Anna Karenina (Part 7 – Chapter 6-10)
“Perhaps they’re not at home?” said Levin, as he went into the hall of Countess Bola’s house.
“At home; please walk in,” said the porter, resolutely removing his overcoat.
“How annoying!” thought Levin with a sigh, taking off one glove and stroking his hat. “What did I come for? What have I to say to them?”
As he passed through the first drawing room Levin met in the doorway Countess Bola, giving some order to a servant with a care-worn and severe face. On seeing Levin she smiled, and asked him to come into the little drawing room, where he heard voices. In this room there were sitting in armchairs the two daughters of the countess, and a Moscow colonel, whom Levin knew. Levin went up, greeted them, and sat down beside the sofa with his hat on his knees.
“How is your wife? Have you been at the concert? We couldn’t go. Mamma had to be at the funeral service.”
“Yes, I heard…. What a sudden death!” said Levin.
The countess came in, sat down on the sofa, and she too asked after his wife and inquired about the concert.
Levin answered, and repeated an inquiry about Madame Apraksina’s sudden death.
“But she was always in weak health.”
“Were you at the opera yesterday?”
“Yes, I was.”
“Lucca was very good.”
“Yes, very good,” he said, and as it was utterly of no consequence to him what they thought of him, he began repeating what they had heard a hundred times about the characteristics of the singer’s talent. Countess Bola pretended to be listening. Then, when he had said enough and paused, the colonel, who had been silent till then, began to talk. The colonel too talked of the opera, and about culture. At last, after speaking of the proposed folle journee at Turin’s, the colonel laughed, got up noisily, and went away. Levin too rose, but he saw by the face of the countess that it was not yet time for him to go. He must stay two minutes longer. He sat down.
But as he was thinking all the while how stupid it was, he could not find a subject for conversation, and sat silent.
“You are not going to the public meeting? They say it will be very interesting,” began the countess.
“No, I promised my belle-soeur to fetch her from it,” said Levin.
A silence followed. The mother once more exchanged glances with a daughter.
“Well, now I think the time has come,” thought Levin, and he got up. The ladies shook hands with him, and begged him to say mille choses to his wife for them.
The porter asked him, as he gave him his coat, “Where is your honor staying?” and immediately wrote down his address in a big handsomely bound book.
“Of course I don’t care, but still I feel ashamed and awfully stupid,” thought Levin, consoling himself with the reflection that everyone does it. He drove to the public meeting, where he was to find his sister-in-law, so as to drive home with her.
At the public meeting of the committee there were a great many people, and almost all the highest society. Levin was in time for the report which, as everyone said, was very interesting. When the reading of the report was over, people moved about, and Levin met Sviazhsky, who invited him very pressingly to come that evening to a meeting of the Society of Agriculture, where a celebrated lecture was to be delivered, and Stepan Arkadyevitch, who had only just come from the races, and many other acquaintances; and Levin heard and uttered various criticisms on the meeting, on the new fantasia, and on a public trial. But, probably from the mental fatigue he was beginning to feel, he made a blunder in speaking of the trial, and this blunder he recalled several times with vexation. Speaking of the sentence upon a foreigner who had been condemned in Russia, and of how unfair it would be to punish him by exile abroad, Levin repeated what he had heard the day before in conversation from an acquaintance.
“I think sending him abroad is much the same as punishing a carp by putting it into the water,” said Levin. Then he recollected that this idea, which he had heard from an acquaintance and uttered as his own, came from a fable of Krilov’s, and that the acquaintance had picked it up from a newspaper article.
After driving home with his sister-in-law, and finding Kitty in good spirits and quite well, Levin drove to the club.
Levin reached the club just at the right time. Members and visitors were driving up as he arrived. Levin had not been at the club for a very long while–not since he lived in Moscow, when he was leaving the university and going into society. He remembered the club, the external details of its arrangement, but he had completely forgotten the impression it had made on him in old days. But as soon as, driving into the wide semicircular court and getting out of the sledge, he mounted the steps, and the hall porter, adorned with a crossway scarf, noiselessly opened the door to him with a bow; as soon as he saw in the porter’s room the cloaks and galoshes of members who thought it less trouble to take them off downstairs; as soon as he heard the mysterious ringing bell that preceded him as he ascended the easy, carpeted staircase, and saw the statue on the landing, and the third porter at the top doors, a familiar figure grown older, in the club livery, opening the door without haste or delay, and scanning the visitors as they passed in–Levin felt the old impression of the club come back in a rush, an impression of repose, comfort, and propriety.
