Dolly went to her room and she felt amused. To change her dress was impossible, for she had already put on her best dress. But in order to signify in some way her preparation for dinner, she asked the maid to brush her dress, changed her cuffs and tie, and put some lace on her head.
Yes, we are too formal here, she said, as it were apologising for her magnificence. Alexey is delighted at your visit, as he rarely is at anything. He has completely lost his heart to you, she added. Youre not tired?
There was no time for talking about anything before dinner. Going into the drawing-room they found Princess Varvara already there, and the gentlemen of the party in black frock-coats. The architect wore a swallow-tail coat. Vronsky presented the doctor and the steward to his guest. The architect he had already introduced to her at the hospital.
A stout butler, resplendent with a smoothly shaven round chin and a starched white cravat, announced that dinner was ready, and the ladies got up. Vronsky asked Sviazhsky to take in Anna Arkadyevna, and himself offered his arm to Dolly. Veslovsky was before Tushkevitch in offering his arm to Princess Varvara, so that Tushkevitch with the steward and the doctor walked in alone.
The dinner, the dining-room, the service, the waiting at table, the wine, and the food, were not simply in keeping with the general tone of modern luxury throughout the house, but seemed even more sumptuous and modern. Darya Alexandrovna watched this luxury which was novel to her, and as a good housekeeper used to managing a householdthough she never dreamed of adapting anything she saw to her own household, as it was all in a style of luxury far above her own manner of livingshe could not help scrutinising every detail, and wondering how and by whom it was all done. Vassenka Veslovsky, her husband, and even Sviazhsky, and many other people she knew, would never have considered this question, and would have readily believed what every well-bred host tries to make his guests feel, that is, that all that is well-ordered in his house has cost him, the host, no trouble whatever, but comes of itself. Darya Alexandrovna was well aware that even porridge for the childrens breakfast does not come of itself, and that therefore, where so complicated and magnificent a style of luxury was maintained, some one must give earnest attention to its organisation. And from the glance with which Alexey Kirillovitch scanned the table, from the way he nodded to the butler, and offered Darya Alexandrovna her choice between cold soup and hot soup, she saw that it was all organised and maintained by the care of the master of the house himself. It was evident that it all rested no more upon Anna than upon Veslovsky. She, Sviazhsky, the princess, and Veslovsky, were equally guests, with light hearts enjoying what had been arranged for them.
Anna was the hostess only in conducting the conversation. The conversation was a difficult one for the lady of the house at a small table with persons present, like the steward and the architect, belonging to a completely different world, struggling not to be over-awed by an elegance to which they were unaccustomed, and unable to sustain a large share in the general conversation. But this difficult conversation Anna directed with her usual tact and naturalness, and indeed she did so with actual enjoyment, as Darya Alexandrovna observed. The conversation began about the row Tushkevitch and Veslovsky had taken alone together in the boat, and Tushkevitch began describing the last boat-races in Petersburg at the Yacht Club. But Anna, seizing the first pause, at once turned to the architect to draw him out of his silence.
Nikolay Ivanitch was struck, she said, meaning Sviazhsky, at the progress the new building had made since he was here last; but I am there every day, and every day I wonder at the rate at which it grows.
Its first-rate working with his excellency, said the architect with a smile (he was respectful and composed, though with a sense of his own dignity). Its a very different matter to have to do with the district authorities. Where one would have to write out sheaves of papers, here I call upon the count, and in three words we settle the business.
Anna took a knife and fork in her beautiful white hands, covered with rings, and began showing how the machine worked. It was clear that she saw nothing would be understood from her explanation; but aware that her talk was pleasant and her hands beautiful she went on explaining.
Es kommt drauf anDer Preis vom Draht muss ausgerechnet werden. And the German, roused from his taciturnity, turned to Vronsky. Das lässt sich ausrechnen, Erlaucht. The German was just feeling in the pocket where were his pencil and the notebook he always wrote in, but recollecting that he was at dinner, and observing Vronskys chilly glance, he checked himself. Zu complicirt, macht zu viel Klopot, he concluded.
Oh, no, why so? said Anna with a smile that betrayed that she knew there was something charming in her disquisitions upon the machine that had been noticed by Sviazhsky. This new trait of girlish coquettishness made an unpleasant impression on Dolly.
The company at dinner, with the exception of the doctor, the architect, and the steward, who remained plunged in gloomy silence, kept up a conversation that never paused, glancing off one subject, fastening on another, and at times stinging one or the other to the quick. Once Darya Alexandrovna felt wounded to the quick, and got so hot that she positively flushed and wondered afterwards whether she had said anything extreme or unpleasant. Sviazhsky began talking of Levin, describing his strange view that machinery is simply pernicious in its effects on Russian agriculture.
