Anna Karenina ( Part 4 – Chapter 6-10)
Alexey Alexandrovitch had gained a brilliant victory at the sitting of the Commission of the 17th of August, but in the sequel this victory cut the ground from under his feet. The new commission for the inquiry into the condition of the native tribes in all its branches had been formed and despatched to its destination with an unusual speed and energy inspired by Alexey Alexandrovitch. Within three months a report was presented. The condition of the native tribes was investigated in its political, administrative, economic, ethnographic, material, and religious aspects. To all these questions there were answers admirably stated, and answers admitting no shade of doubt, since they were not a product of human thought, always liable to error, but were all the product of official activity. The answers were all based on official data furnished by governors and heads of churches, and founded on the reports of district magistrates and ecclesiastical superintendents, founded in their turn on the reports of parochial overseers and parish priests; and so all of these answers were unhesitating and certain. All such questions as, for instance, of the cause of failure of crops, of the adherence of certain tribes to their ancient beliefs, etc.– questions which, but for the convenient intervention of the official machine, are not, and cannot be solved for ages– received full, unhesitating solution. And this solution was in favor of Alexey Alexandrovitch’s contention. But Stremov, who had felt stung to the quick at the last sitting, had, on the reception of the commission’s report, resorted to tactics which Alexey Alexandrovitch had not anticipated. Stremov, carrying with him several members, went over to Alexey Alexandrovitch’s side, and not contenting himself with warmly defending the measure proposed by Karenin, proposed other more extreme measures in the same direction. These measures, still further exaggerated in opposition to what was Alexey Alexandrovitch’s fundamental idea, were passed by the commission, and then the aim of Stremov’s tactics became apparent. Carried to an extreme, the measures seemed at once to be so absurd that the highest authorities, and public opinion, and intellectual ladies, and the newspapers, all at the same time fell foul of them, expressing their indignation both with the measures and their nominal father, Alexey Alexandrovitch. Stremov drew back, affecting to have blindly followed Karenin, and to be astounded and distressed at what had been done. This meant the defeat of Alexey Alexandrovitch. But in spite of failing health, in spite of his domestic griefs, he did not give in. There was a split in the commission. Some members, with Stremov at their head, justified their mistake on the ground that they had put faith in the commission of revision, instituted by Alexey Alexandrovitch, and maintained that the report of the commission was rubbish, and simply so much waste paper. Alexey Alexandrovitch, with a following of those who saw the danger of so revolutionary an attitude to official documents, persisted in upholding the statements obtained by the revising commission. In consequence of this, in the higher spheres, and even in society, all was chaos, and although everyone was interested, no one could tell whether the native tribes really were becoming impoverished and ruined, or whether they were in a flourishing condition. The position of Alexey Alexandrovitch, owing to this, and partly owing to the contempt lavished on him for his wife’s infidelity, became very precarious. And in this position he took an important resolution. To the astonishment of the commission, he announced that he should ask permission to go himself to investigate the question on the spot. And having obtained permission, Alexey Alexandrovitch prepared to set off to these remote provinces.
Alexey Alexandrovitch’s departure made a great sensation, the more so as just before he started he officially returned the posting-fares allowed him for twelve horses, to drive to his destination.
“I think it very noble,” Betsy said about this to the Princess Myakaya. “Why take money for posting-horses when everyone knows that there are railways everywhere now?”
But Princess Myakaya did not agree, and the Princess Tverskaya’s opinion annoyed her indeed.
“It’s all very well for you to talk,” said she, “when you have I don’t know how many millions; but I am very glad when my husband goes on a revising tour in the summer. It’s very good for him and pleasant traveling about, and it’s a settled arrangement for me to keep a carriage and coachman on the money.”
On his way to the remote provinces Alexey Alexandrovitch stopped for three days at Moscow.
The day after his arrival he was driving back from calling on the governor-general. At the crossroads by Gazetoy Place, where there are always crowds of carriages and sledges, Alexey Alexandrovitch suddenly heard his name called out in such a loud and cheerful voice that he could not help looking round. At the corner of the pavement, in a short, stylish overcoat and a low-crowned fashionable hat, jauntily askew, with a smile that showed a gleam of white teeth and red lips, stood Stepan Arkadyevitch, radiant, young, and beaming. He called him vigorously and urgently, and insisted on his stopping. He had one arm on the window of a carriage that was stopping at the corner, and out of the window were thrust the heads of a lady in a velvet hat, and two children. Stepan Arkadyevitch was smiling and beckoning to his brother-in-law. The lady smiled a kindly smile too, and she too waved her hand to Alexey Alexandrovitch. It was Dolly with her children.
Alexey Alexandrovitch did not want to see anyone in Moscow, and least of all his wife’s brother. He raised his hat and would have driven on, but Stepan Arkadyevitch told his coachman to stop, and ran across the snow to him.
