Anna Karenina, v1 by Leo Tolstoy
Vengeance is mine; I will repay
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in
its own way.
Everything was in confusion in the Oblonskys' house. The wife had
discovered that the husband was carrying on an intrigue with a French
girl, who had been a governess in their family, and she had announced
to her husband that she could not go on living in the same house with
him. This position of affairs had now lasted two days, and not only
the husband and wife themselves, but all the members of their family
and the household, were painfully conscious of it. All the members of
the family and the household felt that there was no sense in their
living together, and that even stray people brought together by chance
in any inn had more in common with one another than they, the members
of the family and the household of the Oblonskys. The wife did not
leave her own apartments; the husband had not been home for two days.
The children ran wild all over the house; the English governess
quarreled with the housekeeper, and wrote to a friend asking her to
look out for a new employ for her; the man cook had walked off the day
before just at dinnertime; the kitchenmaid and the coachman had given
Two days after the quarrel, Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky——
Stiva, as he was called in the fashionable world——woke up at his usual
hour, that is, at eight o'clock in the morning, not in his wife's
bedroom, but on the leather-covered sofa in his study. He turned over
his stout, well-cared-for person on the springy sofa, as though he
would sink into a long sleep again; he vigorously embraced the pillow
on its other side and buried his face in it; but all at once he jumped
up, sat up on the sofa, and opened his eyes.
"Yes, yes, how was it now?" he thought, going over his dream.
"Yes, how was it? Yes! Alabin was giving a dinner at Darmstadt; no,
not Darmstadt, but something American. Yes, but then, Darmstadt was in
America. Yes, Alabin was giving a dinner on glass tables, and the
tables sang, Il mio tesoro——no, not Il mio tesoro, but something
better, and there were some sort of little decanters on the table,
and, at the same time, these decanters were women," he recalled.
Stepan Arkadyevich's eyes twinkled gaily, and he pondered with a
smile. "Yes, it was jolly, very jolly. There was a great deal more
that was delightful, only there's no putting it into words, or even
expressing it in one's waking thoughts." And noticing a gleam of light
peeping in beside one of the woolen-cloth curtains, he cheerfully
dropped his feet over the edge of the sofa and felt about with them
for his slippers, a present on his last birthday, worked for him by
his wife on gold-colored morocco. And, as he used to do for the last
nine years, he stretched out his hand, without getting up, toward the
place where his dressing gown always hung in the bedroom. And
thereupon he suddenly remembered that he was not sleeping in his
wife's room, but in his study, as well as the reason; the smile
vanished from his face and he knit his brows.
"Ah, ah, ah! Oo!..." he muttered, recalling everything that had
happened. And again every detail of his quarrel with his wife was
present to his imagination, all the hopelessness of his position, and,
worst of all, his own fault.
"Yes, she won't forgive me, and she can't forgive me. And the most
awful thing about it is that it's all my fault——all my fault, though
I'm not to blame. That's the point of the whole tragedy," he
reflected. "Oh, oh, oh!" he kept repeating in despair, as he
remembered the acutely painful sensations caused him by this quarrel.
Most unpleasant of all was the first minute when, on coming from
the theater, good-humored and lighthearted, with a huge pear in his
hand for his wife, he had not found his wife in the drawing room, to
his surprise, nor in the study, but saw her at last in her bedroom,
clutching the unlucky letter that revealed everything.
She, his Dolly, forever fussing and worrying over household
details, and limited in her ideas, as he considered, was sitting
motionless with the letter in her hand, looking at him with an
expression of horror, despair and indignation.
"What is this? This?" she asked, pointing to the letter.
And at this recollection, Stepan Arkadyevich, as is so often the
case, was not so much annoyed at the fact itself as at the way in
which he had met his wife's words.
There happened to him at that instant that which happens to people
when they are unexpectedly caught in something very disgraceful. He
did not succeed in adapting his face to the situation in which he was
placed toward his wife by the discovery of his fault. Instead of being
hurt, denying, defending himself, begging forgiveness; instead of
remaining indifferent even——anything would have been better than what
he did do——his face utterly without his volition ("cerebral reflexes,"
mused Stepan Arkadyevich, who was fond of physiology) had assumed its
habitual good-humored, and therefore stupid, smile.
This stupid smile he could not forgive himself. Catching sight of
that smile Dolly shuddered as though from physical pain, broke out
with her characteristic heat into a flood of cruel words, and rushed
out of the room. Since then she had refused to see her husband.
"It's all the fault of that stupid smile," Stepan Arkadyevich was
"But what's to be done? What's to be done?" he kept saying to
himself in despair——and found no answer.
Stepan Arkadyevich was a truthful man in his relations with
himself. He was incapable of self-deception and of persuading himself
that he repented his conduct. He could not at this date repent the
fact that he, handsome, susceptible to love, a man of thirty-four, was
not in love with his wife, the mother of five living and two dead
children, and only a year younger than himself. All he repented was
that he had not succeeded better in hiding this from his wife. But he
felt all the difficulty of his position and was sorry for his wife,
his children, and himself. Possibly he might have managed to conceal
his sins better from his wife if he had anticipated that the knowledge
of them would have had such an effect upon her. He had never clearly
reflected on the subject, but he had vaguely conceived that his wife
must long ago have suspected him of being unfaithful to her, and had
shut her eyes to the fact. He had even supposed that she, a worn-out
woman no longer young or good-looking, and in no way remarkable or
uncommon——merely a good mother——ought from a sense of fairness to take
an indulgent view. It had turned out quite the other way.
"Oh, it's awful! Oh dear, oh dear! Awful!" Stepan Arkadyevich kept
repeating to himself, and he could think of nothing to be done. "And
how well things were going up till now! How well we got on! She was
contented and happy in her children; I never interfered with her in
anything; I let her manage the children and the house just as she
liked. True, it's bad her having been a governess in our house. That's
bad! There's something common, vulgar, in flirting with one's
governess. But what a governess!" (He vividly recalled the roguish
black eyes of Mlle. Roland and her smile.) "But after all, while she
was in the house, I kept myself in hand. And the worst of it all is
that she's already... It seems as if ill luck would have it so! Oh,
oh! But what, what is to be done?"
There was no solution, save that universal solution which life
gives to all questions, even the most complex and insolvable: One must
live in the needs of the day——that is, forget oneself. To forget
himself in sleep was impossible now, at least till nighttime; he could
not go back now to the music sung by the decanter women; so he must
forget himself in the dream of daily life.
"Then we shall see," Stepan Arkadyevich said to himself, and
getting up he put on a gray dressing gown lined with blue silk, tied
the tassels in a knot, and, drawing a deep breath of air into his
broad chest, he walked to the window with his usual confident step,
turning out his feet that carried his full frame so easily. He pulled
up the blind and rang the bell loudly. It was at once answered by the
appearance of an old friend, his valet, Matvei, carrying his clothes,
his boots and a telegram. Matvei was followed by the barber with all
the necessaries for shaving.
"Are there any papers from the board?" asked Stepan Arkadyevich,
taking the telegram and seating himself at the looking glass.
"On the table," replied Matvei, glancing with inquiring sympathy
at his master; and, after a short pause, he added with a sly smile:
"They've sent from the carriage jobber."
Stepan Arkadyevich made no reply, but merely glanced at Matvei in
the looking glass. The glance, in which their eyes met in the looking
glass, made it clear that they understood one another. Stepan
Arkadyevich's eyes seemed to ask: "Why do you tell me that? Don't you
Matvei put his hands in his jacket pockets, thrust out one leg,
and gazed silently, with a good-humored, faint smile, at his master.
"I told them to come on Sunday, and till then not to trouble you
or themselves for nothing," he said. He had obviously prepared the
Stepan Arkadyevich saw Matvei wanted to make a joke and attract
attention to himself. Tearing open the telegram, he read it through,
guessing at the words, misspelled as they always are in telegrams, and
his face brightened.
"Matvei, my sister Anna Arkadyevna will be here tomorrow," he
said, checking for a minute the sleek, plump hand of the barber,
cutting a pink path between his long, curly side whiskers.
"Thank God!" said Matvei, showing by this response that he, like
his master, realized the significance of this arrival: Anna
Arkadyevna, the sister his master was so fond of, might bring about a
reconciliation between husband and wife.
"Alone, or with her husband?" inquired Matvei.
Stepan Arkadyevich could not answer, as the barber was at work on
his upper lip, and he raised one finger. Matvei nodded at the looking
"Alone. Is the room to be got ready upstairs?"
"Inform Darya Alexandrovna: where she orders."
"Darya Alexandrovna?" Matvei repeated, as though in doubt.
"Yes, inform her. Here, take the telegram; give it to her, and
then do what she tells you."
"You want to try it out," Matvei guessed, but only said: "Yes,
Stepan Arkadyevich was already washed and combed and ready to be
dressed, when Matvei, stepping slowly in his creaky boots, came back
into the room with the telegram in his hand. The barber had gone.
"Darya Alexandrovna told me to inform you that she is going away.
'Let him'——that is you——'do as he likes,'" he said, laughing only with
his eyes, and, putting his hands in his pockets, he watched his master
with his head on one side. Stepan Arkadyevich was silent a minute.
Then a good-humored and rather pitiful smile showed itself on his
"Eh, Matvei?" he said, shaking his head.
"Never mind, sir; everything will come round," said Matvei.
"Just so, sir."
"Do you think so?——Who's there?" asked Stepan Arkadyevich, hearing
the rustle of a woman's dress at the door.
"It's I," said a firm, pleasant feminine voice, and the stern,
pockmarked face of Matriona Philimonovna, the nurse, was thrust in at
"Well, what's the matter, Matriosha?" queried Stepan Arkadyevich,
meeting her in the doorway.
Although Stepan Arkadyevich was completely in the wrong as regards
his wife, and was conscious of this himself, almost everyone in the
house (even the nurse, Darya Alexandrovna's chief ally) was on his
"Well, what now?" he asked cheerlessly.
"Go to her, sir; own your fault again. Maybe God will aid you. She
is suffering so, it's pitiful to see her; and besides, everything in
the house is topsy-turvy. You must have pity, sir, on the children.
Beg her forgiveness, sir. There's no help for it! One must pay the
"But she won't see me."
"You do your part. God is merciful; pray to God, sir——pray to God."
"Come, that'll do, you can go," said Stepan Arkadyevich, blushing
suddenly. "Well, now, let's dress," he turned to Matvei and resolutely
threw off his dressing gown.
Matvei was already holding up the shirt like a horse's collar,
and, blowing off some invisible speck, he slipped it with obvious
pleasure over the well-cared-for person of his master.
When he was dressed, Stepan Arkadyevich sprinkled some scent on
himself, pulled down his shirt cuffs, distributed into his pockets his
cigarettes, pocketbook, matches and watch, with its double chain and
seals, and, shaking out his handkerchief, feeling himself clean,
fragrant, healthy and physically at ease, in spite of his misfortune,
he walked with a slight swing of each leg into the dining room, where
coffee was already waiting for him——and, alongside of his cup, the
letters and papers from the office.
He read the letters. One was very unpleasant, from a merchant who
was buying a forest on his wife's property. To sell this forest was
absolutely essential; but at present, until he was reconciled with his
wife, the subject could not be discussed. The most unpleasant thing of
all was that his pecuniary interests should in this way enter into the
question of his reconciliation with his wife. And the idea that he
might be led on by his interests, that he might seek a reconciliation
with his wife on account of the sale of the forest—— that idea hurt
When he had finished his letters, Stepan Arkadyevich moved the
office papers close to him, rapidly looked through two cases, made a
few notes with a big pencil, and, pushing away the papers, turned to
his coffee. Sipping it, he opened a still damp morning paper and began
to read it.
Stepan Arkadyevich took in and read a liberal paper, not an
extreme one, but one advocating the views held by the majority. And in
spite of the fact that science, art and politics had no special
interest for him, he firmly held those views on all these subjects
which were held by the majority and by his paper, and he only changed
them when the majority changed them——or, more strictly speaking, he
did not change them, but they imperceptibly changed of themselves
Stepan Arkadyevich had not chosen his political opinions or his
views——these political opinions and views had come to him of
themselves——just as he did not choose the shapes of his hat and coat,
but simply accepted those that were being worn. And for him, living in
a certain society——owing to the need, ordinarily developed at years of
discretion, for some degree of mental activity——to have views was just
as indispensable as to have a hat. If there was a reason for his
preferring liberal to conservative views, which were held also by many
of his circle, it arose not from his considering liberalism more
rational, but from its being in closer accordance with his manner of
life. The liberal party said that in Russia everything was wrong, and
indeed Stepan Arkadyevich had many debts and was decidedly short of
money. The liberal party said that marriage was an institution quite
out of date, and that it stood in need of reconstruction, and indeed
family life afforded Stepan Arkadyevich little gratification, and
forced him into lying and hypocrisy, which were so repulsive to his
nature. The liberal party said, or rather allowed it to be understood,
that religion was only a curb to keep in check the barbarous classes
of the people, and indeed Stepan Arkadyevich could not stand through
even a short service without his legs aching, and could never make out
what was the object of all the terrible and high-flown language about
another world when life might be so very amusing in this world. And
with all this Stepan Arkadyevich, who liked a merry joke, was fond of
embarrassing some plain man by saying that if one were to pride
oneself on one's origin, one ought not to stop at Rurik and disown the
founder of the line——the monkey. And so liberalism had become a habit
of Stepan Arkadyevich, and he liked his newspaper, as he did his cigar
after dinner, for the slight fog it diffused in his brain. He read the
leading article, which maintained that it was quite senseless in our
day to raise an outcry that radicalism was threatening to swallow up
all conservative elements, and that the government ought to take
measures to crush the revolutionary hydra; that, on the contrary, "in
our opinion the danger lies not in that imaginary revolutionary hydra,
but in the obstinacy of traditionalism clogging progress," etc., etc.
He read another article, too, a financial one, which alluded to
Bentham and Mill, and dropped some innuendoes reflecting on the
ministry. With his characteristic quick-wittedness he caught the drift
of each innuendo, divined whence it came, at whom and on what ground
it was aimed, and that afforded him, as it always did, a certain
gratification. But today that gratification was embittered by Matriona
Philimonovna's advice and the unsatisfactory state of his household.
He read, too, that Count Beist was rumored to have left for Wiesbaden,
and that one need have no more gray hair, and of the sale of a light
carriage, and of a young person seeking a situation; but these items
of information did not give him, as usual, a quiet, ironical
Having finished the paper, a second cup of coffee and a roll and
butter, he got up, shaking the crumbs off his waistcoat; and, squaring
his broad chest, he smiled joyously; not because there was anything
particularly agreeable in his mind——the joyous smile was evoked by a
But this joyous smile at once recalled everything to him, and he
Two childish voices (Stepan Arkadyevich recognized the voices of
Grisha, his youngest boy, and Tania, his eldest girl) were heard
outside the door. They were carrying something, and dropped it.
"I told you not to sit passengers on the roof," said the little
girl in English; "there, pick them up!"
"Everything's in confusion," thought Stepan Arkadyevich; "there
are the children running about by themselves." And going to the door,
he called them. They left off the box that represented a train, and
came in to their father.
The little girl, her father's favorite, ran up boldly, embraced
him and hung laughingly on his neck, enjoying as she always did the
well-known smell of scent that came from his whiskers. At last the
little girl kissed his face, which was flushed from his stooping
posture and beaming with tenderness, loosed her hands, and was about
to run away again; but her father held her back.
"How is mamma?" he asked, passing his hand over his daughter's
smooth, soft little neck. "Good morning," he said, smiling to the boy,
who had come up to greet him.
He was conscious that he loved the boy less, and always tried to
be fair; but the boy felt it, and did not smile responsively to his
father's chilly smile.
"Mamma? She is up," answered the girl.
Stepan Arkadyevich sighed.
"That means she hasn't slept again all night," he thought.
"Well, is she cheerful?"
The little girl knew that there was a quarrel between her father
and mother, and that her mother could not be cheerful, and that her
father must be aware of this, and that he was pretending when he asked
about it so lightly. And she blushed for her father. He at once
perceived it, and blushed too.
"I don't know," she said. "She did not say we must do our lessons,
but she said we were to go for a walk with Miss Hoole to
"Well, go, Tania, my darling. Oh, wait a minute, though," he said,
still holding her and stroking her soft little hand.
He took off the mantelpiece, where he had put it yesterday, a
little box of sweets, and gave her two, picking out her favorites, a
chocolate and a bonbon.
"For Grisha?" said the little girl, pointing to the chocolate.
"Yes, yes." And still stroking her little shoulder, he kissed the
nape of her neck, and let her go.
"The carriage is ready," said Matvei; "but there's someone to see
you with a petition."
"Been here long?" asked Stepan Arkadyevich.
"Half an hour or so."
"How many times have I told you to tell me at once?"
"One must let you drink your coffee in peace, at least," said
Matvei, in the affectionately gruff tone with which it was impossible
to be angry.
"Well, show the person up at once," said Oblonsky, frowning with
The petitioner, the widow of a staff captain Kalinin, came with a
request impossible and unreasonable; but Stepan Arkadyevich, as he
generally did, made her sit down, heard her to the end attentively
without interrupting her, and gave her detailed advice as to how and
to whom to apply, and even wrote for her, easily and clearly, in his
large, sprawling calligraphic and legible hand, a little note to a
personage who might be of use to her. Having got rid of the staff
captain's widow, Stepan Arkadyevich took his hat and stopped to
recollect whether he had forgotten anything. It appeared that he had
forgotten nothing except what he wanted to forget——his wife.
"Ah, yes!" He bowed his head, and his handsome face assumed a
melancholy expression. "To go, or not to go?" he said to himself; and
an inner voice told him he must not go, that nothing could come of it
but falsity; that to amend, to set right their relations was
impossible, because it was impossible to make her attractive again and
able to inspire love, or to make him an old man, not susceptible to
love. Except deceit and lying nothing could come of it now; and deceit
and lying were opposed to his nature.
"It must be some day, though: it can't go on like this," he said,
trying to give himself courage. He set straight his chest, took out a
cigarette, lighted it, took two whiffs at it, flung it into a
mother-of-pearl ash tray, and with rapid steps walked through the
drawing room and opened the other door into his wife's bedroom.
Darya Alexandrovna, in a dressing jacket, and with her now scanty
hair (once luxuriant and beautiful) fastened up with hairpins on the
nape of her neck, with a sunken, thin face and large, startled eyes,
which looked prominent from the thinness of her face, was standing,
among a litter of all sorts of things scattered all over the room,
before an open bureau, from which she was taking something. Hearing
her husband's steps, she stopped, looking toward the door, and trying
in vain to give her features a severe and contemptuous expression. She
felt she was afraid of him, and afraid of the coming interview. She
was just attempting to do what she had attempted to do ten times
already in these last three days——to sort out the children's things
and her own, so as to take them to her mother's——and again she could
not bring herself to do this; but now again, as each time before, she
kept saying to herself, that things cannot go on like this, that she
must undertake something, punish him, put him to shame, avenge on him
some little part at least of the suffering he had caused her. She
still continued to tell herself that she should leave him, but she was
conscious that this was impossible; it was impossible because she
could not get out of the habit of regarding him as her husband and of
loving him. Besides this, she realized that if even here in her own
house she could hardly manage to look after her five children
properly, they would be still worse off where she was going with all
of them. As it was, even in the course of these three days, the
youngest was unwell from being given unwholesome soup, and the others
had almost gone without their dinner the day before. She was conscious
that it was impossible to go away; but, cheating herself, she went on
all the same sorting out her things and pretending she was going.
Seeing her husband, she dropped her hands into the drawer of the
bureau as though looking for something, and only looked round at him
when he had come quite up to her. But her face, to which she tried to
give a severe and resolute expression, expressed bewilderment and
"Dolly!" he said in a subdued and timid voice. He had hunched up
his shoulders and tried to look pitiful and humble, but for all that
he was radiant with freshness and health. In a rapid glance she
scanned his figure, beaming with freshness and health. "Yes, he is
happy and content!" she thought; "while I... And that disgusting good
nature which everyone likes him for and praises——I hate that good
nature of his," she thought. Her mouth stiffened, the muscles of the
cheek trembled on the right side of her pale, nervous face.
"What do you want?" she said in a rapid, deep, unnatural voice.
"Dolly!" he repeated, with a quiver in his voice. "Anna is coming
"Well, what is that to me? I can't see her!" she cried.
"But you must, really, Dolly..."
"Go away, go away, go away!" she shrieked, without looking at him,
as though this shriek were called up by physical pain.
Stepan Arkadyevich could be calm when he thought of his wife, he
could hope that everything would come round, as Matvei expressed it,
and had been able to go on reading his paper and drinking his coffee;
but when he saw her tortured, suffering face, heard the tone of her
voice, submissive to fate and full of despair, his breath was cut
short and a lump came to this throat, and his eyes began to shine with
"My God! What have I done? Dolly! For God's sake!... You know..."
He could not go on; there was a sob in his throat.
She shut the bureau with a slam, and glanced at him.
"Dolly, what can I say?... One thing: forgive me... Remember,
cannot nine years of our life atone for an instant..."
She dropped her eyes and listened, expecting what he would say, as
if beseeching him in some way or other to make her believe
"...instant of passion..." he said, and would have gone on, but at
that word, as at a pang of physical pain, her lips stiffened again,
and again the muscles of her right cheek worked.
"Go away, go out of the room!" she shrieked still more shrilly,
"and don't talk to me of your passions and your vilenesses."
She tried to go out, but tottered, and clung to the back of a
chair to support herself. His face relaxed, his lips became puffy;
tears welled up in his eyes.
"Dolly!" he said, sobbing now. "For mercy's sake, think of the
children; they are not to blame! I am to blame——punish me then, make
me expiate my fault. Anything I can do, I am ready to do! I am to
blame, no words can express how much I am to blame! But, Dolly,
She sat down. He listened to her hard, heavy breathing, and he was
unutterably sorry for her. She made several attempts to speak, but
could not. He waited.
"You remember the children, Stiva, to play with them; but I
remember, and know that they go to ruin now," she said——obviously one
of the phrases she had more than once repeated to herself in the
course of the last three days.
She had called him "Stiva," and he glanced at her with gratitude
and moved to take her hand, but she drew back from him with aversion.
"I remember the children, and for that reason I would do anything
in the world to save them; but I don't myself know the means. By
taking them away from their father, or by leaving them with a vicious
father—— yes, a vicious father.... Tell me, after what... has happened,
can we live together? Is that possible? Do tell me——is it possible?"
she repeated, raising her voice. "After my husband, the father of my
children, enters into a love affair with his own children's
"But what's to be done? What's to be done?" he kept saying in a
pitiful voice, not knowing what he was saying, as his head sank lower
"You are loathsome to me, repulsive!" she shrieked, getting more
and more heated. "Your tears mean nothing! You have never loved me;
you have neither a heart nor a sense of honor! You are hateful to me,
disgusting, a stranger——yes, a complete stranger!" With pain and wrath
she uttered the word so terrible to herself——stranger.
He looked at her, and the fury expressed in her face alarmed and
amazed him. He did not understand that it was his pity for her that
exasperated her. She saw in him compassion for her, but not love. "No,
she hates me. She will not forgive me," he thought.
"It is awful Awful!" he said.
At that moment in the next room a child began to cry; probably it
had fallen down. Darya Alexandrovna listened, and her face suddenly
She seemed pulling herself together for a few seconds, as though
she did not know where she was nor what she was doing, and, getting up
rapidly, she moved toward the door.
"Well, she loves my child," he thought, noticing the change of her
face at the child's cry, "my child: how can she hate me then?"
"Dolly, one word more," he said, following her.
"If you follow me, I will call in the servants, and the children!
Let them all know you are a scoundrel! I am going away at once, and
you may live here with your mistress!"
And she went out, slamming the door.
Stepan Arkadyevich sighed, mopped his face, and with a subdued
tread walked out of the room. "Matvei says everything will come round;
but how? I don't see the least chance of it. Ah, ah, how horrible it
is! And how vulgarly she shouted," he said to himself, remembering her
shrieks and the words——"scoundrel" and "mistress." "And very likely
the maids were listening! Horribly vulgar, horribly." Stepan
Arkadyevich stood a few seconds alone, wiped his eyes, thrust out his
chest and walked out of the room.
It was Friday, and in the dining room the watchmaker, a German,
was winding up the clock. Stepan Arkadyevich remembered his joke about
this punctual, bald watchmaker, "that the German was wound up for a
whole lifetime himself, to wind up watches," and he smiled. Stepan
Arkadyevich was fond of a nice joke. "And maybe it will come round!"
That's a good expression, 'come round,' he thought. "I must tell
"Matvei!" he shouted. "Arrange everything with Marya in the
sitting room for Anna Arkadyevna," he said to Matvei when he came in.
Stepan Arkadyevich put on his fur coat and went out on the front
"You won't dine at home?" said Matvei, seeing him off.
"It all depends. But here's for the housekeeping," he said, taking
ten roubles from his pocketbook. "Will it be enough?"
"Enough or not enough, we must make it do," said Matvei, slamming
the carriage door and going back to the steps.
Darya Alexandrovna meanwhile having pacified the child, and
knowing from the sound of the carriage that he had gone off, went back
to her bedroom. It was her only refuge from the household cares which
crowded upon her directly she went out from it. Even now, in the short
time she had been in the nursery, the English governess and Matriona
Philimonovna had succeeded in putting several questions to her, which
did not admit of delay, and which only she could answer: "What were
the children to put on for their walk? Should they have any milk?
Should not a new cook be sent for?"
"Ah, let me alone, let me alone!" she said, and going back to her
bedroom she sat down in the same place she had occupied when talking
to her husband, clasping tightly her thin hands, her rings slipping
down on her bony fingers, and fell to going over her recollections of
the entire interview. "He has gone! But what has he finally arrived at
with her?" she thought. "Can it be he sees her? Why didn't I ask him!
No, no, reconciliation is impossible. Even if we remain in the same
house, we are strangers——strangers forever!" She repeated again with
special significance the word so dreadful to her. "And how I loved
him! my God, how I loved him!... How I loved him! And now don't I love
him? Don't I love him more than before? The most horrible thing is,"
she began, but did not finish her thought, because Matriona
Philimonovna put her head in at the door.
"Let us send for my brother," she said; "he can get a dinner
anyway, or we shall have the children getting nothing to eat till six
again, like yesterday."
"Very well, I will come directly and see about it. But did you
send for some new milk?"
And Darya Alexandrovna plunged into the duties of the day, and
drowned her grief in them for a time.
Stepan Arkadyevich had learned easily at school, thanks to his
excellent abilities, but he had been idle and mischievous, and
therefore was one of the lowest in his class. But in spite of his
habitually dissipated mode of life, his inferior grade in the service,
and his comparative youth, he occupied the honorable and lucrative
position of president of one of the government boards at Moscow. This
post he had received through his sister Anna's husband, Alexei
Alexandrovich Karenin, who held one of the most important positions in
the ministry to which the Moscow office belonged. But if Karenin had
not got his brother-in-law this berth, then through a hundred other
personages——brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts——Stiva
Oblonsky would have received this post or some other like it, together
with the salary of six thousand absolutely needful for him, as his
affairs, in spite of his wife's considerable property, were in a poor
Half Moscow and Peterburg were friends and relations of Stepan
Arkadyevich. He was born in the midst of those who had been, and had
become, the powerful ones of this world. One-third of the men in the
government, the older men, had been friends of his father's, and had
known him in pinafores; another third were his intimate chums, and the
remainder were friendly acquaintances. Consequently the distributors
of earthly blessings in the shape of posts, rents, concessions and
such, were all his friends, and could not overlook one of their own
set; and Oblonsky had no need to make any special exertion to get a
lucrative post. He had only not to refuse things, not to show
jealousy, not to be quarrelsome or take offense, all of which from his
characteristic good nature he never did. It would have struck him as
absurd if he had been told that he would not get a position with the
salary he required, especially as he expected nothing out of the way;
he only wanted what the men of his own age and standing did get, and
he was no worse qualified for performing duties of this kind than any
Stepan Arkadyevich was not merely liked by all who knew him for
his good humor, his bright disposition and his unquestionable honesty;
in him, in his handsome, radiant figure, his sparkling eyes, black
hair and eyebrows, and his white and pink complexion, there was
something which produced a physical effect of kindliness and good
humor on the people who met him. "Aha! Stiva! Oblonsky! The man
himself!" was almost always said with a smile of delight on meeting
him. Even though it happened at times that after a conversation with
him it seemed that nothing particularly delightful had happened, the
next day, and the next, everyone was just as delighted to meet him
After filling for two years the post of president of one of the
government boards at Moscow, Stepan Arkadyevich had won the respect,
as well as the liking, of his fellow officials, subordinates and
superiors, and all who had had business with him. The principal
qualities in Stepan Arkadyevich which had gained him this universal
respect in the service consisted, in the first place, of his extreme
indulgence for others, founded on a consciousness of his own
shortcomings; secondly, of his perfect liberalism——not the liberalism
he read of in the papers, but the liberalism that was in his blood, in
virtue of which he treated all men perfectly equally and exactly the
same, whatever their fortune or rank might be; and thirdly——the most
important point——of his complete indifference to the business in which
he was engaged, in consequence of which he was never carried away, and
made no mistakes.