“Your hat, please,” the porter said to Levin, who forgot the club rule to leave his hat in the porter’s room. “Long time since you’ve been. The prince put your name down yesterday. Prince Stepan Arkadyevitch is not here yet.”
The porter did not only know Levin, but also all his ties and relationships, and so immediately mentioned his intimate friends.
Passing through the outer hall, divided up by screens, and the room partitioned on the right, where a man sits at the fruit buffet, Levin overtook an old man walking slowly in, and entered the dining room full of noise and people.
He walked along the tables, almost all full, and looked at the visitors. He saw people of all sorts, old and young; some he knew a little, some intimate friends. There was not a single cross or worried-looking face. All seemed to have left their cares and anxieties in the porter’s room with their hats, and were all deliberately getting ready to enjoy the material blessings of life. Sviazhsky was here and Shtcherbatsky, Nevyedovsky and the old prince, and Vronsky and Sergey Ivanovitch.
“Ah! why are you late?” the prince said smiling, and giving him his hand over his own shoulder. “How’s Kitty?” he added, smoothing out the napkin he had tucked in at his waistcoat buttons.
“All right; they are dining at home, all the three of them.”
“Ah, ‘Aline-Nadine,’ to be sure! There’s no room with us. Go to that table, and make haste and take a seat,” said the prince, and turning away he carefully took a plate of eel soup.
“Levin, this way!” a good-natured voice shouted a little farther on. It was Turovtsin. He was sitting with a young officer, and beside them were two chairs turned upside down. Levin gladly went up to them. He had always liked the good-hearted rake, Turovtsin–he was associated in his mind with memories of his courtship–and at that moment, after the strain of intellectual conversation, the sight of Turovtsin’s good-natured face was particularly welcome.
“For you and Oblonsky. He’ll be here directly.”
The young man, holding himself very erect, with eyes forever twinkling with enjoyment, was an officer from Petersburg, Gagin. Turovtsin introduced them.
“Oblonsky’s always late.”
“Ah, here he is!”
“Have you only just come?” said Oblonsky, coming quickly towards them. “Good day. Had some vodka? Well, come along then.”
Levin got up and went with him to the big table spread with spirits and appetizers of the most various kinds. One would have thought that out of two dozen delicacies one might find something to one’s taste, but Stepan Arkadyevitch asked for something special, and one of the liveried waiters standing by immediately brought what was required. They drank a wine glassful and returned to their table.
At once, while they were still at the soup, Gagin was served with champagne, and told the waiter to fill four glasses. Levin did not refuse the wine, and asked for a second bottle. He was very hungry, and ate and drank with great enjoyment, and with still greater enjoyment took part in the lively and simple conversation of his companions. Gagin, dropping his voice, told the last good story from Petersburg, and the story, though improper and stupid, was so ludicrous that Levin broke into roars of laughter so loud that those near looked round.
“That’s in the same style as, ‘that’s a thing I can’t endure!’ You know the story?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Ah, that’s exquisite! Another bottle,” he said to the waiter, and he began to relate his good story.
“Pyotr Illyitch Vinovsky invites you to drink with him,” a little old waiter interrupted Stepan Arkadyevitch, bringing two delicate glasses of sparkling champagne, and addressing Stepan Arkadyevitch and Levin. Stepan Arkadyevitch took the glass, and looking towards a bald man with red mustaches at the other end of the table, he nodded to him, smiling.
“Who’s that?” asked Levin.
“You met him once at my place, don’t you remember? A good-natured fellow.”
Levin did the same as Stepan Arkadyevitch and took the glass.
Stepan Arkadyevitch’s anecdote too was very amusing. Levin told his story, and that too was successful. Then they talked of horses, of the races, of what they had been doing that day, and of how smartly Vronsky’s Atlas had won the first prize. Levin did not notice how the time passed at dinner.