“Well, what a shame not to have let us know! Been here long? I was at Dussot’s yesterday and saw ‘Karenin’ on the visitors’ list, but it never entered my head that it was you,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, sticking his head in at the window of the carriage, “or I should have looked you up. I am glad to see you!” he said, knocking one foot against the other to shake the snow off. “What a shame of you not to let us know!” he repeated.
“I had no time; I am very busy,” Alexey Alexandrovitch responded dryly.
“Come to my wife, she does so want to see you.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch unfolded the rug in which his frozen feet were wrapped, and getting out of his carriage made his way over the snow to Darya Alexandrovna.
“Why, Alexey Alexandrovitch, what are you cutting us like this for?” said Dolly, smiling.
“I was very busy. Delighted to see you!” he said in a tone clearly indicating that he was annoyed by it. “How are you?”
“Tell me, how is my darling Anna?”
Alexey Alexandrovitch mumbled something and would have gone on. But Stepan Arkadyevitch stopped him.
“I tell you what we’ll do tomorrow. Dolly, ask him to dinner. We’ll ask Koznishev and Pestsov, so as to entertain him with our Moscow celebrities.”
“Yes, please, do come,” said Dolly; “we will expect you at five, or six o’clock, if you like. How is my darling Anna? How long…”
“She is quite well,” Alexey Alexandrovitch mumbled, frowning. “Delighted!” and he moved away towards his carriage.
“You will come?” Dolly called after him.
Alexey Alexandrovitch said something which Dolly could not catch in the noise of the moving carriages.
“I shall come round tomorrow!” Stepan Arkadyevitch shouted to him.
Alexey Alexandrovitch got into his carriage, and buried himself in it so as neither to see nor be seen.
“Queer fish!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch to his wife, and glancing at his watch, he made a motion of his hand before his face, indicating a caress to his wife and children, and walked jauntily along the pavement.
“Stiva! Stiva!” Dolly called, reddening.
He turned round.
“I must get coats, you know, for Grisha and Tanya. Give me the money.”
“Never mind; you tell them I’ll pay the bill!” and he vanished, nodding genially to an acquaintance who drove by.
The next day was Sunday. Stepan Arkadyevitch went to the Grand Theater to a rehearsal of the ballet, and gave Masha Tchibisova, a pretty dancing-girl whom he had just taken under his protection, the coral necklace he had promised her the evening before, and behind the scenes in the dim daylight of the theater, managed to kiss her pretty little face, radiant over her present. Besides the gift of the necklace he wanted to arrange with her about meeting after the ballet. After explaining that he could not come at the beginning of the ballet, he promised he would come for the last act and take her to supper. From the theater Stepan Arkadyevitch drove to Ohotny Row, selected himself the fish and asparagus for dinner, and by twelve o’clock was at Dussot’s, where he had to see three people, luckily all staying at the same hotel: Levin, who had recently come back from abroad and was staying there; the new head of his department, who had just been promoted to that position, and had come on a tour of revision to Moscow; and his brother-in-law, Karenin, whom he must see, so as to be sure of bringing him to dinner.
Stepan Arkadyevitch liked dining, but still better he liked to give a dinner, small, but very choice, both as regards the food and drink and as regards the selection of guests. He particularly liked the program of that day’s dinner. There would be fresh perch, asparagus, and la piece de resistance– first-rate, but quite plain, roast beef, and wines to suit: so much for the eating and drinking. Kitty and Levin would be of the party, and that this might not be obtrusively evident, there would be a girl cousin too, and young Shtcherbatsky, and la piece de resistance among the guests–Sergey Koznishev and Alexey Alexandrovitch. Sergey Ivanovitch was a Moscow man, and a philosopher; Alexey Alexandrovitch a Petersburger, and a practical politician. He was asking, too, the well-known eccentric enthusiast, Pestsov, a liberal, a great talker, a musician, an historian, and the most delightfully youthful person of fifty, who would be a sauce or garnish for Koznishev and Karenin. He would provoke them and set them off.
The second installment for the forest had been received from the merchant and was not yet exhausted; Dolly had been very amiable and goodhumored of late, and the idea of the dinner pleased Stepan Arkadyevitch from every point of view. He was in the most light-hearted mood. There were two circumstances a little unpleasant, but these two circumstances were drowned in the sea of good-humored gaiety which flooded the soul of Stepan Arkadyevitch. These two circumstances were: first, that on meeting Alexey Alexandrovitch the day before in the street he had noticed that he was cold and reserved with him, and putting the expression of Alexey Alexandrovitch’s face and the fact that he had not come to see them or let them know of his arrival with the rumors he had heard about Anna and Vronsky, Stepan Arkadyevitch guessed that something was wrong between the husband and wife.