On reaching the offices of the board Stepan Arkadyevich, escorted
by a deferential porter with a portfolio, went into his little private
room, put on his uniform, and went into the board room. The clerks and
officials all rose, greeting him with good-humored deference. Stepan
Arkadyevich moved quickly, as always, to his place, shook hands with
the members of the board, and sat down. He made a joke or two, and
talked just as much as was consistent with due decorum, and began
work. No one knew better than Stepan Arkadyevich how to hit on that
exact limit of freedom, simplicity and official stiffness which is
necessary for the agreeable conduct of business. A secretary, with the
good-humored deference common to everyone in Stepan Arkadyevich's
office, came up with papers, and began to speak in the familiar and
easy tone which had been introduced by Stepan Arkadyevich.
"We have succeeded in getting the information from the government
department of Penza. Here, would you care?..."
"You've got it at last?" said Stepan Arkadyevich, laying his
finger on the paper. "Now, gentlemen..."
And the sitting of the board began.
"If they but knew," he thought, inclining his head with an
important air and listening to the report, "what a guilty little boy
their president was half an hour ago!" And his eyes were laughing
during the reading of the report. Till two o'clock the sitting would
go on without a break——then there would be an interval and luncheon.
It was not yet two, when the large glass doors of the board room
suddenly opened and someone came in.
All the members of the board, sitting at the table, from below the
portrait of the Czar and from behind the mirror of justice, delighted
at any distraction, looked round at the door; but the doorkeeper
standing there at once drove out the intruder, and closed the glass
door after him.
When the case had been read through, Stepan Arkadyevich got up and
stretched, and by way of tribute to the liberalism of the times took
out a cigarette, being in the board room, and went into his private
room. Two of his board fellows, the old veteran in the service,
Nikitin, and the Kammerjunker Grinevich, went in with him.
"We shall have time to finish after lunch," said Stepan
"To be sure we shall!" said Nikitin.
"A pretty sharp fellow this Fomin must be," said Grinevich of one
of the persons taking part in the case they were examining.
Stepan Arkadyevich frowned at Grinevich's words, giving him
thereby to understand that it was improper to pass judgment
prematurely, and made him no reply.
"Who was it who came in?" he asked the doorkeeper.
"Some fellow, your excellency, sneaked in without permission
directly my back was turned. He was asking for you. I told him: when
the members come out, then..."
"Where is he?"
"Maybe he's gone into the passage, he was strolling here till now.
That's he," said the doorkeeper, pointing to a strongly built, broad
shouldered man with a curly beard, who, without taking off his
sheepskin cap, was running lightly and rapidly up the worn steps of
the stone staircase. One of the officials going down——a lean fellow
with a portfolio——stood out of his way, looked disapprovingly at the
legs of the running man, and then glanced inquiringly at Oblonsky.
Stepan Arkadyevich was standing at the top of the stairs. His
good-naturedly beaming face above the embroidered collar of his
uniform beamed more than ever when he recognized the man coming up.
"Why, it's actually you, Levin, at last!" he said with a friendly
mocking smile, gazing on the approaching man. "How is it you have
deigned to look me up in this den?" said Stepan Arkadyevich and, not
content with shaking hands, he kissed his friend. "Have you been here
"I have just come, and very much wanted to see you," said Levin,
looking about him shyly, and, at the same time, angrily and uneasily.
"Well, let's go into my room," said Stepan Arkadyevich, who knew
his friend's sensitive and irritable shyness, and, taking his arm, he
drew him along, as though guiding him through dangers.
Stepan Arkadyevich was on familiar terms with almost all his
acquaintances, and called almost all of them by their Christian names:
old men of sixty, boys of twenty, actors, ministers, merchants and
adjutant generals, so that many of his intimate chums were to be found
at the extreme ends of the social ladder, and would have been very
much surprised to learn that they had, through the medium of Oblonsky,
something in common. He was the familiar friend of everyone with whom
he took a glass of champagne, and he took a glass of champagne with
everyone, and when in consequence he met any of his disreputable
chums, as he used in joke to call many of his friends, in the presence
of his subordinates, he well knew how, with his characteristic tact,
to diminish any possible disagreeable impression. Levin was not a
disreputable chum, but Oblonsky, with his ready tact, felt that Levin
fancied Oblonsky might not care to show his intimacy with him before
subordinates, and so Stepan Arkadyevich made haste to take him off
into his room.
Levin was almost of the same age as Oblonsky; their intimacy did
not rest merely on champagne. Levin had been the friend and companion
of his early youth. They were fond of one another in spite of the
difference of their characters and tastes, as friends are fond of one
another who have been together in early youth. But in spite of this,
each of them——as is often the way with men who have selected careers
of different kinds——though in discussion he would even justify the
other's career, in his heart despised it. It seemed to each of them
that the life he led himself was the only real life, and the life led
by his friend was a mere phantasm. Oblonsky could not restrain a
slight mocking smile at the sight of Levin. How often he had seen him
come up to Moscow from the country where he was doing something, but
what precisely Stepan Arkadyevich could never quite make out, and
indeed took no interest in the matter. Levin arrived in Moscow always
excited and in a hurry, rather ill at ease and irritated by his own
want of ease, and for the most part with a perfectly new, unexpected
view of things. Stepan Arkadyevich laughed at this, and liked it. In
the same way Levin in his heart despised the town mode of life of his
friend, and his official duties, which he laughed at and regarded as
trifling. But the difference was that Oblonsky, since he was doing the
same as everyone did, laughed assuredly and good-humoredly, while
Levin laughed without assuredness and sometimes angrily.
"We have long been expecting you," said Stepan Arkadyevich, going
into his room and letting Levin's hand go as though to show that here
all danger was over. "I am very, very glad to see you," he went on.
"Well, what now? How are you? When did you come?"
Levin was silent, looking at the unfamiliar faces of Oblonsky's
two companions, and especially at the elegant Grinevich's hands—— with
such long white fingers, such long yellow nails, curved at their end,
and such huge shining studs on the shirt cuff, that apparently these
hands absorbed all his attention, and allowed him no freedom of
thought. Oblonsky noticed this at once, and smiled.
"Ah, to be sure, let me introduce you," he said. "My colleagues:
Philip Ivanich Nikitin, Mikhail Stanislavich Grinevich"——and turning
to Levin——"a Zemstvo member, a modern Zemstvo man, a gymnast who lifts
five poods with one hand, a cattle breeder and sportsman, and my
friend——Constantin Dmitrievich Levin, the brother of Sergei Ivanovich
"Delighted," said the veteran.
"I have the honor of knowing your brother, Sergei Ivanovich," said
Grinevich, holding out his slender hand with its long nails.
Levin frowned, shook hands coldly, and at once turned to Oblonsky.
Though he had a great respect for his half-brother, an author well
known to all Russia, he could not endure it when people treated him
not as Constantin Levin, but as the brother of the celebrated
"No, I am no longer a Zemstvo man. I have quarreled with them all,
and don't go to the sessions any more," he said, turning to Oblonsky.
"You've been quick about it!" said Oblonsky with a smile. "But
"It's a long story. I will tell you some time," said Levin——but
began telling him at once. "Well, to put it shortly, I was convinced
that nothing was really done by the Zemstvo councils, or ever could
be," he began, as though someone had just insulted him. "On one side
it's a plaything; they play at being a parliament, and I'm neither
young enough nor old enough to find amusement in playthings; and on
the other side" (he stammered) "it's a means for the coterie of the
district to feather their nests. Formerly they did this through
wardships and courts of justice, now they do it through the Zemstvo——
instead of taking the bribes, they take the unearned salary," he said,
as hotly as though one of those present had opposed his opinion.
"Aha! You're in a new phase again, I see——a conservative," said
Stepan Arkadyevich. "However, we can go into that later."
"Yes, later. But I had to see you," said Levin, looking with
hatred at Grinevich's hand.
Stepan Arkadyevich gave a scarcely perceptible smile.
"But you used to say you'd never wear European dress again," he
said, gazing on Levin's new suit, obviously cut by a French tailor.
"So! I see: a new phase."
Levin suddenly blushed, not as grown men blush, slightly, without
being themselves aware of it, but as boys blush, feeling that they are
ridiculous through their shyness, and consequently ashamed of it, and
blushing still more, almost to the point of tears. And it was so
strange to see this sensible, manly face in such a childish plight,
that Oblonsky left off looking at him.
"Oh, where shall we meet? You know I want very much to talk to
you," said Levin.
Oblonsky seemed to ponder.
"I'll tell you what: let's go to Gurin's to lunch, and there we
can talk. I am free till three."
"No," answered Levin, after an instant's thought, "I have another
visit to make."
"All right, then, let's dine together."
"Dine together? But I have nothing very particular——just a word or
two, a question; then a little chatting."
"Well, let's have your word or two right now——and we'll talk it
over in the course of the dinner."
"Well, it's this," said Levin, "however——it's of no importance."
His face suddenly assumed an expression of anger from the effort
he was making to surmount his shyness.
"What are the Shcherbatskys doing? Everything as it used to be?"
Stepan Arkadyevich, who had long known that Levin was in love with
his sister-in-law, Kitty, gave a hardly perceptible smile, and his
eyes sparkled merrily.
"You've said your word or two, but I can't answer in a few words,
because... Excuse me for just a minute...."
A secretary came in, with respectful familiarity and the modest
consciousness, characteristic of every secretary, of superiority to
his chief in the knowledge of affairs; he went up to Oblonsky with
some papers, and began, under pretense of asking a question, to
explain some objection. Stepan Arkadyevich, without hearing him out,
laid his hand genially on the secretary's sleeve.
"No, you do as I told you," he said, smoothing his remark with a
smile, and with a brief explanation of his view of the matter he moved
away the papers, and said: "So do it that way, if you please, Zakhar
The secretary retired in confusion. During the consultation with
the secretary Levin had completely recovered from his embarrassment.
He was standing with elbows on the back of a chair, and on his face
was a look of ironical attention.
"I don't understand it——I don't understand it," he said.
"What don't you understand?" said Oblonsky, smiling just as
cheerfully, and picking up a cigarette. He expected some queer
outburst from Levin.
"I don't understand what you are doing," said Levin, shrugging his
shoulders. "How can you be serious about it?"
"Why, because there's nothing in it."
"You think so——yet we're overwhelmed with work."
"On paper. But, there, you've a gift for it," added Levin.
"That's to say, you think there's a lack of something in me?"
"Perhaps so," said Levin. "But all the same I admire your
grandeur, and am proud to have such a great person as a friend. You've
not answered my question, though," he went on, with a desperate effort
looking Oblonsky straight in the face.
"Oh, that's all very well. You wait a bit, and you'll come to this
yourself. It's very nice for you to have three thousand dessiatinas in
the Karazinsky district, and such muscles, and the freshness of a girl
of twelve; still you'll be one of us one day. Yes, as to your
question, there is no change, but it's a pity you've been away so
"Oh, why so?" Levin queried, frightened.
"Oh, nothing," responded Oblonsky. "We'll talk it over. But what's
brought you up to town?"
"Oh, we'll talk about that, too, later on," said Levin, reddening
again up to his ears.
"All right. I see," said Stepan Arkadyevich. "I should ask you to
come to us, you know, but my wife's not quite well. But I'll tell you
what: if you want to see them, they're sure now to be at the
Zoological Gardens from four to five. Kitty skates. You drive along
there, and I'll come and fetch you, and we'll go and dine somewhere
"Capital. So good-by till then."
"Now mind, you'll forget——I know you!——or rush off home to the
country!" Stepan Arkadyevich called out laughing.
And Levin went out of the room, recalling only when he was in the
doorway that he had forgotten to take leave of Oblonsky's colleagues.
"That gentleman must be a man of great energy," said Grinevich,
when Levin had gone away.
"Yes, my dear sir," said Stepan Arkadyevich, nodding his head,
"he's a lucky fellow! Three thousand dessiatinas in the Karazinsky
district; everything before him; and what youth and vigor! Not like
some of us."
"But why are you complaining, Stepan Arkadyevich?"
"Why, it goes hard with me, very bad," said Stepan Arkadyevich
with a heavy sigh.
When Oblonsky asked Levin what had brought him to town, Levin
blushed, and was furious with himself for blushing, because he could
not answer: "I have come to make your sister-in-law a proposal,"
though that was solely what he had come for.
The families of the Levins and the Shcherbatskys were old, noble
Moscow families, and had always been on intimate and friendly terms.
This intimacy had grown still closer during Levin's student days. He
had both prepared for the university with the young Prince
Shcherbatsky, the brother of Kitty and Dolly, and had entered at the
same time with him. In those days Levin was a frequent visitor at the
house of the Shcherbatskys, and he was in love with the Shcherbatsky
household. Strange as it may appear, it was with the household, the
family that Constantin Levin was in love, especially with the feminine
half of the household. Levin did not remember his own mother, and his
only sister was older than he was, so that it was in the
Shcherbatskys' house that he saw for the first time that inner life of
an old, noble, cultured and honorable family of which he had been
deprived by the death of his father and mother. All the members of
that family, especially the feminine half, were pictured by him, as it
were, wrapped about with a mysterious poetical veil, and he not only
perceived no defects whatever in them, but, under the poetical veil
that shrouded them, he assumed the existence of the loftiest
sentiments and every possible perfection. Why it was the three young
ladies had one day to speak French, and the next English; why it was
that at certain hours they played by turns on the piano, the sounds of
which were audible in their brother's room above, where the students
used to work; why they were visited by those professors of French
literature, of music, of drawing, of dancing; why at certain hours all
the three young ladies, with Mademoiselle Linon, drove in the coach to
the Tverskoy boulevard, dressed in their satin cloaks, Dolly in a long
one, Natalie in a half-long one, and Kitty in one so short that her
shapely legs in tightly-drawn red stockings were visible to all
beholders; why it was they had to walk about the Tverskoy boulevard
escorted by a footman with a gold cockade in his hat——all this and
much more that was done in their mysterious world he did not
understand, but he was sure that everything that was done there was
very good, and he was in love precisely with the mystery of the
In his student days he had all but been in love with the eldest,
Dolly, but she was soon married to Oblonsky. Then he began being in
love with the second. He felt, as it were, that he had to be in love
with one of the sisters, only he could not quite make out which. But
Natalie, too, had hardly made her appearance in the world when she
married the diplomat Lvov. Kitty was still a child when Levin left the
university. Young Shcherbatsky went into the navy, was drowned in the
Baltic and Levin's visits to the Shcherbatskys, despite his friendship
with Oblonsky, became less frequent. But when early in the winter of
this year Levin came to Moscow, after a year in the country, and saw
the Shcherbatskys, he realized which of the three sisters he was
indeed destined to love.
One would have thought that nothing could be simpler than for him,
a man of good family, rather rich than poor, and thirty-two years old,
to make the young Princess Shcherbatskaia an offer of marriage; in all
likelihood he would at once have been looked upon as a good match. But
Levin was in love, and so it seemed to him that Kitty was so perfect
in every respect, a creature so far above everything earthly, while he
was a creature so low and so earthly that it could not even be
conceived that other people and she herself could regard him as worthy
After spending two months in Moscow in a state of befuddlement,
seeing Kitty almost every day in society, into which he went so as to
meet her, he abruptly decided that it could not be, and went back to
Levin's conviction that it could not be was founded on the idea
that in the eyes of her family he was a disadvantageous and worthless
match for the charming Kitty, and that Kitty herself could not love
him. In her family's eyes he had no ordinary, definite career and
position in society, while his comrades by this time, when he was
thirty-two, were already one a colonel, and another a professor,
another director of a bank and railways, or chairman of a board, like
Oblonsky. But he (he knew very well how he must appear to others) was
a country gentleman, occupied in breeding cattle, shooting game and
building barns; in other words, a fellow of no ability, who had not
turned out well, and who was doing just what, according to the ideas
of the world, is done by people fit for nothing else.
The mysterious, enchanting Kitty herself could not love such an
ugly person as he conceived himself to be, and, above all, such an
ordinary, in no way striking person. Moreover, his attitude to Kitty
in the past——the attitude of a grown-up person to a child, arising
from his friendship with her brother——seemed to him yet another
obstacle to love. An ugly, good-natured man, as he considered himself,
might, he supposed, be liked as a friend; but to be loved with such a
love as that with which he loved Kitty, one would need to be handsome
and, still more, a distinguished man.
He had heard that women often did care for ugly and ordinary men,
but he did not believe it, for he judged by himself, and he could not
himself have loved any but beautiful, mysterious and exceptional
But, after spending two months alone in the country, he was
convinced that this was not one of those passions of which he had had
experience in his early youth; that this feeling gave him not an
instant's rest; that he could not live without deciding the question
as to whether she would or would not be his wife; that his despair had
arisen only from his own imaginings, and that he had no sort of proof
that he would be rejected. So he had now come to Moscow with a firm
determination to make a proposal, and get married if he were accepted.
Or... he could not conceive what would become of him if he were
On arriving in Moscow by a morning train, Levin had put up at the
house of his elder half-brother, Koznishev. After changing his clothes
he went down to his brother's study, intending to talk to him at once
about the object of his visit, and to ask his advice; but his brother
was not alone. With him there was a well-known professor of
philosophy, who had come from Charkov expressly to clear up a
difference that had arisen between them on a very important
philosophical question. The professor was carrying on a hot crusade
against materialists. Sergei Koznishev had been following this crusade
with interest, and after reading the professor's last article had
written him a letter stating his objections. He accused the professor
of making too great concessions to the materialists. And the professor
had promptly appeared to argue the matter out. The point in discussion
was the question then in vogue: Is there a line to be drawn between
psychical and physiological phenomena in man? And if so, where?
Sergei Ivanovich met his brother with the smile of chilly
friendliness he always had for everyone, and, introducing him to the
professor, went on with the conversation.
A little man in spectacles, with a narrow forehead, tore himself
from the discussion for an instant to greet Levin, and then went on
talking without paying any further attention to him. Levin sat down to
wait till the professor should go, but he soon began to get interested
in the subject under discussion.
Levin had come across the magazine articles about which they were
disputing, and had read them, interested in them as a development of
the first principles of science, familiar to him when a natural
science student at the university. But he had never connected these
scientific deductions as to the origin of man as an animal, as to
reflex action, biology and sociology, with those questions as to the
meaning to himself of life and death, which had of late been more and
more often in his mind.
As he listened to his brother's argument with the professor, he
noticed that they connected these scientific questions with those
spiritual problems——that at times they almost touched on the latter;
but every time they were close upon what seemed to him the chief point
they promptly beat a hasty retreat, and plunged again into a sea of
subtle distinctions, reservations, quotations, allusions and appeals
to authorities, and it was with difficulty that he understood what
they were talking about.
"I cannot admit it," said Sergei Ivanovich, with his habitual
clearness and distinctness of expression, and elegance of diction. "I
cannot in any case agree with Keiss that my whole conception of the
external world has been derived from impressions. The most fundamental
idea——the idea of existence——has not been received by me through
sensation; indeed, there is no special sense organ for the
transmission of such an idea."
"Yes, but they——Wurst, and Knaust, and Pripassov——would answer
that your consciousness of existence is derived from the conjunction
of all your sensations, that that consciousness of existence is the
result of your sensations. Wurst, indeed, says plainly that, assuming
there are no sensations, it follows that there is no idea of
"I maintain the contrary," began Sergei Ivanovich.
But here it seemed again to Levin that, just as they were close
upon the real point of the matter, they were again retreating, and he
made up his mind to put a question to the professor.
"According to that, if my senses are annihilated, if my body is
dead, I can have no existence of any sort?" he queried.
The professor, in annoyance, and, as it were, mental suffering at
the interruption, looked round at the strange inquirer, more like a
hauler of a barge than a philosopher, and turned his eyes upon Sergei
Ivanovich, as though to ask: What's one to say to him? But Sergei
Ivanovich, who had been talking with far less stress and one-sidedness
than the professor, and who had sufficient breadth of mind to answer
the professor, and at the same time to comprehend the simple and
natural point of view from which the question was put, smiled and
"That question we have no right to answer as yet...."
"We have not the requisite data," confirmed the professor, and he
went back to his argument. "No," he said; "I would point out the fact
that if, as Pripassov directly asserts, sensation is based on
impression, then we are bound to distinguish sharply between these two
Levin listened no more, and simply waited for the professor to go.
When the professor had gone, Sergei Ivanovich turned to his
"Delighted that you've come. For how long? How's your farming
Levin knew that his elder brother took little interest in farming,
and only put the question in deference to him, and therefore he told
him only about the sale of his wheat and money matters.
Levin had meant to tell his brother of his determination to get
married, and to ask his advice; he had indeed firmly resolved to do
so. But after seeing his brother, listening to his conversation with
the professor, hearing afterward the unconsciously patronizing tone in
which his brother questioned him about agricultural matters (their
mother's property had not been divided, and Levin took charge of both
their shares), Levin felt that he could not for some reason broach to
him his intention of marrying. He felt that his brother would not look
on it as he would have wished him.
"Well, how is your Zemstvo doing?" asked Sergei Ivanovich, who was
greatly interested in Zemstvo establishments and attached great
importance to them.
"I really don't know."
"What! But surely, you're a member of the board?"
"No, I'm not a member now; I've resigned," answered Levin, "and I
no longer attend the sessions."
"What a pity!" commented Sergei Ivanovich, frowning.
Levin in self-defense began to describe what took place at the
sessions in his district.
"That's how it always is!" Sergei Ivanovich interrupted him. "We
Russians are always like that. Perhaps it's our strong point, really——
this faculty of seeing our own shortcomings; but we overdo it, we
comfort ourselves with irony, which we always have on the tip of our
tongues. All I say is, give such rights as our Zemstvo establishments
to any other European people, and... Why, the Germans or the English
would have worked their way to freedom with them, while we simply turn
them into ridicule."
"But how can it be helped?" said Levin penitently. "It was my last
trial. And I did try with all my soul. I can't. I'm no good at it."
"It's not that you're no good at it," said Sergei Ivanovich, "it
is that you don't look at it as you should."
"Perhaps not," Levin answered dejectedly.
"Oh! do you know brother Nikolai's turned up again?"
This brother Nikolai was the elder brother of Constantin Levin,
and half-brother of Sergei Ivanovich; a man who was done for, who had
dissipated the greater part of his fortune, was living in the
strangest and lowest company, and had quarreled with his brothers.
"What did you say?" Levin cried with horror. "How do you know?"
"Procophii saw him in the street."
"Here in Moscow? Where is he? Do you know?" Levin got up from his
chair, as though on the point of starting off at once.
"I'm sorry I told you," said Sergei Ivanovich, shaking his head at
his younger brother's excitement. "I sent to find out where he is
living, and sent him his I O U to Trubin, which I paid. This is the
answer he sent me."
And Sergei Ivanovich took a note from under a paperweight and
handed it to his brother.
Levin read in the queer, familiar handwriting: "I humbly beg you
to leave me in peace. That's the only favor I ask of my gracious
Levin read it, and without raising his head stood with the note in
his hands opposite Sergei Ivanovich.
There was a struggle in his heart between the desire to forget his
unhappy brother for the time, and the consciousness that it would be
base to do so.
"He obviously wants to offend me," pursued Sergei Ivanovich; "but
he cannot offend me, and I should have wished with all my heart to
assist him, but I know it's impossible to do that."
"Yes, yes," repeated Levin. "I understand and appreciate your
attitude to him; but I shall go and see him."
"If you want to, do; but I shouldn't advise it," said Sergei
Ivanovich. "As regards myself, I have no fear of your doing so; he
will not make you quarrel with me; but for your own sake, I should say
you would do better not to go. You can't do him any good; still, do as
"Very likely I can't do any good, but I feel——especially at such a
moment——but that's another thing——I feel I could not be at peace."
"Well, that's something I don't understand," said Sergei
Ivanovich. "One thing I do understand," he added, "it's a lesson in
humility. I have come to look very differently and more indulgently on
what is called infamy since brother Nikolai has become what he is...
you know what he did...."
"Oh, it's awful, awful!" repeated Levin.
After obtaining his brother's address from Sergei Ivanovich's
footman, Levin was on the point of setting off at once to see him, but
on second thought he decided to put off his visit till the evening.
The thing to do to set his heart at rest was to accomplish what he had
come to Moscow for. From his brother's Levin went to Oblonsky's
office, and on getting news of the Shcherbatskys from him, he drove to
the place where he had been told he might find Kitty.
At four o'clock, conscious of his throbbing heart, Levin stepped
out of a hired sleigh at the Zoological Gardens and turned along the
path to the frozen mounds and the skating ground, knowing that he
would certainly find her there, as he had seen the Shcherbatskys'
carriage at the entrance.
It was a bright, frosty day. Rows of carriages, sleighs, drivers
and gendarmes were standing in the approach. Crowds of well-dressed
people, with hats bright in the sun, swarmed about the entrance and
along the well-swept paths between the little houses adorned with
carving in the Russian style. The old curly birches of the gardens,
all their twigs laden with snow, looked as though freshly decked in
He walked along the path toward the skating ground, and kept
saying to himself——"You mustn't be excited, you must be calm. What's
the matter with you? What do you want? Be still, foolish one," he
conjured his heart. And the more he tried to compose himself, the more
breathless he found himself. An acquaintance met him and called him by
his name, but Levin did not even recognize him. He went toward the
mounds, whence came the clank of the chains of sleighs as they slipped
down or were dragged up, the rumble of the sliding sleighs and the
sounds of merry voices. He walked on a few steps, and the skating
ground lay open before him, and at once, amid all the skaters, he
He knew she was there by the rapture and the terror that seized
his heart. She was standing talking to a lady at the opposite end of
the ground. There was apparently nothing striking either in her dress
or her attitude, but for Levin she was as easy to find in that crowd
as a rose among nettles. Everything was made bright by her. She was
the smile that shed light on all around her. "Is it possible I can go
over there on the ice——approach her?" he thought. The place where she
stood seemed to him a holy shrine, unapproachable, and there was one
moment when he was almost retreating, so overwhelmed was he with
terror. He had to make an effort to master himself, and to remind
himself that people of all sorts were moving about her, and that he,
too, might have come there to skate. He descended, for a long while
avoiding looking at her as at the sun, yet seeing her, as one does the
sun, without looking.
On that day of the week, and at that time of day, people of one
set, all acquainted with one another, used to meet on the ice. There
were skillful skaters there, showing off their skill, and beginners
clinging to chairs with timid, awkward movements, and boys and elderly
people skating with hygienic motives. They seemed to Levin an elect
band of blissful beings because they were here, near her. All the
skaters, it seemed, with perfect self-possession, skated toward her,
skated by her, even spoke to her, and were happy, quite apart from
her, enjoying the capital ice and the fine weather.
Nikolai Shcherbatsky, Kitty's cousin, in a short jacket and tight
trousers, was sitting on a bench with his skates on. Seeing Levin, he
shouted to him:
"Ah, the first skater in Russia! Been here long? First-rate ice——
do put your skates on."
