Anna Karenina (Part One – Chapter 21-25)
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 by 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. Korsunky 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 yo 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 asker 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-a-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 round, and then into the chaine, 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 have 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 had. 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 hose 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 mor at your ball in Moscow that 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 be hatful, 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? Whom am I and what am I? A nobody, not wanted by any one, 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 it 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 naively 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 fact.
“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 any one 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 cheek bones.
“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 scarred 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 touch 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.