Anna Karenina (Part 7 – Chapter 1-5)
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.
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 Konzma.
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 divas 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. Petersbourg? 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-freres, 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 Ring 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.”