That was one disagreeable thing. The other slightly disagreeable fact was that the new head of his department, like all new heads, had the reputation already of a terrible person, who got up at six o’clock in the morning, worked like a horse, and insisted on his subordinates working in the same way. Moreover, this new head had the further reputation of being a bear in his manners, and was, according to all reports, a man of a class in all respects the opposite of that to which his predecessor had belonged, and to which Stepan Arkadyevitch had hitherto belonged himself. On the previous day Stepan Arkadyevitch had appeared at the office in a uniform, and the new chief had been very affable and had talked to him as to an acquaintance. Consequently Stepan Arkadyevitch deemed it his duty to call upon him in his non-official dress. The thought that the new chief might not tender him a warm reception was the other unpleasant thing. But Stepan Arkadyevitch instinctively felt that everything would come round all right. “They’re all people, all men, like us poor sinners; why be nasty and quarrelsome?” he thought as he went into the hotel.
“Good-day, Vassily,” he said, walking into the corridor with his hat cocked on one side, and addressing a footman he knew; “why, you’ve let your whiskers grow! Levin, number seven, eh? Take me up, please. And find out whether Count Anitchkin” (this was the new head) “is receiving.”
“Yes, sir,” Vassily responded, smiling. “You’ve not been to see us for a long while.”
“I was here yesterday, but at the other entrance. Is this number seven?”
Levin was standing with a peasant from Tver in the middle of the room, measuring a fresh bearskin, when Stepan Arkadyevitch went in.
“What! you killed him?” cried Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Well done! A she-bear? How are you, Arhip!”
He shook hands with the peasant and sat down on the edge of a chair, without taking off his coat and hat.
“Come, take off your coat and stay a little,” said Levin, taking his hat.
“No, I haven’t time; I’ve only looked in for a tiny second,” answered Stepan Arkadyevitch. He threw open his coat, but afterwards did take it off, and sat on for a whole hour, talking to Levin about hunting and the most intimate subjects.
“Come, tell me, please, what you did abroad? Where have you been?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, when the peasant had gone.
“Oh, I stayed in Germany, in Prussia, in France, and in England– not in the capitals, but in the manufacturing towns, and saw a great deal that was new to me. And I’m glad I went.”
“Yes, I knew your idea of the solution of the labor question.”
“Not a bit: in Russia there can be no labor question. In Russia the question is that of the relation of the working people to the land; though the question exists there too–but there it’s a matter of repairing what’s been ruined, while with us…”
Stepan Arkadyevitch listened attentively to Levin.
“Yes, yes!” he said, “it’s very possible you’re right. But I’m glad you’re in good spirits, and are hunting bears, and working, and interested. Shtcherbatsky told me another story–he met you–that you were in such a depressed state, talking of nothing but death….”
“Well, what of it? I’ve not given up thinking of death,” said Levin. “It’s true that it’s high time I was dead; and that all this is nonsense. It’s the truth I’m telling you. I do value my idea and my work awfully; but in reality only consider this: all this world of ours is nothing but a speck of mildew, which has grown up on a tiny planet. And for us to suppose we can have something great–ideas, work–it’s all dust and ashes.”
“But all that’s as old as the hills, my boy!”
“It is old; but do you know, when you grasp this fully, then somehow everything becomes of no consequence. When you understand that you will die tomorrow, if not today, and nothing will be left, then everything is so unimportant! And I consider my idea very important, but it turns out really to be as unimportant too, even if it were carried out, as doing for that bear. So one goes on living, amusing oneself with hunting, with work–anything so as not to think of death!”
Stepan Arkadyevitch smiled a subtle affectionate smile as he listened to Levin.
“Well, of course! Here you’ve come round to my point. Do you remember you attacked me for seeking enjoyment in life? Don’t be so severe, O moralist!”
“No; all the same, what’s fine in life is…” Levin hesitated– “oh, I don’t know. All I know is that we shall soon be dead.”
“Why so soon?”
“And do you know, there’s less charm in life, when one thinks of death, but there’s more peace.”
“On the contrary, the finish is always the best. But I must be going,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting up for the tenth time.
“Oh, no, stay a bit!” said Levin, keeping him. “Now, when shall we see each other again? I’m going tomorrow.”
“I’m a nice person! Why, that’s just what I came for! You simply must come to dinner with us today. Your brother’s coming, and Karenin, my brother-in-law.”
“You don’t mean to say he’s here?” said Levin, and he wanted to inquire about Kitty. He had heard at the beginning of the winter that she was at Petersburg with her sister, the wife of the diplomat, and he did not know whether she had come back or not; but he changed his mind and did not ask. “Whether she’s coming or not, I don’t care,” he said to himself.
“So you’ll come?”
“At five o’clock, then, and not evening dress.”
And Stepan Arkadyevitch got up and went down below to the new head of his department. Istinct had not misled Stepan Arkadyevitch. The terrible new head turned out to be an extremely amenable person, and Stepan Arkadyevitch lunched with him and stayed on, so that it was four o’clock before he got to Alexey Alexandrovitch.
