exactly as she spoke to Princess Marya Borissovna, and more than that, to do so in such a way that everything to the faintest intonation and smile would have been approved by her husband, whose unseen presence she seemed to feel about her at that instant.
She said a few words to him, even smiled serenely at his joke about the elections, which he called “our parliament.” (She had to smile to show she saw the joke.) But she turned away immediately to Princess Marya Borissovna, and did not once glance at him till he got up to go; then she looked at him, but evidently only because it would be uncivil not to look at a man when he is saying good-bye.
She was grateful to her father for saying nothing to her about their meeting Vronsky, but she saw by his special warmth to her after the visit during their usual walk that he was pleased with her. She was pleased with herself. She had not expected she would have had the power, while keeping somewhere in the bottom of her heart all the memories of her old feeling for Vronsky, not only to seem but to be perfectly indifferent and composed with him.
Levin flushed a great deal more than she when she told him she had met Vronsky at Princess Marya Borissovna’s. It was very hard for her to tell him this, but still harder to go on speaking of the details of the meeting, as he did not question her, but simply gazed at her with a frown.
“I am very sorry you weren’t there,” she said. “Not that you weren’t in the room ... I couldn’t have been so natural in your presence ... I am blushing now much more, much, much more,” she said, blushing till the tears came into her eyes. “But that you couldn’t see through a crack.”
The truthful eyes told Levin that she was satisfied with herself, and in spite of her blushing he was quickly reassured and began questioning her, which was all she wanted. When he had heard everything, even to the detail that for the first second she could not help flushing, but that afterwards she was just as direct and as much at her ease as with any chance acquaintance, Levin was quite happy again and said he was glad of it, and would not now behave as stupidly as he had done at the election, but would try the first time he met Vronsky to be as friendly as possible.
“It’s so wretched to feel that there’s a man almost an enemy whom it’s painful to meet,” said Levin. “I’m very, very glad.”
“Go, please, go then and call on the Bols,” Kitty said to her husband, when he came in to see her at eleven o’clock before going out. “I know you are dining at the club; papa put down your name. But what are you going to do in the morning?”
“I am only going to Katavasov,” answered Levin.
“Why so early?”
“He promised to introduce me to Metrov. I wanted to talk to him about my work. He’s a distinguished scientific man from Petersburg,” said Levin.
“Yes; wasn’t it his article you were praising so? Well, and after that?” said Kitty.
“I shall go to the court, perhaps, about my sister’s business.”
“And the concert?” she queried.
“I shan’t go there all alone.”
“No? do go; there are going to be some new things.... That interested you so. I should certainly go.”
“Well, anyway, I shall come home before dinner,” he said, looking at his watch.
“Put on your frock coat, so that you can go straight to call on Countess Bola.”
“But is it absolutely necessary?”
“Oh, absolutely! He has been to see us. Come, what is it? You go in, sit down, talk for five minutes of the weather, get up and go away.”
“Oh, you wouldn’t believe it! I’ve got so out of the way of all this that it makes me feel positively ashamed. It’s such a horrible thing to do! A complete outsider walks in, sits down, stays on with nothing to do, wastes their time and worries himself, and walks away!”
“Why, I suppose you used to pay calls before you were married, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did, but I always felt ashamed, and now I’m so out of the way of it that, by Jove! I’d sooner go two days running without my dinner than pay this call! One’s so ashamed! I feel all the while that they’re annoyed, that they’re saying, ‘What has he come for?’”
“No, they won’t. I’ll answer for that,” said Kitty, looking into his face with a laugh. She took his hand. “Well, good-bye.... Do go, please.”
He was just going out after kissing his wife’s hand, when she stopped him.
“Kostya, do you know I’ve only fifty roubles left?”
“Oh, all right, I’ll go to the bank and get some. How much?” he said, with the expression of dissatisfaction she knew so well.
“No, wait a minute.” She held his hand. “Let’s talk about it, it worries me. I seem to spend nothing unnecessary, but money seems to fly away simply. We don’t manage well, somehow.”
“Oh, it’s all right,” he said with a little cough, looking at her from under his brows.
That cough she knew well. It was a sign of intense dissatisfaction, not with her, but with himself. He certainly was displeased not at so much money being spent, but at being reminded of what he, knowing something was unsatisfactory, wanted to forget.
“I have told Sokolov to sell the wheat, and to borrow an advance on the mill. We shall have money enough in any case.”
“Yes, but I’m afraid that altogether....”
“Oh, it’s all right, all right,” he repeated. “Well, good-bye, darling.”
“No, I’m really sorry sometimes that I listened to mamma. How nice it would have been in the country! As it is, I’m worrying you all, and we’re wasting our money.”
“Not at all, not at all. Not once since I’ve been married have I said that things could have been better than they are....”
“Truly?” she said, looking into his eyes.
He had said it without thinking, simply to console her. But when he glanced at her and saw those sweet truthful eyes fastened questioningly on him, he repeated it with his whole heart. “I was positively forgetting her,” he thought. And he remembered what was before them, so soon to come.
“Will it be soon? How do you feel?” he whispered, taking her two hands.
“I have so often thought so, that now I don’t think about it or know anything about it.”
“And you’re not frightened?”
She smiled contemptuously.
“Not the least little bit,” she said.
“Well, if anything happens, I shall be at Katavasov’s.”
“No, nothing will happen, and don’t think about it. I’m going for a walk on the boulevard with papa. We’re going to see Dolly. I shall expect you before dinner. Oh, yes! Do you know that Dolly’s position is becoming utterly impossible? She’s in debt all round; she hasn’t a penny. We were talking yesterday with mamma and Arseny” (this was her sister’s husband Lvov), “and we determined to send you with him to talk to Stiva. It’s really unbearable. One can’t speak to papa about it.... But if you and he....”
“Why, what can we do?” said Levin.
“You’ll be at Arseny’s, anyway; talk to him, he will tell what we decided.”
“Oh, I agree to everything Arseny thinks beforehand. I’ll go and see him. By the way, if I do go to the concert, I’ll go with Natalia. Well, good-bye.”
On the steps Levin was stopped by his old servant Kouzma, who had been with him before his marriage, and now looked after their household in town.
“Beauty” (that was the left shaft-horse brought up from the country) “has been badly shod and is quite lame,” he said. “What does your honor wish to be done?”
During the first part of their stay in Moscow, Levin had used his own horses brought up from the country. He had tried to arrange this part of their expenses in the best and cheapest way possible; but it appeared that their own horses came dearer than hired horses, and they still hired too.
“Send for the veterinary, there may be a bruise.”
“And for Katerina Alexandrovna?” asked Kouzma.
Levin was not by now struck as he had been at first by the fact that to get from one end of Moscow to the other he had to have two powerful horses put into a heavy carriage, to take the carriage three miles through the snowy slush and to keep it standing there four hours, paying five roubles every time.
Now it seemed quite natural.
“Hire a pair for our carriage from the jobmaster,” said he.