"I haven't got my skates," Levin answered, marveling at this
boldness and ease in her presence, and not for one second losing sight
of her, though he did not look at her. He felt as though the sun were
coming near him. She was in a corner, and turning out her slender feet
in their high boots, she, with obvious timidity, skated toward him. A
boy in Russian dress, desperately waving his arms and bending down to
the ground, overtook her. She skated a little uncertainly; taking her
hands out of the little muff that hung on a cord, she held them ready
for emergency, and looking toward Levin, whom she had recognized, she
smiled at him and at her own fears. When she had got round the turn,
she got a start with one foot and skated straight up to Shcherbatsky.
Clutching at his arm, she nodded with a smile to Levin. She was more
beautiful than he had imagined her.
When he thought of her, he could call up a vivid picture of her to
himself, especially the charm of that little fair head, so freely set
on the shapely girlish shoulders, and so full of childish brightness
and kindness. Her childish countenance, together with the delicate
beauty of her figure, made up that special charm of hers, which he
appreciated so well. But what always struck him in her as something
unlooked for was the expression of her eyes——soft, serene and
truthful; and, above all, her smile, which always transported Levin to
an enchanted world, where he felt moved and tender, as he remembered
himself during certain rare days of his early childhood.
"Have you been here long?" she said, giving him her hand. "Thank
you," she added, as he picked up the handkerchief that had fallen out
of her muff.
"I? Not long ago... yesterday... I mean I arrived... today..."
answered Levin, in his emotion not comprehending her question
immediately. "I meant to come and see you," he said; and then,
recollecting what his intention was in seeking her, he was promptly
overcome with confusion, and blushed. "I didn't know you could skate,
and skate so well."
She looked at him attentively, as though wishing to make out the
cause of his confusion.
"Your praise is worth having. The tradition is kept up here that
you are the best of skaters," she said, with her little black-gloved
hand brushing some needles of hoarfrost off her muff.
"Yes, I used to skate with passion once upon a time; I wanted to
"You do everything with passion, I think," she said smiling. "I
should so like to see how you skate. Do put on skates, and let's skate
"Skate together Can that be possible?" thought Levin, gazing at
"I'll put them on directly," he said.
And he went off to get skates.
"It's a long while since we've seen you here, sir," said the
attendant, supporting his foot, and screwing on the heel of the skate.
"Except you, there's none of the gentlemen first-rate skaters. Will
that be all right?" said he, tightening the strap.
"Oh, yes, yes; make haste, please," answered Levin, with
difficulty restraining the smile of rapture which would overspread his
face. "Yes," he thought, "this is life, this is happiness! Together,
she said; let us skate together! Speak to her now? But that's just why
I'm afraid to speak——because I'm happy now, happy even though only in
hope.... And then?... But I must! I must! I must! Away,
Levin rose to his feet, took off his overcoat, and, gaining speed
over the rough ice round the pavilion, came out on the smooth ice and
skated without effort, as it were, by, simple exercise of will,
increasing and slackening speed and turning his course. He approached
her with timidity, but again her smile reassured him.
She gave him her hand, and they set off side by side, going faster
and faster, and the more rapidly they moved the more tightly she
grasped his hand.
"With you I should soon learn; I somehow feel confidence in you,"
she said to him.
"And I have confidence in myself when you are leaning on me," he
said, but was at once frightened at what he had said, and blushed. And
indeed, no sooner had he uttered these words, than all at once, like
the sun going behind a cloud, her face lost all its tenderness, and
Levin detected the familiar change in her expression that denoted
mental concentration; a tiny wrinkle came upon her smooth brow.
"Is there anything troubling you? However, I've no right to ask
such a question," he said hurriedly.
"Oh, why so?... No, I have nothing to trouble me," she responded
coldly, and immediately added: "You haven't seen Mlle. Linon, have
"Go and speak to her——she likes you so much."
"What's wrong? I have offended her. Lord help me!" thought Levin,
and he flew towards the old Frenchwoman with the gray ringlets, who
was sitting on a bench. Smiling and showing her false teeth, she
greeted him as an old friend.
"Yes, you see we're growing up," she said to him, glancing toward
Kitty, "and growing old. Tiny bear has grown big now!" pursued the
Frenchwoman, laughing, and she reminded him of his joke about the
three young ladies whom he had compared to the three bears in the
English nursery tale. "Do you remember that's what you used to call
He remembered absolutely nothing, but she had been laughing at the
joke for ten years now and was fond of it.
"Now, go and skate, go and skate. Our Kitty has learned to skate
nicely, hasn't she?"
When Levin darted up to Kitty her face was no longer stern; her
eyes looked at him with the same sincerity and tenderness, but Levin
fancied that in her tenderness there was a certain note of deliberate
composure. And he felt depressed. After talking a little of her old
governess and her peculiarities, she questioned him about his life.
"Surely, you must feel dull in the country in the winter," she
"No, I'm not dull——I am very busy," he said, feeling that she was
making him submit to her composed tone, which he would not have the
strength to break through——just as had been the case at the beginning
of the winter.
"Are you going to stay in town long?" Kitty questioned him.
"I don't know," he answered, not thinking of what he was saying.
The thought came into his mind that if he were held in submission by
her tone of quiet friendliness he would end by going back again
without deciding anything, and he resolved to mutiny against it.
"How is it you don't know?"
"I don't know. It depends upon you," he said, and was immediately
horror-stricken at his own words.
Whether it was that she did not hear his words, or that she did
not want to hear them, she made a sort of stumble, twice struck out,
and hurriedly skated away from him. She skated up to Mlle. Linon, said
something to her, and went toward the pavilion where the ladies took
off their skates.
"My God! What have I done! Merciful God! Help me, guide me," said
Levin, praying inwardly, and at the same time, feeling a need of
violent exercise, he skated about, describing concentric and eccentric
At that moment one of the young men, the best of the skaters of
the day, came out of the coffeehouse on his skates, with a cigarette
in his mouth. Taking a run he dashed down the steps on his skates,
crashing and leaping. He flew down, and without even changing the
free-and-easy position of his hands, skated away over the ice.
"Ah, that's a new trick!" said Levin, and he promptly ran up to
the top to perform this new trick.
"Don't break your neck! This needs practice!" Nikolai Shcherbatsky
shouted after him.
Levin went to the steps, took a run from above as best he could,
and dashed down, preserving his balance in this unwonted movement with
his hands. On the last step he stumbled, but barely touching the ice
with his hand, with a violent effort recovered himself, and skated
"What a fine, darling chap he is!" Kitty was thinking at that
moment, as she came out of the pavilion with Mlle. Linon and looked
toward him with a smile of quiet kindness, as though he were a
favorite brother. "And can it be my fault, can I have done anything
wrong? They talk of coquetry. I know it's not he that I love; but
still I am happy with him, and he's so nice. Only, why did he say
that?..." she mused.
Catching sight of Kitty going away, and her mother meeting her at
the steps, Levin, flushed from his rapid exercise, stood still and
pondered a minute. He took off his skates, and overtook the mother and
daughter at the entrance of the gardens.
"Delighted to see you," said Princess Shcherbatskaia. "On
Thursdays we are home, as always."
"We shall be pleased to see you," the Princess said stiffly.
This stiffness hurt Kitty, and she could not resist the desire to
smooth over her mother's coldness. She turned her head, and with a
"Good-by till this evening."
At that moment Stepan Arkadyevich, his hat cocked on one side,
with beaming face and eyes, strode into the garden like a buoyant
conqueror. But as he approached his mother-in-law, he responded to her
inquiries about Dolly's health with a mournful and guilty countenance.
After a little subdued and dejected conversation with her he set
straight his chest again, and took Levin by the arm.
"Well, shall we set off?" he asked. "I've been thinking about you
all this time, and I'm very, very glad you've come," he said, looking
him in the face with a significant air.
"Yes, come along," answered Levin in ecstasy, hearing unceasingly
the sound of that voice saying, "Good-by till this evening," and
seeing the smile with which it was said.
"To England or The Hermitage?"
"It's all the same to me."
"Well, then, England it is," said Stepan Arkadyevich, selecting
that restaurant because he owed more there than at The Hermitage, and
consequently considered it mean to avoid it. "Have you got a sleigh?
That's fine——for I sent my carriage home."
The friends hardly spoke all the way. Levin was wondering what
that change in Kitty's expression had meant, and alternately assuring
himself that there was hope, and falling into despair, seeing clearly
that his hopes were insane, and yet all the while he felt himself
quite another man, utterly unlike what he had been before her smile
and those words, "Good-by till this evening."
Stepan Arkadyevich was absorbed during the drive in composing the
menu of the dinner.
"You like turbot, don't you?" he said to Levin as they were
"Eh?" responded Levin. "Turbot? Yes, I'm awfully fond of turbot."
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
Arkadyevich. 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, and with
napkins under their arms. Bowing right and left to acquaintances who,
here as everywhere, greeted him joyously, he went up to the bar, took
a little wineglass of vodka and a snack of fish, and said to the
painted Frenchwoman decked in ribbons, lace and ringlets, behind the
desk, something so amusing that even that Frenchwoman was moved to
genuine laughter. Levin for his part refrained from taking any vodka
only because he found most offensive this 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 won't be
disturbed here," said a particularly pertinacious, white-headed old
Tatar with immense hips and coattails gaping widely behind. "Walk in,
your Excellency," he said to Levin——being attentive to his guest as
well, by way of showing his respect to Stepan Arkadyevich.
Instantly flinging a fresh cloth over the round table under the
bronze sconce, though it already had a tablecloth on it, he pushed up
velvet chairs and came to a standstill before Stepan Arkadyevich with
a napkin and a bill of fare in his hands, awaiting his commands.
"If you prefer it, Your Excellency, a private room will be free
directly: Prince Golitsin with a lady. Fresh oysters have come in."
"Ah, oysters!" Stepan Arkadyevich became thoughtful.
"How if we were to change our program, Levin?" he said, keeping
his finger on the bill of fare. And his face expressed serious
hesitation. "Are the oysters good? Mind, now!"
"They're Flensburg, Your Excellency. We've no Ostend."
"Flensburg will do——but are they fresh?"
"Only arrived yesterday."
"Well, then, how if we were to begin with oysters, and so change
the whole program? Eh?"
"It's all the same to me. I should like cabbage soup and porridge
better than anything; but of course there's nothing like that here."
"Porridge a la Russe, Your Honor would like?" said the Tatar,
bending down to Levin, like a nurse speaking to a child.
"No, joking apart, whatever you choose is sure to be good. I've
been skating, and I'm hungry. And don't imagine," he added, detecting
a look of dissatisfaction on Oblonsky's face, "that I shan't
appreciate your choice. I don't object to a good dinner."
"I should hope so! After all, it's one of the pleasures of life,"
said Stepan Arkadyevich. "Well, then, my friend, you give us two——or
better say three——dozen oysters, clear soup with vegetables..."
"Printaniere," prompted the Tatar. But Stepan Arkadyevich
apparently did not care to allow him the satisfaction of giving the
French names of the dishes.
"With vegetables in it, you know. Then turbot with thick sauce,
then... roast beef; and mind it's good. Yes, and capons, perhaps, and
then stewed fruit."
The Tatar, recollecting that it was Stepan Arkadyevich's 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 printaniere, turbot sauce
Beaumarchais, poulard a l'estragon, Macedoine de fruits..." 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
"What shall we drink?"
"What you like, only not too much. Champagne," said Levin.
"What! to start with? You're right though, I dare say. Do you like
the white seal?"
"Cachet blanc," prompted the Tatar.
"Very well, then, give us that brand with the oysters, and then
"Yes, sir. And what table wine?"
"You can give us Nuits. Oh, no——better the classic Chablis."
"Yes, sir. And your cheese, Your Excellency?"
"Oh, yes, Parmesan. Or would you like another?"
"No, it's all the same to me," said Levin, unable to suppress a
And the Tatar ran off with flying coattails, and in five minutes
darted in with a dish of opened oysters in their nacreous shells, and
a bottle between his fingers.
Stepan Arkadyevich crushed the starchy napkin, tucked it into his
waistcoat, and, settling his arms comfortably, started on the oysters.
"Not bad," he said, detaching the jellied oysters from their
pearly shells with a small silver fork, and swallowing them one after
another. "Not bad," he repeated, turning his dewy, brilliant eyes now
upon Levin, now upon the Tatar.
Levin ate the oysters too, though white bread and cheese pleased
him better. But he was admiring Oblonsky. Even the Tatar, uncorking
the bottle and pouring the sparkling wine into the delicate
funnel-shaped glasses, and adjusting his white cravat, kept on
glancing at Stepan Arkadyevich with a perceptible smile of
"You don't care much for oysters, do you?" said Stepan
Arkadyevich, emptying his wineglass, "or are you worried about
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 hard and awkward 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 Tatars——
all of this was offensive to him. He was afraid of sullying what his
soul was brimful of.
"I? Yes, I am worried; but besides that, all this bothers me," he
said. "You can't conceive how queer it all seems to a countryman like
me, as queer as that gentleman's nails I saw at your office...."
"Yes, I saw how much interested you were in poor Grinevich's
nails," said Stepan Arkadyevich, laughing.
"It's too much for me," responded Levin. "Do try, now, to put
yourself in my place——take the point of view of a countryman. 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 tuck up
our sleeves. And here people purposely let their nails grow as long as
possible, and link on small saucers by way of studs, so that they can
do nothing with their hands."
Stepan Arkadyevich smiled gaily.
"Oh, yes, that's just a sign that he has no need to do coarse
work. His work is with the mind...."
"Maybe. But still it's queer to me, just as at this moment it
seems queer to me that we countryfolks try to satiate ourselves as
soon as we can, so as to be ready for work, while here are we trying
to delay satiety as long as possible, and with that object are eating
"Why, of course," objected Stepan Arkadyevich. "But that's just
the aim of culture——to make everything a source of enjoyment."
"Well, if that's its aim, I'd rather be a savage."
"You are a savage, as it is. All you Levins are savages."
Levin sighed. He remembered his brother Nikolai, and felt ashamed
and pained, and he scowled; but Oblonsky began speaking of a subject
which at once drew his attention.
"Oh, I say, are you going tonight to our people——the
Shcherbatskys', I mean?" he said, his eyes sparkling significantly as
he pushed away the empty rough shells, and drew the cheese toward him.
"Yes, I shall certainly go," replied Levin; "though I fancied the
Princess was not very warm in her invitation."
"What nonsense! That's her manner.... Come, boy, the soup!...
That's her manner——grande dame," said Stepan Arkadyevich. "I'm coming,
too, but I have to go to the Countess Bonin's rehearsal. Come, isn't
it true that you're a savage? How do you explain the sudden way in
which you vanished from Moscow? The Shcherbatskys 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."
"Yes," said Levin, slowly and with emotion, "you're right. I am a
savage. Only, my savageness is not in having gone away, but in coming
now. Now I have come..."
"Oh, what a lucky fellow you are!" broke in Stepan Arkadyevich,
looking into Levin's eyes.
"I can tell the gallant steeds," by some... I don't know what...
'paces'; I can tell youths 'by their faces,'" declaimed Stepan
Arkadyevich. "Everything is before you."
"Why, is it over for you already?"
"No; not over exactly, but the future is yours, and the present is
mine, and the present——well, it's only fair to middling."
"Oh, things aren't right. But I don't want to talk of myself,
besides I can't explain it all," said Stepan Arkadyevich. "Well, why
have you come to Moscow, then?... Hi! clear the table!" he called to
"Are you trying to surmise?" responded Levin, his eyes, gleaming
in their depth, fixed on Stepan Arkadyevich.
"I am, but I can't be the first to talk about it. You can see by
that whether I surmise right or wrong," said Stepan Arkadyevich,
gazing at Levin with a subtle smile.
"Well, and what have you to say to me?" said Levin in a quivering
voice, feeling that all the muscles of his face were quivering too.
"How do you look at it?
Stepan Arkadyevich slowly emptied his glass of Chablis, never
taking his eyes off Levin.
"I?" said Stepan Arkadyevich. "There's nothing I desire so much as
that——nothing! It would be the best thing that could happen."
"But you're not making a mistake? You know what we're speaking
of?" said Levin, piercing him with his eyes. "You think it's
"I think it's possible. Why not?"
"No! Do you really think it's possible? No——tell me all you think!
Oh, but if... If refusal's in store for me!... Indeed I feel sure..."
"What makes you think so?" said Stepan Arkadyevich, smiling at his
"It seems so to me sometimes. That will be awful for me, and for
"Oh, well, anyway there's nothing awful in it for a girl. Every
girl's proud of a proposal."
"Yes, every girl, but not she."
Stepan Arkadyevich smiled. He so well knew that feeling of
Levin's, that for him all the girls in the world were divided into two
classes: one class——all the girls in the world except her, and those
girls with all sorts of human failings, and very ordinary girls: the
other class——she alone, having no failings of any sort and higher than
"Stay, take some sauce," he said, holding back Levin's hand, who
was pushing the sauce away.
Levin obediently helped himself to sauce, but would not let Stepan
Arkadyevich go on with his dinner.
"No, stop a minute, stop a minute," he said. "You must understand
that it's a question of life and death for me. I have never spoken to
anyone of this. And there's no one to whom I could speak of it, except
yourself. You know we're utterly unlike each other, different in
tastes, and views, and everything; but I know you're fond of me and
understand me, and that's why I like you awfully. But for God's sake,
be quite straightforward with me."
"I tell you what I think," said Stepan Arkadyevich, smiling. "But
I'll say more: my wife is a wonderful woman..." Stepan Arkadyevich
sighed, recalling his relations with his wife, and, after a moment's
silence, resumed——"She has a gift of foreseeing things. She sees right
through people; but that's not all; she knows what will come to pass,
especially in the way of marriages. She foretold, for instance, that
Princess Shahovskaia would marry Brenteln. No one would believe it,
but it came to pass. And she's on your side."
"How do you mean?"
"It's not only that she likes you——she says that Kitty is certain
to be your wife."
At these words Levin's face suddenly lighted up with a smile, a
smile not far from touching tears.
"She says that!" cried out Levin. "I always said she was charming,
your wife. There, that's enough said about it," he said, getting up
from his seat.
"Well, but do sit down."
But Levin could not sit down. He walked with his firm tread twice
up and down the little cage of a room, blinked his eyelids that his
tears might not fall, and only then sat down to the table.
"You must understand," said he, "it's not love. I've been in love,
but it's not that. It's not my feeling, but a sort of force outside me
that has taken possession of me. I went away, you see, because I made
up my mind that it could never be——you understand, like a happiness
which is not of this earth; but I've struggled with myself, and I see
there's no living without it. And it must be settled."
"What did you go away for?"
"Ah, stop a minute! Ah, the thoughts that come crowding on one!
The questions one must ask oneself! Listen. You can't imagine what
you've done for me by what you said. I'm so happy that I've become
positively hateful; I've forgotten everything. I heard today that my
brother Nikolai... you know, he's here... I had forgotten even him. It
seems to me that he's happy too. It's a sort of madness. But one
thing's awful.... Here, you've been married, you know the feeling....
It's awful that we——fully mature——with a past... a past not of love,
but of sins... are brought all at once so near to a creature pure and
innocent; it's loathsome, and that's why one can't help feeling
"Oh, well, you haven't many sins on your conscience."
"Ah, still," said Levin, "'When, with loathing, I go o'er my life,
I shudder and I curse and bitterly regret...' Yes."
"What would you have? That's the way of the world," said Stepan
"There's one comfort, like that of the prayer which I always
liked: 'Forgive me not according to my deeds, but according to Thy
loving-kindness.' That's the only way she can forgive me."
Levin emptied his glass, and they were silent for a while.
"There's one other thing I ought to tell you. Do you know
Vronsky?" Stepan Arkadyevich asked Levin.
"No, I don't. Why do you ask?"
"Give us another bottle," Stepan Arkadyevich directed the Tatar,
who was filling up their glasses and fidgeting round them just when he
was least wanted.
"Why, you ought to know Vronsky because he's one of your rivals."
"Who's Vronsky?" said Levin, and his face was suddenly transformed
from the look of childlike ecstasy which Oblonsky had just been
admiring to an angry and unpleasant expression.
"Vronsky is one of the sons of Count Kirill Ivanovich Vronsky, and
one of the finest specimens of the gilded youth of Peterburg. I made
his acquaintance in Tver, when I was there on official business, and
he came there for the levy of recruits. Fearfully rich, handsome,
great connections, an aide-de-camp, and with all that a very fine
good-natured fellow. But he's more than simply a good-natured fellow,
as I've found out here——he's a cultured man, too, and very
intelligent; he's a man who'll make his mark."
Levin scowled and kept silent.
"Well, he turned up here soon after you'd gone, and, as I can see,
he's over head and ears in love with Kitty, and you know that her
"Excuse me, but I know nothing," said Levin, frowning gloomily.
And immediately he recalled his brother Nikolai, and how vile he was
to have been able to forget him.
"You wait a bit——wait a bit," said Stepan Arkadyevich, smiling and
touching his hand. "I've told you what I know, and I repeat that in
this delicate and tender matter, as far as one can conjecture, I
believe the chances are in your favor."
Levin dropped back in his chair; his face was pale.
"But I would advise you to settle the thing as soon as possible,"
pursued Oblonsky, filling up his glass.
"No, thanks, I can't drink any more," said Levin, pushing away his
glass. "I shall get drunk.... Come, tell me how are you getting on?"
he went on, obviously anxious to change the conversation.
"One word more: in any case I advise you to settle the question
soon. Tonight I don't advise you to speak," said Stepan Arkadyevich.
"Go round tomorrow morning, make a proposal in classic form, and God
"Oh, do you still think of coming to me for some shooting? Come
next spring, do," said Levin.
Now his whole soul was full of remorse that he had begun this
conversation with Stepan Arkadyevich. His peculiar feeling was
profaned by talk of the rivalry of some Peterburg officer, of the
suppositions and the counsels of Stepan Arkadyevich.
Stepan Arkadyevich smiled. He knew what was passing in Levin's
"I'll come some day," he said. "Yes, my dear, women——they're the
pivot everything turns upon. Things are in a bad way with me, very
bad. And it's all through women. Tell me frankly, now," he pursued,
picking up a cigar and keeping one hand on his glass; "give me your
"Why, what is it?"
"I'll tell you. Suppose you're married; you love your wife, but
are fascinated by another woman..."
"Excuse me, but I'm absolutely unable to comprehend how just as I
can't comprehend how I could now, after my dinner, go straight to a
baker's shop and steal a loaf."
Stepan Arkadyevich's eyes sparkled more than usual.
"Why not? A loaf will sometimes smell so good that one can't
"Himmlisch ist's wenn ich bezwungen
Meine irdische Begier;
Aber doch wenn's nicht gelungen
Hatt' ich auch recht hubsch Plaisir!"
As he said this, Stepan Arkadyevich smiled subtly. Levin, too,
could not help smiling.
"Yes, but joking apart," resumed Oblonsky, "you must understand
that the woman, a sweet, gentle, loving creature, poor and lonely, has
sacrificed everything. Now, when the thing's done, don't you see, can
one possibly cast her off? Even supposing one parts from her, so as
not to break up one's family life, still, can one help feeling for
her, setting her on her feet, lightening her lot?"
"Well, you must excuse me there. You know to me all women are
divided into two classes.... Well, no... it would be truer to say:
there are women, and there are... I've never seen charming fallen
beings, and I never shall see them, but such creatures as that painted
Frenchwoman at the counter with the ringlets are vermin to my mind,
and all fallen women are like her."
"But the Magdalen?"
"Ah, drop that! Christ would never have said those words if He had
known how they would be abused. Of all the Gospel those words are the
only ones remembered. However, I'm not saying so much what I think, as
what I feel. I have a loathing for fallen women. You're afraid of
spiders, and I of these vermin. Most likely you've not made a study of
spiders and don't know their character; and so it is with me."
"It's very well for you to talk like that; it's very much like
that gentleman in Dickens who used to fling all difficult questions
over his right shoulder with his left hand. But denying the facts is
no answer. What's to be done——you tell me that; what's to be done?
Your wife gets older, while you're full of life. Before you've time to
look round, you feel that you can't love your wife with love, however
much you may esteem her. And then all at once love turns up—— and
you're done for; you're done for," Stepan Arkadyevich said with weary
Levin smiled slightly.
"Yes, you're done for," resumed Oblonsky. "But what's to be done?"
"Don't steal loaves."
Stepan Arkadyevich laughed outright.
"Oh, moralist! But you must understand, there are two women; one
insists only on her rights, and those rights are your love, which you
can't give her; while the other sacrifices everything for you and asks
for nothing. What are you to do? How are you to act? There's a fearful
tragedy in it."
"If you care for my profession of faith as regards that, I'll tell
you that I don't believe there was any tragedy about it. And this is
why. To my mind, love... both sorts of love, which you remember Plato
defines in his Banquet, serve as the touchstone of men. Some men only
understand one sort, and some only the other. And those who only know
the nonplatonic love talk in vain of tragedy. In such love there can
be no sort of tragedy. 'I'm much obliged for the gratification, my
humble respects,'——that's all the tragedy. And in platonic love there
can be no tragedy, because in that love all is clear and pure,
At that instant Levin recollected his own sins and the inner
conflict he had lived through. And he added unexpectedly:
"But perhaps you are right. Very likely... I don't know——I
positively don't know."
"You see," said Stepan Arkadyevich, "you're very much all of a
piece. That's your quality and your failing. You have a character
that's all of a piece, and you want the whole of life to be of a piece
too——but that's not how it is. You despise public official work
because you want the reality to be constantly corresponding with the
aim——and that's not how it is. You want a man's work, too, always to
have a defined aim, and love and family life always to be undivided——
and that's not how it is. All the variety, all the charm, all the
beauty of life is made up of light and shadow."
Levin sighed and made no reply. He was thinking of his own
affairs, and was not listening to Oblonsky.
And suddenly both of them felt that though they were friends,
though they had been dining together, and drunk wine which should have
drawn them closer, yet each was thinking only of his own affairs, and
they had nothing to do with one another. Oblonsky had more than once
experienced this extreme sense of aloofness, instead of intimacy,
coming on after dinner, and he knew what to do in such cases.
"Let's have the check!" he called, and he went into the next room,
where he promptly came across an aide-de-camp of his acquaintance and
dropped into conversation with him about an actress and her protector.
And at once, in this conversation with the aide-de-camp, Oblonsky had
a sense of relaxation and relief after his conversation with Levin,
which always put him to too great a mental and spiritual strain.
When the Tatar appeared with a check of twenty-six roubles and
some kopecks, besides a tip for himself, Levin, who would another time
have been horrified, like anyone from the country, at his share of
fourteen roubles, did not notice it, paid, and set off homeward to
dress and go to the Shcherbatskys', where his fate was to be decided.
The young princess Kitty Shcherbatskaia was eighteen. It was the
first winter that she had been out in the world. Her success in
society had been greater than that of either of her elder sisters, and
greater even than her mother had anticipated. To say nothing of the
young men who danced at the Moscow balls being almost all in love with
Kitty, two serious suitors had already, the first winter, made their
appearance: Levin, and, immediately after his departure, Count
Levin's appearance at the beginning of the winter, his frequent
visits, and evident love for Kitty, had led to the first serious
conversations between Kitty's parents as to her future, and to
disputes between them. The Prince was on Levin's side; he said he
wished for nothing better for Kitty. The Princess for her part, going
round the question in the manner peculiar to women, maintained that
Kitty was too young, that Levin had done nothing to prove that he had
serious intentions, that Kitty felt no great attraction to him, and
there were some other reasons too; but she did not state the principal
point, which was that she looked for a better match for her daughter,
that Levin was not to her liking, and that she did not understand him.
When Levin had abruptly departed, the Princess was delighted, and said
to her husband triumphantly: 'You see, I was right.' When Vronsky
appeared on the scene, she was still more delighted, confirmed in her
opinion that Kitty was to make not simply a good, but a brilliant
In the mother's eyes there could be no comparison between Vronsky
and Levin. The mother disliked in Levin his strange and uncompromising
opinions and his shyness in society, founded on his pride, as she
supposed, and his queer sort of life, as she considered it, absorbed
in cattle and peasants. She did not very much like it that he, who was
in love with her daughter, had kept coming to the house for six weeks,
as though he were waiting for something, inspecting, as though he were
afraid he might be doing them too great an honor by making a proposal,
and did not realize that a man who continually visits at a house where
there is a young unmarried girl, is bound to make his intentions
clear. And suddenly, without doing so, he disappeared. "It's as well
he's not attractive enough for Kitty to have fallen in love with him,"
thought the mother.