Alexey Alexandrovitch, on coming back from church service, had spent the whole morning indoors. He had two pieces of business before him that morning; first, to receive and send on a deputation from the native tribes which was on its way to Petersburg, and now at Moscow; secondly, to write the promised letter to the lawyer. The deputation, though it had been summoned at Alexey Alexandrovitch’s instigation, was not without its discomforting and even dangerous aspect, and he was glad he had found it in Moscow. The members of this deputation had not the slightest conception of their duty and the part they were to play. They naively believed that it was their business to lay before the commission their needs and the actual condition of things, and to ask assistance of the government, and utterly failed to grasp that some of their statements and requests supported the contention of the enemy’s side, and so spoiled the whole business. Alexey Alexandrovitch was busily engaged with them for a long while, drew up a program for them from which they were not to depart, and on dismissing them wrote a letter to Petersburg for the guidance of the deputation. He had his chief support in this affair in the Countess Lidia Ivanovna. She was a specialist in the matter of deputations, and no one knew better than she how to manage them, and put them in the way they should go. Having completed this task, Alexey Alexandrovitch wrote the letter to the lawyer. Without the slightest hesitation he gave him permission to act as he might judge best. In the letter he enclosed three of Vronsky’s notes to Anna, which were in the portfolio he had taken away.
Since Alexey Alexandrovitch had left home with the intention of not returning to his family again, and since he had been at the lawyer’s and had spoken, though only to one man, of his intention, since especially he had translated the matter from the world of real life to the world of ink and paper, he had grown more and more used to his own intention, and by now distinctly perceived the feasibility of its execution.
He was sealing the envelope to the lawyer, when he heard the loud tones of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s voice. Stepan Arkadyevitch was disputing with Alexey Alexandrovitch’s servant, and insisting on being announced.
“No matter,” thought Alexey Alexandrovitch, “so much the better. I will inform him at once of my position in regard to his sister, and explain why it is I can’t dine with him.”
“Come in!” he said aloud, collecting his papers, and putting them in the blotting-paper.
“There, you see, you’re talking nonsense, and he’s at home!” responded Stepan Arkadyevitch’s voice, addressing the servant, who had refused to let him in, and taking off his coat as he went, Oblonsky walked into the room. “Well, I’m awfully glad I’ve found you! So I hope…” Stepan Arkadyevitch began cheerfully.
“I cannot come,” Alexey Alexandrovitch said coldly, standing and not asking his visitor to sit down.
Alexey Alexandrovitch had thought to pass at once into those frigid relations in which he ought to stand with the brother of a wife against whom he was beginning a suit for divorce. But he had not taken into account the ocean of kindliness brimming over in the heart of Stepan Arkadyevitch.
Stepan Arkadyevitch opened wide his clear, shining eyes.
“Why can’t you? What do you mean?” he asked in perplexity, speaking in French. “Oh, but it’s a promise. And we’re all counting on you.”
“I want to tell you that I can’t dine at your house, because the terms of relationship which have existed between us must cease.”
“How? How do you mean? What for?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with a smile.
“Because I am beginning an action for divorce against your sister, my wife. I ought to have…”
But, before Alexey Alexandrovitch had time to finish his sentence, Stepan Arkadyevitch was behaving not at all as he had expected. He groaned and sank into an armchair.
“No, Alexey Alexandrovitch! What are you saying?” cried Oblonsky, and his suffering was apparent in his face.
“It is so.”
“Excuse me, I can’t, I can’t believe it!”
Alexey Alexandrovitch sat down, feeling that his words had not had the effect he anticipated, and that it would be unavoidable for him to explain his position, and that, whatever explanations he might make, his relations with his brother-in-law would remain unchanged.
“Yes, I am brought to the painful necessity of seeking a divorce,” he said.
“I will say one thing, Alexey Alexandrovitch. I know you for an excellent, upright man; I know Anna–excuse me, I can’t change my opinion of her–for a good, an excellent woman; and so, excuse me, I cannot believe it. There is some misunderstanding,” said he.
“Oh, if it were merely a misunderstanding!…”
“Pardon, I understand,” interposed Stepan Arkadyevitch. “But of course…. One thing: you must not act in haste. You must not, you must not act in haste!”
“I am not acting in haste,” Alexey Alexandrovitch said coldly, “but one cannot ask advice of anyone in such a matter. I have quite made up my mind.
“This is awful!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “I would do one thing, Alexey Alexandrovitch. I beseech you, do it!” he said. “No action has yet been taken, if I understand rightly. Before you take advice, see my wife, talk to her. She loves Anna like a sister, she loves you, and she’s a wonderful woman. For God’s sake, talk to her! Do me that favor, I beseech you!”
Alexey Alexandrovitch pondered, and Stepan Arkadyevitch looked at him sympathetically, without interrupting his silence.
“You will go to see her?”
“I don’t know. That was just why I have not been to see you. I imagine our relations must change.”
“Why so? I don’t see that. Allow me to believe that apart from our connection you have for me, at least in part, the same friendly feeling I have always had for you…and sincere esteem,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, pressing his hand. “Even if your worst suppositions were correct, I don’t–and never would–take on myself to judge either side, and I see no reason why our relations should be affected. But now, do this, come and see my wife.”
“Well, we look at the matter differently,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch coldly. “However, we won’t discuss it.”