“Ah! and here they are!” Stepan Arkadyevitch said towards the end of dinner, leaning over the back of his chair and holding out his hand to Vronsky, who came up with a tall officer of the Guards. Vronsky’s face too beamed with the look of good-humored enjoyment that was general in the club. He propped his elbow playfully on Stepan Arkadyevitch’s shoulder, whispering something to him, and he held out his hand to Levin with the same good-humored smile.
“Very glad to meet you,” he said. “I looked out for you at the election, but I was told you had gone away.”
“Yes, I left the same day. We’ve just been talking of your horse. I congratulate you,” said Levin. “It was very rapidly run.”
“Yes; you’ve race horses too, haven’t you?”
“No, my father had; but I remember and know something about it.”
“Where have you dined?” asked Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“We were at the second table, behind the columns.”
“We’ve been celebrating his success,” said the tall colonel. “It’s his second Imperial prize. I wish I might have the luck at cards he has with horses. Well, why waste the precious time? I’m going to the ‘infernal regions,'” added the colonel, and he walked away.
“That’s Yashvin,” Vronsky said in answer to Turovtsin, and he sat down in the vacated seat beside them. He drank the glass offered him, and ordered a bottle of wine. Under the influence of the club atmosphere or the wine he had drunk, Levin chatted away to Vronsky of the best breeds of cattle, and was very glad not to feel the slightest hostility to this man. He even told him, among other things, that he had heard from his wife that she had met him at Princess Marya Borissovna’s.
“Ah, Princess Marya Borissovna, she’s exquisite!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, and he told an anecdote about her which set them all laughing. Vronsky particularly laughed with such simplehearted amusement that Levin felt quite reconciled to him.
“Well, have we finished?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting up with a smile. “Let us go.”
Getting up from the table, Levin walked with Gagin through the lofty room to the billiard room, feeling his arms swing as he walked with a peculiar lightness and ease. As he crossed the big room, he came upon his father-in-law.
“Well, how do you like our Temple of Idolence?” said the prince, taking his arm. “Come along, come along!”
“Yes, I wanted to walk about and look at everything. It’s interesting.”
“Yes, it’s interesting for you. But its interest for me is quite different. You look at those little old men now,” he said, pointing to a club member with bent back and projecting lip, shuffling towards them in his soft boots, “and imagine that they were shlupiks like that from their birth up.”
“I see you don’t know that name. That’s our club designation. You know the game of rolling eggs: when one’s rolled a long while it becomes a shlupik. So it is with us; one goes on coming and coming to the club, and ends by becoming a shlupik. Ah, you laugh! but we look out, for fear of dropping into it ourselves. You know Prince Tchetchensky?” inquired the prince; and Levin saw by his face that he was just going to relate something funny.
“No, I don’t know him.”
“You don’t say so! Well, Prince Tchetchensky is a well-known figure. No matter, though. He’s always playing billiards here. Only three years ago he was not a shlupik and kept up his spirits and even used to call other people shlupiks. But one day he turns up, and our porter…you know Vassily? Why, that fat one; he’s famous for his bon mots. And so Prince Tchetchensky asks him, ‘Come, Vassily, who’s here? Any shlupiks here yet?’ And he says, ‘You’re the third.’ Yes, my dear boy, that he did!”
Talking and greeting the friends they met, Levin and the prince walked through all the rooms: the great room where tables had already been set, and the usual partners were playing for small stakes; the divan room, where they were playing chess, and Sergey Ivanovitch was sitting talking to somebody; the billiard room, where, about a sofa in a recess, there was a lively party drinking champagne–Gagin was one of them. They peeped into the “infernal regions,” where a good many men were crowding round one table, at which Yashvin was sitting. Trying not to make a noise, they walked into the dark reading room, where under the shaded lamps there sat a young man with a wrathful countenance, turning over one journal after another, and a bald general buried in a book. They went, too, into what the prince called the intellectual room, where three gentlemen were engaged in a heated discussion of the latest political news.
“Prince, please come, we’re ready,” said one of his card party, who had come to look for him, and the prince went off. Levin sat down and listened, but recalling all the conversation of the morning he felt all of a sudden fearfully bored. He got up hurriedly, and went to look for Oblonsky and Turovtsin, with whom it had been so pleasant.
Turovtsin was one of the circle drinking in the billiard room, and Stepan Arkadyevitch was talking with Vronsky near the door at the farther corner of the room.