Vronsky satisfied all the mother's desires. Very wealthy, clever,
of aristocratic family, on the highroad to a brilliant career in the
army and at court, and a fascinating man. Nothing better could be
Vronsky openly flirted with Kitty at balls, danced with her, and
came continually to the house; consequently there could be no doubt of
the seriousness of his intentions. But, in spite of that, the mother
had spent the whole of that winter in a state of terrible anxiety and
Princess Shcherbatskaia had herself been married thirty years ago,
her aunt arranging the match. The wooer, about whom everything was
well known beforehand, had come, looked at his intended, and been
looked at. The matchmaking aunt had ascertained and communicated their
mutual impression. That impression had been favorable. Afterward, on a
day fixed beforehand, the expected proposal was made to her parents,
and accepted. All had passed very simply and easily. So it seemed, at
least, to the Princess. But over her own daughters she had felt how
far from simple and easy is the business, apparently so commonplace,
of marrying off one's daughters. The panics that had been lived
through, the thoughts that had been brooded over, the money that had
been wasted, and the disputes with her husband over marrying the two
elder girls, Darya and Natalya! Now, since the youngest began to come
out in the world, the Princess was going through the same terrors, the
same doubts, and still more violent quarrels with her husband, than
she had over the elder girls. The old Prince, like all fathers indeed,
was exceedingly scrupulous on the score of the honor and reputation of
his daughters; he was unreasonably jealous over his daughters,
especially over Kitty, who was his favorite, and at every turn he had
scenes with the Princess for compromising her daughter. The Princess
had grown accustomed to this already with her other daughters, but now
she felt that there was more ground for the Prince's scrupulousness.
She saw that of late years much was changed in the manners of society,
that a mother's duties had become still more difficult. She saw that
girls of Kitty's age formed some sort of clubs, went to some sort of
lectures, mixed freely in men's society, drove about the streets
alone; many of them did not curtsy; and, what was the most important
thing, all of them were firmly convinced that to choose their husband
was their own affair, and not their parents'. "Marriages aren't made
nowadays as they used to be," was thought and said by all these young
girls, and even by their elders. But just how marriages were made
nowadays, the Princess could not learn from anyone. The French
fashion——of the parents arranging their children's future——was not
accepted; it was condemned. The English fashion of the complete
independence of girls was also not accepted, and not possible in
Russian society. The Russian fashion of matchmaking was considered
unseemly; it was ridiculed by everyone——even by the Princess herself.
But how girls were to be married, and how parents were to marry them,
no one knew. Everyone with whom the Princess had chanced to discuss
the matter said the same thing: "Mercy on us, it's high time in our
day to cast off all that old-fashioned business. It's the young people
have to marry, and not their parents; and so we ought to leave the
young people to arrange it as they choose." It was very easy for
anyone to say who had no daughters, but the Princess realized that, in
the process of getting to know each other, her daughter might fall in
love, and fall in love with someone who did not care to marry her, or
who was quite unfit to be her husband. And, however much it was
instilled into the Princess that in our times young people ought to
arrange their lives for themselves, she was unable to believe it, just
as she would have been unable to believe that, at any time whatever,
loaded pistols were the most suitable playthings for children five
years old. And so the Princess was more uneasy over Kitty than she had
been over the elder daughters.
Now she was afraid that Vronsky might confine himself to simply
flirting with her daughter. She saw that her daughter was in love with
him, but tried to comfort herself with the thought that he was an
honorable man, and would not do this. But at the same time she knew
how easy it is, with the freedom of manners of today, to turn a girl's
head, and how lightly men generally regard such a crime. The week
before, Kitty had told her mother of a conversation she had with
Vronsky during a mazurka. This conversation had partly reassured the
Princess; yet her assurance could not be perfect. Vronsky had told
Kitty that both he and his brother were so used to obeying their
mother that they never made up their minds to any important
undertaking without consulting her. "And, just now, I am impatiently
awaiting my mother's coming from Peterburg, as a peculiar piece of
luck," he had told her.
Kitty had repeated this without attaching any significance to the
words. But her mother saw them in a different light. She knew that the
old lady was expected from day to day, that she would be pleased at
her son's choice, and she felt it strange that he should not make his
proposal through fear of vexing his mother. However, she was so
anxious for the marriage itself, and still more for relief from her
fears, that she believed it was so. Bitter as it was for the Princess
to see the unhappiness of her eldest daughter, Dolly, on the point of
leaving her husband, her anxiety over the decision of her youngest
daughter's fate engrossed all her feelings. Today, with Levin's
reappearance, a fresh source of anxiety arose. She was afraid that her
daughter, who had at one time, as she fancied, a feeling for Levin,
might, from an extreme sense of honesty, refuse Vronsky, and that
Levin's arrival might generally complicate and delay the affair, now
so near conclusion.
"Why, has he been here long?" the Princess asked about Levin, as
they returned home.
"He came today, maman."
"There's one thing I want to say..." began the Princess, and from
her serious and alert face, Kitty guessed what it would be.
"Mamma," she said, flushing hotly and turning quickly to her,
"please, please don't say anything about that. I know, I know all
She wished what her mother wished for, but the motives of her
mother's wishes hurt her.
"I only want to say that to raise hopes..."
"Mamma, darling, for goodness' sake, don't talk about it. It's so
horrible to talk about it."
"I won't," said her mother, seeing the tears in her daughter's
eyes; "but one thing, my love; you promised me you would have no
secrets from me. You won't?"
"Never, mamma——none," answered Kitty, flushing and looking her
mother straight in the face; "but I have nothing to tell you now, and
I... I... If I wanted to, I don't know what to say or how... I don't
"No, she could not tell an untruth with those eyes," thought the
mother, smiling at her agitation and happiness. The Princess smiled:
so immense and so important seemed to the poor child everything that
was taking place just now in her soul.
After dinner, and till the beginning of the evening, Kitty was
experiencing a sensation akin to that of a young man before a battle.
Her heart throbbed violently, and her thoughts would not rest on
She felt that this evening, when both these men would meet for the
first time, would be a turning point in her life. And she was
continually picturing them to herself, at one moment each
individually, and then both together. When she mused on the past, she
dwelt with pleasure, with tenderness, on the memories of her relations
with Levin. The memories of childhood and of Levin's friendship with
her dead brother have a special poetic charm to her relations with
him. His love for her, of which she felt certain, was flattering and
delightful to her; and it was easy for her to think of Levin. In her
memories of Vronsky there always entered a certain element of
awkwardness, though he was in the highest degree a fashionable and
even-tempered man, as though there were some false note——not in
Vronsky, he was very simple and charming——but in herself; while with
Levin she felt herself perfectly simple and clear. But, on the other
hand, directly she thought of the future with Vronsky, there arose
before her a perspective of brilliant happiness; with Levin the future
When she went upstairs to dress, and looked into the looking
glass, she noticed with joy that it was one of her good days, and that
she was in complete possession of all her forces——she needed this so
for what lay before her: she was conscious of external composure and
free grace in her movements.
At half-past seven she had only just gone down into the drawing
room, when the footman announced, "Constantin Dmitrievich Levin." The
Princess was still in her room, and the Prince had not come in. "So it
is to be," thought Kitty, and all the blood seemed to rush to her
heart. She was horrified at her paleness, as she glanced into the
At that moment she knew beyond doubt that he had come early on
purpose to find her alone and to propose to her. And only then for the
first time the whole thing presented itself in a new, different
aspect; only then she realized that the question did not affect her
only——with whom she would be happy, and whom she loved——but that she
would have that moment to wound a man whom she liked. And to wound him
cruelly... Wherefore? Because he, dear fellow, loved her, was in love
with her. But there was no help for it; it must be so——it would have
to be so.
"My God! shall I myself really have to say it to him?" she
thought. "Can I tell him I don't love him? That will be a lie. What am
I to say to him? That I love someone else? No, that's impossible. I'm
going away——I'm going away."
She had reached the door, when she heard his step. "No It's not
honest. What have I to be afraid of? I have done nothing wrong. What
is to be, will be! I'll tell the truth. And with him one can't be ill
at ease. Here he is," she said to herself, seeing his powerful and
timid figure, with his shining eyes fixed on her. She looked straight
into his face, as though imploring him to spare her, and gave him her
"It's not time yet; I think I'm too early," he said glancing round
the empty drawing room. When he saw that his expectations were
realized, that there was nothing to prevent him from speaking, his
face became somber.
"Oh, no," said Kitty, and sat down at a table.
"But this was just what I wanted, to find you alone," he began,
without sitting down, and not looking at her, so as not to lose
"Mamma will be down directly. She was very much tired yesterday.
She talked on, not knowing what her lips were uttering, and not
taking her supplicating and caressing eyes off him.
He glanced at her; she blushed, and ceased speaking.
"I told you I did not know whether I should be here long... that
it depended on you..."
She dropped her head lower and lower, not knowing herself what
answer she should make to what was coming.
"That it depended on you," he repeated. "I meant to say... I meant
to say... I came for this... To have you be my wife!" he blurted out,
not knowing what he was saying, but feeling that the most terrible
thing was said, he stopped short and looked at her.
She was breathing heavily, without looking at him. She was feeling
ecstasy. Her soul was flooded with happiness. She had never
anticipated that his utterance of love would produce such a powerful
effect on her. But it lasted only an instant. She remembered Vronsky.
She lifted her clear, truthful eyes, and, seeing Levin's desperate
face, she answered hastily:
"That cannot be... Forgive me."
A moment ago, and how close she had been to him, of what
importance in his life! And how aloof and remote from him she had
"It could not have been otherwise," he said, without looking at
her. He bowed, and was about to leave.
But at that very moment the Princess came in. There was a look of
horror on her face when she beheld them alone, and saw their disturbed
faces. Levin bowed to her, and said nothing. Kitty neither spoke nor
lifted 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 go off unnoticed.
Five minutes later there came in a friend of Kitty's, married the
preceding winter——Countess Nordstone.
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. Levin she had often met at
the Shcherbatskys' early in the winter, and she had always disliked
him. Her invariable and favorite pursuit, when they met, consisted in
making fun of him.
"I do like it when he looks down at me from the height of his
grandeur, or breaks off his wise conversation with me because I'm a
fool, or is condescending to me. I like that so——to see him
condescending! I am so glad he can't 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 characteristic——
her nervousness, her refined contempt and indifference for everything
coarse and earthly.
The Countess Nordstone and Levin had got into that mutual relation
not infrequently 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.
The Countess Nordstone pounced upon Levin at once.
"Ah, Constantin Dmitrievich! So you've 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.
"It's 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 Nordstone. "They must certainly make a great
impression on you."
"Oh, I should think so! I always note everything down. Well,
Kitty, have you been skating again?..."
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,
"Shall you be long in Moscow? You're busy with the Zemstvo,
though, aren't you, and can't be away for long?"
"No, Princess, I'm no longer a member of the board," he said. "I
have come up for a few days."
"There's something the matter with him," thought Countess
Nordstone, glancing at his stern, serious face. "He isn't in his old
argumentative mood. But I'll draw him out. I do love making a fool of
him before Kitty, and I'll do it."
"Constantin Dmitrievich," she said to him, "do explain to me
please, what does it mean——you know all about such things——in our
village of Kaluga all the peasants and all the women have drunk up all
they possessed, and now they can't pay us any rent. What's the meaning
of that? You always praise the mouzhiks so."
At that instant another lady came into the room, and Levin got up.
"Excuse me, Countess, but I really know nothing about it, and
can't tell you anything," he said, and looked round at the officer who
came in behind the lady.
"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 this man—— knew
it as surely as if she had told him in so many words. But what sort of
a 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 who, on the
contrary, desire above all to find in that successful rival the
qualities by which he has worsted 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-humored, handsome and exceedingly
calm and firm face. Everything about his face and figure, from his
short-cropped black hair and freshly shaven chin down to his loosely
fitting, brand-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 an especially
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.
Greeting and saying a few words to everyone, he sat down without
once glancing at Levin, who had never taken his eyes off him.
"Let me introduce you," said the Princess, indicating Levin.
"Constantin Dmitrievich Levin, Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky."
Vronsky got up and, looking cordially at Levin, shook hands with
"I believe I was to have dined with you this winter," he said,
smiling his simple and open smile; "but you had unexpectedly left for
"Constantin Dmitrievich despises and hates the town, and us
townspeople," said Countess Nordstone.
"My words must make a deep impression on you, since you remember
them so well," said Levin, and, suddenly becoming conscious that he
had said just the same thing before, he reddened.
Vronsky looked at Levin and Countess Nordstone, and smiled.
"Are you always in the country?" he inquired. "I should think it
must be dull in the winter."
"It's not dull if one has work to do; besides, one's not dull by
oneself," Levin replied abruptly.
"I am fond of the country," said Vronsky, noticing, yet affecting
not to notice, Levin's tone.
"But I hope, Count, you would not consent to live in the country
always," said Countess Nordstone.
"I don't 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
it's just there that Russia comes back to one's mind most vividly, and
especially the country. It's as though..."
He talked on, addressing both Kitty and Levin, turning his serene,
friendly eyes from one to the other, and saying obviously just what
came into his head.
Noticing that Countess Nordstone wanted to say something, he
stopped short without finishing what he had begun, and listened
attentively to her.
The conversation did not flag for an instant, so that the old
Princess, who always kept in reserve, in case a subject should be
lacking, two heavy guns——the classical and professional education, and
universal military service——had not to move out either of them, while
Countess Nordstone had no chance of chaffing Levin.
Levin wanted to, and could not, take part in the general
conversation; saying to himself every instant, "Now go," he still did
not go, as though waiting for something.
The conversation fell upon table turning and spirits, and Countess
Nordstone, who believed in spiritualism, began to describe the
miracles she had seen.
"Ah, Countess, you really must take me; for pity's sake do take me
to see them! I have never seen anything extraordinary, though I am
always on the lookout for it everywhere," said Vronsky, smiling.
"Very well——next Saturday," answered Countess Nordstone. "But you,
Constantin Dmitrievich——are you a believer?" she asked Levin.
"Why do you ask me? You know what I shall say."
"But I want to hear your opinion."
"My opinion," answered Levin, "is merely that this table turning
proves that educated society——so called——is no higher than the
peasants. They believe in the evil eye, and in witchcraft and
conjurations, while we..."
"Oh, then you aren't a believer?"
"I can't believe, Countess."
"But if I've seen for myself?"
"The peasant women, too, tell us they have seen hobgoblins."
"Then you think I tell a lie?"
And she laughed a mirthless laugh.
"Oh, no, Masha, Constantin Dmitrievich merely said he could not
believe," 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 possibility 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, on the
contrary, have begun with tables writing for them, and spirits
appearing to them, and have only later started saying that it is an
Vronsky listened attentively to Levin, as he always did listen,
obviously interested in his words.
"Yes, but the spiritualists say we don't 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 of.
No, I don't 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 certain 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
"Do let us try at once, Countess," he said; but Levin would finish
saying what he thought.
"I think," he went on, "that this attempt of the spiritualists to
explain their miracles as some sort of new natural force is most
futile. They boldly talk of spiritual force, and then try to subject
it to material experiment."
Everyone was waiting for him to finish, and he felt this.
"Why, I think you would be a first-rate medium," said Countess
Nordstone, "there's something enthusiastic about you."
Levin opened his mouth, was about to say something, reddened, and
"Do let us try table turning at once, please," said Vronsky.
"Princess, will you allow it?
And Vronsky stood up, looking about for a little table.
Kitty got up to fetch a table, and, as she passed, her eyes met
Levin's. She felt for him with her whole heart, the more because she
was pitying him for a 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,
"Ah!" he began joyously. "Been here long, my boy? I didn't even
know you were in town. Very glad to see you." The old Prince embraced
Levin, and, talking to him, did not observe Vronsky, who had risen,
and was calmly waiting till the Prince should turn to him.
Kitty felt how grievous her father's cordiality was to Levin after
what had happened. She saw, too, how coldly her father responded at
last to Vronsky's bow, and how Vronsky looked with amiable perplexity
at her father, trying and failing to understand how and why anyone
could be hostilely disposed toward him, and she flushed.
"Prince, let us have Constantin Dmitrievich," said Countess
Nordstone, "we want to try an experiment."
"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. "There's some sense in that, anyway."
Vronsky looked wonderingly at the Prince with his firm eyes, and,
with a faint smile, began immediately talking to Countess Nordstone of
the great ball that was to come off next week.
"I hope you will be there?" he said to Kitty. As soon as the old
Prince turned away from him, Levin slipped out unnoticed, and the last
impression he carried away with him of that evening was the smiling,
happy face of Kitty answering Vronsky's inquiry about the ball.
At the end of the evening Kitty told her mother of her
conversation with Levin, and in spite of all the pity she felt for
Levin, she was glad at the thought that she had received a proposal.
She had no doubt that she had acted rightly. But after she had gone to
bed, she could not sleep for a long while. One impression pursued her
relentlessly. It was Levin's face, with his scowling brows, and his
kind eyes looking out in dark dejection below them, as he stood
listening to her father, and glancing at her and at Vronsky. And she
felt so sorry for him that tears came into her eyes. But immediately
she thought of the man for whom she had given him up. She vividly
recalled his manly, firm face, his noble calmness, and the good nature
so conspicuous toward everyone. She remembered the love for her of the
man she loved, and once more all was gladness in her soul, and she lay
on the pillow smiling with happiness. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry; but what
could I do? It's not my fault," she said to herself; but an inner
voice told her otherwise. Whether she felt remorse at having
captivated Levin, or at having refused him, she did not know. But her
happiness was poisoned by doubts. "Lord, have pity on us; Lord, have
pity, Lord, have pity!" she said over to herself till she fell asleep.
Meanwhile there took place below, in the Prince's little study,
one of the scenes so often repeated between the parents on account of
their favorite daughter.
"What? I'll tell you what!" shouted the Prince, brandishing his
arms, and at once wrapping his squirrel-lined dressing gown round him
again. "That you've no pride, no dignity; that you're disgracing,
ruining your daughter by this vulgar, stupid matchmaking!"
"But, really, for mercy's sake, Prince, what have I done?" said
the Princess, almost crying.
She, pleased and happy after her conversation with her daughter,
had gone to the Prince to say good night as usual, and though she had
no intention of telling him of Levin's proposal and Kitty's refusal,
still she hinted to her husband that she fancied things were
practically settled with Vronsky, and would be definitely so as soon
as his mother arrived. And thereupon, at those words, the Prince had
all at once flown into a passion, and begun to use unseemly language.
"What have you done? I'll tell you what. First of all, you're
trying to allure an eligible gentleman, and all Moscow will be talking
of it, and with good reason. If you have evening parties, invite
everyone, don't pick out the possible suitors. Invite all these whelps
[so the Prince styled the youths of Moscow]; engage a piano player,
and let them dance——and not as you did tonight: only the wooers, and
doing your matching. It makes me sick——sick to see it——and you've gone
on till you've turned the poor lass's head. Levin's a thousand times
the better man. As for this Peterburg swell——they're turned out by
machinery, all on one pattern, and all precious rubbish. But if he
were a prince of the blood, my daughter need not run after anyone."
"But what have I done?"
"Why, you've..." The Prince was yelling wrathfully.
"I know if one were to listen to you," interrupted the Princess,
"we should never marry off our daughter. If it's to be so, we'd better
go into the country."
"Well, we had better."
"But do wait a minute. Do I wheedle them? I don't wheedle them in
the least. A young man, and a very nice one, has fallen in love with
her, and she, I fancy..."
"Oh, yes, you fancy! And how if she really is in love, and he's no
more thinking of marriage than I am!... Oh, that I should live to see
it!... "Ah——spiritualism! Ah——Nice! Ah——the ball!'" And the Prince,
imagining that he was mimicking his wife, made a mincing curtsy at
each word. "And this is how we prepare wretchedness for Katenka; and
she's really got the notion into her head...."
"But what makes you suppose so?"
"I don't suppose; I know. For such things we have eyes; womenfolk
haven't. I see a man who has serious intentions, that's Levin: and I
see a quail, like this cackler, who's only amusing himself."
"Oh, well, when once you get an idea into your head!..."
"Well, you'll remember my words, but too late, just as with
"Well, well, we won't talk of it," the Princess stopped him,
recollecting her unlucky Dolly.
"By all means, and good night!"
And signing each other with the cross, the husband and wife parted
with a kiss, feeling that each remained of his or her own opinion.
The Princess had at first been quite certain that that evening had
settled Kitty's fortune, and that there could be no doubt of Vronsky's
intentions, but her husband's words had disturbed her. And returning
to her own room, in terror before the unknown future, she, too, like
Kitty, repeated several times in her heart, "Lord, have pity; Lord,
have pity; Lord, have pity!"
Vronsky had never had a real home life. His mother had been in her
youth a brilliant society woman, who had had during her married life,
and still more afterward, many love affairs notorious in the whole
fashionable world. His father he scarcely remembered, and he had been
educated in the Corps of Pages.
Leaving the school very young as a brilliant officer, he had at
once got into the circle of wealthy Peterburg army men. Although he
did go more or less into Peterburg society, his love affairs had
always hitherto been outside it.
In Moscow he had for the first time felt, after his luxurious and
coarse life at Peterburg, all the charm of intimacy with a sweet and
innocent girl of his own rank, who cared for him. It never even
entered his head that there could be any harm in his relations with
Kitty. At balls he danced principally with her. He was a constant
visitor at her house. He talked to her as people commonly do talk in
society——all sorts of nonsense, but nonsense to which he could not
help attaching a special meaning in her case. Although he said nothing
to her that he could not have said before everybody, he felt that she
was becoming more and more dependent upon him, and the more he felt
this, the better he liked it, and the tenderer was his feeling for
her. He did not know that this mode of behavior in relation to Kitty
had a definite character, that it is courting young girls with no
intention of marriage, and that such courting is one of the evil
actions common among brilliant young men such as he was. It seemed to
him that he was the first who had discovered this pleasure, and he was
enjoying his discovery.
If he could have heard what her parents were saying that evening,
if he could have put himself at the point of view of the family, and
have heard that Kitty would be unhappy if he did not marry her, he
would have been greatly astonished, and would not have believed it. He
could not believe that what gave such great and delicate pleasure to
him, and above all to her, could be wrong. Still less could he have
believed that he ought to marry.
Marriage had never presented itself to him as a possibility. He
not only disliked family life, but a family, and especially a husband,
in accordance with the views general in the bachelor world in which he
lived, were conceived as something alien, repellent, and, above all,
ridiculous. But though Vronsky had not the least suspicion of what the
parents were saying, he felt on coming away from the Shcherbatskys'
that the secret spiritual bond which existed between him and Kitty had
grown so much stronger that evening that some step must be taken. But
what step could and should be taken he could not imagine.
"What is so exquisite," he thought, as he returned from the
Shcherbatskys', carrying away with him, as he always did, a delicious
feeling of purity and freshness, arising partly from the fact that he
had not been smoking for a whole evening, and with it a new feeling of
tenderness at her love for him——"what is so exquisite is that not a
word has been said by me or by her, yet we understand each other so
well in this unseen language of looks and tones, that this evening
more clearly than ever she told me she loves me. And how sweetly,
simply, and most of all, how trustfully! I feel myself better, purer.
I feel that I have a heart, and that there is a great deal of good in
me Those sweet, loving eyes! When she said: 'Indeed I do...'"
"Well, what then? Oh, nothing. It's good for me, and good for
her." And he began wondering where to finish the evening.
He passed in review the places he might go to. "Club? a game of
bezique; champagne with Ignatov? No, I'm not going. Chateau des
Fleurs; there I shall find Oblonsky, songs, the cancan. No, I'm sick
of it. That's why I like the Shcherbatskys', because I'm growing
better. I'll go home." He went straight to his room at Dussot's Hotel,
ordered supper, and then undressed, and as soon as his head touched
the pillow, fell into a sound sleep.
Next day, at eleven o'clock in the morning, Vronsky drove to the
station of the Peterburg railway to meet his mother, and the first
person he came across on the great flight of steps was Oblonsky, who
was expecting his sister by the same train.
"Ah! Your Excellency!" cried Oblonsky, "Whom are you meeting?"
"My mother," Vronsky responded, smiling, as everyone did who met
Oblonsky. He shook hands with him, and together they ascended the
steps. "She is to be here from Peterburg today."
"I was looking out for you till two o'clock last night. Where did
you go from the Shcherbatskys'?"
"Home," answered Vronsky. "I must own I felt so well content
yesterday after the Shcherbatskys' that I didn't care to go anywhere."
"'I can tell the gallant steeds' by some... I don't know what...
'paces'; I can tell youths 'by their faces,'" declaimed Stepan
Arkadyevich, just as he had done before to Levin.
Vronsky smiled with a look that seemed to say that he did not deny
it, but he promptly changed the subject.
"And whom are you meeting?" he asked.
"I? I've come to meet a pretty woman," said Oblonsky.
"So that's it!"
"Honi soit qui mal y pense! My sister Anna."
"Ah! that's Madame Karenina," said Vronsky.
"You know her, no doubt?"
"I think I do. Or perhaps not... I really am not sure," Vronsky
answered heedlessly, with a vague recollection of something stiff and
tedious evoked by the name Karenina.
"But Alexei Alexandrovich, my celebrated brother-in-law, you
surely must know. All the world knows him."
"I know him by reputation and by sight. I know that he's clever,
learned, religious somewhat... But you know that's not... not in my
line," said Vronsky in English.
"Yes, he's a very remarkable man; rather a conservative, but a
very nice man," observed Stepan Arkadyevich, "a very nice man."
"Oh, well, so much the better for him," said Vronsky smiling. "Oh,
you've come," he said, addressing a tall old footman of his mother's
standing at the door; "come here."
Besides the charm Oblonsky had in general for everyone, Vronsky
had felt of late specially drawn to him by the fact that in his
imagination he was associated with Kitty.
"Well, what do you say? Shall we give a supper on Sunday for the
diva?" he said to him with a smile, taking his arm.
"Of course. I'm collecting subscriptions. Oh, did you make the
acquaintance of my friend Levin?" asked Stepan Arkadyevich.
"Yes; but he left rather early."
"He's a capital fellow," pursued Oblonsky. "Isn't he?"
"I don't know why it is," responded Vronsky, "in all Moscow
people——present company of course excepted," he put in jestingly,
"there's something uncompromising. They are all on the defensive, lose
their tempers, as though they all want to make one feel something...."
"Yes, that's true, it's so," said Stepan Arkadyevich, laughing
"Will the train be in soon?" Vronsky asked a railway official.
"The train's signaled," answered the man.
The approach of the train was more and more evident by the
preparatory bustle in the station, the rush of porters, the movement
of gendarmes and attendants, and crowding people meeting the train.
Through the frosty vapor could be seen workmen in short sheepskins and
soft felt boots crossing the rails of the curving line. The hiss of
the boiler could be heard on the distant rails, and the rumble of
"No," said Stepan Arkadyevich, who felt a great inclination to
tell Vronsky of Levin's intentions in regard to Kitty. "No, you
haven't got a true impression of Levin. He's a very nervous man, and
is sometimes out of humor, it's true, but then he is often very
charming. He has such a true, honest nature, and a heart of gold. But
yesterday there were special reasons," pursued Stepan Arkadyevich,
with a meaning smile, totally oblivious of the genuine sympathy he had
felt the day before for his friend, and feeling the same sympathy now,
only for Vronsky. "Yes, there were reasons why he could not help being
either particularly happy or particularly unhappy."
Vronsky stood still and asked directly: "How so? Do you mean he
proposed to your belle-soeur yesterday?"
"Maybe," said Stepan Arkadyevich. "I fancied something of the sort
yesterday. Yes, if he went away early, and was out of humor too, such
must be the case.... He's been so long in love, and I'm very sorry for
"So that's it!... I should imagine, though, she might reckon on a
better match," said Vronsky, setting his chest straight and walking
about again, "though I don't know him, of course," he added. "Yes,
that is a hateful position! That's why most fellows prefer to have to
do with the Claras. If you don't succeed with them it only proves that
you've not enough cash, but in this case one's dignity is in the
balance. But here's the train."
