BUT at that very moment the princess came in. There was a look of horror on her face when saw them alone, and their disturbed faces. Levin bowed to her, and said nothing. Kitty did not speak nor lift her eyes. Thank God, she has refused him, thought the mother, and her face lighted up with the habitual smile with which she greeted her guests on Thursdays. She sat down and began questioning Levin about his life in the country. He sat down again, waiting for other visitors to arrive, in order to retreat unnoticed.
She was a thin, sallow, sickly, and nervous woman, with brilliant black eyes. She was fond of Kitty, and her affection for her showed itself, as the affection of married women for girls always does, in the desire to make a match for Kitty after her own ideal of married happiness; she wanted her to marry Vronsky.
I do like it when he looks down at me from the height of his grandeur, or breaks off his learned conversation with me because Im a fool, or is condescending to me. I like that so; to see him condescending! I am so glad he cant bear me, she used to say of him.
She was right, for Levin actually could not bear her, and despised her for what she was proud of and regarded as a fine characteristicher nervousness, her delicate contempt and indifference for everything coarse and earthly.
The Countess Nordston and Levin had got into that relation with one another not seldom seen in society, when two persons, who remain externally on friendly terms, despise each other to such a degree that they cannot even take each other seriously, and cannot even be offended by each other.
Ah! Konstantin Dmitrievitch! So youve come back to our corrupt Babylon, she said, giving him her tiny, yellow hand, and recalling what he had chanced to say early in the winter, that Moscow was a Babylon. Come, is Babylon reformed, or have you degenerated? she added, glancing with a simper at Kitty.
Its very flattering for me, countess, that you remember my words so well, responded Levin, who had succeeded in recovering his composure, and at once from habit dropped into his tone of joking hostility to the Countess Nordston. They must certainly make a great impression on you.
And she began talking to Kitty. Awkward as it was for Levin to withdraw now, it would still have been easier for him to perpetrate this awkwardness than to remain all the evening and see Kitty, who glanced at him now and then and avoided his eyes. He was on the point of getting up, when the princess, noticing that he was silent, addressed him.
Theres something the matter with him, thought Countess Nordston, glancing at his stern, serious face. He isnt in his old argumentative mood. But Ill draw him out. I do love making a fool of him before Kitty, and Ill do it.
Konstantin Dmitritch, she said to him, do explain to me, please, whats the meaning of it. You know all about such things. At home in our village of Kaluga all the peasants and all the women have drunk up all they possessed, and now they cant pay us any rent. Whats the meaning of that? You always praise the peasants so.
That must be Vronsky, thought Levin, and, to be sure of it, glanced at Kitty. She had already had time to look at Vronsky, and looked round at Levin. And simply from the look in her eyes, that grew unconsciously brighter, Levin knew that she loved that man, knew it as surely as if she had told him so in words. But what sort of man was he? Now, whether for good or for ill, Levin could not choose but remain; he must find out what the man was like whom she loved.
There are people who, on meeting a successful rival, no matter in what, are at once disposed to turn their backs on everything good in him, and to see only what is bad. There are people, on the other hand, who desire above all to find in that lucky rival the qualities by which he has outstripped them, and seek with a throbbing ache at heart only what is good.
Levin belonged to the second class. But he had no difficulty in finding what was good and attractive in Vronsky. It was apparent at the first glance. Vronsky was a squarely built, dark man, not very tall, with a good-humoured, handsome, and exceedingly calm and resolute face. Everything about his face and figure, from his short-cropped black hair and freshly shaven chin down to his loosely fitting, bran-new uniform, was simple and at the same time elegant. Making way for the lady who had come in, Vronsky went up to the princess and then to Kitty.
As he approached her, his beautiful eyes shone with a specially tender light, and with a faint, happy, and modestly triumphant smile (so it seemed to Levin), bowing carefully and respectfully over her, he held out his small broad hand to her.
I dont know; I have never tried for long. I experienced a queer feeling once, he went on. I never longed so for the country, Russian country, with bast shoes and peasants, as when I was spending a winter with my mother in Nice. Nice itself is dull enough, you know. And indeed, Naples and Sorrento are only pleasant for a short time. And its just there that Russia comes back to me most vividly, and especially the country. Its as though
The conversation did not flag for an instant, so that the princess, who always kept in reserve, in case a subject should be lacking, two heavy gunsthe relative advantages of classical and modern education, and universal military servicehad not to move out either of them, while Countess Nordston had not a chance of chaffing Levin.
My opinion, answered Levin, is only that this tableturning simply proves that educated societyso calledis no higher than the peasants. They believe in the evil eye, and in witchcraft and omens, while we
Oh no, Masha, Konstantin Dmitritch said he could not believe in it, said Kitty, blushing for Levin, and Levin saw this, and, still more exasperated, would have answered, but Vronsky with his bright frank smile rushed to the support of the conversation, which was threatening to become disagreeable.
You do not admit the conceivability at all? he queried. But why not? We admit the existence of electricity, of which we know nothing. Why should there not be some new force, still unknown to us, which
When electricity was discovered, Levin interrupted hurriedly, it was only the phenomenon that was discovered, and it was unknown from what it proceeded and what were its effects, and ages passed before its applications were conceived. But the spiritualists have begun with tables writing for them, and spirits appearing to them, and have only later started saying that it is an unknown force.
Yes, but the spiritualists say we dont know at present what this force is, but there is a force, and these are the conditions in which it acts. Let the scientific men find out what the force consists in. No, I dont see why there should not be a new force, if it
Why, because with electricity, Levin interrupted again, every time you rub tar against wool, a recognised phenomenon is manifested, but in this case it does not happen every time, and so it follows it is not a natural phenomenon.
Feeling probably that the conversation was taking a tone too serious for a drawing-room, Vronsky made no rejoinder, but by way of trying to change the conversation, he smiled brightly, and turned to the ladies.
I think he went on, that this attempt of the spiritualists to explain their marvels as some sort of new natural force is most futile. They boldly talk of a spiritual force, and then try to subject it to material experiment.
Kitty got up to fetch a table, and as she passed, her eyes met Levins. She felt for him with her whole heart, the more because she was pitying him for suffering of which she was herself the cause. If you can forgive me, forgive me, said her eyes, I am so happy.
I hate them all, and you, and myself, his eyes responded, and he took up his hat. But he was not destined to escape. Just as they were arranging themselves round the table, and Levin was on the point of retiring, the old prince came in, and after greeting the ladies, addressed Levin.
Ah! he began joyously. Been here long, my boy? I didnt even know you were in the town. Very glad to see you. The old prince embraced Levin, and talking to him did not observe Vronsky, who had risen, and was serenely waiting till the prince should turn to him.
Kitty felt how distasteful her fathers warmth was to Levin after what had happened. She saw, too, how coldly her father responded at last to Vronskys bow, and how Vronsky looked with amiable perplexity at her father, as though trying and failing to understand how and why any one could be hostilely disposed towards him, and she flushed.
What experiment? Table-turning? Well, you must excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, but to my mind it is better fun to play the ring game, said the old prince, looking at Vronsky, and guessing that it had been his suggestion. Theres some sense in that, anyway.
I hope you will be there? he said to Kitty. As soon as the old prince turned away from him, Levin went out un noticed, and the last impression he carried away with him of that evening was the smiling, happy face of Kitty answering Vronskys inquiry about the ball.