“It’s not that she’s dull; but this undefined, this unsettled position,” Levin caught, and he was hurrying away, but Stepan Arkadyevitch called to him.
“Levied” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, and Levin noticed that his eyes were not full of tears exactly, but moist, which always happened when he had been drinking, or when he was touched. Just now it was due to both causes. “Levin, don’t go,” he said, and he warmly squeezed his arm above the elbow, obviously not at all wishing to let him go.
“This is a true friend of mine–almost my greatest friend,” he said to Vronsky. “You have become even closer and dearer to me. And I want you, and I know you ought, to be friends, and great friends, because you’re both splendid fellows.”
“Well, there’s nothing for us now but to kiss and be friends,” Vronsky said, with good-natured playfulness, holding out his hand.
Levin quickly took the offered hand, and pressed it warmly.
“I’m very, very glad,” said Levin.
“Waiter, a bottle of champagne,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“And I’m very glad,” said Vronsky.
But in spite of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s desire, and their own desire, they had nothing to talk about, and both felt it.
“Do you know, he has never met Anna?” Stepan Arkadyevitch said to Vronsky. “And I want above everything to take him to see her. Let us go, Levin!”
“Really?” said Vronsky. “She will be very glad to see you. I should be going home at once,” he added, “but I’m worried about Yashvin, and I want to stay on till he finishes.”
“Why, is he losing?”
“He keeps losing, and I’m the only friend that can restrain him.”
“Well, what do you say to pyramids? Levin, will you play? Capital!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Get the table ready,” he said to the marker.
“It has been ready a long while,” answered the marker, who had already set the balls in a triangle, and was knocking the red one about for his own diversion.
“Well, let us begin.”
After the game Vronsky and Levin sat down at Gagin’s table, and at Stepan Arkadyevitch’s suggestion Levin took a hand in the game.
Vronsky sat down at the table, surrounded by friends, who were incessantly coming up to him. Every now and then he went to the “infernal” to keep an eye on Yashvin. Levin was enjoying a delightful sense of repose after the mental fatigue of the morning. He was glad that all hostility was at an end with Vronsky, and the sense of peace, decorum, and comfort never left him.
When the game was over, Stepan Arkadyevitch took Levin’s arm.
“Well, let us go to Anna’s, then. At once? Eh? She is at home. I promised her long ago to bring you. Where were you meaning to spend the evening?”
“Oh, nowhere specially. I promised Sviazhsky to go to the Society of Agriculture. By all means, let us go,” said Levin.
“Very good; come along. Find out if my carriage is here,” Stepan Arkadyevitch said to the waiter.
Levin went up to the table, paid the forty roubles he had lost; paid his bill, the amount of which was in some mysterious way ascertained by the little old waiter who stood at the counter, and swinging his arms he walked through all the rooms to the way out.
“Oblonsky’s carriage!” the porter shouted in an angry bass. The carriage drove up and both got in. It was only for the first few moments, while the carriage was driving out of the clubhouse gates, that Levin was still under the influence of the club atmosphere of repose, comfort, and unimpeachable good form. But as soon as the carriage drove out into the street, and he felt it jolting over the uneven road, heard the angry shout of a sledge driver coming towards them, saw in the uncertain light the red blind of a tavern and the shops, this impression was dissipated, and he began to think over his actions, and to wonder whether he was doing right in going to see Anna. What would Kitty say? But Stepan Arkadyevitch gave him no time for reflection, and, as though divining his doubts, he scattered them.
“How glad I am,” he said, “that you should know her! You know Dolly has long wished for it. And Lvov’s been to see her, and often goes. Though she is my sister,” Stepan Arkadyevitch pursued, “I don’t hesitate to say that she’s a remarkable woman. But you will see. Her position is very painful, especially now.”
“Why especially now?”
“We are carrying on negotiations with her husband about a divorce. And he’s agreed; but there are difficulties in regard to the son, and the business, which ought to have been arranged long ago, has been dragging on for three months past. As soon as the divorce is over, she will marry Vronsky. How stupid these old ceremonies are, that no one believes in, and which only prevent people being comfortable!” Stepan Arkadyevitch put in. “Well, then their position will be as regular as mine, as yours.”
“What is the difficulty?” said Levin.