And so, simply and easily, thanks to the facilities of town life, Levin settled a question which, in the country, would have called for so much personal trouble and exertion, and going out onto the steps, he called a sledge, sat down, and drove to Nikitsky. On the way he thought no more of money, but mused on the introduction that awaited him to the Petersburg savant, a writer on sociology, and what he would say to him about his book.
Only during the first days of his stay in Moscow Levin had been struck by the expenditure, strange to one living in the country, unproductive but inevitable, that was expected of him on every side. But by now he had grown used to it. That had happened to him in this matter which is said to happen to drunkards—the first glass sticks in the throat, the second flies down like a hawk, but after the third they’re like tiny little birds. When Levin had changed his first hundred-rouble note to pay for liveries for his footmen and hall-porter he could not help reflecting that these liveries were of no use to anyone—but they were indubitably necessary, to judge by the amazement of the princess and Kitty when he suggested that they might do without liveries,—that these liveries would cost the wages of two laborers for the summer, that is, would pay for about three hundred working days from Easter to Ash Wednesday, and each a day of hard work from early morning to late evening—and that hundred-rouble note did stick in his throat. But the next note, changed to pay for providing a dinner for their relations, that cost twenty-eight roubles, though it did excite in Levin the reflection that twenty-eight roubles meant nine measures of oats, which men would with groans and sweat have reaped and bound and thrashed and winnowed and sifted and sown,—this next one he parted with more easily. And now the notes he changed no longer aroused such reflections, and they flew off like little birds. Whether the labor devoted to obtaining the money corresponded to the pleasure given by what was bought with it, was a consideration he had long ago dismissed. His business calculation that there was a certain price below which he could not sell certain grain was forgotten too. The rye, for the price of which he had so long held out, had been sold for fifty kopecks a measure cheaper than it had been fetching a month ago. Even the consideration that with such an expenditure he could not go on living for a year without debt, that even had no force. Only one thing was essential: to have money in the bank, without inquiring where it came from, so as to know that one had the wherewithal to buy meat for tomorrow. And this condition had hitherto been fulfilled; he had always had the money in the bank. But now the money in the bank had gone, and he could not quite tell where to get the next installment. And this it was which, at the moment when Kitty had mentioned money, had disturbed him; but he had no time to think about it. He drove off, thinking of Katavasov and the meeting with Metrov that was before him.
Levin had on this visit to town seen a great deal of his old friend at the university, Professor Katavasov, whom he had not seen since his marriage. He liked in Katavasov the clearness and simplicity of his conception of life. Levin thought that the clearness of Katavasov’s conception of life was due to the poverty of his nature; Katavasov thought that the disconnectedness of Levin’s ideas was due to his lack of intellectual discipline; but Levin enjoyed Katavasov’s clearness, and Katavasov enjoyed the abundance of Levin’s untrained ideas, and they liked to meet and to discuss.
Levin had read Katavasov some parts of his book, and he had liked them. On the previous day Katavasov had met Levin at a public lecture and told him that the celebrated Metrov, whose article Levin had so much liked, was in Moscow, that he had been much interested by what Katavasov had told him about Levin’s work, and that he was coming to see him tomorrow at eleven, and would be very glad to make Levin’s acquaintance.
“You’re positively a reformed character, I’m glad to see,” said Katavasov, meeting Levin in the little drawing-room. “I heard the bell and thought: Impossible that it can be he at the exact time!... Well, what do you say to the Montenegrins now? They’re a race of warriors.”
“Why, what’s happened?” asked Levin.
Katavasov in a few words told him the last piece of news from the war, and going into his study, introduced Levin to a short, thick-set man of pleasant appearance. This was Metrov. The conversation touched for a brief space on politics and on how recent events were looked at in the higher spheres in Petersburg. Metrov repeated a saying that had reached him through a most trustworthy source, reported as having been uttered on this subject by the Tsar and one of the ministers. Katavasov had heard also on excellent authority that the Tsar had said something quite different. Levin tried to imagine circumstances in which both sayings might have been uttered, and the conversation on that topic dropped.
“Yes, here he’s written almost a book on the natural conditions of the laborer in relation to the land,” said Katavasov; “I’m not a specialist, but I, as a natural science man, was pleased at his not taking mankind as something outside biological laws; but, on the contrary, seeing his dependence on his surroundings, and in that dependence seeking the laws of his development.”
“That’s very interesting,” said Metrov.
“What I began precisely was to write a book on agriculture; but studying the chief instrument of agriculture, the laborer,” said Levin, reddening, “I could not help coming to quite unexpected results.”
And Levin began carefully, as it were, feeling his ground, to expound his views. He knew Metrov had written an article against the generally accepted theory of political economy, but to what extent he could reckon on his sympathy with his own new views he did not know and could not guess from the clever and serene face of the learned man.
“But in what do you see the special characteristics of the Russian laborer?” said Metrov; “in his biological characteristics, so to speak, or in the condition in which he is placed?”
Levin saw that there was an idea underlying this question with which he did not agree. But he went on explaining his own idea that the Russian laborer has a quite special view of the land, different from that of other people; and to support this proposition he made haste to add that in his opinion this attitude of the Russian peasant was due to the consciousness of his vocation to people vast unoccupied expanses in the East.
“One may easily be led into error in basing any conclusion on the general vocation of a people,” said Metrov, interrupting Levin. “The condition of the laborer will always depend on his relation to the land and to capital.”
And without letting Levin finish explaining his idea, Metrov began expounding to him the special point of his own theory.
In what the point of his theory lay, Levin did not understand, because he did not take the trouble to understand. He saw that Metrov, like other people, in spite of his own article, in which he had attacked the current theory of political economy, looked at the position of the Russian peasant simply from the point of view of capital, wages, and rent. He would indeed have been obliged to admit that in the eastern—much the larger—part of Russia rent was as yet nil, that for nine-tenths of the eighty millions of the Russian peasants wages took the form simply of food provided for themselves, and that capital does not so far exist except in the form of the most primitive tools. Yet it was only from that point of view that he considered every laborer, though in many points he differed from the economists and had his own theory of the wage-fund, which he expounded to Levin.
Levin listened reluctantly, and at first made objections. He would have liked to interrupt Metrov, to explain his own thought, which in his opinion would have rendered further exposition of Metrov’s theories superfluous. But later on, feeling convinced that they looked at the matter so differently, that they could never understand one another, he did not even oppose his statements, but simply listened. Although what Metrov was saying was by now utterly devoid of interest for him, he yet experienced a certain satisfaction in listening to him. It flattered his vanity that such a learned man should explain his ideas to him so eagerly, with such intensity and confidence in Levin’s understanding of the subject, sometimes with a mere hint referring him to a whole aspect of the subject. He put this down to his own credit, unaware that Metrov, who had already discussed his theory over and over again with all his intimate friends, talked of it with special eagerness to every new person, and in general was eager to talk to anyone of any subject that interested him, even if still obscure to himself.
“We are late though,” said Katavasov, looking at his watch directly Metrov had finished his discourse.