The engine had already whistled in the distance. A few instants
later the platform began to shake, and, with puffs of steam hanging
low in the air from the frost, the engine rolled up, with the rod of
the middle wheel rhythmically moving up and down, and the bowed,
muffled figure of the engine driver covered with hoarfrost. Behind the
tender, setting the platform more and more slowly and more powerfully
shaking, came the luggage van with a dog whining in it. At last the
passenger carriages rolled in, quivering before coming to a
A smart guard jumped out, giving a whistle, and after him one by
one the impatient passengers began to get down: an officer of the
guards, holding himself erect, and looking severely about him; a
nimble young merchant with a bag, smiling gaily; a peasant with a sack
over his shoulder.
Vronsky, standing beside Oblonsky, watched the carriages and the
passengers, totally oblivious of his mother. What he had just heard
about Kitty excited and delighted him. Unconsciously he straightened
his chest, and his eyes flashed. He felt himself a conqueror.
"Countess Vronskaia is in that compartment," said the smart guard,
going up to Vronsky.
The guard's words roused him, and forced him to think of his
mother and his approaching meeting with her. He did not in his heart
respect his mother, and, without acknowledging it to himself, he did
not love her, though in accordance with the ideas of the set in which
he lived, and with his own upbringing, he could not have conceived of
any behavior to his mother not in the highest degree respectful and
obedient, and the more externally obedient and respectful, the less in
his heart he respected and loved her.
Vronsky followed the guard to the carriage, and at the door of the
compartment he stopped short to make room for a lady who was getting
With the habitual feeling of a man of the world, from one glance
at this lady's appearance Vronsky classified her as belonging to the
best society. He begged pardon, and was getting into the carriage, but
felt he must glance at her once more; not because she was very
beautiful, not because of that elegance and modest grace which were
apparent in her whole figure, but because in the expression of her
charming face, as she passed close by him, there was something
peculiarly caressing and soft. As he looked round, she too turned her
head. Her shining gray eyes, that looked dark because of her thick
lashes, rested with friendly attention on his face, as though she were
recognizing him, and then promptly turned away to the passing crowd,
as though seeking someone. In that brief look Vronsky had time to
notice the suppressed animation which played over her face, and
flitted between the brilliant eyes and the faint smile that curved her
red lips. It was as though her nature were so brimming over with
something that, against her will, it showed itself now in the flash of
her eyes, and now in her smile. Deliberately she shrouded the light in
her eyes, but it shone against her will in her faintly perceptible
Vronsky stepped into the carriage. His mother, a dried-up old lady
with black eyes and ringlets, screwed up her eyes, scanning her son,
and smiled slightly with her thin lips. Getting up from the seat and
handing her maid a handbag, she gave her little wrinkled hand to her
son to kiss, and lifting his head from her hand, kissed him on the
"You got my telegram? Quite well? Thank God."
"You had a good journey?" said her son, sitting down beside her,
and involuntarily listening to a woman's voice outside the door. He
knew it was the voice of the lady he had met at the door.
"All the same I don't agree with you," said the lady's voice.
"It's the Peterburg view, madame."
"Not Peterburg, but simply feminine," she responded.
"Well, well, allow me to kiss your hand."
"Good-by, Ivan Petrovich. And would you see if my brother is here,
and send him to me?" said the lady in the doorway, and stepped back
again into the compartment.
"Well, have you found your brother?" said Countess Vronskaia,
addressing the lady.
Vronsky understood now that this was Madame Karenina.
"Your brother is here," he said, standing up. "Excuse me, I did
not know you, and, indeed, our acquaintance was so slight," said
Vronsky bowing, "that no doubt you do not remember me."
"Oh, no," said she, "I should have known you because your mother
and I have been talking, I think, of nothing but you all the way." As
she spoke she let the animation that would insist on coming out show
itself in her smile. "And still no sign of my brother."
"Do call him, Aliosha," said the old countess.
Vronsky stepped out onto the platform and shouted: "Oblonsky!
Madame Karenina, however, did not wait for her brother, but
catching sight of him she stepped out with her light, resolute step.
And as soon as her brother had reached her, with a gesture that struck
Vronsky by its decision and its grace, she flung her left arm around
his neck, drew him rapidly to her, and kissed him warmly. Vronsky
looked on, never taking his eyes from her, and smiled, he could not
have said why. But recollecting that his mother was waiting for him,
he went back again into the carriage.
"She's very sweet, isn't she?" said the Countess of Madame
Karenina. "Her husband put her with me, and I was delighted to have
her. We've been talking all the way. And so you, I hear... vous filez
le parfait amour. Tant mieux, mon cher, tant mieux."
"I don't know what you are referring to, maman," he answered
coldly. "Come, maman, let us go."
Madame Karenina entered the carriage again to say good-by to the
"Well, Countess, you have met your son, and I my brother," she
said gaily. "And all my stories are exhausted; I should have nothing
more to tell you."
"Oh, no," said the Countess, taking her hand. "I could go all
around the world with you and never be dull. You are one of those
delightful women in whose company it's sweet either to be silent or to
chat. Now please don't fret over your son; you can't expect never to
Madame Karenina stood quite still, holding herself very erect, and
her eyes were smiling.
"Anna Arkadyevna," the Countess said in explanation to her son,
"has a little son eight years old, I believe, and she has never been
parted from him before, and she keeps fretting over leaving him."
"Yes, the Countess and I have been talking all the time, I of my
son and she of hers," said Madame Karenina, and again a smile lighted
up her face——a caressing smile intended for him.
"I am afraid that you must have been dreadfully bored," he said,
promptly catching the ball of coquetry she had flung him. But
apparently she did not care to pursue the conversation in that strain,
and she turned to the old Countess.
"Thank you so much. The time has passed so quickly. Good-by,
"Good-by, my love," answered the Countess. "Let me kiss your
pretty face. I speak plainly, at my age, and I tell you simply that
I've lost my heart to you."
Stereotyped as the phrase was, Madame Karenina obviously believed
it and was delighted by it. She flushed, bent down slightly, and put
her cheek to the Countess's lips, drew herself up again, and, with the
same smile fluttering between her lips and her eyes, she gave her hand
to Vronsky. He pressed the little hand she gave him, and was
delighted, as though at something special, by the energetic squeeze
with which she freely and vigorously shook his hand. She went out with
the rapid step which bore her rather fully developed figure with such
"Very charming," said the Countess.
That was precisely what her son was thinking. His eyes followed
her till her graceful figure was out of sight, and then the smile
remained on his face. He saw out of the window how she went up to her
brother, put her arm in his, and began telling him something
animatedly——obviously something that had nothing to do with him,
Vronsky, and at that he felt annoyed.
"Well, maman, are you perfectly well?" he repeated, turning to his
"Everything has been delightful. Alexandre has been very good, and
Marie has grown very pretty. She's very interesting."
And she began telling him again of what interested her most——the
christening of her grandson, for which she had been staying in
Peterburg, and the special favor shown her elder son by the Czar.
"Here's Lavrentii," said Vronsky, looking out of the window; "now
we can go, if you like."
The old butler who had traveled with the Countess came to the
carriage to announce that everything was ready, and the Countess got
up to go.
"Come; there's not such a crowd now," said Vronsky.
The maid took a handbag and the lap dog, the butler and a porter
the other baggage. Vronsky gave his mother his arm; but just as they
were getting out of the carriage several men ran suddenly by with
panic-stricken faces. The stationmaster, too, ran by in his
extraordinarily colored cap. Obviously something unusual had happened.
The crowd was running to the tail end of the train.
"What?... What?... Where?... Flung himself!... Crushed!..." was
heard among the crowd.
Stepan Arkadyevich, with his sister on his arm, turned back. They
too looked scared, and stopped at the carriage door to avoid the
The ladies got in, while Vronsky and Stepan Arkadyevich followed
the crowd to find out details of the disaster.
A watchman, either drunk or too much muffled up in the bitter
frost, had not heard the train moving back, and had been crushed.
Before Vronsky and Oblonsky came back the ladies heard the facts
from the butler.
Oblonsky and Vronsky had both seen the mutilated corpse. Oblonsky
was evidently distressed. He frowned and seemed ready to cry.
"Ah, how awful! Ah, Anna, if you had seen it! Ah, how awful!" he
Vronsky did not speak; his handsome face was serious, but
"Ah, if you had seen it, Countess," said Stepan Arkadyevich. "And
his wife was there.... It was awful to see her!... She flung herself
on the body. They say he was the only support of an immense family.
"Couldn't one do anything for her?" said Madame Karenina in an
Vronsky glanced at her, and immediately got out of the carriage.
"I'll be back directly, maman," he remarked, turning round in the
When he came back a few minutes later, Stepan Arkadyevich was
already in conversation with the Countess about a new singer, while
she was impatiently looking toward the door, waiting for her son.
"Now let us be off," said Vronsky, coming in.
They went out together. Vronsky was in front with his mother.
Behind walked Madame Karenina with her brother. Just as they were
going out of the station the stationmaster overtook Vronsky.
"You gave my assistant two hundred roubles. Would you kindly
explain for whose benefit you intend them?"
"For the widow," said Vronsky, shrugging his shoulders. "I should
have thought there was no need to ask."
"You gave that?" cried Oblonsky behind, and, pressing his sister's
hand, he added: "Most charming, most charming! Isn't he a fine fellow?
And he and his sister stood still, looking for her maid.
When they went out the Vronskys' carriage had already driven away.
People coming in were still talking of what had happened.
"What a horrible death!" said a gentleman, passing by. "They say
he was cut in two."
"On the contrary, I think it's the easiest——instantaneous,"
"How is it they don't take proper precautions?" a third was saying.
Madame Karenina seated herself in the carriage, and Stepan
Arkadyevich saw with surprise that her lips were quivering, and that
she was with difficulty restraining her tears.
"What is it, Anna?" he asked, when they had driven a few hundred
"It's an omen of evil," she said.
"What nonsense!" said Stepan Arkadyevich. "You've come, that's the
chief thing. You can't conceive how I'm resting my hopes on you."
"Have you known Vronsky long? she asked.
"Yes. You know we're hoping he will marry Kitty."
"Yes?" said Anna softly. "Come now, let us talk of you," she
added, tossing her head, as though she would physically shake off
something superfluous oppressing her. "Let us talk of your affairs. I
got your letter, and here I am."
"Yes, all my hopes are in you," said Stepan Arkadyevich.
"Well, tell me all about it."
And Stepan Arkadyevich began his story.
On reaching home Oblonsky helped his sister out, sighed, pressed
her hand, and set off to his office.
When Anna entered the tiny drawing room, she found Dolly sitting
there with a white-headed plump little boy, already resembling his
father; she was listening to a lesson in French reading. As the boy
read, he kept twisting and trying to tear off a button that was nearly
off his jacket. His mother had several times taken his hand from it,
but the plump little hand went back to the button again. His mother
pulled the button off and put it in her pocket.
"Keep your hands still, Grisha," she said, and she took up her
work, a coverlet she had long been making. She always set to work on
it at depressed moments, and now she knitted at it nervously,
twitching her fingers and counting the stitches. Though she had sent
word the day before to her husband that it was nothing to her whether
his sister came or not, she had made everything ready for her arrival,
and was expecting her sister-in-law with agitation.
Dolly was crushed by her sorrow, utterly swallowed up by it. Still
she did not forget that Anna, her sister-in-law, was the wife of one
of the most important personages in Peterburg, and was a Peterburg
grande dame. And, thanks to this circumstance, she did not carry out
her threat to her husband——that is to say, she had not forgotten that
her sister-in-law was coming. "And, after all, Anna is in no wise to
blame," thought Dolly. "I know nothing save the very best about her,
and I have seen nothing but kindness and affection from her toward
myself." It was true that as far as she could recall her impressions
at Peterburg at the Karenins', she did not like their household
itself; there was something artificial about the whole arrangement of
their family life. "But why should I not receive her? If only she
doesn't take it into her head to console me!" thought Dolly. "All
consolations and exhortations and Christian forgiveness——I have
thought all this over a thousand times, and it's all no use."
All these days Dolly had been alone with her children. She did not
want to talk of her sorrow, but with that sorrow in her heart she
could not talk of outside matters.
She knew that in one way or another she would tell Anna
everything, and she was alternately glad at the thought of speaking
freely, and angry at the necessity of speaking of her humiliation with
her, his sister, and of hearing her ready-made phrases of exhortation
She had been on the lookout for her, glancing at her watch every
minute, and, as often happens, let slip that precise minute when her
visitor arrived, so that she did not hear the bell.
Catching the sound of skirts and of light steps at the door, she
looked round, and her careworn face unconsciously expressed not
gladness, but wonder. She got up and embraced her sister-in-law.
"What, here already?" she said as she kissed her.
"Dolly, how glad I am to see you!"
"I am glad, too," said Dolly, faintly smiling, and trying by the
expression of Anna's face to find out whether she knew. "Most likely
she knows," she thought, noticing the sympathy in Anna's face. "Well,
come along, I'll take you to your room," she went on, trying to defer
as long as possible the time of explanation.
"Is this Grisha? Heavens, how he's grown!" said Anna; and kissing
him, never taking her eyes off Dolly, she stood still and flushed.
"No, please, let us stay here."
She took off her shawl and her hat, and catching it in a lock of
her black hair, which was a mass of curls, she tossed her head and
shook her hair down.
"You are radiant with health and happiness!" said Dolly, almost
"I?... Yes," said Anna. "Merciful heavens, Tania! You're the same
age as my Seriozha," she added, addressing the little girl as she ran
in. She took her in her arms and kissed her. "Delightful child,
delightful! Show me them all."
She mentioned them, not only remembering the names, but the years,
months, characters, illnesses of all the children, and Dolly could not
but appreciate that.
"Very well, we will go to them," she said. "It's a pity Vassia's
After seeing the children, they sat down, alone now, in the
drawing room, to coffee. Anna took the tray, and then pushed it away
"Dolly," she said, "he has told me."
Dolly looked coldly at Anna; she was waiting now for
hypocritically sympathetic phrases, but Anna said nothing of the sort.
"Dolly, darling," she said, "I don't want to intercede for him,
nor to try to comfort you——that's impossible. But, my dearest, I'm
simply sorry, sorry from my heart for you!"
Under the thick lashes of her shining eyes tears suddenly
glittered. She moved nearer to her sister-in-law and took her hand in
her own, vigorous and little. Dolly did not shrink away, but her face
did not lose its frigid expression. She said:
"To comfort me is impossible. Everything's lost after what has
happened, everything's over!"
And directly she had said this, her face suddenly softened. Anna
lifted the wasted, thin hand of Dolly, kissed it and said:
"But, Dolly, what's to be done, what's to be done? How is it best
to act in this awful position——that's what you must think of."
"All's over, and there's nothing more," said Dolly. "And the worst
of it all is, you see, that I can't cast him off: there are the
children——my hands are tied. And I can't live with him! It's a torture
for me to see him."
"Dolly, darling, he has spoken to me, but I want to hear it from
you: tell me all about it."
Dolly looked at her inquiringly.
Sympathy and love unfeigned were apparent on Anna's face.
"Very well," she suddenly said. "But I will begin at the
beginning. You know how I was married. With the education maman gave
us I was more than innocent——I was foolish. I knew nothing. They say,
I know, men tell their wives of their former lives, but Stiva"—— she
corrected herself——"Stepan Arkadyevich told me nothing. You'll hardly
believe it, but till now I imagined that I was the only woman he had
known. So I lived eight years. You must understand that I was not only
far from suspecting infidelity, but I regarded it as impossible, and
then——try to imagine it——with such conceptions to find out suddenly
all the horror, all the loathsomeness... You must try and understand
me. To be fully convinced of one's happiness, and all at once..."
continued Dolly, holding back her sobs, "To get a letter... His letter
to his mistress, a governess in my employ. No, it's too awful!" She
hastily pulled out her handkerchief and hid her face in it. "I can
understand if it were passion," she went on, after a brief silence,
"but to deceive me deliberately, slyly... And with whom?... To go on
being my husband while he and she... It's awful! You can't
"Oh, yes, I understand! I understand! Dolly, dearest, I do
understand," said Anna, pressing her hand.
"And do you imagine he realizes all the awfulness of my position?
Dolly resumed. "Not in the slightest! He's happy and contented."
"Oh, no!" Anna interposed quickly. "He's to be pitied, he's
weighed down by remorse..."
"Is he capable of remorse?" Dolly interrupted, gazing intently
into her sister-in-law's face.
"Yes. I know him. I could not look at him without feeling sorry
for him. We both know him. He's good-natured, but he's proud, and now
he's so humiliated. What touched me most..." (And here Anna guessed
what would touch Dolly most.) "He's tortured by two things: that he's
ashamed for the children's sake, and that, loving you—— yes, yes,
loving you beyond everything on earth," she hurriedly interrupted
Dolly, who would have rejoined——"he has hurt you, pierced you to the
heart. 'No, no, she cannot forgive me,' he keeps on saying."
Dolly looked pensively past her sister-in-law as she listened to
"Yes, I can see that his position is awful; it's worse for the
guilty than the innocent," she said, "if he feels that all the misery
comes from his fault. But how am I to forgive him, how am I to be his
wife again after her? For me to live with him now would be torture,
just because I love my past love for him..."
And sobs cut short her words.
But as though of set design, each time she was softened she began
to speak again of what exasperated her.
"She's young, you see, she's pretty," she went on. "Do you know,
Anna, my youth and my beauty are gone, taken by whom? By him and his
children. I have worked for him, and all I had has gone in his
service, and now of course any fresh, vulgar creature has more charm
for him. No doubt they talked of me together, or, worse still, they
were silent about me.... Do you understand?"
Again her eyes glowed with hatred.
"And after that he will tell me... What! Am I to believe him?
Never! No, everything is over, everything that once constituted my
comfort, the reward of my work and of my sufferings... Would you
believe it? I was teaching Grisha just now: once this was a joy to me,
now it is a torture. What have I to strive and toil for? Why to have
children? What's so awful is that all at once my heart's turned, and
instead of love and tenderness, I have nothing but hatred for him;
yes, hatred. I could kill him and..."
"Darling Dolly, I understand, but don't torture yourself You are
so insulted, so excited, that you look at many things mistakenly."
Dolly grew calmer, and for two minutes both were silent.
"What's to be done? Think for me, Anna, help me. I have thought
over everything, and I see nothing."
Anna could not find anything, but her heart echoed instantly to
each word, to each change of expression on her sister-in-law's face.
"One thing I would say," began Anna. "I am his sister, I know his
character, that faculty of forgetting everything, everything" (she
waved her hand before her forehead), "that faculty for being
completely carried away, but for completely repenting, too. He cannot
believe it, he cannot comprehend now, how he could have acted as he
"No; he understands, and understood!" Dolly broke in. "But I...
You are forgetting me... Does that make it easier for me?"
"Wait a minute. When he told me, I will own I did not realize all
the horror of your position. I saw nothing but him, and that the
family was broken up. I felt sorry for him, but after talking to you,
I see it, as a woman, quite differently. I see your agony, and I can't
tell you how sorry I am for you! But, Dolly, darling, while I fully
realize your sufferings, there is one thing I don't know; I don't
know... I don't know how much love there is still in your heart for
him. That you know——whether there is enough for you to be able to
forgive him. If there is——forgive him!"
"No," Dolly was beginning, but Anna cut her short, kissing her
hand once more.
"I know more of the world than you do," she said. I know how men
like Stiva look at it. You speak of his talking of you with her. That
never happened. Such men are unfaithful, but their own home and wife
are sacred to them. Somehow or other these women are still looked on
with contempt by them, and do not touch on their feeling for their
family. They draw a sort of line that can't be crossed between them
and their families. I don't understand it, but it is so."
"Yes, but he has kissed her..."
"Dolly, hush, darling. I saw Stiva when he was in love with you. I
remember the time when he came to me and cried, talking of you, and of
what a poetry and loftiness you were for him, and I know that the
longer he has lived with you the loftier you have been in his eyes.
You know we have sometimes laughed at him for putting in at every
word: "Dolly's a marvelous woman." have always been a divinity for
him, and you are that still, and this has not been a passion of the
"But if it be repeated?"
"It cannot be, as I understand it...
"Yes, but could you forgive it?"
"I don't know, I can't judge... No, I can judge," said Anna,
thinking a moment; and grasping the position in her thought and
weighing it in her inner balance, she added: "Yes, I can, I can, I
can. Yes, I could forgive. I could not be the same, no; but I could
forgive, and forgive as though it had never been, never been at
"Oh, of course," Dolly interposed quickly, as though saying what
she had more than once thought, "else it would not be forgiveness. If
one forgives, it must be completely, completely. Come, let us go; I'll
take you to your room," she said, getting up, and on the way she
embraced Anna. "My dear, how glad I am you came. It has made things
better, ever so much better."
The whole of that day Anna spent at home——that is, at the
Oblonskys', and received no one, though some of her acquaintances had
already heard of her arrival, and came to call the same day. Anna
spent the whole morning with Dolly and the children. She merely sent a
brief note to her brother to tell him that he must not fail to dine at
home. "Come, God is merciful," she wrote.
Oblonsky did dine at home: the conversation was general, and his
wife, speaking to him, addressed him as "Stiva," as she had not done
for some time past. In the relations of husband and wife the same
estrangement still remained, but there was no talk of separation, and
Stepan Arkadyevich saw the possibility of explanation and
Immediately after dinner Kitty came in. She knew Anna Arkadyevna,
but only very slightly, and she came now to her sister's with some
trepidation, at the prospect of meeting this fashionable Peterburg
lady, of whom everyone spoke so highly. But she made a favorable
impression on Anna Arkadyevna——she perceived that at once. Anna was
unmistakably admiring her loveliness and her youth: before Kitty knew
where she was she found herself not merely under Anna's sway, but in
love with her, as young girls do fall in love with older and married
women. Anna did not resemble a fashionable lady, or the mother of a
boy eight years old. In the elasticity of her movements, the freshness
and the animation which persisted in her face and broke out in her
smile and her glance, she would rather have passed for a girl of
twenty, had it not been for a serious and, at times, a mournful look
in her eyes, which struck and attracted Kitty. Kitty felt that Anna
was perfectly simple and was concealing nothing, but that she had
another higher world of interests, complex and poetic, which were
inaccessible to Kitty.
After dinner, when Dolly withdrew to her own room, Anna rose
quickly and went up to her brother, who was just lighting a cigar.
"Stiva," she said to him, winking gaily, making the sign of the
cross over him, and glancing toward the door, "go, and God help you.
He tossed away his cigar, having understood her, and departed
through the doorway.
When Stepan Arkadyevich had disappeared, she went back to the sofa
where she had been sitting, surrounded by the children. Either because
the children saw that their mother was fond of this aunt, or that they
themselves sensed a special charm in her, the two elder ones, and the
younger following their lead, as children so often do, had clung about
their new aunt since before dinner, and would not leave her side. And
it had become a sort of game among them to sit as close as possible to
their aunt, to touch her, hold her little hand, kiss it, play with her
ring, or even touch the flounce of her skirt.
"Come, come, as we were sitting before," said Anna Arkadyevna,
sitting down in her place.
And again Grisha poked his little face under her arm, and nestled
with his head on her gown, beaming with pride and happiness.
"And when is your next ball?" she asked Kitty.
"Next week——and a splendid ball. One of those balls where one
always enjoys oneself."
"Why, are there balls where one always enjoys oneself?" Anna said,
with tender irony.
"It's strange, but there are. At the Bobrishchevs' one always
enjoys oneself, and at the Nikitins' too, while at the Mezhkovs' it's
always dull. Haven't you noticed it?"
"No, my dear, for me there are no balls now where one enjoys
oneself," said Anna, and Kitty detected in her eyes that peculiar
world which was not revealed to her. "For me there are some which are
less dull and tiresome than others."
"How can you be dull at a ball?"
"Why should not I be dull at a ball?" inquired Anna.
Kitty perceived that Anna knew what answer would follow.
"Because you always look the loveliest of all."
Anna had the faculty of blushing. She blushed, and said:
"In the first place it's never so; and secondly, if it were, what
difference would it make to me?"
"Are you coming to this ball? asked Kitty.
"I imagine it won't be possible to avoid going. Here, take it,"
she said to Tania, who was pulling the loosely fitting ring off her
white, slender-tipped finger.
"I shall be so glad if you go. I should so like to see you at a
"Anyway, if I do go, I shall comfort myself with the thought that
it's a pleasure to you.... Grisha, don't pull my hair. It's untidy
enough without that," she said, putting up a straying lock, which
Grisha had been playing with.
"I imagine you at the ball in lilac."
"And why in lilac, precisely?" asked Anna, smiling. "Now,
children, run along, run along. Do you hear? Miss Hoole is calling you
to tea," she said tearing the children from her, and sending them off
to the dining room.
"I know why you press me to come to the ball. You expect a great
deal of this ball, and you want everyone to be there and take part in
"How do you know? Yes!"
"Oh! What a happy time you are at," pursued Anna. "I remember, and
I know this blue haze, like the mist on the mountains in Switzerland.
This mist, which covers everything in that blissful time when
childhood is just ending, and out of that vast circle, happy and gay,
there is a path growing narrower and narrower, and it is delightful
and alarming to enter the ballroom, bright and splendid as it is....
Who has not been through it?"
Kitty smiled without speaking. "But how did she go through it? How
I should like to know all her love story!" thought Kitty, recalling
the unromantic appearance of Alexei Alexandrovich, her husband.
"I know something. Stiva told me, and I congratulate you. I liked
him so much," Anna continued. "I met Vronsky at the railway station."
"Oh, was he there?" asked Kitty, blushing. "What was it Stiva told
"Stiva blabbed about it all. And I should be so glad. I traveled
yesterday with Vronsky's mother," she went on; "and his mother talked
without a pause of him; he's her favorite. I know mothers are partial,
"What did his mother tell you?"
"Oh, a great deal! And although I know that he's her favorite, one
can still see how chivalrous he is.... Well, for instance, she told me
that he had wanted to give up all his property to his brother; that he
had done something extraordinary when he was quite a child——saved a
woman from the water. He's a hero, in fact," said Anna, smiling and
recollecting the two hundred roubles he had given at the station.
But she did not tell Kitty about the two hundred roubles. For some
reason it was disagreeable to her to think of it. She felt that there
was something that had to do with her in it, and something that ought
not to have been.
"She pressed me very much to go and see her," Anna went on; "and I
shall be glad to go to see her tomorrow. Stiva is staying a long while
in Dolly's room, thank God," Anna added, changing the subject, and
getting up, Kitty fancied, displeased with something.
"No, I'm first! No, I!" screamed the children, who had finished
tea, running up to their Aunt Anna.
"All together," said Anna, and she ran laughing to meet them, and,
embracing them, threw all the children, shrieking with delight, into a
Dolly came out of her room to the tea of the grownups. Stepan
Arkadyevich did not come out. He must have left his wife's room by a
"I am afraid you'll be cold upstairs," observed Dolly, addressing
Anna; "I want to move you downstairs, and we shall be nearer."
"Oh, please, don't trouble about me," answered Anna, looking
intently into Dolly's face, trying to make out whether there had been
a reconciliation or not.
"It will be lighter for you here," answered her sister-in-law.
"I assure you that I can sleep like a marmot anywhere and any
"What's all this?" inquired Stepan Arkadyevich, coming out of his
room and addressing his wife.
From his tone both Kitty and Anna at once gathered that a
reconciliation had taken place.
"I want to move Anna downstairs, but we must hang up blinds. No
one knows how to do it; I must see to it myself," answered Dolly
"God knows whether they are fully reconciled," thought Anna,
hearing her tone, cold and composed.
"Come, Dolly, why be always making difficulties," answered her
husband. "There, I'll do it all, if you like..."
"I know how you do everything," answered Dolly. "You tell Matvei
to do what can't be done, and go away yourself, leaving him to make a
muddle of everything," and her habitual, mocking smile curved the
corners of Dolly's lips as she spoke.
