THE NEXT day was Sunday. Stepan Arkadyevitch went to the Grand Theatre to a rehearsal of the ballet, and gave Misha Tchibisov, 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 theatre, 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 theatre Stepan Arkadyevitch drove to Ohotny Row, selected himself the fish and asparagus for dinner, and by twelve oclock was at Dussots, 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 programme of that days dinner. There would be fresh perch, asparagus, and la pièce de résistancefirst-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 pièce de résistance among the guestsSergey 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 instalment for the forest had been received from the merchant and was not yet exhausted; Dolly had been very amiable and good-humoured 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-humoured 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 Alexandrovitchs face and the fact that he had not come to see them or let them know of his arrival with the rumours 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 oclock 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 give him a warm reception was the other unpleasant thing. But Stepan Arkadyevitch instinctively felt that everything would come round all right. Theyre 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, youve 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.
No, I havent time; Ive 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.
Not a bit: in Russia there can be no labour question. In Russia the question is that of the relation of the working people to the land; though the question exists there toobut there its a matter of repairing whats been ruined, while with us
Yes, yes! he said, its very possible youre right. But Im glad youre in good spirits, and are hunting bears, and working, and interested. Shtcherbatsky told me another storyhe met youthat you were in such a depressed state, talking of nothing but death.
Well, what of it? Ive not given up thinking of death, said Levin. Its true that its high time I was dead; and that all this is nonsense. Its the truth Im 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 speak of mildew, which has grown up on a tiny planet. And for us to suppose we can have something greatideas, workits all dust and ashes.
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 to-morrow, if not to-day, 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 workanything so as not to think of death!
You dont mean to say hes 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 shes coming or not, I dont care, he said to himself.
And Stepan Arkadyevitch got up and went down below to the new head of his department. Instinct 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 oclock before he got to Alexey Alexandrovitch.