“No; why shouldn’t you come today to dine, anyway? My wife’s expecting you. Please, do come. And, above all, talk it over with her. She’s a wonderful woman. For God’s sake, on my knees, I implore you!”
“If you so much wish it, I will come,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, sighing.
And, anxious to change the conversation, he inquired about what interested them both–the new head of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s department, a man not yet old, who had suddenly been promoted to so high a position.
Alexey Alexandrovitch had previously felt no liking for Count Anitchkin, and had always differed from him in his opinions. But now, from a feeling readily comprehensible to officials–that hatred felt by one who has suffered a defeat in the service for one who has received a promotion, he could not endure him.
“Well, have you seen him?” said Alexey Alexandrovitch with a malignant smile.
“Of course; he was at our sitting yesterday. He seems to know his work capitally, and to be very energetic.”
“Yes, but what is his energy directed to?” said Alexey Alexandrovitch. “Is he aiming at doing anything, or simply undoing what’s been done? It’s the great misfortune of our government–this paper administration, of which he’s a worthy representative.”
“Really, I don’t know what fault one could find with him. His policy I don’t know, but one thing–he’s a very nice fellow,” answered Stepan Arkadyevitch. “I’ve just been seeing him, and he’s really a capital fellow. We lunched together, and I taught him how to make, you know that drink, wine and oranges. It’s so cooling. And it’s a wonder he didn’t know it. He liked it awfully. No, really he’s a capital fellow.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch glanced at his watch.
“Why, good heavens, it’s four already, and I’ve still to go to Dolgovushin’s! So please come round to dinner. You can’t imagine how you will grieve my wife and me.”
The way in which Alexey Alexandrovitch saw his brother-in-law out was very different from the manner in which he had met him.
“I’ve promised, and I’ll come,” he answered wearily.
“Believe me, I appreciate it, and I hope you won’t regret it,” answered Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling.
And, putting on his coat as he went, he patted the footman on the head, chuckled, and went out.
“At five o’clock, and not evening dress, please,” he shouted once more, turning at the door.
It was past five, and several guests had already arrived, before the host himself got home. He went in together with Sergey Ivanovitch Koznishev and Pestsov, who had reached the street door at the same moment. These were the two leading representatives of the Moscow intellectuals, as Oblonsky had called them. Both were men respected for their character and their intelligence. They respected each other, but were in complete and hopeless disagreement upon almost every subject, not because they belonged to opposite parties, but precisely because they were of the same party (their enemies refused to see any distinction between their views); but, in that party, each had his own special shade of opinion. And since no difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions, they never agreed in any opinion, and had long, indeed, been accustomed to jeer without anger, each at the other’s incorrigible aberrations.
They were just going in at the door, talking of the weather, when Stepan Arkadyevitch overtook them. In the drawing room there were already sitting Prince Alexander Dmitrievitch Shtcherbatsky, young Shtcherbatsky, Turovtsin, Kitty, and Karenin.
Stepan Arkadyevitch saw immediately that things were not going well in the drawing-room without him. Darya Alexandrovna, in her best gray silk gown, obviously worried about the children, who were to have their dinner by themselves in the nursery, and by her husband’s absence, was not equal to the task of making the party mix without him. All were sitting like so many priests’ wives on a visit (so the old prince expressed it), obviously wondering why they were there, and pumping up remarks simply to avoid being silent. Turovtsin–good, simple man–felt unmistakably a fish out of water, and the smile with which his thick lips greeted Stepan Arkadyevitch said, as plainly as words: “Well, old boy, you have popped me down in a learned set! A drinking party now, or the Chateau des Fleurs, would be more in my line!” The old prince sat in silence, his bright little eyes watching Karenin from one side, and Stepan Arkadyevitch saw that he had already formed a phrase to sum up that politician of whom guests were invited to partake as though he were a sturgeon. Kitty was looking at the door, calling up all her energies to keep her from blushing at the entrance of Konstantin Levin. Young Shtcherbatsky, who had not been introduced to Karenin, was trying to look as though he were not in the least conscious of it. Karenin himself had followed the Petersburg fashion for a dinner with ladies and was wearing evening dress and a white tie. Stepan Arkadyevitch saw by his face that he had come simply to keep his promise, and was performing a disagreeable duty in being present at this gathering. He was indeed the person chiefly responsible for the chill benumbing all the guests before Stepan Arkadyevitch came in.
On entering the drawing room Stepan Arkadyevitch apologized, explaining that he had been detained by that prince, who was always the scapegoat for all his absences and unpunctualities, and in one moment he had made all the guests acquainted with each other, and, bringing together Alexey Alexandrovitch and Sergey Koznishev, started them on a discussion of the Russification of Poland, into which they immediately plunged with Pestsov. Slapping Turovtsin on the shoulder, he whispered something comic in his ear, and set him down by his wife and the old prince. Then he told Kitty she was looking very pretty that evening, and presented Shtcherbatsky to Karenin. In a moment he had so kneaded together the social dough that the drawing room became very lively, and there was a merry buzz of voices. Konstantin Levin was the only person who had not arrived. But this was so much the better, as going into the dining room, Stepan Arkadyevitch found to his horror that the port and sherry had been procured from Depre, and not from Levy, and, directing that the coachman should be sent off as speedily as possible to Levy’s, he was going back to the drawing room.