“Yes, there’s a meeting of the Society of Amateurs today in commemoration of the jubilee of Svintitch,” said Katavasov in answer to Levin’s inquiry. “Pyotr Ivanovitch and I were going. I’ve promised to deliver an address on his labors in zoology. Come along with us, it’s very interesting.”
“Yes, and indeed it’s time to start,” said Metrov. “Come with us, and from there, if you care to, come to my place. I should very much like to hear your work.”
“Oh, no! It’s no good yet, it’s unfinished. But I shall be very glad to go to the meeting.”
“I say, friends, have you heard? He has handed in the separate report,” Katavasov called from the other room, where he was putting on his frock coat.
And a conversation sprang up upon the university question, which was a very important event that winter in Moscow. Three old professors in the council had not accepted the opinion of the younger professors. The young ones had registered a separate resolution. This, in the judgment of some people, was monstrous, in the judgment of others it was the simplest and most just thing to do, and the professors were split up into two parties.
One party, to which Katavasov belonged, saw in the opposite party a scoundrelly betrayal and treachery, while the opposite party saw in them childishness and lack of respect for the authorities. Levin, though he did not belong to the university, had several times already during his stay in Moscow heard and talked about this matter, and had his own opinion on the subject. He took part in the conversation that was continued in the street, as they all three walked to the buildings of the old university.
The meeting had already begun. Round the cloth-covered table, at which Katavasov and Metrov seated themselves, there were some half-dozen persons, and one of these was bending close over a manuscript, reading something aloud. Levin sat down in one of the empty chairs that were standing round the table, and in a whisper asked a student sitting near what was being read. The student, eyeing Levin with displeasure, said:
Though Levin was not interested in the biography, he could not help listening, and learned some new and interesting facts about the life of the distinguished man of science.
When the reader had finished, the chairman thanked him and read some verses of the poet Ment sent him on the jubilee, and said a few words by way of thanks to the poet. Then Katavasov in his loud, ringing voice read his address on the scientific labors of the man whose jubilee was being kept.
When Katavasov had finished, Levin looked at his watch, saw it was past one, and thought that there would not be time before the concert to read Metrov his book, and indeed, he did not now care to do so. During the reading he had thought over their conversation. He saw distinctly now that though Metrov’s ideas might perhaps have value, his own ideas had a value too, and their ideas could only be made clear and lead to something if each worked separately in his chosen path, and that nothing would be gained by putting their ideas together. And having made up his mind to refuse Metrov’s invitation, Levin went up to him at the end of the meeting. Metrov introduced Levin to the chairman, with whom he was talking of the political news. Metrov told the chairman what he had already told Levin, and Levin made the same remarks on his news that he had already made that morning, but for the sake of variety he expressed also a new opinion which had only just struck him. After that the conversation turned again on the university question. As Levin had already heard it all, he made haste to tell Metrov that he was sorry he could not take advantage of his invitation, took leave, and drove to Lvov’s.
Lvov, the husband of Natalia, Kitty’s sister, had spent all his life in foreign capitals, where he had been educated, and had been in the diplomatic service.
During the previous year he had left the diplomatic service, not owing to any “unpleasantness” (he never had any “unpleasantness” with anyone), and was transferred to the department of the court of the palace in Moscow, in order to give his two boys the best education possible.
In spite of the striking contrast in their habits and views and the fact that Lvov was older than Levin, they had seen a great deal of one another that winter, and had taken a great liking to each other.
Lvov was at home, and Levin went in to him unannounced.
Lvov, in a house coat with a belt and in chamois leather shoes, was sitting in an armchair, and with a pince-nez with blue glasses he was reading a book that stood on a reading desk, while in his beautiful hand he held a half-burned cigarette daintily away from him.
His handsome, delicate, and still youthful-looking face, to which his curly, glistening silvery hair gave a still more aristocratic air, lighted up with a smile when he saw Levin.
“Capital! I was meaning to send to you. How’s Kitty? Sit here, it’s more comfortable.” He got up and pushed up a rocking chair. “Have you read the last circular in the Journal de St. Pétersbourg? I think it’s excellent,” he said, with a slight French accent.
Levin told him what he had heard from Katavasov was being said in Petersburg, and after talking a little about politics, he told him of his interview with Metrov, and the learned society’s meeting. To Lvov it was very interesting.
“That’s what I envy you, that you are able to mix in these interesting scientific circles,” he said. And as he talked, he passed as usual into French, which was easier to him. “It’s true I haven’t the time for it. My official work and the children leave me no time; and then I’m not ashamed to own that my education has been too defective.”
“That I don’t believe,” said Levin with a smile, feeling, as he always did, touched at Lvov’s low opinion of himself, which was not in the least put on from a desire to seem or to be modest, but was absolutely sincere.
“Oh, yes, indeed! I feel now how badly educated I am. To educate my children I positively have to look up a great deal, and in fact simply to study myself. For it’s not enough to have teachers, there must be someone to look after them, just as on your land you want laborers and an overseer. See what I’m reading”—he pointed to Buslaev’s Grammar on the desk—“it’s expected of Misha, and it’s so difficult.... Come, explain to me.... Here he says....”
Levin tried to explain to him that it couldn’t be understood, but that it had to be taught; but Lvov would not agree with him.
“Oh, you’re laughing at it!”
“On the contrary, you can’t imagine how, when I look at you, I’m always learning the task that lies before me, that is the education of one’s children.”
“Well, there’s nothing for you to learn,” said Lvov.
“All I know,” said Levin, “is that I have never seen better brought-up children than yours, and I wouldn’t wish for children better than yours.”
Lvov visibly tried to restrain the expression of his delight, but he was positively radiant with smiles.
“If only they’re better than I! That’s all I desire. You don’t know yet all the work,” he said, “with boys who’ve been left like mine to run wild abroad.”
“You’ll catch all that up. They’re such clever children. The great thing is the education of character. That’s what I learn when I look at your children.”
“You talk of the education of character. You can’t imagine how difficult that is! You have hardly succeeded in combating one tendency when others crop up, and the struggle begins again. If one had not a support in religion—you remember we talked about that—no father could bring children up relying on his own strength alone without that help.”
This subject, which always interested Levin, was cut short by the entrance of the beauty Natalia Alexandrovna, dressed to go out.
“I didn’t know you were here,” she said, unmistakably feeling no regret, but a positive pleasure, in interrupting this conversation on a topic she had heard so much of that she was by now weary of it. “Well, how is Kitty? I am dining with you today. I tell you what, Arseny,” she turned to her husband, “you take the carriage.”
And the husband and wife began to discuss their arrangements for the day. As the husband had to drive to meet someone on official business, while the wife had to go to the concert and some public meeting of a committee on the Eastern Question, there was a great deal to consider and settle. Levin had to take part in their plans as one of themselves. It was settled that Levin should go with Natalia to the concert and the meeting, and that from there they should send the carriage to the office for Arseny, and he should call for her and take her to Kitty’s; or that, if he had not finished his work, he should send the carriage back and Levin would go with her.