“Oh, it’s a long and tedious story! The whole business is in such an anomalous position with us. But the point is she has been for three months in Moscow, where everyone knows her, waiting for the divorce; she goes out nowhere, sees no woman except Dolly, because, do you understand, she doesn’t care to have people come as a favor. That fool Princess Varvara, even she has left her, considering this a breach of propriety. Well, you see, in such a position any other woman would not have found resources in herself. But you’ll see how she has arranged her life–how calm, how dignified she is. To the left, in the crescent opposite the church!” shouted Stepan Arkadyevitch, leaning out of the window. “Phew! how hot it is!” he said, in spite of twelve degrees of frost, flinging his open overcoat still wider open.
“But she has a daughter: no doubt she’s busy looking after her?” said Levin.
“I believe you picture every woman simply as a female, une couveuse,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “If she’s occupied, it must be with her children. No, she brings her up capitally, I believe, but one doesn’t hear about her. She’s busy, in the first place, with what she writes. I see you’re smiling ironically, but you’re wrong. She’s writing a children’s book, and doesn’t talk about it to anyone, but she read it to me and I gave the manuscript to Vorkuev…you know the publisher…and he’s an author himself too, I fancy. He understands those things, and he says it’s a remarkable piece of work. But are you fancying she’s an authoress?–not a bit of it. She’s a woman with a heart, before everything, but you’ll see. Now she has a little English girl with her, and a whole family she’s looking after.”
“Oh, something in a philanthropic way?”
“Why, you will look at everything in the worst light. It’s not from philanthropy, it’s from the heart. They–that is, Vronsky– had a trainer, an Englishman, first-rate in his own line, but a drunkard. He’s completely given up to drink–delirium tremens– and the family were cast on the world. She saw them, helped them, got more and more interested in them, and now the whole family is on her hands. But not by way of patronage, you know, helping with money; she’s herself preparing the boys in Russian for the high school, and she’s taken the little girl to live with her. But you’ll see her for yourself.”
The carriage drove into the courtyard, and Stepan Arkadyevitch rang loudly at the entrance where sledges were standing.
And without asking the servant who opened the door whether the lady were at home, Stepan Arkadyevitch walked into the hall. Levin followed him, more and more doubtful whether he was doing right or wrong.
Looking at himself in the glass, Levin noticed that he was red in the face, but he felt certain he was not drunk, and he followed Stepan Arkadyevitch up the carpeted stairs. At the top Stepan Arkadyevitch inquired of the footman, who bowed to him as to an intimate friend, who was with Anna Arkadyevna, and received the answer that it was M. Vorkuev.
“Where are they?”
“In the study.”
Passing through the dining room, a room not very large, with dark, paneled walls, Stepan Arkadyevitch and Levin walked over the soft carpet to the half-dark study, lighted up by a single lamp with a big dark shade. Another lamp with a reflector was hanging on the wall, lighting up a big full-length portrait of a woman, which Levin could not help looking at. It was the portrait of Anna, painted in Italy by Mihailov. While Stepan Arkadyevitch went behind the treillage, and the man’s voice which had been speaking paused, Levin gazed at the portrait, which stood out from the frame in the brilliant light thrown on it, and he could not tear himself away from it. He positively forgot where he was, and not even hearing what was said, he could not take his eyes off the marvelous portrait. It was not a picture, but a living, charming woman, with black curling hair, with bare arms and shoulders, with a pensive smile on the lips, covered with soft down; triumphantly and softly she looked at him with eyes that baffled him. She was not living only because she was more beautiful than a living woman can be.
“I am delighted!” He heard suddenly near him a voice, unmistakably addressing him, the voice of the very woman he had been admiring in the portrait. Anna had come from behind the treillage to meet him, and Levin saw in the dim light of the study the very woman of the portrait, in a dark blue shot gown, not in the same position nor with the same expression, but with the same perfection of beauty which the artist had caught in the portrait. She was less dazzling in reality, but, on the other hand, there was something fresh and seductive in the living woman which was not in the portrait.
She had risen to meet him, not concealing her pleasure at seeing him; and in the quiet ease with which she held out her little vigorous hand, introduced him to Vorkuev and indicated a red-haired, pretty little girl who was sitting at work, calling her her pupil, Levin recognized and liked the manners of a woman of the great world, always self-possessed and natural.