In the dining room he was met by Konstantin Levin.
“I’m not late?”
“You can never help being late!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, taking his arm.
“Have you a lot of people? Who’s here?” asked Levin, unable to help blushing, as he knocked the snow off his cap with his glove.
“All our own set. Kitty’s here. Come along, I’ll introduce you to Karenin.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch, for all his liberal views, was well aware that to meet Karenin was sure to be felt a flattering distinction, and so treated his best friends to this honor. But at that instant Konstantin Levin was not in a condition to feel all the gratification of making such an acquaintance. He had not seen Kitty since that memorable evening when he met Vronsky, not counting, that is, the moment when he had had a glimpse of her on the highroad. He had known at the bottom of his heart that he would see her here today. But to keep his thoughts free, he had tried to persuade himself that he did not know it. Now when he heard that she was here, he was suddenly conscious of such delight, and at the same time of such dread, that his breath failed him and he could not utter what he wanted to say.
“What is she like, what is she like? Like what she used to be, or like what she was in the carriage? What if Darya Alexandrovna told the truth? Why shouldn’t it be the truth?” he thought.
“Oh, please, introduce me to Karenin,” he brought out with an effort, and with a desperately determined step he walked into the drawing room and beheld her.
She was not the same as she used to be, nor was she as she had been in the carriage; she was quite different.
She was scared, shy, shame-faced, and still more charming from it. She saw him the very instant he walked into the room. She had been expecting him. She was delighted, and so confused at her own delight that there was a moment, the moment when he went up to her sister and glanced again at her, when she, and he, and Dolly, who saw it all, thought she would break down and would begin to cry. She crimsoned, turned white, crimsoned again, and grew faint, waiting with quivering lips for him to come to her. He went up to her, bowed, and held out his hand without speaking. Except for the slight quiver of her lips and the moisture in her eyes that made them brighter, her smile was almost calm as she said:
“How long it is since we’ve seen each other!” and with desperate determination she pressed his hand with her cold hand.
“You’ve not seen me, but I’ve seen you,” said Levin, with a radiant smile of happiness. “I saw you when you were driving from the railway station to Ergushovo.”
“When?” she asked, wondering.
“You were driving to Ergushovo,” said Levin, feeling as if he would sob with the rapture that was flooding his heart. “And how dared I associate a thought of anything not innocent with this touching creature? And, yes, I do believe it’s true what Darya Alexandrovna told me,” he thought.
Stepan Arkadyevitch took him by the arm and led him away to Karenin.
“Let me introduce you.” He mentioned their names.
“Very glad to meet you again,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch coldly, shaking hands with Levin.
“You are acquainted?” Stepan Arkadyevitch asked in surprise.
“We spent three hours together in the train,” said Levin smiling, “but got out, just as in a masquerade, quite mystified–at least I was.”
“Nonsense! Come along, please,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, pointing in the direction of the dining room.
The men went into the dining-room and went up to a table, laid with six sorts of spirits and as many kinds of cheese, some with little silver spades and some without, caviar, herrings, preserves of various kinds, and plates with slices of French bread.
The men stood round the strong-smelling spirits and salt delicacies, and the discussion of the Russification of Poland between Koznishev, Karenin, and Pestsov died down in anticipation of dinner.
Sergey Ivanovitch was unequaled in his skill in winding up the most heated and serious argument by some unexpected pinch of Attic salt that changed the disposition of his opponent. He did this now.
Alexey Alexandrovitch had been maintaining that the Russification of Poland could only be accomplished as a result of larger measures which ought to be introduced by the Russian government.
Pestsov insisted that one country can only absorb another when it is the more densely populated.
Koznishev admitted both points, but with limitations. As they were going out of the drawing room to conclude the argument, Koznishev said, smiling:
“So, then, for the Russification of our foreign populations there is but one method–to bring up as many children as one can. My brother and I are terribly in fault, I see. You married men, especially you, Stepan Arkadyevitch, are the real patriots: what number have you reached?” he said, smiling genially at their host and holding out a tiny wine glass to him.
Everyone laughed, and Stepan Arkadyevitch with particular good humor.
“Oh, yes, that’s the best method!” he said, munching cheese and filling the wine-glass with a special sort of spirit. The conversation dropped at the jest.
“This cheese is not bad. Shall I give you some?” said the master of the house. “Why, have you been going in for gymnastics again?” he asked Levin, pinching his muscle with his left hand. Levin smiled, bent his arm, and under Stepan Arkadyevitch’s fingers the muscles swelled up like a sound cheese, hard as a knob of iron, through the fine cloth of the coat.
“What biceps! A perfect Samson!”