“He’s spoiling me,” Lvov said to his wife; “he assures me that our children are splendid, when I know how much that’s bad there is in them.”
“Arseny goes to extremes, I always say,” said his wife. “If you look for perfection, you will never be satisfied. And it’s true, as papa says,—that when we were brought up there was one extreme—we were kept in the basement, while our parents lived in the best rooms; now it’s just the other way—the parents are in the wash house, while the children are in the best rooms. Parents now are not expected to live at all, but to exist altogether for their children.”
“Well, what if they like it better?” Lvov said, with his beautiful smile, touching her hand. “Anyone who didn’t know you would think you were a stepmother, not a true mother.”
“No, extremes are not good in anything,” Natalia said serenely, putting his paper-knife straight in its proper place on the table.
“Well, come here, you perfect children,” Lvov said to the two handsome boys who came in, and after bowing to Levin, went up to their father, obviously wishing to ask him about something.
Levin would have liked to talk to them, to hear what they would say to their father, but Natalia began talking to him, and then Lvov’s colleague in the service, Mahotin, walked in, wearing his court uniform, to go with him to meet someone, and a conversation was kept up without a break upon Herzegovina, Princess Korzinskaya, the town council, and the sudden death of Madame Apraksina.
Levin even forgot the commission intrusted to him. He recollected it as he was going into the hall.
“Oh, Kitty told me to talk to you about Oblonsky,” he said, as Lvov was standing on the stairs, seeing his wife and Levin off.
“Yes, yes, maman wants us, les beaux-frères, to attack him,” he said, blushing. “But why should I?”
“Well, then, I will attack him,” said Madame Lvova, with a smile, standing in her white sheepskin cape, waiting till they had finished speaking. “Come, let us go.”
At the concert in the afternoon two very interesting things were performed. One was a fantasia, King Lear; the other was a quartette dedicated to the memory of Bach. Both were new and in the new style, and Levin was eager to form an opinion of them. After escorting his sister-in-law to her stall, he stood against a column and tried to listen as attentively and conscientiously as possible. He tried not to let his attention be distracted, and not to spoil his impression by looking at the conductor in a white tie, waving his arms, which always disturbed his enjoyment of music so much, or the ladies in bonnets, with strings carefully tied over their ears, and all these people either thinking of nothing at all or thinking of all sorts of things except the music. He tried to avoid meeting musical connoisseurs or talkative acquaintances, and stood looking at the floor straight before him, listening.
But the more he listened to the fantasia of King Lear the further he felt from forming any definite opinion of it. There was, as it were, a continual beginning, a preparation of the musical expression of some feeling, but it fell to pieces again directly, breaking into new musical motives, or simply nothing but the whims of the composer, exceedingly complex but disconnected sounds. And these fragmentary musical expressions, though sometimes beautiful, were disagreeable, because they were utterly unexpected and not led up to by anything. Gaiety and grief and despair and tenderness and triumph followed one another without any connection, like the emotions of a madman. And those emotions, like a madman’s, sprang up quite unexpectedly.
During the whole of the performance Levin felt like a deaf man watching people dancing, and was in a state of complete bewilderment when the fantasia was over, and felt a great weariness from the fruitless strain on his attention. Loud applause resounded on all sides. Everyone got up, moved about, and began talking. Anxious to throw some light on his own perplexity from the impressions of others, Levin began to walk about, looking for connoisseurs, and was glad to see a well-known musical amateur in conversation with Pestsov, whom he knew.
“Marvelous!” Pestsov was saying in his mellow bass. “How are you, Konstantin Dmitrievitch? Particularly sculpturesque and plastic, so to say, and richly colored is that passage where you feel Cordelia’s approach, where woman, das ewig Weibliche, enters into conflict with fate. Isn’t it?”
“You mean ... what has Cordelia to do with it?” Levin asked timidly, forgetting that the fantasia was supposed to represent King Lear.
“Cordelia comes in ... see here!” said Pestsov, tapping his finger on the satiny surface of the program he held in his hand and passing it to Levin.
Only then Levin recollected the title of the fantasia, and made haste to read in the Russian translation the lines from Shakespeare that were printed on the back of the program.
“You can’t follow it without that,” said Pestsov, addressing Levin, as the person he had been speaking to had gone away, and he had no one to talk to.
In the entr’acte Levin and Pestsov fell into an argument upon the merits and defects of music of the Wagner school. Levin maintained that the mistake of Wagner and all his followers lay in their trying to take music into the sphere of another art, just as poetry goes wrong when it tries to paint a face as the art of painting ought to do, and as an instance of this mistake he cited the sculptor who carved in marble certain poetic phantasms flitting round the figure of the poet on the pedestal. “These phantoms were so far from being phantoms that they were positively clinging on the ladder,” said Levin. The comparison pleased him, but he could not remember whether he had not used the same phrase before, and to Pestsov, too, and as he said it he felt confused.
Pestsov maintained that art is one, and that it can attain its highest manifestations only by conjunction with all kinds of art.
The second piece that was performed Levin could not hear. Pestsov, who was standing beside him, was talking to him almost all the time, condemning the music for its excessive affected assumption of simplicity, and comparing it with the simplicity of the Pre-Raphaelites in painting. As he went out Levin met many more acquaintances, with whom he talked of politics, of music, and of common acquaintances. Among others he met Count Bol, whom he had utterly forgotten to call upon.
“Well, go at once then,” Madame Lvova said, when he told her; “perhaps they’ll not be at home, and then you can come to the meeting to fetch me. You’ll find me still there.”
“Perhaps they’re not at home?” said Levin, as he went into the hall of Countess Bola’s house.
“At home; please walk in,” said the porter, resolutely removing his overcoat.
“How annoying!” thought Levin with a sigh, taking off one glove and stroking his hat. “What did I come for? What have I to say to them?”
As he passed through the first drawing-room Levin met in the doorway Countess Bola, giving some order to a servant with a care-worn and severe face. On seeing Levin she smiled, and asked him to come into the little drawing-room, where he heard voices. In this room there were sitting in armchairs the two daughters of the countess, and a Moscow colonel, whom Levin knew. Levin went up, greeted them, and sat down beside the sofa with his hat on his knees.
“How is your wife? Have you been at the concert? We couldn’t go. Mamma had to be at the funeral service.”
“Yes, I heard.... What a sudden death!” said Levin.
The countess came in, sat down on the sofa, and she too asked after his wife and inquired about the concert.
Levin answered, and repeated an inquiry about Madame Apraksina’s sudden death.
“But she was always in weak health.”
“Were you at the opera yesterday?”
“Yes, I was.”
“Lucca was very good.”
“Yes, very good,” he said, and as it was utterly of no consequence to him what they thought of him, he began repeating what they had heard a hundred times about the characteristics of the singer’s talent. Countess Bola pretended to be listening. Then, when he had said enough and paused, the colonel, who had been silent till then, began to talk. The colonel too talked of the opera, and about culture. At last, after speaking of the proposed folle journée at Turin’s, the colonel laughed, got up noisily, and went away. Levin too rose, but he saw by the face of the countess that it was not yet time for him to go. He must stay two minutes longer. He sat down.
