WHEN Levin went into the restaurant with Oblonsky, he could not help noticing a certain peculiarity of expression, as it were a restrained radiance, about the face and whole figure of Stepan Arkadyevitch. Oblonsky took off his overcoat, and with his hat over one ear walked into the dining-room, giving directions to the Tatar waiters, who were clustered about him in evening coats, bearing napkins. Bowing to right and left to the people he met, and here as everywhere joyously greeting acquaintances, he went up to the sideboard for a preliminary appetiser of fish and vodka, and said to the painted Frenchwoman decked in ribbons, lace, and ringlets, behind the counter, something so amusing that even that Frenchwoman was moved to genuine laughter. Levin for his part refrained from taking any vodka simply because he felt such a loathing of that Frenchwoman, all made up, it seemed, of false hair, poudre de riz, and vinaigre de toilette. He made haste to move away from her, as from a dirty place. His whole soul was filled with memories of Kitty, and there was a smile of triumph and happiness shining in his eyes.
This way, your excellency, please. Your excellency wont be disturbed here, said a particularly pertinacious, white- headed old Tatar with immense hips and coat-tails gaping widely behind. Walk in, your excellency, he said to Levin; by way of showing his respect to Stepan Arkadyevitch, being attentive to his guest as well.
Instantly flinging a fresh cloth over the round table under the bronze chandelier, though it already had a tablecloth on it, he pushed up velvet chairs, and came to a standstill before Stepan Arkadyevitch with a napkin and a bill of fare in his hands, awaiting his commands.
No, joking apart, whatever you choose is sure to be good. Ive been skating, and Im hungry. And dont imagine, he added, detecting a look of dissatisfaction on Oblonskys face, that I shant appreciate your choice. I am fond of good things.
The Tatar, recollecting that it was Stepan Arkadyevitchs way not to call the dishes by the names in the French bill of fare, did not repeat them after him, but could not resist rehearsing the whole menu to himself according to the bill:Soupe printanière, turbot, sauce Beaumarchais, poulard à lestragon, macédoine de fruits etc., and then instantly, as though worked by springs, laying down one bound bill of fare, he took up another, the list of wines, and submitted it to Stepan Arkadyevitch.
Not bad, he said, stripping the oysters from the pearly shell with a silver fork, and swallowing them one after another. Not bad, he repeated, turning his dewy, brilliant eyes from Levin to the Tatar.
Levin ate the oysters indeed, though white bread and cheese would have pleased him better. But he was admiring Oblonsky. Even the Tatar, uncorking the bottle and pouring the sparkling wine into the delicate glasses, glanced at Stepan Arkadyevitch, and settled his white cravat with a perceptible smile of satisfaction.
He wanted Levin to be in good spirits. But it was not that Levin was not in good spirits; he was ill at ease. With what he had in his soul, he felt sore and uncomfortable in the restaurant, in the midst of private rooms where men were dining with ladies, in all this fuss and bustle; the surroundings of bronzes, looking-glasses, gas, and waitersall of it was offensive to him. He was afraid of sullying what his soul was brimful of.
Its too much for me, responded Levin. Do try, now, and put yourself in my place, take the point of view of a country person. We in the country try to bring our hands into such a state as will be most convenient for working with. So we cut our nails; sometimes we turn up our sleeves. And here people purposely let their nails grow as long as they will, and link on small saucers by way of studs, so that they can do nothing with their hands.
May be. But still its queer to me, just at this moment it seems queer to me that we country folks try to get our meals over as soon as we can, so as to be ready for our work, while here we are trying to drag out our meal as long as possible, and with that object eating oysters.
What nonsense! Thats her manner. Come, boy, the soup! Thats her mannergrande dame, said Stepan Arkadyevitch. Im coming too, but I have to go to the Countess Bonins rehearsal. Come, isnt it true that youre a savage? How do you explain the sudden way in which you vanished from Moscow? The Shtcherbatskys were continually asking me about you, as though I ought to know. The only thing I know is that you always do what no one else does.
Oh, things go wrong. But I dont want to talk of myself, and besides I cant explain it all, said Stepan Arkadyevitch. Well, why have you come to Moscow, then? Hi! take away! he called to the Tatar.
Stepan Arkadyevitch smiled. He so well knew that feeling of Levins, that for him all the girls in the world were divided into two classes: one classall the girls in the world except her, and those girls with all sorts of human weaknesses, and very ordinary girls; the other classshe alone, having no weaknesses of any sort and higher than all humanity.
No, stop a minute, stop a minute, he said. You must understand that its a question of life and death for me. I have never spoken to any one of this. And theres no one I could speak of it to, except you. You know were utterly unlike each other, different tastes and views and everything; but I know youre fond of me and understand me, and thats why I like you awfully. But, for Gods sake, be quite straightforward with me.
I tell you what I think, said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling. But Ill say more: my wife is a wonderful woman. Stepan Arkadyevitch sighed, remembering his position with his wife, and, after a moments silence, resumedShe has a gift of foreseeing things. She sees right through people; but thats not all, she knows what will come to pass, especially in the way of marriages. She foretold, for instance, that Princess Shahovskoy would marry Brenteln. No one would believe it, but it came to pass. And shes on your side.
You must understand, said he, its not love. Ive been in love, but its not that. Its not my feeling, but a sort of force outside me has taken possession of me. I went away, you see, because I made up my mind that it could never be, you understand, as a happiness that does not come on earth; but Ive struggled with myself, I see theres no living without it. And it must be settled.
Ah, stop a minute! Ah, the thoughts that come crowding on one! The questions one must ask oneself! Listen. You cant imagine what youve done for me by what you said. Im so happy that Ive become positively hateful; Ive forgotten everything. I heard to-day that my brother Nikolay you know, hes here I had even forgotten him. It seems to me that hes happy too. Its a sort of madness. But one things awful Here, youve been married, you know the feeling its awful that weoldwith a past not of love, but of sins are brought all at once so near to a creature pure and innocent; its loathsome, and thats why one cant help feeling oneself unworthy.