"Full, full reconciliation——full," thought Anna, "thank God!" and
rejoicing that she was the cause of it, she went up to Dolly and
"Not at all. Why do you always look down on me and Matvei?" said
Stepan Arkadyevich, smiling hardly perceptibly, and addressing his
The whole evening Dolly was, as always, a little mocking in her
tone to her husband, while Stepan Arkadyevich was happy and cheerful,
yet not so as to seem as if, having been forgiven, he had forgotten
At half-past nine o'clock a particularly joyful and pleasant
family conversation over the tea table at the Oblonskys' was broken up
by an apparently simple incident. But this simple incident for some
reason struck everyone as strange. Having begun talking about common
acquaintances in Peterburg, Anna got up quickly.
"She is in my album," she said; "and, by the way, I'll show you my
Seriozha," she added, with a mother's smile of pride.
Toward ten o'clock, when she usually said good night to her son,
and often, before going to a ball put him to bed herself, she felt
depressed at being so far from him; and whatever she was talking
about, she kept coming back in thought to her curly-headed Seriozha.
She longed to look at his photograph and talk of him. Seizing the
first pretext, she got up, and with her light, resolute step went for
her album. The stairs up to her room came out on the landing of the
great warm main staircase.
Just as she was leaving the drawing room, a ring was heard in the
"Who can that be?" said Dolly.
"It's too early for me to be fetched, and for anyone else it's too
late," observed Kitty.
"It's sure to be someone with papers for me," put in Stepan
Arkadyevich. When Anna was passing the top of the staircase, a servant
was running up to announce the visitor, while the visitor himself was
standing under a lamp. Anna, glancing down, at once recognized
Vronsky, and a strange feeling of pleasure and, at the same time, of
some dread, stirred in her heart. He stood there, without taking off
his coat, and pulling something out of his pocket. At the instant when
she was just halfway up the stairs he raised his eyes, caught sight of
her, and the expression of his face changed to embarrassment and
dismay. With a slight inclination of her head she passed, hearing
behind her Stepan Arkadyevich's loud voice calling him to come up, and
the quiet, soft, and calm voice of Vronsky refusing.
When Anna returned with the album he was already gone, and Stepan
Arkadyevich was telling them that he had called to inquire about the
dinner they were giving next day to a foreign celebrity.
"And nothing would induce him to come up. What a queer fellow he
is!" added Stepan Arkadyevich.
Kitty blushed. She thought that she was the only person who knew
why he had come, and why he would not come up. "He has been at home,"
she thought, "and didn't find me, and thought I should be here, but he
did not come up because he thought it late, and Anna's here."
All of them looked at each other, saying nothing, and began to
look at Anna's album.
There was nothing either exceptional or strange in a man's calling
at half-past nine on a friend to inquire details of a proposed dinner
party and not coming in, yet it seemed strange to all of them. And to
Anna it seemed stranger and more unpleasant than to any of the others.
The ball was only just beginning as Kitty and her mother walked up
the great staircase, flooded with light, and lined with flowers and
footmen in powder and red coats. From the rooms came a constant,
steady noise, like that of a hive aswarm; and as they were giving the
final little touches to hair and dresses before a mirror on the
landing between potted trees, they heard, coming from the ballroom,
the gently distinct notes of the fiddles of the orchestra, beginning
the first waltz. A little ancient in civilian dress, arranging his
gray curls before another mirror, and diffusing an odor of scent,
stumbled against them on the stairs, and stood aside, evidently
admiring Kitty, whom he did not know. A beardless youth, one of those
society youths whom the old Prince Shcherbatsky called whelps, in an
exceedingly open waistcoat, straightening his white tie as he went,
bowed to them and after running by, came back to ask Kitty for a
quadrille. As the first quadrille had already been given to Vronsky,
she had to promise this youth the second. An officer, buttoning his
glove, stood aside in the doorway, and, stroking his mustache, admired
the rosy Kitty.
Although her dress, her coiffure, and all the preparations for the
ball had cost Kitty much trouble and planning, at this moment she
walked into the ballroom in the elaborate tulle dress over a pink slip
as unconcernedly and simply as though all the rosettes and lace, all
the minute details of her attire, had not cost her or her family a
moment's attention, as though she had been born in this tulle and
lace, with this towering coiffure, surmounted by a rose and two small
When, just before entering the ballroom, the old Princess tried to
adjust a sash ribbon that had become twisted, Kitty had drawn back a
little. She felt that everything must be right of itself, and
graceful, and that nothing could need setting straight.
Kitty had one of her good days. Her dress was not uncomfortable
anywhere; her lace bertha did not droop anywhere; her rosettes were
neither crushed nor torn off; her pink slippers with high, curving
heels did not pinch, but gladdened her tiny feet; and the thick
bandeaux of fair hair kept up on her head. All the three buttons
buttoned up without tearing on the long glove that covered her hand
without concealing its lines. The black velvet ribbon of her locket
nestled with special tenderness round her neck. This velvet ribbon was
a darling; at home, regarding her neck in the looking glass, Kitty had
felt that that velvet was speaking. About all the rest there might be
a doubt, but the velvet ribbon was a darling. Kitty smiled here too,
at the ball, when she glanced at it in the glass. Her bare shoulders
and arms gave Kitty a sensation of chill marble——a sensation she
particularly liked. Her eyes sparkled, and her rosy lips could not
help but smile from the consciousness of their own attractiveness. She
had scarcely entered the ballroom and reached the
tulle-ribbon-lace-colored throng of ladies, waiting to be asked to
dance——Kitty was never one of that throng——when she was asked for a
waltz, and asked by the best partner, the first star in the hierarchy
of the ballroom, a renowned conductor of the dances and master of
ceremonies, married man, handsome and well built, Iegorushka
Korsunsky. He had only just left the Countess Banina, with whom he had
danced the first turn of the waltz, and, scanning his demesne——that is
to say, a few couples who had started dancing——he caught sight of
Kitty entering, and flew up to her with that peculiar, easy amble
which is confined to conductors of the dances. Bowing and without even
asking her if she cared to dance, he put out his arm to encircle her
slender waist. She looked round for someone to give her fan to, and
their hostess, smiling to her, took it.
"How good of you to come in good time," he said to her, embracing
her waist; "such a bad habit to be late."
Bending her left arm, she laid it on his shoulder, and her little
feet in their pink slippers began swiftly, lightly, and rhythmically
moving over the slippery floor in time to the music.
"It's a rest to waltz with you," he said to her, as they fell into
the first slow steps of the waltz. "It's charming——such lightness,
precision." He said to her the same thing he said to almost all his
partners whom he knew well.
She smiled at his praise, and continued to look about the room
over his shoulder. She was not like a girl at her first ball, for whom
all faces in the ballroom melt into one vision of fairyland. And she
was not a girl who had gone the stale round of balls till every face
in the ballroom was familiar and tiresome. But she was in the middle
stage between these two; she was excited, and at the same time she had
sufficient self-possession to be able to observe. In the left corner
of the ballroom she saw the very flower of society grouped together.
There——impossibly naked——was the beauty Liddy, Korsunsky's wife; there
was the lady of the house; there shone the bald pate of Krivin, always
to be found wherever the best people were; in that direction gazed the
young men, not venturing to approach; there, too, she descried Stiva,
and there she saw the charming figure and head of Anna in a black
velvet gown. And he was there. Kitty had not seen him since the
evening she refused Levin. With her farsighted eyes, knew him at once,
and was even aware that he was looking at her.
"Another turn, eh? You're not tired?" said Korsunsky, a little out
"No, thank you!"
"Where shall I take you?"
"Madame Karenina's here, I think.... Take me to her."
"Wherever you command."
And Korsunsky began waltzing with measured steps straight toward
the group in the left corner, continually saying, "Pardon, mesdames,
pardon, pardon, mesdames," and steering his course through the sea of
lace, tulle and ribbon, and not disarranging a feather, he turned his
partner sharply round, so that her slim ankles, in light, transparent
stockings, were exposed to view, and her train floated out in fan
shape and covered Krivin's knees. Korsunsky bowed, set straight his
open shirt front, and gave her his arm to conduct her to Anna
Arkadyevna. Kitty, flushed, took her train from Krivin's knees, and, a
little giddy, looked round, seeking Anna. Anna was not in lilac, as
Kitty had so urgently wished, but in a black, low-cut, velvet gown,
showing her full shoulders and bosom, that looked as though carved in
old ivory, and her rounded arms, with tiny, slender hands. The whole
gown was trimmed with Venetian guipure. On her head, among her black
hair——her own, with no false additions——was a little wreath of
pansies, and a similar one on the black ribbon of her sash, among
white lace. Her coiffure was not striking. All that was noticeable was
the little willful tendrils of her curly hair that persisted in
escaping on the nape of her neck, and on her temples. Encircling her
sculptured, strong neck was a thread of pearls.
Kitty had been seeing Anna every day; she adored her, and had
pictured her invariably in lilac. But now, seeing her in black, she
felt that she had not fully perceived her charm. She saw her now as
someone quite new and surprising to her. Now she understood that Anna
could not have been in lilac, and that her charm was precisely in that
she always stood out against her attire, that her dress could never be
noticeable on her. And her black dress, with its sumptuous lace, was
not noticeable on her; it was only the frame and all that was seen was
she——simple, natural, elegant, and at the same time gay and animated.
She was standing, as always, very erect, and when Kitty drew near
the group she was speaking to the master of the house, her head
slightly turned toward him.
"No, I won't cast a stone," she was saying, in answer to
something, "though I can't understand it she went on, shrugging her
shoulders, and she turned at once with a soft smile of protection
toward Kitty. With a cursory feminine glance she scanned her attire,
and made a movement of her head, hardly perceptible, but understood by
Kitty, signifying approval of her dress and her looks. "You came into
the room dancing," she added.
"This is one of my most faithful supporters," said Korsunsky,
bowing to Anna Arkadyevna, whom he had not yet seen. "The Princess
helps to make any ball festive and successful. Anna Arkadyevna, a
waltz?" he said, bending down to her.
"Why, have you met?" inquired their host.
"Is there anyone we have not met? My wife and I are like white
wolves——everyone knows us," answered Korsunsky. "A waltz, Anna
"I don't dance whenever it's possible not to," she said.
"But tonight it's impossible," answered Korsunsky.
During the conversation Vronsky was approaching them.
"Well, since it's impossible tonight, let us start," she said, not
noticing Vronsky's bow, and hastily put her hand on Korsunsky's
"What is she vexed with him about?" thought Kitty, discerning that
Anna had intentionally not responded to Vronsky's bow. Vronsky went up
to Kitty, reminding her of the first quadrille, and expressing his
regret at not having seen her all this time. Kitty gazed in admiration
at Anna waltzing, as she listened to him. She expected him to ask her
for a waltz, but he did not, and she glanced wonderingly at him. He
flushed, and hurriedly asked her to waltz, but he had barely put his
arm round her slender waist and taken the first step when the music
suddenly stopped. Kitty looked into his face, which was so close to
her own, and long afterward——for several years——this look, full of
love, to which he made no response, cut her to the heart with an agony
"Pardon! Pardon! Waltz! Waltz!" shouted Korsunsky from the other
side of the room, and, seizing the first young lady he came across he
Vronsky and Kitty waltzed several times round the room. After the
waltz Kitty went to her mother, and she had hardly time to say a few
words to Countess Nordstone when Vronsky came up again for the first
quadrille. During the quadrille nothing of any significance was said:
there was disjointed talk between them of the Korsunskys, husband and
wife, whom he described very amusingly, as delightful children at
forty, and of the future popular theater; and only once did the
conversation touch her to the quick——when he asked her whether Levin
were here, and added that he liked him very much. But Kitty did not
expect much from the quadrille. She looked forward with a sinking
heart to the mazurka. She fancied that the mazurka would decide
everything. The fact that he did not during the quadrille ask her for
the mazurka did not trouble her. She felt sure she would dance it with
him, as she had done at former balls, and refused five young men,
saying she was engaged for the mazurka. The whole ball up to the last
quadrille was for Kitty an enchanted vision of delightful colors,
sounds and motions. She only sat down when she felt too tired and
begged for a rest. But as she was dancing the last quadrille with one
of the tiresome young men whom she could not refuse, she chanced to be
vis-a-vis with Vronsky and Anna. She had not been near Anna since the
beginning of the evening, and now she again suddenly saw her as quite
new and surprising. She saw in her the signs of that excitement of
success she knew so well in herself; she saw that she was intoxicated
with the delighted admiration she was exciting. She knew that feeling
and knew its signs, and saw them in Anna; saw the quivering, flashing
light in her eyes, and the smile of happiness and excitement
unconsciously curving her lips, and the distinct grace, precision and
lightness of her movements.
"Who is it?" she asked herself. "All——or one?" And without keeping
up her end of the conversation, the thread of which the harassed young
man she was dancing with lost and could not pick up again, she obeyed
with external liveliness the peremptory shouts of Korsunsky starting
them all into the grand rond, and then into the chaine, and at the
same time she kept watch with a growing pang at her heart. "No, it's
not admiration of the crowd that has intoxicated her, but the
adoration of one. And that one? Can it be he?" Every time he spoke to
Anna the joyous light flashed into her eyes, and the smile of
happiness curved her red lips. She seemed to make an effort to control
herself, in order not to show these signs of delight, but they
appeared on her face of themselves. "But what of him?" Kitty looked at
him and was horrified. What was pictured so clearly to Kitty in the
mirror of Anna's face she saw in him. What had become of his always
calm, firm manner, and the carelessly calm expression of his face? Now
every time he turned to her he bent his head, as though he would have
fallen at her feet, and in his eyes there was nothing but humble
submission and dread. "I would not offend you," his eyes seemed to be
saying each time, "but I want to save myself, and I don't know how."
On his face was a look such as Kitty had never seen before.
They were speaking of common acquaintances, keeping up the
smallest of small talk, but to Kitty it seemed that every word they
said was determining their fate and hers. And strangely enough,
although they were actually talking of how absurd Ivan Ivanovich was
with his French, and how the Eletsky girl might have made a better
match, these words were yet fraught with significance for them, and
they sensed this as much as Kitty did. The whole ball, the whole
world, everything seemed screened by a fog within Kitty's soul.
Nothing but the stern discipline of her bringing-up supported her and
forced her to do what was expected of her——that is, to dance, to
answer questions, to talk, even to smile. But before the mazurka, when
they were beginning to rearrange the chairs and a few couples moved
out of the smaller rooms into the big room, a moment of despair and
horror came for Kitty. She had refused five partners, and now she was
not dancing the mazurka. She had not even a hope of being asked for
it, because she was so successful in society that the idea would never
occur to anyone that she had remained disengaged till now. She would
have to tell her mother she felt ill and go home, yet she had not the
strength to do this. She felt crushed.
She went to the farthest end of the second drawing room and sank
into a low chair. Her light, transparent skirts rose like a cloud
about her slender waist; one bare, thin, soft, girlish arm, hanging
listlessly, was lost in the folds of her pink tunic; in the other she
held her fan and with rapid, short strokes fanned her burning face.
Yet, while she looked like a butterfly clinging to a blade of grass,
and just about to open its rainbow wings for fresh flight, her heart
ached with a horrible despair.
"But perhaps I am wrong——perhaps it was not so?" And again she
recalled all she had seen.
"Kitty, what is it?" said Countess Nordstone, stepping noiselessly
over the carpet toward her. "I don't understand it."
Kitty's lower lip began to quiver; she got up quickly.
"Kitty, you're not dancing the mazurka?"
"No, no," said Kitty in a voice shaking with tears.
"He asked her for the mazurka in my presence," said Countess
Nordstone, knowing Kitty would understand who he and her were. "She
said: 'Why, aren't you going to dance it with Princess
"Oh, it doesn't matter to me!" answered Kitty.
No one but she herself understood her position; no one knew that
she had refused yesterday the man whom perhaps she loved, and refused
him because she had put her faith in another.
Countess Nordstone found Korsunsky, with whom she was to dance the
mazurka, and told him to ask Kitty.
Kitty danced in the first couple, and luckily for her she had not
to talk because Korsunsky was all the time running about, overseeing
his demesne. Vronsky and Anna were sitting almost opposite her. She
saw them with her farsighted eyes, and saw them, too, close by when
they met in the figures, and the more she saw of them the more
convinced was she that her unhappiness was consummated. She saw that
they felt themselves alone in this crowded room. And on Vronsky's
face, always so firm and independent, she saw the look that had struck
her, of bewilderment and humble submissiveness, like the expression of
an intelligent dog when it has done wrong.
Anna smiled——and her smile was reflected by him. She grew
thoughtful——and he became serious. Some supernatural force drew
Kitty's eyes to Anna's face. She was charming in her simple black
dress; charming were her round arms with their bracelets; charming was
her firm neck with its thread of pearls; charming the straying curls
of her loose hair; charming the graceful, light movements of her
little feet and hands, charming was that lovely face in its animation——
yet there was something terrible and cruel in her charm.
Kitty admired her more than ever, and more and more acute did her
suffering grow. Kitty felt crushed, and her face showed it. When
Vronsky caught sight of her, coming upon her in the mazurka, he did
not at once recognize her, so changed was she.
"Delightful ball!" he said to her, merely for the sake of saying
"Yes," she answered.
In the middle of the mazurka, repeating a complicated figure,
newly invented by Korsunsky, Anna came forward into the center of the
circle, chose two gentlemen, and summoned Kitty and another lady.
Kitty gazed at her in dismay as she went up. Anna looked at her with
drooping eyelids, and smiled, pressing her hand. But, noticing that
Kitty only responded to her smile by a look of despair and amazement,
she turned away from her, and began gaily talking to the other lady.
"Yes, there is something uncanny, devilish and charming about
her," said Kitty to herself.
Anna did not want to stay for supper, but the master of the house
began urging her.
"Nonsense, Anna Arkadyevna," said Korsunsky placing her bare hand
upon his coat sleeve. "I've such an idea for a cotillon! Un bijou!"
And he moved gradually on, trying to draw her along with him.
Their host smiled approvingly.
"No, I'm not going to stay," answered Anna, smiling, but, in spite
of her smile, both Korsunsky and the master of the house saw from her
resolute tone that she would not stay.
"No; why, as it is, I have danced more at your ball in Moscow than
I have all the winter in Peterburg," said Anna, looking round at
Vronsky, who stood near her. "I must rest a little before my journey."
"Are you definitely going tomorrow then?" asked Vronsky.
"Yes, I suppose so," answered Anna, as though wondering at the
boldness of his question; but the irrepressible, quivering brilliance
of her eyes and her smile set him on fire as she said it.
Anna Arkadyevna did not stay to supper, but went home.
"Yes, there must be something disgusting, repulsive about me,"
reflected Levin, as he left the Shcherbatskys', and set out on foot
for his brother's lodgings. "And I don't get on with other people.
Pride, they say. No, I haven't even pride. If I had any pride, I
should not have put myself in such a position." And he pictured to
himself Vronsky, happy, good-natured, clever and calm——certainly never
placed in the awful position in which he had been that evening. "Yes,
she was bound to choose him. It must be so, and I cannot complain of
anyone or anything. I am myself to blame. What right had I to imagine
she would care to join her life to mine? Who am I, and what am I? A
nobody, not wanted by anyone, nor of use to anybody." And he recalled
his brother Nikolai, and dwelt with pleasure on the thought of him.
"Isn't he right in saying that everything in the world is bad and
vile? And are we fair in our judgment, present and past, of brother
Nikolai? Of course, from the point of view of Procophii, seeing him in
a torn cloak and tipsy, he's a despicable person. But I know him
differently. I know his soul, and know that we are alike. And I,
instead of going to seek him out, went out to dinner, and then came
here." Levin walked up to a lamppost, read his brother's address,
which was in his pocketbook, and called a cabby. All the long way to
his brother's Levin vividly recalled all the facts, familiar to him,
of his brother Nikolai's life. He remembered how his brother, while at
the university, and for a year afterward, had, in spite of the jeers
of his companions, lived like a monk, strictly observing all religious
rites, services and fasts, and avoiding every sort of pleasure——
especially women. And now, afterward, he had all at once broken out:
had associated with the most horrible people, and rushed into the most
senseless debauchery. He remembered later the scandal over a boy, whom
he had taken from the country to bring up, and, in a fit of rage, had
so violently beaten that proceedings were brought against him for
personal injury. Then he remembered the scandal with a sharper, to
whom he had lost money, and given a promissory note, and against whom
he had himself lodged a complaint, asserting that he had cheated him.
(This was the money Sergei Ivanovich had paid.) Then he remembered how
he had spent a night in a police station for disorderly conduct in the
street. He remembered the shameful proceedings he had instituted
against his brother Sergei Ivanovich, accusing him of not having paid
him, apparently, his share of his mother's estate; and the last
scandal, when he had gone to a Western province in an official
capacity, and there had got into trouble for assaulting a village
elder.... It was all horribly vile, yet to Levin it appeared not at
all as vile as it inevitably would to those who did not know Nikolai,
did not know all his story, did not know his heart.
Levin remembered that when Nikolai had been in the devout stage,
the period of fasts and monks and church services, when he was seeking
in religion a support and a curb for his passionate temperament,
everyone, far from encouraging him, had jeered at him——and Levin had,
too, with the others. They had teased him, calling him Noah and Monk;
yet, when he had broken out, no one had helped him, but had all turned
away from him, with horror and loathing.
Levin felt that brother Nikolai, in spite of all the ugliness of
his life, in his soul, in the very depths of his soul, was no more in
the wrong than the people who despised him. He was not to blame for
having been born with his unbridled character and some pressure upon
his intellect. For he had always wanted to be good. "I will tell him
everything, without reserve, and I will make him speak without
reserve, too, and I'll show him that I love him, and therefore
understand him," Levin resolved to himself, as, toward eleven o'clock,
he reached the hotel of which he had the address.
"At the top, twelve and thirteen," the porter answered Levin's
"Probably he is at home."
The door of No. 12 was half open, and, together with a streak of
light, there issued thick fumes of cheap, poor tobacco, and the sound
of a voice, unknown to Levin; but he knew at once that his brother was
there: he recognized his cough.
As he went in at the door, the unknown voice was saying:
"It all depends with how much judgment and knowledge the thing's
Konstantin Levin looked in at the door, and saw that the speaker
was a young man with an immense shock of hair, wearing a Russian coat,
and that a pock-marked young woman in a woolen gown, without collar or
cuffs, was sitting on the sofa. His brother was not to be seen.
Konstantin felt a sharp pang at his heart at the thought of the
strange company in which his brother spent his life. No one had heard
him, and Konstantin, taking off his galoshes, listened to what the
gentleman in the Russian coat was saying. He was speaking of some
"Well, the devil flay them, these privileged classes," his
brother's voice responded, with a cough. "Masha! get us some supper,
and serve up some wine, if there's any left; or else send for some."
The woman rose, came out from behind the partition, and saw
"There's some gentleman here, Nikolai Dmitrievich," she said.
"Whom do you want?" said the voice of Nikolai Levin, angrily.
"It's I," answered Konstantin Levin, coming forward into the light.
"Who's I?" Nikolai's voice said again, still more angrily. He
could be heard getting up hurriedly, stumbling against something, and
Levin saw, facing him in the doorway, the big scared eyes, and the
huge, gaunt, stooping figure of his brother, so familiar, and yet
astonishing in its oddity and sickliness.
He was even thinner than three years before, when Konstantin Levin
had seen him last. He was wearing a short coat, and his hands and big
bones seemed huger than ever. His hair had grown thinner, the same
straight mustache hid his lips, the same eyes gazed strangely and
naively at his visitor.
"Ah, Kostia!" he exclaimed suddenly, recognizing his brother, and
his eyes lighted up with joy. But the same second he looked round at
the young man, and gave the nervous jerk of his head and neck that
Konstantin knew so well, as if his cravat were choking him; and a
quite different expression——wild, suffering and cruel——rested on his
"I wrote to you and Sergei Ivanovich both that I don't know you,
and don't want to know you. What is it you want?"
He was not at all the same as Konstantin had been fancying him.
The worst and most oppressive part of his character, which made all
relations with him so difficult, had been forgotten by Konstantin
Levin when he thought of him; and now, when he saw his face, and
especially that nervous twitching of his head, he remembered it all.
"I didn't want to see you for anything," he answered timidly.
"I've simply come to see you."
His brother's timidity obviously softened Nikolai. His lips
"Oh, so that's it?" he said. "Well, come in; sit down. Like some
supper? Masha, bring supper for three. No, stop a minute. Do you know
who this is?" he said, addressing his brother, and indicating the
gentleman in the Russian coat: "This is Mr. Kritsky, a friend of my
Kiev days——a very remarkable man. He's persecuted by the police, of
course, since he's not a scoundrel."
And he surveyed, as it was a habit of his, everyone in the room.
Seeing that the woman standing in the doorway was starting to go, he
shouted to her. "Wait a minute, I said." And with that inability to
express himself, the incoherence that Konstantin knew so well, he
began, with another look round at everyone, to tell Kritsky's story to
his brother: how he had been expelled from the university for starting
a benevolent society for the poor students, and classes on Sunday, and
how he had afterward been a teacher in a rural school, and had been
driven out of that, too; and had afterward been on trial for something
"You're of the Kiev University?" said Konstantin Levin to Kritsky,
to break the awkward silence that followed.
"Yes——I was in Kiev," Kritsky replied angrily, his face darkening.
"And this woman," Nikolai Levin interrupted him, pointing to her,
"is my lifemate, Marya Nikolaevna. I took her out of a dive, and he
jerked his neck as he said it. "But I love her and respect her, and
anyone who wants to know me," he added, raising his voice and knitting
his brows, "is requested to love her and respect her. She's precisely
the same as a wife to me——precisely. So now you know whom you've got
to do with. And if you think you're lowering yourself—— well, there's
the door, and God speed thee!"
And again his eyes traveled inquiringly over all of them.
"But how will I lower myself? I don't understand."
"Then, Masha, tell them to bring supper; three portions, and vodka
and wine... No, wait a minute... No, it doesn't matter... Go ahead."
"So you see," pursued Nikolai Levin, painfully wrinkling his
forehead and twitching.
It was obviously difficult for him to think of what to say and do.
"Here, do you see?... He pointed to some sort of short iron bars,
fastened together with twine, lying in a corner of the room. "Do you
see that? That's the beginning of a new enterprise we're going into.
This enterprise will be an industrial association...."
Konstantin scarcely heard him. He looked into his sickly,
consumptive face, and he was more and more sorry for him, and he could
not force himself to listen to what his brother was telling him about
the association. He saw that this association was a mere anchor to
save him from self-contempt. Nikolai Levin went on talking:
"You know that capital oppresses the worker. Our workers, the
mouzhiks, bear all the burden of labor, and are so placed that, no
matter how much they work, they can't escape from their position of
beasts of burden. All the profits of labor, on which they might
improve their position, and gain leisure for themselves, and after
that education——all the surplus values, are taken from them by the
capitalists. And society is so constituted that the harder they work,
the greater the profit of the merchants and landowners, while they
stay beasts of burden to the end. And that state of things must be
changed," he finished up, and looked questioningly at his brother.
"Yes, of course," said Konstantin, looking at the patch of red
that had come out on his brother's projecting cheekbones.
"And so we're founding a locksmiths' association, where all the
production and profit, and the chief instruments of production——
everything——will be in common."
"Where is the association to be?" asked Konstantin Levin.
"In the village of Vozdrem, government of Kazan."
"But why in a village? In the villages, I think, there is plenty
of work as it is. Why a locksmiths' association in a village?"
"Why? Because the peasants are just as much slaves as they ever
were, and that's why you and Sergei Ivanovich don't like people to try
and get them out of their slavery," said Nikolai Levin, exasperated by
Konstantin Levin sighed, looking meanwhile about the cheerless and
dirty room. This sigh seemed to exasperate Nikolai still more.
"I know Sergei Ivanovich's, and your, aristocratic views. I know
that he applies all the power of his intellect to justify existing
"I say, why do you talk of Sergei Ivanovich?" Levin let drop,
"Sergei Ivanovich? I'll tell you why!" Nikolai Levin shrieked
suddenly at the name of Sergei Ivanovich. "I'll tell you why... But
what's the use of talking? There's only one thing... What did you come
to me for? You look down on all this; very well, then; but go away, in
God's name——go away!" he shrieked, getting up from his chair. "Go
"I don't look down on it at all," said Konstantin Levin timidly.