But as he was thinking all the while how stupid it was, he could not find a subject for conversation, and sat silent.
“You are not going to the public meeting? They say it will be very interesting,” began the countess.
“No, I promised my belle-sœur to fetch her from it,” said Levin.
A silence followed. The mother once more exchanged glances with a daughter.
“Well, now I think the time has come,” thought Levin, and he got up. The ladies shook hands with him, and begged him to say mille choses to his wife for them.
The porter asked him, as he gave him his coat, “Where is your honor staying?” and immediately wrote down his address in a big handsomely bound book.
“Of course I don’t care, but still I feel ashamed and awfully stupid,” thought Levin, consoling himself with the reflection that everyone does it. He drove to the public meeting, where he was to find his sister-in-law, so as to drive home with her.
At the public meeting of the committee there were a great many people, and almost all the highest society. Levin was in time for the report which, as everyone said, was very interesting. When the reading of the report was over, people moved about, and Levin met Sviazhsky, who invited him very pressingly to come that evening to a meeting of the Society of Agriculture, where a celebrated lecture was to be delivered, and Stepan Arkadyevitch, who had only just come from the races, and many other acquaintances; and Levin heard and uttered various criticisms on the meeting, on the new fantasia, and on a public trial. But, probably from the mental fatigue he was beginning to feel, he made a blunder in speaking of the trial, and this blunder he recalled several times with vexation. Speaking of the sentence upon a foreigner who had been condemned in Russia, and of how unfair it would be to punish him by exile abroad, Levin repeated what he had heard the day before in conversation from an acquaintance.
“I think sending him abroad is much the same as punishing a carp by putting it into the water,” said Levin. Then he recollected that this idea, which he had heard from an acquaintance and uttered as his own, came from a fable of Krilov’s, and that the acquaintance had picked it up from a newspaper article.
After driving home with his sister-in-law, and finding Kitty in good spirits and quite well, Levin drove to the club.
Levin reached the club just at the right time. Members and visitors were driving up as he arrived. Levin had not been at the club for a very long while—not since he lived in Moscow, when he was leaving the university and going into society. He remembered the club, the external details of its arrangement, but he had completely forgotten the impression it had made on him in old days. But as soon as, driving into the wide semicircular court and getting out of the sledge, he mounted the steps, and the hall-porter, adorned with a crossway scarf, noiselessly opened the door to him with a bow; as soon as he saw in the porter’s room the cloaks and galoshes of members who thought it less trouble to take them off downstairs; as soon as he heard the mysterious ringing bell that preceded him as he ascended the easy, carpeted staircase, and saw the statue on the landing, and the third porter at the top doors, a familiar figure grown older, in the club livery, opening the door without haste or delay, and scanning the visitors as they passed in—Levin felt the old impression of the club come back in a rush, an impression of repose, comfort, and propriety.
“Your hat, please,” the porter said to Levin, who forgot the club rule to leave his hat in the porter’s room. “Long time since you’ve been. The prince put your name down yesterday. Prince Stepan Arkadyevitch is not here yet.”
The porter did not only know Levin, but also all his ties and relationships, and so immediately mentioned his intimate friends.
Passing through the outer hall, divided up by screens, and the room partitioned on the right, where a man sits at the fruit buffet, Levin overtook an old man walking slowly in, and entered the dining-room full of noise and people.
He walked along the tables, almost all full, and looked at the visitors. He saw people of all sorts, old and young; some he knew a little, some intimate friends. There was not a single cross or worried-looking face. All seemed to have left their cares and anxieties in the porter’s room with their hats, and were all deliberately getting ready to enjoy the material blessings of life. Sviazhsky was here and Shtcherbatsky, Nevyedovsky and the old prince, and Vronsky and Sergey Ivanovitch.
“Ah! why are you late?” the prince said smiling, and giving him his hand over his own shoulder. “How’s Kitty?” he added, smoothing out the napkin he had tucked in at his waistcoat buttons.
“All right; they are dining at home, all the three of them.”
“Ah, ‘Aline-Nadine,’ to be sure! There’s no room with us. Go to that table, and make haste and take a seat,” said the prince, and turning away he carefully took a plate of eel soup.
“Levin, this way!” a good-natured voice shouted a little farther on. It was Turovtsin. He was sitting with a young officer, and beside them were two chairs turned upside down. Levin gladly went up to them. He had always liked the good-hearted rake, Turovtsin—he was associated in his mind with memories of his courtship—and at that moment, after the strain of intellectual conversation, the sight of Turovtsin’s good-natured face was particularly welcome.
“For you and Oblonsky. He’ll be here directly.”
The young man, holding himself very erect, with eyes forever twinkling with enjoyment, was an officer from Petersburg, Gagin. Turovtsin introduced them.
“Oblonsky’s always late.”
“Ah, here he is!”
“Have you only just come?” said Oblonsky, coming quickly towards them. “Good day. Had some vodka? Well, come along then.”
Levin got up and went with him to the big table spread with spirits and appetizers of the most various kinds. One would have thought that out of two dozen delicacies one might find something to one’s taste, but Stepan Arkadyevitch asked for something special, and one of the liveried waiters standing by immediately brought what was required. They drank a wine-glassful and returned to their table.
At once, while they were still at the soup, Gagin was served with champagne, and told the waiter to fill four glasses. Levin did not refuse the wine, and asked for a second bottle. He was very hungry, and ate and drank with great enjoyment, and with still greater enjoyment took part in the lively and simple conversation of his companions. Gagin, dropping his voice, told the last good story from Petersburg, and the story, though improper and stupid, was so ludicrous that Levin broke into roars of laughter so loud that those near looked round.
“That’s in the same style as, ‘that’s a thing I can’t endure!’ You know the story?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Ah, that’s exquisite! Another bottle,” he said to the waiter, and he began to relate his good story.
“Pyotr Illyitch Vinovsky invites you to drink with him,” a little old waiter interrupted Stepan Arkadyevitch, bringing two delicate glasses of sparkling champagne, and addressing Stepan Arkadyevitch and Levin. Stepan Arkadyevitch took the glass, and looking towards a bald man with red mustaches at the other end of the table, he nodded to him, smiling.
“Who’s that?” asked Levin.
“You met him once at my place, don’t you remember? A good-natured fellow.”
Levin did the same as Stepan Arkadyevitch and took the glass.
Stepan Arkadyevitch’s anecdote too was very amusing. Levin told his story, and that too was successful. Then they talked of horses, of the races, of what they had been doing that day, and of how smartly Vronsky’s Atlas had won the first prize. Levin did not notice how the time passed at dinner.