“I imagine great strength is needed for hunting bears,” observed Alexey Alexandrovitch, who had the mistiest notions about the chase. He cut off and spread with cheese a wafer of bread fine as a spider-web.
“Not at all. Quite the contrary; a child can kill a bear,” he said, with a slight bow moving aside for the ladies, who were approaching the table.
“You have killed a bear, I’ve been told!” said Kitty, trying assiduously to catch with her fork a perverse mushroom that would slip away, and setting the lace quivering over her white arm. “Are there bears on your place?” she added, turning her charming little head to him and smiling.
There was apparently nothing extraordinary in what she said, but what unutterable meaning there was for him in every sound, in every turn of her lips, her eyes, her hand as she said it! There was entreaty for forgiveness, and trust in him, and tenderness– soft, timid tenderness–and promise and hope and love for him, which he could not but believe in and which choked him with happiness.
“No, we’ve been hunting in the Tver province. It was coming back from there that I met your beau-frere in the train, or your beau-frere’s brother-in-law,” he said with a smile. “It was an amusing meeting.”
And he began telling with droll good-humor how, after not sleeping all night, he had, wearing an old fur-lined, full-skirted coat, got into Alexey Alexandrovitch’s compartment.
“The conductor, forgetting the proverb, would have chucked me out on account of my attire; but thereupon I began expressing my feelings in elevated language, and…you, too,” he said, addressing Karenin and forgetting his name, “at first would have ejected me on the ground of the old coat, but afterwards you took my part, for which I am extremely grateful.”
“The rights of passengers generally to choose their seats are too ill-defined,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, rubbing the tips of his fingers on his handkerchief.
“I saw you were in uncertainty about me,” said Levin, smiling good-naturedly, “but I made haste to plunge into intellectual conversation to smooth over the defects of my attire.” Sergey Ivanovitch, while he kept up a conversation with their hostess, had one ear for his brother, and he glanced askance at him. “What is the matter with him today? Why such a conquering hero?” he thought. He did not know that Levin was feeling as though he had grown wings. Levin knew she was listening to his words and that she was glad to listen to him. And this was the only thing that interested him. Not in that room only, but in the whole world, there existed for him only himself, with enormously increased importance and dignity in his own eyes, and she. He felt himself on a pinnacle that made him giddy, and far away down below were all those nice excellent Karenins, Oblonskys, and all the world.
Quite without attracting notice, without glancing at them, as though there were no other places left, Stepan Arkadyevitch put Levin and Kitty side by side.
“Oh, you may as well sit there,” he said to Levin.
The dinner was as choice as the china, in which Stepan Arkadyevitch was a connoisseur. The soupe Marie-Louise was a splendid success; the tiny pies eaten with it melted in the mouth and were irreproachable. The two footmen and Matvey, in white cravats, did their duty with the dishes and wines unobtrusively, quietly, and swiftly. On the material side the dinner was a success; it was no less so on the immaterial. The conversation, at times general and at times between individuals, never paused, and towards the end the company was so lively that the men rose from the table, without stopping speaking, and even Alexey Alexandrovitch thawed.
Pestsov liked thrashing an argument out to the end, and was not satisfied with Sergey Ivanovitch’s words, especially as he felt the injustice of his view.
“I did not mean,” he said over the soup, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch, “mere density of population alone, but in conjunction with fundamental ideas, and not by means of principles.”
“It seems to me,” Alexey Alexandrovitch said languidly, and with no haste, “that that’s the same thing. In my opinion, influence over another people is only possible to the people which has the higher development, which…”
“But that’s just the question,” Pestsov broke in in his bass.
He was always in a hurry to speak, and seemed always to put his whole soul into what he was saying. “In what are we to make higher development consist? The English, the French, the Germans, which is at the highest stage of development? Which of them will nationalize the other? We see the Rhine provinces have been turned French, but the Germans are not at a lower stage!” he shouted. “There is another law at work there.”
“I fancy that the greater influence is always on the side of true civilization,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, slightly lifting his eyebrows.
“But what are we to lay down as the outward signs of true civilization?” said Pestsov.
“I imagine such signs are generally very well known,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“But are they fully known?” Sergey Ivanovitch put in with a subtle smile. “It is the accepted view now that real culture must be purely classical; but we see most intense disputes on each side of the question, and there is no denying that the opposite camp has strong points in its favor.”
“You are for classics, Sergey Ivanovitch. Will you take red wine?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“I am not expressing my own opinion of either form of culture,” Sergey Ivanovitch said, holding out his glass with a smile of condescension, as to a child. “I only say that both sides have strong arguments to support them,” he went on, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch. “My sympathies are classical from education, but in this discussion I am personally unable to arrive at a conclusion. I see no distinct grounds for classical studies being given a preeminence over scientific studies.”
“The natural sciences have just as great an educational value,” put in Pestsov. “Take astronomy, take botany, or zoology with its system of general principles.”