"I don't even dispute it."
At that instant Marya Nikolaevna came back. Nikolai Levin looked
round angrily at her. She went quickly to him, and whispered
"I'm not well; I've grown irritable," said Nikolai Levin, getting
calmer and breathing painfully; "and then you talk to me of Sergei
Ivanovich and his essay. It's such rubbish, such lying, such
self-deception! What can a man write about justice who knows nothing
of it? Have you read his essay?" he turned to Kritsky, sitting down
again at the table, and clearing a space for himself by pushing back
some half-made cigarettes.
"I haven't," Kritsky responded gloomily, obviously not desiring to
enter into the conversation.
"Why not?" said Nikolai Levin, now turning with exasperation upon
"Because I didn't see the use of wasting my time over it."
"Oh, if you please——how did you know it would be wasting your
time? That essay's too deep for many people——that is to say, it's over
their heads. But it's different with me, I see through his ideas, and
I know wherein the essay's weakness lies."
They all fell silent. Kritsky got up sluggishly and reached for
"Won't you have supper? All right, good-by! Come round tomorrow
with the locksmith."
Kritsky had hardly gone out when Nikolai Levin smiled and winked.
"He, too, is poor stuff," he said. "For I can see..."
But at that instant Kritsky, at the door, called him.
"What do you want now?" he said, and went out to him in the
passage. Left alone with Marya Nikolaevna, Levin turned to her.
"Have you been long with my brother?" he said to her.
"Yes, more than a year. His health has become very poor. He drinks
a great deal," she said.
"He drinks vodka, and it's bad for him."
"And a great deal?" whispered Levin.
"Yes," she said, looking timidly toward the doorway, where Nikolai
Levin had reappeared.
"What were you talking about?" he said, knitting his brows, and
turning his scared eyes from one to the other. "What was it?"
"Oh, nothing," Konstantin answered in confusion.
"Oh, if you don't want to say, don't. Only it's no good your
talking to her. She's a wench, and you're a gentleman," he said, with
a jerk of the neck. "You understand everything, I see, and have taken
stock of everything, and look with commiseration on my
transgressions," he began again, raising his voice.
"Nikolai Dmitrich, Nikolai Dmitrich," whispered Marya Nikolaevna,
again going up to him.
"Oh, very well, very well!... But where's the supper? Ah, here it
is," he said, seeing a waiter with a tray. "Here, set it here," he
added angrily, and promptly seizing the vodka, he poured out a pony
and drank it greedily. "Like a drink?" he turned to his brother, and
at once became better-humored. "Well, enough of Sergei Ivanovich. I'm
glad to see you, anyway. After all's said and done, we're not
strangers. Come, have a drink. Tell me what you're doing," he went on,
greedily munching a piece of bread, and pouring out another pony. "How
are things with you?"
"I live alone in the country, as I always have. I'm busy looking
after the land," answered Konstantin, watching with horror the
greediness with which his brother ate and drank, and trying to conceal
that he noticed it.
"Why don't you get married?"
"No opportunity has presented itself," Konstantin answered,
"Why not? For me now, everything's at an end! I've made a mess of
my life. But this I've said, and I say still, that if my share had
been given me when I needed it, my whole life would have been
Konstantin made haste to change the conversation.
"Do you know your little Vania's with me——a clerk in the
countinghouse at Pokrovskoe?"
Nikolai jerked his neck, and sank into thought.
"Yes, tell me what's going on at Pokrovskoe. Is the house still
standing, and the birch trees, and our schoolroom? And Philip the
gardener——is he living? How I remember the summerhouse and the sofa!
Now mind and don't alter anything in the house, but make haste and get
married, and make everything as it used to be again. Then I'll come
and see you, if your wife is a fine woman."
"Why, come to me now," said Levin. "How snugly we could settle
"I'd come and see you if I were sure I shouldn't find Sergei
"You wouldn't find him there. I live quite independently of him."
"Yes, but say what you like, you have to choose between me and
him," he said, looking timidly into his brother's face.
This timidity touched Konstantin.
"If you want to hear my confession of faith on the subject, I tell
you that in your quarrel with Sergei Ivanovich I take neither side.
You're both wrong. You're rather wrong outwardly, and he, rather
"Ah, ah! You see that, you see that!" Nikolai shouted joyfully.
"But I personally value friendly relations with you more
Konstantin could not say that he valued it more because Nikolai
was unhappy, and needed affection. But Nikolai knew that this was just
what he meant to say, and scowling he took to the vodka again.
"Enough, Nikolai Dmitrich!" said Marya Nikolaevna, stretching out
her plump, bare arm toward the decanter.
"Let it be! Don't annoy me! I'll beat you!" he shouted.
Marya Nikolaevna smiled a sweet and good-humored smile, which was
at once reflected on Nikolai's face, and whisked the decanter off.
"And do you suppose she understands nothing?" said Nikolai. "She
understands everything better than all of us. Tell the truth——isn't
there something good and sweet about her?"
"Were you never before in Moscow?" Konstantin said to her, for the
sake of saying something.
"Only you mustn't be formal with her. It frightens her. No one
ever spoke to her so but the justice of the peace who tried her for
trying to get out of a house of ill fame. My God, what senselessness
there is in this world!" he cried suddenly. "These new institutions,
these justices of the peace, these Zemstvo——what hideousness it all
And he began to enlarge on his encounters with the new
Konstantin Levin listened to him, and that disbelief in the sense
of all public institutions, which he shared with him, and often
expressed, was now distasteful to him, coming from his brother's lips.
"In the other world we shall understand it all," he said lightly.
"In the other world? Ah, I don't like that other world! I don't
like it," he said, letting his scared wild eyes rest on his brother's
face. "Here one would think that to get out of all the baseness and
the mess, one's own and other people's, would be a good thing, and yet
I'm afraid of death, awfully afraid of death." He shuddered. "But do
drink something. Would you like some champagne? Or shall we go
somewhere? Let's go to the gypsies! Do you know, I've gotten very fond
of the gypsies, and of Russian songs."
His speech had begun to falter, and he skipped at random from one
subject to another. Konstantin, with the help of Masha, persuaded him
not to go out anywhere, and got him to bed hopelessly drunk.
Masha promised to write to Konstantin in case of need, and to
persuade Nikolai to go and stay with his brother.
In the morning Konstantin Levin left Moscow, and toward evening he
reached home. On the journey in the train he talked to his fellow
travelers about politics and the new railways, and, just as in Moscow,
he was overcome by a sense of confusion of ideas, by dissatisfaction
with himself, and shame of something or other. But when he got out at
his own station, when he saw his one-eyed coachman Ignat, with the
collar of his coat turned up; when, in the dim light falling through
the station windows, he saw his own carpeted sledge, his own horses
with their tails up, in their harness trimmed with rings and tassels;
when the coachman Ignat, as he put in his luggage, told him the
village news——that the contractor had arrived, and that Pava had
calved——he felt that little by little the confusion was clearing up,
and the shame and self-dissatisfaction were passing away. He felt this
at the mere sight of Ignat and the horses; but he began to see what
had happened to him in quite a different light, when he had put on the
sheepskin coat brought for him, and, all muffled up, had taken his
seat in the sleigh and started off, pondering on the work that lay
before him in the village, and staring at the off horse, that had been
formerly his saddle horse, overridden, but a spirited animal from the
Don. He felt himself, and did not want to be anyone else. All he
wanted now was to be better than before. In the first place, he
resolved that from that day on he would give up hoping for the
extraordinary happiness which the marriage was to afford him, and
consequently he would not disdain the present so. In the second place,
he would never again let himself give way to low passion, the memory
of which had so tortured him when he had been making up his mind to
propose. Then, remembering his brother Nikolai, he resolved that he
would never allow himself to forget him, that he would watch him, and
not lose sight of him, so as to be ready to help should things go ill
with him. And that would be soon, he felt. Then, too, his brother's
talk of communism, which he had treated so lightly at the time, now
made him reflect. He considered an alteration in economic conditions
nonsense; yet he had always felt the injustice of his own abundance in
comparison with the poverty of the common folk, and he now determined
that, in order to feel quite in the right, though he had worked hard
and lived by no means luxuriously before, he would now work still
harder, and would allow himself even less luxury. And all this seemed
to him so easy a conquest over himself that he spent the whole drive
in most pleasant reveries. With a lively feeling of hope in a new,
better life, he drove up to his house about nine o'clock at night.
The snow of the little quadrangle before the house was lit up by
light falling from the windows in the room of his old nurse, Agathya
Mikhailovna, who performed the duties of housekeeper in his house. She
was not yet asleep. Kouzma, awakened by her, sleepy and barefooted,
ran out onto the steps. A setter bitch, Laska, leaped out too, almost
upsetting Kouzma, and whining, rubbed against Levin's knees, jumping
up and longing, yet not daring, to put her forepaws on his chest.
"You're soon returned, my dear," said Agathya Mikhailovna.
"I grew homesick, Agathya Mikhailovna. East or West, home is
best," he answered, and went into his study.
The study was gradually lit up as the candle was brought in. The
familiar details came out: the stag's horns; the bookshelves; the
plain stove with its warm-hole, which had long wanted mending; his
father's sofa, a large table, and, on the table, an open book, a
broken ash tray, a notebook with his handwriting. As he saw all this,
there came over him for an instant a doubt of the possibility of
arranging the new life, of which he had been dreaming on the road. All
these traces of his life seemed to clutch him, and to say to him: "No,
you're not going to get away from us, and you're not going to be
different——but you're going to be the same as you've always been: with
doubts, everlasting dissatisfaction with yourself, vain efforts to
amend, and lapses, and everlasting expectation of a happiness which
you won't get, and which isn't possible for you."
But it was his things that said this to him, while another voice
in his heart was telling him that he must not fall under the sway of
the past, and that one can do anything with oneself. And hearing that
voice, he went into the corner where stood his two dumbbells, of one
pood each, and began jerking and pushing them up, trying to induce a
state of well-being. There was a creak of steps at the door. He
hastily put down the dumbbells.
The bailiff came in, and said that everything, thank God, was
well, but also informed him that the buckwheat in the new drying
machine had been a little scorched. This piece of news irritated
Levin. The new drying machine had been constructed and partly invented
by Levin. The bailiff had always been against this drying machine, and
now it was with suppressed triumph that he announced that the
buckwheat had been scorched. Levin was firmly convinced that if the
buckwheat had been scorched it was only because precautions had not
been taken, for which he had hundreds of times given orders. He was
annoyed, and reprimanded the bailiff. But there had been an important
and joyful event: Pava, his best cow, an expensive beast, bought at a
show, had calved.
"Kouzma, give me my sheepskin coat. And you, do tell them to fetch
a lantern——I'm going to have a look at her," he said to the bailiff.
The cowhouse for the more valuable cows was just behind the house.
Walking across the yard, passing a snowdrift by the lilac tree, he
went into the cowhouse. There came a warm, steamy smell of dung when
the frozen door was opened, and the cows, astonished at the unfamiliar
light of the lantern, stirred on their fresh straw. He caught a
glimpse of the broad, smooth, black and piebald back of a Dutch cow.
Berkoot, the bull, was lying down with his ring in his lip, and seemed
about to get up, but thought better of it, and only gave two snorts as
they passed by him. Pava, the reddish beauty, huge as a hippopotamus,
with her back turned to them, screened her calf from the arrivals and
sniffed it all over.
Levin went into the stall, looked Pava over, and hefted the
reddish and red-dappled calf up on its unsteady, spindly legs. Pava,
uneasy, began lowing, but when Levin put the calf close to her she was
soothed, and, sighing heavily, began licking her with her rough
tongue. The calf fumbling, poked its nose under its mother's groin,
and twirled its tiny tail.
"Bring the light here, Fiodor——bring the lantern here," said
Levin, examining the heifer. "Like the dam! though the color takes
after the sire. A perfect beauty! Long, and broad in the haunch. Isn't
she a beauty now, Vassilii Fiodorovich?" he addressed the bailiff,
quite forgiving him for the buckwheat under the influence of his
delight in the heifer.
"What bad blood could she take after?——Semion the contractor came
the day after you left. You must settle with him, Konstantin
Dmitrich," said the bailiff. "And I have already told you about the
This matter alone was enough to bring Levin back to all the
details of his estate, which was on a large scale, and complicated. He
went straight from the cowhouse to the countinghouse, and, after a
short talk with the bailiff and Semion the contractor, he went back to
the house and straight upstairs to the drawing room.
The house was big and old-fashioned, and Levin, though he lived
alone, heated and used the whole house. He knew that this was stupid,
he knew that it was even wrong, and contrary to his present new plans,
but this house was a whole world to Levin. It was the world in which
his father and mother had lived and died. They had lived just the life
that to Levin seemed the ideal of perfection, and that he had dreamed
of renewing with his wife, with his family.
Levin scarcely remembered his mother. His conception of her was
for him a sacred memory, and his future wife was bound to be, in his
imagination, a repetition of that exquisite, holy ideal of a woman
that his mother had been.
He was so far from conceiving of love for woman apart from
marriage that he positively pictured to himself first the family, and
only secondarily the woman who would give him a family. His ideas of
marriage were, consequently, quite unlike those of the great majority
of his acquaintances, for whom getting married was merely one of the
many affairs of everyday life. For Levin it was the chief affair of
life, on which its whole happiness turned. And now he had to give up
When he had gone into the second drawing room, where he always had
tea, and had settled himself in his armchair with a book, and Agathya
Mikhailovna had brought him tea, and with her usual, "Well, I'll stay
a while, my dear," had taken a chair at the window, he felt that,
however strange it might be, he had not parted from his daydreams, and
that he could not live without them. Whether with her, or with
another——it was still bound to be. He was reading his book, pondering
on what he was reading, and pausing to listen to Agathya Mikhailovna,
who gossiped away without flagging, and yet, with all that, all sorts
of pictures of his work and a future family life rose disconnectedly
before his imagination. He felt that in the depth of his soul
something was steadying, settling down, and abating.
He heard Agathya Mikhailovna talking of how Prokhor had forgotten
his duty to God, and, with the money Levin had given him to buy a
horse, had been drinking without a letup, and had beaten his wife till
he'd half-killed her. He listened, and read his book, and recalled the
whole train of ideas suggested by his reading. It was Tyndall's
Treatise on Heat. He recalled his own criticisms of Tyndall for his
self-complacency in the cleverness of his experiments, and for his
lack of philosophic insight. And suddenly there floated into his mind
the joyful thought: "In two years' time I shall have two Dutch cows in
my herd; Pava herself will perhaps still be alive; a dozen young
daughters of Berkoot, and these three added for show——it would be
marvelous!" He took up his book again. "Now well, electricity and heat
are the same thing; but is it possible to substitute one quantity for
the other in an equation for the solution of any problem? No. Well,
then what of it? The connection between all the forces of nature is
felt instinctively, anyway.... It'll be particularly pleasant when
Pava's daughter will be a red-dappled cow like all the herd, to which
the other three should be added! Splendid! I'll go out with my wife
and visitors to meet the herd.... My wife says, 'Kostia and I looked
after that heifer like a child.' 'How can it interest you so much?'
says a visitor. 'Everything that interests him, interests me.' But who
will she be?" And he remembered what had happened at Moscow.... "Well,
there's nothing to be done.... It's not my fault. But now everything
shall go on in a new way. It's nonsense to pretend that life won't let
one, that the past won't let one. One must struggle to live better——
far better...." He raised his head, and sank into thought. Old Laska,
who had not yet fully digested her delight at his return, and had run
out into the yard to bark, came back wagging her tail, and crept up to
him, bringing in the scent of the fresh air, put her head under his
hand, and yelped plaintively, asking to be stroked.
"If she could but speak," said Agathya Mikhailovna. "Even though
it's a dog... Yet she understands that her master's come home, and
that he's low-spirited."
"Do you suppose I don't see it, my dear? It's high time I should
know the gentlefolk. Why, I've grown up from a little thing with them.
Never mind, sir, so long as one has health and a clear conscience."
Levin looked intently at her, surprised at how well she had
fathomed his thoughts.
"Shall I fetch you another cup?" she asked and, taking his cup,
Laska kept poking her head under his hand. He stroked her, and she
promptly curled up at his feet, laying her head on a protruding
hand-paw. And in token of all now being well and satisfactory, she
opened her mouth a little, smacked her lips, and settling her sticky
lips more comfortably about her old teeth, she sank into blissful
respose. Levin watched her last movements attentively.
"That's what I'll do," he said to himself; "that's what I'll do!
Never mind.... All's well."
After the ball, early next morning, Anna Arkadyevna sent her
husband a telegram that she was leaving Moscow the same day.
"No, I must go, I must go"; she explained the change in her plans
to her sister-in-law, in a tone that suggested that she had to
remember so many things that there was no enumerating them: "no,
really, it had better be today!"
Stepan Arkadyevich was not dining at home, but he promised to come
and see his sister off at seven o'clock.
Kitty, too, did not come, sending a note that she had a headache.
Dolly and Anna dined alone with the children and the English
governess. Whether it was because children are fickle, or because they
have acute senses, and they felt that Anna was quite different that
day from what she had been when they had taken such a fancy to her,
that she was not now interested in them——they had abruptly dropped
their play with their aunt, and their love for her, and were quite
indifferent to her leaving. Anna was absorbed the whole morning in
preparations for her departure. She wrote notes to her Moscow
acquaintances, jotted down her accounts, and packed. Altogether Dolly
fancied she was not in a placid state of mind, but in that worried
mood which Dolly knew so well in her own case, and which does not come
without cause, and for the most part covers dissatisfaction with
oneself. After dinner, Anna went up to her room to dress, and Dolly
"How queer you are today!" Dolly said to her.
"I? Do you think so? I'm not queer, but I'm nasty. I am like that
sometimes. I keep feeling as if I could cry. It's very stupid, but
it'll pass off," said Anna quickly, and she bent her flushed face over
a tiny bag in which she was packing a nightcap and some cambric
handkerchiefs. Her eyes were particularly bright, and were continually
dimmed with tears. "In the same way I didn't want to leave Peterburg——
and now I don't want to go away from here."
"You came here and did a good deed," said Dolly, looking intently
Anna's eyes were wet with tears as she looked at her.
"Don't say that, Dolly. I've done nothing, and could do nothing. I
often wonder why people are all in league to spoil me. What have I
done, and what could I do? In your heart there was found love enough
If it had not been for you, God knows what would have happened!
How happy you are, Anna!" said Dolly. "Everything is clear and good in
"Every heart has its own skeleton, as the English say."
"You have no sort of skeleton, have you? Everything is so clear in
"I have!" said Anna suddenly, and, unexpectedly after her tears, a
sly, mocking smile puckered her lips.
"Come, he's amusing, anyway, your skeleton, and not depressing,"
said Dolly, smiling.
"No, he is depressing. Do you know why I'm going today instead of
tomorrow? This is a confession that weighs on me; I want to make you
its recipient," said Anna resolutely letting herself drop into an
armchair, and looking straight into Dolly's face.
And to her surprise Dolly saw that Anna was blushing up to her
ears, up to the curly black ringlets on her neck.
"Yes," Anna went on. "Do you know why Kitty didn't come to dinner?
She's jealous of me. I have spoiled... I've been the cause of that
ball being a torture to her instead of a pleasure. But truly, truly,
it's not my fault, or only my fault a little bit," she said, daintily
drawling the words "a little bit."
"Oh, how like Stiva you said that!" said Dolly, laughing.
Anna was hurt.
"Oh no, oh no! I'm not Stiva," she said, knitting her brows.
"That's why I'm telling you, just because I do not even for an instant
permit myself to doubt about myself," said Anna.
But at the very moment she was uttering the words, she felt that
they were not true. She was not merely doubting about herself——she
felt emotion at the thought of Vronsky, and was going away sooner than
she had meant, solely to avoid meeting him.
"Yes, Stiva told me you danced the mazurka with him, and that
"You can't imagine how absurdly it all came about. I only meant to
be matchmaking, and all at once it turned out quite differently.
Possibly against my own will..."
She flushed and stopped.
"Oh, they feel it immediately!" said Dolly.
"But I should be in despair if there were anything serious in it
on his side," Anna interrupted her. "And I'm certain it will all be
forgotten, and Kitty will leave off hating me."
"All the same, Anna, to tell you the truth, I'm not very anxious
for this marriage for Kitty. And it's better it should come to
nothing, if he, Vronsky, is capable of falling in love with you in a
"Oh, heavens, that would be too silly!" said Anna, and again a
deep flush of pleasure appeared on her face, as she heard the idea
that absorbed her put into words. "And so here I am, going away,
having made an enemy of Kitty, whom I liked so much! Ah, how sweet she
is! But you'll make it right, Dolly? Eh?"
Dolly could scarcely suppress a smile. She loved Anna, but she was
pleased to see that she, too, had her weaknesses.
"An enemy? That can't be."
"I did so want you all to care for me, as I do for you, and now I
care for you more than ever," said Anna, with tears in her eyes. "Ah,
how silly I am today!"
She passed her handkerchief over her face and began dressing.
At the very moment of starting Stepan Arkadyevich arrived, late,
rosy and good-humored, smelling of wine and cigars.
Anna's emotionalism infected Dolly, and when she embraced her
sister-in-law for the last time, she whispered:
"Remember, Anna, what you've done for me——I shall never forget.
And remember that I love you, and shall always love you as my dearest
"I don't know why," said Anna, kissing her and hiding her tears.
"You understand me, and still understand. Good-by, my darling!"
"Now, it's all over——God be praised!" was the first thought that
came to Anna Arkadyevna, when she had said good-by for the last time
to her brother, who had stood blocking up the entrance to the carriage
till the third bell rang. She sat down on her lounge beside Annushka,
and looked about her in the twilight of the sleeping carriage. "Thank
God! tomorrow I shall see Seriozha and Alexei Alexandrovich, and my
life, good and familiar, will go on in the old way."
Still in the same anxious frame of mind in which she had been all
that day, Anna took a meticulous pleasure in making herself
comfortable for the journey. With her tiny, deft hands she opened and
shut her little red bag, took out a cushion, laid it on her knees,
and, carefully wrapping up her feet, settled herself comfortably. An
invalid lady had already lain down to sleep. Two other ladies began
talking to Anna, and a stout elderly lady tucked up her feet, and made
observations about the heating of the train. Anna answered the ladies
in a few words, but not foreseeing any entertainment from the
conversation, she asked Annushka to get a small lantern, hooked it on
the arm of her seat, and took from her bag a paper knife and an
English novel. At first she could not get interested in her reading.
The fuss and stir were disturbing; then, when the train had started,
she could not help listening to the noises; then the snow beating on
the left window and sticking to the pane, and the sight of the muffled
guard passing by, covered with snow on one side, and the conversations
about the terrible blizzard raging outside, distracted her attention.
And after that everything was the same and the same: the same jouncing
and rattling, the same snow lashing the window, the same rapid
transitions from steaming heat to cold, and back again to heat, the
same flitting of the same faces in the half-murk, and the same voices;
and then Anna began to read, and to grasp what she read. Annushka was
already dozing, the red bag on her lap, clutched by her broad hands,
in gloves, of which one was torn. Anna Arkadyevna read and grasped the
sense, yet it was annoying to her to read——that is, to follow the
reflection of other people's lives. She had too great a desire to live
herself. If she read that the heroine of the novel were nursing a sick
man, she longed to move with noiseless steps about his sickroom; if
she read of a member of Parliament delivering a speech, she longed to
deliver it; if she read of how Lady Mary had ridden after the hounds,
and had provoked her sister-in-law, and had surprised everyone by her
daring——she, too, longed to be doing the same. But there was no chance
of doing anything; and, her little hands toying with the smooth paper
knife, she forced herself to read.
The hero of the novel was already beginning to attain his English
happiness, a baronetcy, and an estate, and Anna was feeling a desire
to go with him to his estate, when she suddenly felt that he ought to
feel ashamed, and that she was ashamed of the same thing. But what was
it he was ashamed of? "What have I to be ashamed of?" she asked
herself in injured surprise. She abandoned the book and sank against
the back of her chair, tightly gripping the paper knife in both hands.
There was nothing to be ashamed of. She went over all her Moscow
recollections. All were fine, pleasant. She recalled the ball,
recalled Vronsky and his enamored, submissive face; she recalled all
her conduct with him——there was nothing shameful. Yet, with all that,
at this very point in her reminiscences, the feeling of shame was
intensified, as though some inner voice, precisely here, when she
recalled Vronsky, were saying to her: "Warm, very warm——hot!" "Well,
what is it?" she said to herself resolutely, shifting on her seat.
"What does it mean? Am I afraid to look at this without blinking?
Well, what is it? Can it be that between me and this boy-officer there
exist, or can exist, any other relations than such as are common with
every acquaintance?" She laughed contemptuously and took up her book
again; but now she was absolutely unable to make sense of what she
read. She passed the paper knife over the windowpane, then laid its
smooth, cool surface to her cheek, and almost laughed aloud at the
unreasoning joy that all at once possessed her. She felt that her
nerves, like strings, were being tautened more and more upon some kind
of tightening peg. She felt her eyes opening wider and wider, her
fingers and toes twitching nervously, something within stopping her
breathing, while all images and sounds seemed in the swaying half-murk
to strike her with extraordinary vividness. Moments of doubt were
continually besetting her: was the car going forward, or back, or was
it standing absolutely still? Was it really Annushka at her side, or a
stranger? "What's that on the arm of the chair——a fur cloak or some
beast? And what am I myself: is it I, or some other woman?" She was
afraid of yielding to this trance—— but something was drawing her into
it, and, at will, she could yield to it or resist it. She got up to
rouse herself, and slipped off her plaid and the cape of warm dress.
For a moment she regained her self-possession, and realized that the
thin peasant who had come in wearing a long nankeen overcoat, with a
button missing from it, was the fireman, that he was looking at the
thermometer, that the wind and snow had burst in after him through the
door; but then everything grew confused again.... That peasant with
the long waist took to gnawing something within the wall; the little
crone started stretching her legs the whole length of the car and
filled it with a black cloud; then there was a dreadful screeching and
banging, as though someone were being rent into pieces; then a red
blaze blinded her eyes, and, at last, everything was screened by a
wall. Anna felt that she had plunged downward. Yet all this was not
terrible, but joyful. The voice of a man muffled up and covered with
snow shouted something in her very ear. She arose and came to,
realizing that they had come to a station, and that this was the
conductor. She requested Annushka to hand her the cape she had taken
off, and her shawl, put them on, and went toward the door.
"Do you wish to get out?" asked Annushka.
"Yes, I want to get a breath of air. It's very hot in here."
And she opened the door. The blizzard and the wind rushed to meet
her and began to contend with her for the door. And even this seemed
joyful to her. She opened the door and stepped out. This seemed to be
all that the wind had been lying in wait for; it set up a gleeful
whistle and was about to snatch her up and whirl her away, but she
clutched the cold doorpost and, holding on to her shawl, descended to
the platform and the shelter of the car. The wind had been mighty on
the steps, but on the platform, in the lee of the train, there was a
lull. With enjoyment she drew deep breaths of the snowy, frosty air
and, standing near the car, looked about the platform and the lighted
The frightful storm raged and whistled between the wheels of the
cars, along the posts, around the corner of the station. The cars,
posts, people——everything in sight——were covered with snow on one
side, and were getting more and more snowed under. For a moment there
would come a lull in the storm, but then it would again swoop down
with such gusts that it seemed impossible to withstand it. Meanwhile
some men or other were dashing about, gaily talking to one another,
making the boards of the platform creak and ceaselessly opening and
shutting the big doors. A stooping human shadow glided by at her feet,
and she heard a hammer tapping upon iron. "Let's have the telegram!"
came an angry voice out of the stormy murk on the other side. "This
way! No. 28!" other voices were also shouting, and muffled figures
scurried by, plastered with snow. Two gentlemen passed by her,
cigarettes glowing in their mouths. She drew in one more deep breath,
and had just taken her hand out of her muff to grasp the doorpost and
enter the car, when still another man in a military overcoat, quite
close beside her, stepped between her and the flickering light of a
lantern. She looked round, and the same instant recognized Vronsky's
face. Putting his hand to the peak of his cap, he bowed to her and
asked if there weren't anything she wanted, whether he could not be of
some service to her? She gazed rather long at him, without any answer,
and, in spite of the shadow in which he was standing, she saw (or
fancied she saw) the expression both of his face and his eyes. It was
again that expression of reverent rapture which had affected her so
yesterday. More than once she had told herself during the past few
days, and only just now, that Vronsky was for her only one of the
hundreds of young men, forever exactly the same, that one meets
everywhere; that she would never permit herself even to think of him;
yet now at the first flush of meeting him, she was seized by an
emotion of joyous pride. She had no need to ask why he was here. She
knew, as surely as if he had told her, that he was here only to be
where she was.