“Ah! and here they are!” Stepan Arkadyevitch said towards the end of dinner, leaning over the back of his chair and holding out his hand to Vronsky, who came up with a tall officer of the Guards. Vronsky’s face too beamed with the look of good-humored enjoyment that was general in the club. He propped his elbow playfully on Stepan Arkadyevitch’s shoulder, whispering something to him, and he held out his hand to Levin with the same good-humored smile.
“Very glad to meet you,” he said. “I looked out for you at the election, but I was told you had gone away.”
“Yes, I left the same day. We’ve just been talking of your horse. I congratulate you,” said Levin. “It was very rapidly run.”
“Yes; you’ve race horses too, haven’t you?”
“No, my father had; but I remember and know something about it.”
“Where have you dined?” asked Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“We were at the second table, behind the columns.”
“We’ve been celebrating his success,” said the tall colonel. “It’s his second Imperial prize. I wish I might have the luck at cards he has with horses. Well, why waste the precious time? I’m going to the ‘infernal regions,’” added the colonel, and he walked away.
“That’s Yashvin,” Vronsky said in answer to Turovtsin, and he sat down in the vacated seat beside them. He drank the glass offered him, and ordered a bottle of wine. Under the influence of the club atmosphere or the wine he had drunk, Levin chatted away to Vronsky of the best breeds of cattle, and was very glad not to feel the slightest hostility to this man. He even told him, among other things, that he had heard from his wife that she had met him at Princess Marya Borissovna’s.
“Ah, Princess Marya Borissovna, she’s exquisite!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, and he told an anecdote about her which set them all laughing. Vronsky particularly laughed with such simplehearted amusement that Levin felt quite reconciled to him.
“Well, have we finished?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting up with a smile. “Let us go.”
Getting up from the table, Levin walked with Gagin through the lofty room to the billiard room, feeling his arms swing as he walked with a peculiar lightness and ease. As he crossed the big room, he came upon his father-in-law.
“Well, how do you like our Temple of Indolence?” said the prince, taking his arm. “Come along, come along!”
“Yes, I wanted to walk about and look at everything. It’s interesting.”
“Yes, it’s interesting for you. But its interest for me is quite different. You look at those little old men now,” he said, pointing to a club member with bent back and projecting lip, shuffling towards them in his soft boots, “and imagine that they were shlupiks like that from their birth up.”
“I see you don’t know that name. That’s our club designation. You know the game of rolling eggs: when one’s rolled a long while it becomes a shlupik. So it is with us; one goes on coming and coming to the club, and ends by becoming a shlupik. Ah, you laugh! but we look out, for fear of dropping into it ourselves. You know Prince Tchetchensky?” inquired the prince; and Levin saw by his face that he was just going to relate something funny.
“No, I don’t know him.”
“You don’t say so! Well, Prince Tchetchensky is a well-known figure. No matter, though. He’s always playing billiards here. Only three years ago he was not a shlupik and kept up his spirits and even used to call other people shlupiks. But one day he turns up, and our porter ... you know Vassily? Why, that fat one; he’s famous for his bon mots. And so Prince Tchetchensky asks him, ‘Come, Vassily, who’s here? Any shlupiks here yet?’ And he says, ‘You’re the third.’ Yes, my dear boy, that he did!”
Talking and greeting the friends they met, Levin and the prince walked through all the rooms: the great room where tables had already been set, and the usual partners were playing for small stakes; the divan room, where they were playing chess, and Sergey Ivanovitch was sitting talking to somebody; the billiard room, where, about a sofa in a recess, there was a lively party drinking champagne—Gagin was one of them. They peeped into the “infernal regions,” where a good many men were crowding round one table, at which Yashvin was sitting. Trying not to make a noise, they walked into the dark reading room, where under the shaded lamps there sat a young man with a wrathful countenance, turning over one journal after another, and a bald general buried in a book. They went, too, into what the prince called the intellectual room, where three gentlemen were engaged in a heated discussion of the latest political news.
“Prince, please come, we’re ready,” said one of his card party, who had come to look for him, and the prince went off. Levin sat down and listened, but recalling all the conversation of the morning he felt all of a sudden fearfully bored. He got up hurriedly, and went to look for Oblonsky and Turovtsin, with whom it had been so pleasant.
Turovtsin was one of the circle drinking in the billiard room, and Stepan Arkadyevitch was talking with Vronsky near the door at the farther corner of the room.
“It’s not that she’s dull; but this undefined, this unsettled position,” Levin caught, and he was hurrying away, but Stepan Arkadyevitch called to him.
“Levin,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, and Levin noticed that his eyes were not full of tears exactly, but moist, which always happened when he had been drinking, or when he was touched. Just now it was due to both causes. “Levin, don’t go,” he said, and he warmly squeezed his arm above the elbow, obviously not at all wishing to let him go.
“This is a true friend of mine—almost my greatest friend,” he said to Vronsky. “You have become even closer and dearer to me. And I want you, and I know you ought, to be friends, and great friends, because you’re both splendid fellows.”
“Well, there’s nothing for us now but to kiss and be friends,” Vronsky said, with good-natured playfulness, holding out his hand.
Levin quickly took the offered hand, and pressed it warmly.
“I’m very, very glad,” said Levin.
“Waiter, a bottle of champagne,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“And I’m very glad,” said Vronsky.
But in spite of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s desire, and their own desire, they had nothing to talk about, and both felt it.
“Do you know, he has never met Anna?” Stepan Arkadyevitch said to Vronsky. “And I want above everything to take him to see her. Let us go, Levin!”
“Really?” said Vronsky. “She will be very glad to see you. I should be going home at once,” he added, “but I’m worried about Yashvin, and I want to stay on till he finishes.”
“Why, is he losing?”
“He keeps losing, and I’m the only friend that can restrain him.”
“Well, what do you say to pyramids? Levin, will you play? Capital!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Get the table ready,” he said to the marker.
“It has been ready a long while,” answered the marker, who had already set the balls in a triangle, and was knocking the red one about for his own diversion.
“Well, let us begin.”
After the game Vronsky and Levin sat down at Gagin’s table, and at Stepan Arkadyevitch’s suggestion Levin took a hand in the game.
Vronsky sat down at the table, surrounded by friends, who were incessantly coming up to him. Every now and then he went to the “infernal” to keep an eye on Yashvin. Levin was enjoying a delightful sense of repose after the mental fatigue of the morning. He was glad that all hostility was at an end with Vronsky, and the sense of peace, decorum, and comfort never left him.
When the game was over, Stepan Arkadyevitch took Levin’s arm.
“Well, let us go to Anna’s, then. At once? Eh? She is at home. I promised her long ago to bring you. Where were you meaning to spend the evening?”
“Oh, nowhere specially. I promised Sviazhsky to go to the Society of Agriculture. By all means, let us go,” said Levin.
“Very good; come along. Find out if my carriage is here,” Stepan Arkadyevitch said to the waiter.
Levin went up to the table, paid the forty roubles he had lost; paid his bill, the amount of which was in some mysterious way ascertained by the little old waiter who stood at the counter, and swinging his arms he walked through all the rooms to the way out.