“I am delighted, delighted,” she repeated, and on her lips these simple words took for Levin’s ears a special significance. “I have known you and liked you for a long while, both from your friendship with Stiva and for your wife’s sake…. I knew her for a very short time, but she left on me the impression of an exquisite flower, simply a flower. And to think she will soon be a mother!”
She spoke easily and without haste, looking now and then from Levin to her brother, and Levin felt that the impression he was making was good, and he felt immediately at home, simple and happy with her, as though he had known her from childhood.
“Ivan Petrovitch and I settled in Alexey’s study,” she said in answer to Stepan Arkadyevitch’s question whether he might smoke, “just so as to be able to smoke”–and glancing at Levin, instead of asking whether he would smoke, she pulled closer a tortoise-shell cigar-case and took a cigarette.
“How are you feeling today?” her brother asked her.
“Oh, nothing. Nerves, as usual.”
“Yes, isn’t it extraordinarily fine?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, noticing that Levin was scrutinizing the picture.
“I have never seen a better portrait.”
“And extraordinarily like, isn’t it?” said Vorkuev.
Levin looked from the portrait to the original. A peculiar brilliance lighted up Anna’s face when she felt his eyes on her. Levin flushed, and to cover his confusion would have asked whether she had seen Darya Alexandrovna lately; but at that moment Anna spoke. “We were just talking, Ivan Petrovitch and I, of Vashtchenkov’s last pictures. Have you seen them?”
“Yes, I have seen them,” answered Levin.
“But, I beg your pardon, I interrupted you…you were saying?…”
Levin asked if she had seen Dolly lately.
“She was here yesterday. She was very indignant with the high school people on Grisha’s account. The Latin teacher, it seems, had been unfair to him.”
“Yes, I have seen his pictures. I didn’t care for them very much,” Levin went back to the subject she had started.
Levin talked now not at all with that purely businesslike attitude to the subject with which he had been talking all the morning. Every word in his conversation with her had a special significance. And talking to her was pleasant; still pleasanter it was to listen to her.
Anna talked not merely naturally and cleverly, but cleverly and carelessly, attaching no value to her own ideas and giving great weight to the ideas of the person she was talking to.
The conversation turned on the new movement in art, on the new illustrations of the Bible by a French artist. Vorkuev attacked the artist for a realism carried to the point of coarseness.
Levin said that the French had carried conventionality further than anyone, and that consequently they see a great merit in the return to realism. In the fact of not lying they see poetry.
Never had anything clever said by Levin given him so much pleasure as this remark. Anna’s face lighted up at once, as at once she appreciated the thought. She laughed.
“I laugh,” she said, “as one laughs when one sees a very true portrait. What you said so perfectly hits off French art now, painting and literature too, indeed–Zola, Daudet. But perhaps it is always so, that men form their conceptions from fictitious, conventional types, and then–all the combinaisons made–they are tired of the fictitious figures and begin to invent more natural, true figures.”
“That’s perfectly true,” said Vorknev.
“So you’ve been at the club?” she said to her brother.
“Yes, yes, this is a woman!” Levin thought, forgetting himself and staring persistently at her lovely, mobile face, which at that moment was all at once completely transformed. Levin did not hear what she was talking of as she leaned over to her brother, but he was struck by the change of her expression. Her face–so handsome a moment before in its repose–suddenly wore a look of strange curiosity, anger, and pride. But this lasted only an instant. She dropped her eyelids, as though recollecting something.
“Oh, well, but that’s of no interest to anyone,” she said, and she turned to the English girl.
“Please order the tea in the drawing room,” she said in English.
The girl got up and went out.
“Well, how did she get through her examination?” asked Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Splendidly! She’s a very gifted child and a sweet character.”
“It will end in your loving her more than your own.”
“There a man speaks. In love there’s no more nor less. I love my daughter with one love, and her with another.”
“I was just telling Anna Arkadyevna,” said Vorkuev, “that if she were to put a hundredth part of the energy she devotes to this English girl to the public question of the education of Russian children, she would be doing a great and useful work.”