I have not the pleasure of knowing this M. Levin, Vronsky said, smiling, but most likely he has never seen the machines he condemns; or if he has seen and tried any, it must have been after a queer fashion, some Russian imitation, not a machine from abroad. What sort of views can any one have on such a subject?
I cant defend his opinions, Darya Alexandrovna said, firing up; but I can say that hes a highly cultivated man, and if he were here he would know very well how to answer you, though I am not capable of doing so.
I like him extremely, and we are great friends, Sviazhsky said, smiling good-naturedly. Mais pardon, il est un petit peu toqué; he maintains, for instance, that district councils and arbitration boards are all of no use, and he is unwilling to take part in anything.
Its our Russian apathy, said Vronsky, pouring water from an iced decanter into a delicate glass on a high stem; weve no sense of the duties our privileges impose upon us, and so we refuse to recognise these duties.
For my part, pursued Vronsky, who was evidently for some reason or other keenly affected by this conversation such as I am, I am, on the contrary, extremely grateful for the honour they have done me, thanks to Nikolay Ivanitch (he indicated Sviazhsky), in electing me a justice of the peace. I consider that for me the duty of being present at the session, of judging some peasants quarrel about a horse, is as important as anything I can do. And I shall regard it as an honour if they elect me for the district council. Its only in that way I can pay for the advantages I enjoy as a landowner. Unluckily they dont understand the weight that the big landowners ought to have in the state.
It was strange to Darya Alexandrovna to hear how serenely confident he was of being right at his own table. She thought how Levin, who believed the opposite, was just as positive in his opinions at his own table. But she loved Levin, and so she was on his side.
So we can reckon upon you, count, for the coming elections? said Sviazhsky. But you must come a little beforehand, so as to be on the spot by the eighth. If you would do me the honour to stop with me.
I rather agree with your beau-frère, said Anna, though not quite on the same ground as he, she added with a smile. Im afraid that we have too many of these public duties in these latter days. Just as in old days there were so many government functionaries that one had to call in a functionary for every single thing, so now every ones doing some sort of public duty. Alexey has been here now six months, and hes a member, I do believe, of five or six different public bodies. Du train que cela va, the whole time will be wasted on it. And Im afraid that with such a multiplicity of these bodies, theyll end in being a mere form. How many are you a member of, Nikolay Ivanitch? she turned to Sviazhskyover twenty, I fancy.
Anna spoke lightly, but irritation could be discerned in her tone. Darya Alexandrovna, watching Anna and Vronsky attentively, detected it instantly. She noticed, too, that as she spoke Vronskys face had immediately taken a serious and obstinate expression. Noticing this, and that Princess Varvara at once made haste to change the conversation by talking of Petersburg acquaintances, and remembering what Vronsky had without apparent connection said in the garden of his work in the country, Dolly surmised that this question of public activity was connected with some deep private disagreement between Anna and Vronsky.
The dinner, the wine, the decoration of the table, was all very good; but it was all like what Darya Alexandrovna had seen at formal dinners and balls which of late years had become quite unfamiliar to her; it all had the same impersonal and constrained character, and so on an ordinary day and in a little circle of friends it made a disagreeable impression on her.
After dinner they sat on the terrace, then they proceeded to play lawn tennis. The players, divided into two parties, stood on opposite sides of a tightly drawn net with gilt poles on the carefully levelled and rolled croquet-ground. Darya Alexandrovna made an attempt to play, but it was a long time before she could understand the game, and by the time she did understand it, she was so tired that she sat down with Princess Varvara and simply looked on at the players. Her partner, Tushkevitch, gave up playing too, but the others kept the game up for a long time. Sviazhsky and Vronsky both played very well and seriously. They kept a sharp lookout on the balls served to them, and without haste or getting in each others way, they ran adroitly up to them, waited for the rebound, and neatly and accurately returned them over the net. Veslovsky played worse than the others. He was too eager, but he kept the players lively with his high spirits. His laughter and outcries never paused. Like the other men of the party, with the ladies permission, he took off his coat, and his solid, comely figure in his white shirt-sleeves, with his red perspiring face and his impulsive movements, made a picture that imprinted itself vividly on the memory.
During the game Darya Alexandrovna was not enjoying herself. She did not like the light tone of raillery that was kept up all the time between Vassenka Veslovsky and Anna, and the unnaturalness altogether of grown-up people, all alone without children, playing at a childs game. But to avoid breaking up the party and to get through the time somehow, after a rest she joined the game again, and pretended to be enjoying it. All that day it seemed to her as though she were acting in a theatre with actors cleverer than she, and that her bad acting was spoiling the whole performance. She had come with the intention of staying two days, if all went well. But in the evening, during the game, she made up her mind that she would go home next day. The maternal cares and worries, which she had so hated on the way, now, after a day spent without them, struck her in quite another light, and tempted her back to them.