“Oblonsky’s carriage!” the porter shouted in an angry bass. The carriage drove up and both got in. It was only for the first few moments, while the carriage was driving out of the clubhouse gates, that Levin was still under the influence of the club atmosphere of repose, comfort, and unimpeachable good form. But as soon as the carriage drove out into the street, and he felt it jolting over the uneven road, heard the angry shout of a sledge driver coming towards them, saw in the uncertain light the red blind of a tavern and the shops, this impression was dissipated, and he began to think over his actions, and to wonder whether he was doing right in going to see Anna. What would Kitty say? But Stepan Arkadyevitch gave him no time for reflection, and, as though divining his doubts, he scattered them.
“How glad I am,” he said, “that you should know her! You know Dolly has long wished for it. And Lvov’s been to see her, and often goes. Though she is my sister,” Stepan Arkadyevitch pursued, “I don’t hesitate to say that she’s a remarkable woman. But you will see. Her position is very painful, especially now.”
“Why especially now?”
“We are carrying on negotiations with her husband about a divorce. And he’s agreed; but there are difficulties in regard to the son, and the business, which ought to have been arranged long ago, has been dragging on for three months past. As soon as the divorce is over, she will marry Vronsky. How stupid these old ceremonies are, that no one believes in, and which only prevent people being comfortable!” Stepan Arkadyevitch put in. “Well, then their position will be as regular as mine, as yours.”
“What is the difficulty?” said Levin.
“Oh, it’s a long and tedious story! The whole business is in such an anomalous position with us. But the point is she has been for three months in Moscow, where everyone knows her, waiting for the divorce; she goes out nowhere, sees no woman except Dolly, because, do you understand, she doesn’t care to have people come as a favor. That fool Princess Varvara, even she has left her, considering this a breach of propriety. Well, you see, in such a position any other woman would not have found resources in herself. But you’ll see how she has arranged her life—how calm, how dignified she is. To the left, in the crescent opposite the church!” shouted Stepan Arkadyevitch, leaning out of the window. “Phew! how hot it is!” he said, in spite of twelve degrees of frost, flinging his open overcoat still wider open.
“But she has a daughter: no doubt she’s busy looking after her?” said Levin.
“I believe you picture every woman simply as a female, une couveuse,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “If she’s occupied, it must be with her children. No, she brings her up capitally, I believe, but one doesn’t hear about her. She’s busy, in the first place, with what she writes. I see you’re smiling ironically, but you’re wrong. She’s writing a children’s book, and doesn’t talk about it to anyone, but she read it to me and I gave the manuscript to Vorkuev ... you know the publisher ... and he’s an author himself too, I fancy. He understands those things, and he says it’s a remarkable piece of work. But are you fancying she’s an authoress?—not a bit of it. She’s a woman with a heart, before everything, but you’ll see. Now she has a little English girl with her, and a whole family she’s looking after.”
“Oh, something in a philanthropic way?”
“Why, you will look at everything in the worst light. It’s not from philanthropy, it’s from the heart. They—that is, Vronsky—had a trainer, an Englishman, first-rate in his own line, but a drunkard. He’s completely given up to drink—delirium tremens—and the family were cast on the world. She saw them, helped them, got more and more interested in them, and now the whole family is on her hands. But not by way of patronage, you know, helping with money; she’s herself preparing the boys in Russian for the high school, and she’s taken the little girl to live with her. But you’ll see her for yourself.”
The carriage drove into the courtyard, and Stepan Arkadyevitch rang loudly at the entrance where sledges were standing.
And without asking the servant who opened the door whether the lady were at home, Stepan Arkadyevitch walked into the hall. Levin followed him, more and more doubtful whether he was doing right or wrong.
Looking at himself in the glass, Levin noticed that he was red in the face, but he felt certain he was not drunk, and he followed Stepan Arkadyevitch up the carpeted stairs. At the top Stepan Arkadyevitch inquired of the footman, who bowed to him as to an intimate friend, who was with Anna Arkadyevna, and received the answer that it was M. Vorkuev.
“Where are they?”
“In the study.”
Passing through the dining-room, a room not very large, with dark, paneled walls, Stepan Arkadyevitch and Levin walked over the soft carpet to the half-dark study, lighted up by a single lamp with a big dark shade. Another lamp with a reflector was hanging on the wall, lighting up a big full-length portrait of a woman, which Levin could not help looking at. It was the portrait of Anna, painted in Italy by Mihailov. While Stepan Arkadyevitch went behind the treillage, and the man’s voice which had been speaking paused, Levin gazed at the portrait, which stood out from the frame in the brilliant light thrown on it, and he could not tear himself away from it. He positively forgot where he was, and not even hearing what was said, he could not take his eyes off the marvelous portrait. It was not a picture, but a living, charming woman, with black curling hair, with bare arms and shoulders, with a pensive smile on the lips, covered with soft down; triumphantly and softly she looked at him with eyes that baffled him. She was not living only because she was more beautiful than a living woman can be.
“I am delighted!” He heard suddenly near him a voice, unmistakably addressing him, the voice of the very woman he had been admiring in the portrait. Anna had come from behind the treillage to meet him, and Levin saw in the dim light of the study the very woman of the portrait, in a dark blue shot gown, not in the same position nor with the same expression, but with the same perfection of beauty which the artist had caught in the portrait. She was less dazzling in reality, but, on the other hand, there was something fresh and seductive in the living woman which was not in the portrait.
She had risen to meet him, not concealing her pleasure at seeing him; and in the quiet ease with which she held out her little vigorous hand, introduced him to Vorkuev and indicated a red-haired, pretty little girl who was sitting at work, calling her her pupil, Levin recognized and liked the manners of a woman of the great world, always self-possessed and natural.
“I am delighted, delighted,” she repeated, and on her lips these simple words took for Levin’s ears a special significance. “I have known you and liked you for a long while, both from your friendship with Stiva and for your wife’s sake.... I knew her for a very short time, but she left on me the impression of an exquisite flower, simply a flower. And to think she will soon be a mother!”
She spoke easily and without haste, looking now and then from Levin to her brother, and Levin felt that the impression he was making was good, and he felt immediately at home, simple and happy with her, as though he had known her from childhood.
“Ivan Petrovitch and I settled in Alexey’s study,” she said in answer to Stepan Arkadyevitch’s question whether he might smoke, “just so as to be able to smoke”—and glancing at Levin, instead of asking whether he would smoke, she pulled closer a tortoise-shell cigar-case and took a cigarette.
“How are you feeling today?” her brother asked her.
“Oh, nothing. Nerves, as usual.”
“Yes, isn’t it extraordinarily fine?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, noticing that Levin was scrutinizing the picture.
“I have never seen a better portrait.”
“And extraordinarily like, isn’t it?” said Vorkuev.
Levin looked from the portrait to the original. A peculiar brilliance lighted up Anna’s face when she felt his eyes on her. Levin flushed, and to cover his confusion would have asked whether she had seen Darya Alexandrovna lately; but at that moment Anna spoke. “We were just talking, Ivan Petrovitch and I, of Vashtchenkov’s last pictures. Have you seen them?”