"I didn't know you were going. And why are you going?" she said,
letting fall the hand which had grasped the doorpost. And
irrepressible joy and animation shone in her face.
"Why am I going?" he repeated, looking straight into her eyes.
"You know that I am going to be where you are," he said; "I cannot do
And at this very point, as though it had overcome all obstacles,
the wind scattered the snow from the car roofs, and began to flutter
some sheet of iron it had torn off, while the low-pitched whistle of
the engine set up a roar in front, dismal and lamenting. All the
awesomeness of the blizzard now seemed still more splendid to her. He
had uttered precisely what her soul yearned for, but which her reason
dreaded. She made no answer, and in her face he beheld a struggle.
"Forgive me, if what I have said displeases you," he said humbly.
He had spoken courteously, deferentially, yet so firmly, so
obdurately that, for long, she could find no answer.
"What you say is wrong, and I beg of you, if you are a good man,
to forget what you have said, even as I shall forget it," she said at
"Not a single word of yours, nor a single gesture, shall I ever
forget——nor could I forget...."
"Enough, enough!" she cried, vainly attempting to give a stern
expression to her face, which he was avidly scrutinizing. Clutching at
the cold doorpost, she clambered up the steps and quickly entered the
corridor of the car. But in this little corridor she paused, reviewing
in her imagination all that had occurred. Without recalling her own
words or his, she realized instinctively that that conversation had
brought them fearfully closer; and she was both frightened and made
happy thereby. After standing thus a few seconds, she went into the
car and sat down in her place. That tensed state which had tormented
her at first was not only renewed, but grew greater and reached such a
pitch that she was afraid that, at any moment, something would snap
within her from the excessive tension. She did not sleep all night.
But in that nervous tension, and in the reveries that filled her
imagination, there was nothing unpleasant or gloomy; on the contrary,
there was something joyous, glowing and exhilarating. Toward morning
Anna dozed off as she sat, and when she awoke it was already light,
and the train was nearing Peterburg. At once thoughts of home, of her
husband and son, and the details of the day ahead, and days to follow,
came thronging upon her.
At Peterburg, as soon as the train stopped and she got out, the
first face that attracted her attention was that of her husband. "Oh,
my God! What has happened to his ears?" she thought looking at his
frigid and imposing figure, and especially the ears, that struck her
so now, as they propped up the brim of his round hat. Catching sight
of her he went to meet her, pursing his lips into their habitual
mocking smile, and fixing her with his big, tired eyes. Some
unpleasant sensation contracted her heart as she met his obdurate and
tired glance, as though she had expected to see him a different man.
She was particularly struck by that feeling of dissatisfaction with
herself which she experienced on meeting him. This was an intimate,
familiar feeling, like that state of dissimulation which she
experienced in her relations with her husband; but hitherto she had
not taken note of the feeling; now she was clearly and painfully aware
"Yes, as you see, your tender spouse, as devoted as he was during
the second year after marriage, was consumed by the desire of seeing
you," he said in his dilatory, high-pitched voice, and in that tone
which he almost always used to her——a tone of bantering at anyone who
should speak thus in earnest.
"Is Seriozha quite well?" she asked.
"And is this all the reward," said he, "for my ardor? He's well——
Vronsky had not even attempted to fall asleep all that night. He
sat in his armchair, his eyes fixed before him or scanning the people
who got in and out, and if he had indeed, on previous occasions,
struck and aroused people who did not know him by his air of
unshakable calmness, he now seemed prouder and more self-sufficient
than ever. He regarded people as if they were things. A nervous young
man, a clerk in a law court, who had the seat opposite his, conceived
a hatred for him because of this air. The young man asked him for a
light, and entered into conversation with him, and even jostled him,
to make him feel that he was not a thing, but a man. But Vronsky kept
on regarding him as if he were a lamppost, and the young man grimaced,
feeling that he was losing his self-possession under the
oppressiveness of this refusal to recognize him as a human being.
Vronsky saw nothing and no one. He felt himself a king, not
because he believed that he had made any impression on Anna——he did
not yet believe that——but because the impression she had made on him
afforded him happiness and pride.
What would come of it all he did not know, or even think. He felt
that all his forces, hitherto dissolute, scattered, were centered on
one thing, and bent with fearful energy toward one blissful goal. And
therein lay his happiness. He did but know that he had told her the
truth, that he had come where she was, that all the happiness of life,
the sole meaning in life for him, now lay in seeing her and hearing
her voice. And when he got out of his car at Bologovo to get some
seltzer water, and had caught sight of Anna, his very first word had
involuntarily told her his very thoughts. And he was glad he had told
her, that she knew now, and was thinking of it. He did not sleep all
night. Back in his compartment, he incessantly kept ruminating upon
every posture in which he had seen her, every word she had uttered;
and, in his imagination, making his heart swoon, floated pictures of a
When he got out of the train at Peterburg, he felt after his
sleepless night as lively and fresh as after a cold bath. He paused
near his car, waiting for her to emerge. "Once more," he said to
himself, smiling unconsciously, "once more I shall see her walk, her
face; she may say something, turn her head, glance, smile, perhaps."
But before he caught sight of her, he saw her husband, whom the
stationmaster was deferentially escorting through the crowd. "Ah, yes.
The husband." Only now, for the first time, did Vronsky realize
clearly the fact that there was someone attached to her——a husband. He
had known that she had a husband, but had hardly believed in his
existence, and only now, when he saw him, did he fully believe in him,
with his head, and shoulders, and his black-trousered legs; especially
when he saw this husband placidly take her arm, with a consciousness
Seeing Alexei Alexandrovich with his spick-and-span Peterburg face
and austerely self-confident figure, in his round hat, with his rather
prominent spine, he believed in him, and was aware of a disagreeable
sensation, such as might be felt by a man who, tortured by thirst,
finds, on reaching a spring, a dog, a sheep or a pig therein that has
not only drunk of it, but also muddied the water. Alexei
Alexandrovich's manner of walking, gyrating his whole pelvis and his
flat feet, was especially offensive to Vronsky. He could recognize in
no one but himself an indubitable right to love her. But she was still
the same, and the sight of her affected him the same way, physically
reviving him, stirring him, and filling his soul with happiness. He
told his German valet, who ran up to him from the second class, to
take his things and go on, he himself went up to her. He saw the first
meeting between the husband and wife, and noted, with a lover's
insight, the sign of the slight embarrassment with which she spoke to
her husband. "No, she does not love him, and cannot love him," he
decided to himself.
At the very moment that he was approaching Anna Arkadyevna from
the back, he noticed with joy that she was conscious of his drawing
near, and that she looked round; after which, seeing him, she turned
again to her husband.
"Have you had a good night?" he said, bowing both to her and to
her husband, and leaving it to Alexei Alexandrovich to accept the bow
on his own account, and to return it or not, as he might see fit.
"Thank you——a very good one," she answered.
Her face seemed tired, and lacking in that play of animation which
usually hovered between her smile and her eyes; but for a single
instant, as she glanced at him, something flashed in her eyes, and
although this flash died away at once, he was made happy by that
moment. She glanced at her husband, to find out whether he knew
Vronsky. Alexei Alexandrovich was regarding Vronsky with displeasure,
absent-mindedly trying to recall who he was. Vronsky's calmness and
self-confidence had here run up, like a scythe against a stone, on the
frigid self-confidence of Alexei Alexandrovich.
"Count Vronsky," said Anna.
"Ah! We are acquainted, I believe," said Alexei Alexandrovich
apathetically, proffering his hand. "You set out with the mother and
return with the son," he said to Anna, articulating distinctly, as
though each word were a coin of high value bestowed by him on his
hearers.——"You're back from leave, I suppose?" he said, and without
waiting for a reply, he addressed his wife in his bantering tone:
"Well, were a great many tears shed in Moscow at parting?"
By addressing his wife thus he meant Vronsky to perceive that he
wished to be left alone, and, turning slightly toward him, he touched
his hat; but Vronsky turned to Anna Arkadyevna:
"I hope to have the honor of calling on you," he said.
Alexei Alexandrovich glanced with his weary eyes at Vronsky.
"Delighted," he said coldly. "We're at home Mondays." Then,
dismissing Vronsky entirely, he said to his wife: "I am rather lucky
to have just half an hour to meet you, so that I can prove to you my
fondness," he went on, in the same bantering tone.
"You lay too great a stress on your fondness for me to value it
very much," she responded in the same bantering tone, involuntarily
listening to the sound of Vronsky's steps behind them. "But what have
I to do with that?" she said to herself, and began questioning her
husband as to how Seriozha had got on without her.
"Oh, capitally! Mariette says he has been a very darling boy,
and... I must disappoint you... But he has not languished for you as
your husband has. But once more merci, my dear, for bestowing a whole
day upon me. Our dear Samovar will be enraptured." (He called the
Countess Lidia Ivanovna, well known in society, a samovar, because she
was bubbling over with excitement on any and every occasion.) "She has
been asking for you. And, d'you know, if I may venture to advise you,
you ought to go to see her today. You know how she takes everything to
heart. Just now, with all her own cares, she's anxious about the
reconciliation of the Oblonskys."
The Countess Lidia Ivanovna was a friend of her husband's, and the
center of that one of the coteries of the Peterburg beau monde with
which Anna was, through her husband, in the closest rapport.
"But I wrote to her."
"Yes, but she must have full details. Go to see her, if you're not
too tired, my dear. Well, Kondratii will take you in the carriage,
while I go to my committee. Once more I shall not be alone at dinner,"
Alexei Alexandrovich continued, but no longer in a jesting tone. "You
wouldn't believe how I've grown used to you...."
And, with a prolonged pressure of her hand, and a particular
smile, he helped her into her carriage.
The first person to meet Anna at home was her son. He dashed down
the stairs to her, in spite of the governess's call, and with frenzied
rapture shrieked: "Mother! mother!" Running up to her, he hung on her
"I told you it was mother!" he shouted to the governess. "I knew
And her son, like her husband, aroused in Anna a feeling akin to
disappointment. In her imagination he had been better than he was in
reality. She had to descend to reality to enjoy him as he was. But,
even so, he was charming, with his fair curls, his blue eyes and his
chubby, graceful little legs in tightly pulled-up stockings. Anna
experienced an almost physical delight in the sensation of his
nearness, and his caresses; and a moral reassurance, when she met his
ingenuous, trusting and loving glance, and heard his naive questions.
Anna took out the presents Dolly's children had sent him, and told her
son about Tania, a little girl in Moscow, and how Tania could read,
and even taught the other children.
"Why, am I not as good as she?" asked Seriozha.
"To me you're better than anyone else in the whole world."
"I know that," said Seriozha, smiling.
Anna had scarcely drunk her coffee when the Countess Lidia
Ivanovna was announced. The Countess Lidia Ivanovna was a tall, fleshy
woman, with an unwholesomely yellow complexion and beautiful, pensive
black eyes. Anna liked her, but today she seemed, for the first time,
to see her with all her shortcomings.
"Well, my friend, were you the bearer of the olive branch?" asked
Countess Lidia Ivanovna, the minute she entered the room.
"Yes, it's all over, but it was not at all as serious as we
thought," answered Anna. "My belle-soeur is, in general, much too
But Countess Lidia Ivanovna, who was interested in everything that
did not concern her, had a habit of never listening to what interested
her; she interrupted Anna:
"Yes, there's plenty of sorrow and evil in the world——and I am so
"Oh, why?" asked Anna, trying to repress a smile.
"I'm beginning to weary of vainly breaking lances for the truth,
and at times I'm altogether unstrung. The affair with our Dear Sisters
[this was a religiously patriotic, philanthropic institution] started
off splendidly, but it's impossible to do anything with such people,"
added Countess Lidia Ivanovna, with a mocking submissiveness to fate.
"They pounced on the idea, and mangled it, and afterward they thrash
it out so pettily and trivially. Two or three people, your husband
among them, grasp all the significance of this affair but the others
merely degrade it. Yesterday Pravdin wrote to me..."
Pravdin was a well-known Pan-Slavist abroad, and Countess Lidia
Ivanovna told the gist of his letter.
Next the Countess spoke of other unpleasantnesses and intrigues
against the work of the unification of the churches, and departed in
haste, since that day she had to attend the meeting of another
society, and also a Slavonic committee.
"All this is as it has always been; but how is it I didn't notice
it before?" Anna asked herself. "Or has she been very much irritated
today? It's really ludicrous: her object is to do good; she's a
Christian; yet she's forever angry, and forever having enemies——and
always enemies in the name of Christianity and doing good."
After Countess Lidia Ivanovna another friend came, the wife of a
director of the Department, who told her all the news of the town. At
three o'clock she too went away, promising to come to dinner. Alexei
Alexandrovich was at the Ministry. Anna, left alone, spent the time
till dinner in lending her presence to her son's dinner (he dined
apart from his parents), in putting her things in order, and in
reading and answering the notes and letters which had accumulated on
The feeling of unreasoning shame, which she had felt during the
journey, and her agitation, had completely vanished. In the accustomed
conditions of her life she again felt herself firm and irreproachable.
She recalled with wonder her state of mind only yesterday. "What
was it? Nothing. Vronsky said something silly, which it was easy to
put an end to, and I answered just as I should have. To speak of it to
my husband would be unnecessary and impermissible. To speak of it
would be to attach importance to that which has none." She remembered
how she had told her husband of what was almost declaration made her
in Peterburg by a young man, a subordinate of her husband's, and how
Alexei Alexandrovich had answered that every woman of the world was
exposed to this sort of thing, but that he had the fullest confidence
in her tact, and would never permit himself to degrade her and himself
by jealousy. "So then, there's no reason to say anything? And, thank
God, there isn't anything to say," she told herself.
Alexei Alexandrovich came back from the Ministry at four o'clock,
but as often happened, had no chance to drop in at her room. He went
into his study to see the people waiting for him with petitions, and
to sign certain papers brought him by his head clerk. At dinnertime
(there were always at least three people dining with the Karenins)
there arrived an old lady, a cousin of Alexei Alexandrovich; the
director of the Department and his wife; and a young man who had been
recommended to Alexei Alexandrovich for a post. Anna went into the
drawing room to entertain these guests. Precisely at five o'clock,
before the bronze Peter the First clock had finished the fifth stroke,
Alexei Alexandrovich made his entry, in white tie and evening coat
with two stars, as he had to go out directly after dinner. Every
minute of Alexei Alexandrovich's life was taken up and apportioned.
And in order to accomplish all that each day held for him, he adhered
to the strictest orderliness. "Nor haste nor rest," was his device. He
entered the dining hall, bowed to all, and hurriedly sat down, smiling
to his wife:
"Yes, my solitude is over. You wouldn't believe how uncomfortable
[he laid stress on the word uncomfortable] it is to dine alone."
At dinner he chatted with his wife about things at Moscow, and
asked, with his mocking smile, about Stepan Arkadyevich; but the
conversation was for the most part general, dealing with the official
and public news of Peterburg. After dinner he spent half an hour with
his guests, and, again with a smile, pressed his wife's hand,
withdrew, and drove off to the Council. Anna went that evening neither
to the Princess Betsy Tverskaia, who, hearing of her return, had
invited her, nor to the theater, where she had a box for that evening.
Her principal reason for not going out was because the dress she had
expected to wear was not ready. All in all, Anna was exceedingly
annoyed when she started to dress for the evening after the departure
of her guests. Before her departure for Moscow she, who was generally
a mistress of the art of dressing well yet inexpensively, had given
her dressmaker three dresses to make over. The dresses were to be made
over so that their old selves would be unrecognizable, and they should
have been ready three days ago. It turned out that two dresses were
nowhere near ready, while the other one had not been made over to
Anna's liking. The dressmaker came to explain, asserting that her way
was best, and Anna had become so heated that she blushed at the
recollection. To regain her composure fully she went into the nursery
and spent the whole evening with her son, putting him to bed herself,
making the sign of the cross over him, and tucking him in. She was
glad she had not gone out anywhere, and had spent the evening so well.
She felt so lighthearted and calm, she saw so clearly that all that
had seemed to her so significant on her railway journey was merely one
of the ordinary trivial incidents of fashionable life, and that she
had no cause to feel ashamed before anyone else or before herself.
Anna sat down near the fireplace with an English novel and waited for
her husband. Exactly at half-past nine she heard his ring, and he
entered the room.
"Here you are at last!" she observed, extending her hand to him.
He kissed her hand and sat down beside her.
"All in all, I can see your trip was a success," he said to her.
"Yes, very much so," said she, and she began telling him
everything from the beginning: her journey with Countess Vronskaia,
her arrival, the accident at the station. Then she described the pity
she had felt, first for her brother, and, afterward, for Dolly.
"I do not suppose there is any excuse for such a man, even though
he is your brother," said Alexei Alexandrovich sternly.
Anna smiled. She knew that he said this precisely to show that
family considerations could not prevent him from expressing his
sincere opinion. She knew this trait in her husband and liked it.
"I am glad everything has ended so well, and that you have
returned," he went on. "Well, and what do they say there about the new
bill I have got passed in the Council?"
Anna had heard nothing of this bill, and she felt
conscience-stricken that she could so readily forget what was to him
of such importance.
"Here, on the other hand, this has created a great deal of talk,"
said he, with a self-satisfied smile.
She saw that Alexei Alexandrovich wanted to tell her something
that pleased him about it, and she brought him by questions to telling
it. With the same self-satisfied smile he told her of the ovations he
had received as a consequence of the bill he had passed.
"I was very, very happy. It shows that at last an intelligent and
firm view of the matter is forming among us."
After his second cup of tea, with cream and bread, Alexei
Alexandrovich got up, and went toward his study.
"And you went nowhere this evening? Weren't You really bored?" he
"Oh, no!" she answered, getting up after him and accompanying him
across the room to his study. "What are you reading now?" she asked.
"Just now I'm reading Duc de Lille——Poisie des enfers," he
answered. "A most remarkable book."
Anna smiled, as people smile at the weaknesses of those they love,
and, putting her hand in his, she kept him company to the door of his
study. She knew his habit, now become a necessity, of reading in the
evening. She knew, too, that in spite of his official duties, which
engrossed almost all his time, he deemed it his duty to keep up with
everything of note that appeared in the intellectual sphere. She knew,
too, that his actual interest lay in books dealing with politics,
philosophy and theology, that art was utterly foreign to his nature;
but, in spite of this——or rather, in consequence of it——Alexei
Alexandrovich never missed anything which created a sensation in the
world of art, but made it his duty to read everything. She knew that
in politics, in philosophy, in theology, Alexei Alexandrovich was a
doubter and a seeker; yet in matters of art and poetry——and, above
all, of music, of which he was totally devoid of understanding——he had
the most definite and decided opinions. He was fond of discoursing on
Shakespeare, Raphael, Beethoven, on the significance of new schools of
poetry and music, all of which were classified by him with most
"Well, God be with you," she said at the door of the study, where
a shaded candle and a decanter of water were already placed near his
armchair. "As for me, I'm going to write to Moscow."
He squeezed her hand, and again kissed it.
"Still, he's a good man; truthful, kindhearted, and remarkable in
his own sphere," Anna said to herself, back in her room, as though
defending him before someone who accused him, saying that one could
not love him. "But why is it his ears stick out so queerly? Or has he
had his hair cut?..."
Exactly at twelve, as Anna was still sitting at her desk finishing
a letter to Dolly, she heard the sound of measured, slippered steps,
and Alexei Alexandrovich, washed and combed, a book under his arm,
"Come, come," said he, with a particular smile, and passed on into
"And what right had he to look at him like that?" reflected Anna,
recalling how Vronsky had looked at Alexei Alexandrovich.
Having disrobed, she went into the bedroom; but her face had none
of the animation which, during her stay at Moscow, had fairly spurted
from her eyes and her smile; on the contrary, now the fire seemed
extinct in her, or hidden somewhere far away.
Upon his departure from Peterburg Vronsky had left his large
apartments on Morskaia to his friend and favorite comrade Petritsky.
Petritsky was a young lieutenant, not particularly well-connected,
and not merely not wealthy, but in debt all around. Toward evening he
was always drunk, and he had often found himself in the guardhouse
because of sorts of ludicrous and disgraceful scrapes, but he was a
favorite both of his comrades and his superior officers. At twelve
o'clock, as Vronsky was driving up from the station to his quarters,
he saw, near the entrance of the house, a hired carriage familiar to
him. Even as he rang he heard, beyond the door, masculine laughter,
the twitter of a feminine voice, and Petritsky's shout: "If that's one
of the villains, don't let him in!" Vronsky told the servant not to
announce him, and slipped noiselessly into the first room. Baroness
Shilton, a friend of Petritsky's, with a rosy little face and
flaxen-fair, resplendent in a lilac satin gown, and filling the whole
room, like a canary, with her Parisian accents, sat at a round table,
brewing coffee. Petritsky, in his overcoat, and the cavalry captain
Kamerovsky, in full uniform, probably just come from duty, were
sitting near her.
"Bravo! Vronsky!" shouted Petritsky, jumping up, scraping his
chair. "Our host himself! Baroness, some coffee for him out of the new
coffeepot. There, we didn't expect you! I Hope you're satisfied with
the adornment of your study," he said, indicating the Baroness. "You
know each other, of course?"
"I should say so!" said Vronsky, with a bright smile, squeezing
the Baroness's little hand. "Why, we're old friends."
"You've just returned after traveling," said the Baroness, "so
I'll run along. Oh, I'll be off this minute, if I'm in the way!"
"You're home, wherever you are, Baroness," said Vronsky. "How do
you do, Kamerovsky?" he added, coldly shaking hands with Kamerovsky.
"There, you can never say such charming things," said the
Baroness, turning to Petritsky.
"No——why not? After dinner even I can say things quite as good."
"After dinner there's no merit in them! Well, then, I'll give you
some coffee; go wash and tidy up," said the Baroness, sitting down
again, and anxiously turning a gadget in the new coffee urn. "Pierre,
give me the coffee," she said, addressing Petritsky, whom she called
Pierre, playing on his surname, making no secret of her relations with
him. "I want to put some more in."
"You'll spoil it!"
"No, I won't spoil it! Well, and how is your wife?" said the
Baroness suddenly, interrupting Vronsky's conversation with his
comrade. "We've been marrying you off here. Have you brought your wife
"No, Baroness. I was born a gypsy, and a gypsy I'll die."
"So much the better——so much the better. Shake hands on it."
And the Baroness, detaining Vronsky, began telling him,
interspersing her story with many jokes, about her latest plans of
life, and seeking his counsel.
"He persists in refusing to give me a divorce! Well, what am I to
do?" (He was her husband.) "Now I want to begin a suit against him.
What would you advise? Kamerovsky, look after the coffee——it's boiled
out; you can see I'm taken up with business! I want a lawsuit, because
I must have my property. You can understand the stupidity of his
saying that I am unfaithful to him," she said contemptuously, "yet
through it he wants to get the benefit of my fortune."
Vronsky heard with pleasure this lighthearted prattle of a pretty
woman, said yes to everything, gave her half-joking counsel, and
altogether dropped at once into the tone habitual to him in talking to
such women. In his Peterburg world all people were divided into two
utterly opposed kinds. One, the lower, consisted of vulgar, stupid
and, above all, ridiculous people, who believe that one husband ought
to live with the one wife whom he has lawfully wedded; that a girl
should be innocent, a woman modest, and a man manly, self-controlled,
and strong; that one ought to bring up one's children, earn one's
bread and pay one's debts; and various similar absurdities. Those
people were of an old-fashioned and ridiculous kind. But there was
another kind of people——real people, to which they all belonged, and
here the chief thing was to be elegant, magnanimous, daring, gay, and
to abandon oneself without a blush to every passion, and to laugh at
For the first moment only, Vronsky was startled, after the
impressions of a quite different world that he had brought with him
from Moscow; but immediately, as though he had thrust his feet into
old slippers, he stepped into his former lighthearted, pleasant world.
The coffee was really never made, but spluttered over everyone and
boiled away, doing just what was required of it——that is, providing
cause for much noise and laughter, and spoiling a costly rug and the
"Well, good-by now——or else you'll never get washed, and I shall
have on my conscience the worst offense any decent person can commit——
uncleanliness. So you would advise a knife at his throat?"
"Absolutely——and in such a way that your little hand may not be
far from his lips. He'll kiss it, and all will end well," answered
"So, the Francais tonight!" and, with a rustle of her skirts, she
Kamerovsky got up too, and Vronsky, without waiting for him to go,
shook hands and went off to his dressing room. While he was washing,
Petritsky briefly outlined to him his position, as far as it had
changed since Vronsky's departure from Peterburg. No money whatsoever.
His father said he wouldn't give him any, nor pay his debts. His
tailor was trying to get him locked up, and another fellow, too, was
threatening to do so without fail. The colonel of his regiment had
announced that if these scandals did not cease a resignation would be
inevitable. As for the Baroness, he was fed up with her, particularly
because she was forever wanting to give him money. But there was
another girl——he intended showing her to Vronsky——a marvel, exquisite,
in the strict Oriental style, "genre of the slave Rebecca, you see."
He had had a row, too, with Berkoshev, and the latter intended sending
seconds, but, of course, it would all come to nothing. Altogether
everything was going splendidly and was most jolly. And, without
letting his comrade enter into further details of his position,
Petritsky proceeded to tell him all the interesting news. As he
listened to Petritsky's familiar stories, in the familiar setting of
the rooms he had spent the last three years in, Vronsky felt the
delightful sensation of coming back to the insouciant and customary
life of Peterburg.
"Impossible!" he cried, releasing the pedal of the wash basin in
which he had been sousing his stalwart red neck. "Impossible!" he
cried, at the news that Laura had dropped Fertinghof and had tied up
with Mileev. "And is he as stupid and satisfied as ever? Well, and
what's Buzulukov doing?"
"Oh, Buzulukov got into a scrape——simply lovely!" cried Petritsky.
"You know his passion for balls——and he never misses a single one at
court. He went to a big ball in a new casque. Have you seen the new
casques? Very good, and lighter. Well, he's standing... No——do
"I am listening," answered Vronsky, rubbing himself with a rough
"The Grand Duchess passes by with some ambassador or other, and,
as ill luck would have it, their talk veers to the new casques. And so
the Grand Duchess wanted to show the new casque to the ambassador....
Just then they catch sight of our dear boy standing there." (Petritsky
mimicked him, standing with his casque.) "The Grand Duchess requested
him to give her the casque——he doesn't do so. What's up? Well, they
all wink at him, and nod and frown——give it to her, do! He still
doesn't. Just stands there, stock-still. You can picture it to
yourself!... Well, this... what's his name... tries to take the casque
from him... He won't give it up!... This chap tore it from him, and
hands it to the Grand Duchess. "This is the new casque," says the
Grand Duchess. She turned the casque over, and——just picture it!——bang
went a pear and candy out of it——two pounds of candy!... He'd
collected all that——our dear boy!"
Vronsky rolled with laughter. And, long afterward, even when he
was talking of other things, he would go off into peals of his hearty
laughter baring his strong, closely set teeth, whenever he thought of
Having learned all the news, Vronsky, with the assistance of his
valet, got into his uniform, and went off to report himself. He
intended, afterward, to go to his brother and to Betsy, and to pay
several visits, as an entering wedge into that society where he might
meet Madame Karenina. As always in Peterburg, he left home without any
intention of returning before very late at night.