“I cannot quite agree with that,” responded Alexey Alexandrovitch “It seems to me that one must admit that the very process of studying the forms of language has a peculiarly favorable influence on intellectual development. Moreover, it cannot be denied that the influence of the classical authors is in the highest degree moral, while, unfortunately, with the study of the natural sciences are associated the false and noxious doctrines which are the curse of our day.”
Sergey Ivanovitch would have said something, but Pestsov interrupted him in his rich bass. He began warmly contesting the justice of this view. Sergey Ivanovitch waited serenely to speak, obviously with a convincing reply ready.
“But,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, smiling subtly, and addressing Karenin, “One must allow that to weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of classical and scientific studies is a difficult task, and the question which form of education was to be preferred would not have been so quickly and conclusively decided if there had not been in favor of classical education, as you expressed it just now, its moral–disons le mot–anti-nihilist influence.”
“If it had not been for the distinctive property of anti-nihilistic influence on the side of classical studies, we should have considered the subject more, have weighed the arguments on both sides,” said Sergey Ivanovitch with a subtle smile, “we should have given elbow-room to both tendencies. But now we know that these little pills of classical learning possess the medicinal property of anti-nihilism, and we boldly prescribe them to our patients…. But what if they had no such medicinal property?” he wound up humorously.
At Sergey Ivanovitch’s little pills, everyone laughed; Turovtsin in especial roared loudly and jovially, glad at last to have found something to laugh at, all he ever looked for in listening to conversation.
Stepan Arkadyevitch had not made a mistake in inviting Pestsov. With Pestsov intellectual conversation never flagged for an instant. Directly Sergey Ivanovitch had concluded the conversation with his jest, Pestsov promptly started a new one.
“I can’t agree even,” said he, “that the government had that aim. The government obviously is guided by abstract considerations, and remains indifferent to the influence its measures may exercise. The education of women, for instance, would naturally be regarded as likely to be harmful, but the government opens schools and universities for women.”
And the conversation at once passed to the new subject of the education of women.
Alexey Alexandrovitch expressed the idea that the education of women is apt to be confounded with the emancipation of women, and that it is only so that it can be considered dangerous.
“I consider, on the contrary, that the two questions are inseparably connected together,” said Pestsov; “it is a vicious circle. Woman is deprived of rights from lack of education, and the lack of education results from the absence of rights. We must not forget that the subjection of women is so complete, and dates from such ages back that we are often unwilling to recognize the gulf that separates them from us,” said he.
“You said rights,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, waiting till Pestsov had finished, “meaning the right of sitting on juries, of voting, of presiding at official meetings, the right of entering the civil service, of sitting in parliament…”
“But if women, as a rare exception, can occupy such positions, it seems to me you are wrong in using the expression ‘rights.’ It would be more correct to say duties. Every man will agree that in doing the duty of a juryman, a witness, a telegraph clerk, we feel we are performing duties. And therefore it would be correct to say that women are seeking duties, and quite legitimately. And one can but sympathize with this desire to assist in the general labor of man.”
“Quite so,” Alexey Alexandrovitch assented. “The question, I imagine, is simply whether they are fitted for such duties.”
“They will most likely be perfectly fitted,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, “when education has become general among them. We see this…”
“How about the proverb?” said the prince, who had a long while been intent on the conversation, his little comical eyes twinkling. “I can say it before my daughter: her hair is long, because her wit is…”
“Just what they thought of the negroes before their emancipation!” said Pestsov angrily.
“What seems strange to me is that women should seek fresh duties,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, “while we see, unhappily, that men usually try to avoid them.”
“Duties are bound up with rights–power, money, honor; those are what women are seeking,” said Pestsov.
“Just as though I should seek the right to be a wet-nurse and feel injured because women are paid for the work, while no one will take me,” said the old prince.
Turovtsin exploded in a loud roar of laughter and Sergey Ivanovitch regretted that he had not made this comparison. Even Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled.
“Yes, but a man can’t nurse a baby,” said Pestsov, “while a woman…”
“No, there was an Englishman who did suckle his baby on board ship,” said the old prince, feeling this freedom in conversation permissible before his own daughters.
“There are as many such Englishmen as there would be women officials,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.
“Yes, but what is a girl to do who has no family?” put in Stepan Arkadyevitch, thinking of Masha Tchibisova, whom he had had in his mind all along, in sympathizing with Pestsov and supporting him.
“If the story of such a girl were thoroughly sifted, you would find she had abandoned a family–her own or a sister’s, where she might have found a woman’s duties,” Darya Alexandrovna broke in unexpectedly in a tone of exasperation, probably suspecting what sort of girl Stepan Arkadyevitch was thinking of.
“But we take our stand on principle as the ideal,” replied Pestsov in his mellow bass. “Woman desires to have rights, to be independent, educated. She is oppressed, humiliated by the consciousness of her disabilities.”
“And I’m oppressed and humiliated that they won’t engage me at the Foundling,” the old prince said again, to the huge delight of Turovtsin, who in his mirth dropped his asparagus with the thick end in the sauce.