“Yes, I have seen them,” answered Levin.
“But, I beg your pardon, I interrupted you ... you were saying?...”
Levin asked if she had seen Dolly lately.
“She was here yesterday. She was very indignant with the high school people on Grisha’s account. The Latin teacher, it seems, had been unfair to him.”
“Yes, I have seen his pictures. I didn’t care for them very much,” Levin went back to the subject she had started.
Levin talked now not at all with that purely businesslike attitude to the subject with which he had been talking all the morning. Every word in his conversation with her had a special significance. And talking to her was pleasant; still pleasanter it was to listen to her.
Anna talked not merely naturally and cleverly, but cleverly and carelessly, attaching no value to her own ideas and giving great weight to the ideas of the person she was talking to.
The conversation turned on the new movement in art, on the new illustrations of the Bible by a French artist. Vorkuev attacked the artist for a realism carried to the point of coarseness.
Levin said that the French had carried conventionality further than anyone, and that consequently they see a great merit in the return to realism. In the fact of not lying they see poetry.
Never had anything clever said by Levin given him so much pleasure as this remark. Anna’s face lighted up at once, as at once she appreciated the thought. She laughed.
“I laugh,” she said, “as one laughs when one sees a very true portrait. What you said so perfectly hits off French art now, painting and literature too, indeed—Zola, Daudet. But perhaps it is always so, that men form their conceptions from fictitious, conventional types, and then—all the combinaisons made—they are tired of the fictitious figures and begin to invent more natural, true figures.”
“That’s perfectly true,” said Vorknev.
“So you’ve been at the club?” she said to her brother.
“Yes, yes, this is a woman!” Levin thought, forgetting himself and staring persistently at her lovely, mobile face, which at that moment was all at once completely transformed. Levin did not hear what she was talking of as she leaned over to her brother, but he was struck by the change of her expression. Her face—so handsome a moment before in its repose—suddenly wore a look of strange curiosity, anger, and pride. But this lasted only an instant. She dropped her eyelids, as though recollecting something.
“Oh, well, but that’s of no interest to anyone,” she said, and she turned to the English girl.
“Please order the tea in the drawing-room,” she said in English.
The girl got up and went out.
“Well, how did she get through her examination?” asked Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Splendidly! She’s a very gifted child and a sweet character.”
“It will end in your loving her more than your own.”
“There a man speaks. In love there’s no more nor less. I love my daughter with one love, and her with another.”
“I was just telling Anna Arkadyevna,” said Vorkuev, “that if she were to put a hundredth part of the energy she devotes to this English girl to the public question of the education of Russian children, she would be doing a great and useful work.”
“Yes, but I can’t help it; I couldn’t do it. Count Alexey Kirillovitch urged me very much” (as she uttered the words Count Alexey Kirillovitch she glanced with appealing timidity at Levin, and he unconsciously responded with a respectful and reassuring look); “he urged me to take up the school in the village. I visited it several times. The children were very nice, but I could not feel drawn to the work. You speak of energy. Energy rests upon love; and come as it will, there’s no forcing it. I took to this child—I could not myself say why.”
And she glanced again at Levin. And her smile and her glance—all told him that it was to him only she was addressing her words, valuing his good opinion, and at the same time sure beforehand that they understood each other.
“I quite understand that,” Levin answered. “It’s impossible to give one’s heart to a school or such institutions in general, and I believe that’s just why philanthropic institutions always give such poor results.”
She was silent for a while, then she smiled.
“Yes, yes,” she agreed; “I never could. Je n’ai pas le cœur assez large to love a whole asylum of horrid little girls. Cela ne m’a jamais réussi. There are so many women who have made themselves une position sociale in that way. And now more than ever,” she said with a mournful, confiding expression, ostensibly addressing her brother, but unmistakably intending her words only for Levin, “now when I have such need of some occupation, I cannot.” And suddenly frowning (Levin saw that she was frowning at herself for talking about herself) she changed the subject. “I know about you,” she said to Levin; “that you’re not a public-spirited citizen, and I have defended you to the best of my ability.”
“How have you defended me?”
“Oh, according to the attacks made on you. But won’t you have some tea?” She rose and took up a book bound in morocco.
“Give it to me, Anna Arkadyevna,” said Vorkuev, indicating the book. “It’s well worth taking up.”
“Oh, no, it’s all so sketchy.”
“I told him about it,” Stepan Arkadyevitch said to his sister, nodding at Levin.
“You shouldn’t have. My writing is something after the fashion of those little baskets and carving which Liza Mertsalova used to sell me from the prisons. She had the direction of the prison department in that society,” she turned to Levin; “and they were miracles of patience, the work of those poor wretches.”
And Levin saw a new trait in this woman, who attracted him so extraordinarily. Besides wit, grace, and beauty, she had truth. She had no wish to hide from him all the bitterness of her position. As she said that she sighed, and her face suddenly taking a hard expression, looked as it were turned to stone. With that expression on her face she was more beautiful than ever; but the expression was new; it was utterly unlike that expression, radiant with happiness and creating happiness, which had been caught by the painter in her portrait. Levin looked more than once at the portrait and at her figure, as taking her brother’s arm she walked with him to the high doors and he felt for her a tenderness and pity at which he wondered himself.
She asked Levin and Vorkuev to go into the drawing-room, while she stayed behind to say a few words to her brother. “About her divorce, about Vronsky, and what he’s doing at the club, about me?” wondered Levin. And he was so keenly interested by the question of what she was saying to Stepan Arkadyevitch, that he scarcely heard what Vorkuev was telling him of the qualities of the story for children Anna Arkadyevna had written.
At tea the same pleasant sort of talk, full of interesting matter, continued. There was not a single instant when a subject for conversation was to seek; on the contrary, it was felt that one had hardly time to say what one had to say, and eagerly held back to hear what the others were saying. And all that was said, not only by her, but by Vorkuev and Stepan Arkadyevitch—all, so it seemed to Levin, gained peculiar significance from her appreciation and her criticism. While he followed this interesting conversation, Levin was all the time admiring her—her beauty, her intelligence, her culture, and at the same time her directness and genuine depth of feeling. He listened and talked, and all the while he was thinking of her inner life, trying to divine her feelings. And though he had judged her so severely hitherto, now by some strange chain of reasoning he was justifying her and was also sorry for her, and afraid that Vronsky did not fully understand her. At eleven o’clock, when Stepan Arkadyevitch got up to go (Vorkuev had left earlier), it seemed to Levin that he had only just come. Regretfully Levin too rose.
“Good-bye,” she said, holding his hand and glancing into his face with a winning look. “I am very glad que la glace est rompue.”
She dropped his hand, and half closed her eyes.
“Tell your wife that I love her as before, and that if she cannot pardon me my position, then my wish for her is that she may never pardon it. To pardon it, one must go through what I have gone through, and may God spare her that.”
“Certainly, yes, I will tell her....” Levin said, blushing.