“Yes, but I can’t help it; I couldn’t do it. Count Alexey Kirillovitch urged me very much” (as she uttered the words Count Alexey Kirillovitch she glanced with appealing timidity at Levin, and he unconsciously responded with a respectful and reassuring look); “he urged me to take up the school in the village. I visited it several times. The children were very nice, but I could not feel drawn to the work. You speak of energy. Energy rests upon love; and come as it will, there’s no forcing it. I took to this child–I could not myself say why.”
And she glanced again at Levin. And her smile and her glance– all told him that it was to him only she was addressing her words, valuing his good opinion, and at the same time sure beforehand that they understood each other.
“I quite understand that,” Levin answered. “It’s impossible to give one’s heart to a school or such institutions in general, and I believe that’s just why philanthropic institutions always give such poor results.”
she was silent for a while, then she smiled.
“Yes, yes,” she agreed; “I never could. Je n’ai pas le coeur assez large to love a whole asylum of horrid little girls. Cela ne m’a jamais reussi. There are so many women who have made themselves une position sociale in that way. And now more than ever,” she said with a mournful, confiding expression, ostensibly addressing her brother, but unmistakably intending her words only for Levin, “now when I have such need of some occupation, I cannot.” And suddenly frowning (Levin saw that she was frowning at herself for talking about herself) she changed the subject. “I know about you,” she said to Levin; “that you’re not a public-spirited citizen, and I have defended you to the best of my ability.”
“How have you defended me?”
“Oh, according to the attacks made on you. But won’t you have some tea?” She rose and took up a book bound in morocco.
“Give it to me, Anna Arkadyevna,” said Vorkuev, indicating the book. “It’s well worth taking up.”
“Oh, no, it’s all so sketchy.”
“I told him about it,” Stepan Arkadyevitch said to his sister, nodding at Levin.
“You shouldn’t have. My writing is something after the fashion of those little baskets and carving which Liza Mertsalova used to sell me from the prisons. She had the direction of the prison department in that society,” she turned to Levin; “and they were miracles of patience, the work of those poor wretches.”
And Levin saw a new trait in this woman, who attracted him so extraordinarily. Besides wit, grace, and beauty, she had truth. She had no wish to hide from him all the bitterness of her position. As she said that she sighed, and her face suddenly taking a hard expression, looked as it were turned to stone. With that expression on her face she was more beautiful than ever; but the expression was new; it was utterly unlike that expression, radiant with happiness and creating happiness, which had been caught by the painter in her portrait. Levin looked more than once at the portrait and at her figure, as taking her brother’s arm she walked with him to the high doors and he felt for her a tenderness and pity at which he wondered himself.
She asked Levin and Vorkuev to go into the drawing room, while she stayed behind to say a few words to her brother. “About her divorce, about Vronsky, and what he’s doing at the club, about me?” wondered Levin. And he was so keenly interested by the question of what she was saying to Stepan Arkadyevitch, that he scarcely heard what Vorkuev was telling him of the qualities of the story for children Anna Arkadyevna had written.
At tea the same pleasant sort of talk, full of interesting matter, continued. There was not a single instant when a subject for conversation was to seek; on the contrary, it was felt that one had hardly time to say what one had to say, and eagerly held back to hear what the others were saying. And all that was said, not only by her, but by Vorkuev and Stepan Arkadyevitch–all, so it seemed to Levin, gained peculiar significance from her appreciation and her criticism. While he followed this interesting conversation, Levin was all the time admiring her– her beauty, her intelligence, her culture, and at the same time her directness and genuine depth of feeling. He listened and talked, and all the while he was thinking of her inner life, trying to divine her feelings. And though he had judged her so severely hitherto, now by some strange chain of reasoning he was justifying her and was also sorry for her, and afraid that Vronsky did not fully understand her. At eleven o’clock, when Stepan Arkadyevitch got up to go (Vorkuev had left earlier), it seemed to Levin that he had only just come. Regretfully Levin too rose.
“Good-bye,” she said, holding his hand and glancing into his face with a winning look. “I am very glad que la glace est rompue.”
She dropped his hand, and half closed her eyes.
“Tell your wife that I love her as before, and that if she cannot pardon me my position, then my wish for her is that she may never pardon it. To pardon it, one must go through what I have gone through, and may God spare her that.”
“Certainly, yes, I will tell her…” Levin said, blushing.