OBLONSKYS carriage! the porter shouted in an angry bass. The carriage drove up and both got in. It was only for the first few moments, while the carriage was driving out of the club-house gates, that Levin was still under the influence of the club atmosphere of repose, comfort, and unimpeachable good form. But as soon as the carriage drove out into the street, and he felt it jolting over the uneven road, heard the angry shout of a sledge-driver coming towards them, saw in the uncertain light the red blind of a tavern and the shops, this impression was dissipated, and he began to think over his actions, and to wonder whether he was doing right in going to see Anna. What would Kitty say? But Stepan Arkadyevitch gave him no time for reflection, and, as though divining his doubts, he scattered them.
How glad I am, he said, that you should know her! You know Dolly has long wished for it. And Lvovs been to see her, and often goes. Though she is my sister, Stepan Arkadyevitch pursued, I dont hesitate to say that shes a remarkable woman. But you will see. Her position is very painful, especially now.
We are carrying on negotiations with her husband about a divorce. And hes agreed; but there are difficulties in regard to the son, and the business, which ought to have been arranged long ago, has been dragging on for three months past. As soon as the divorce is over, she will marry Vronsky. How stupid these old ceremonies are, that no one believes in, and which only prevent people being comfortable! Stepan Arkadyevitch put in. Well, then their position will be as regular as mine, as yours.
Oh, its a long and tedious story! The whole business is in such an anomalous position with us. But the point is she has been for three months in Moscow, where every one knows her, waiting for the divorce; she goes out nowhere, sees no woman except Dolly, because, do you understand, she doesnt care to have people come as a favour. That fool Princess Varvara, even she has left her, considering this a breach of propriety. Well, you see, in such a position any other woman would not have found resources in herself. But youll see how she has arranged her lifehow calm, how dignified she is. To the left, in the crescent opposite the church! shouted Stepan Arkadyevitch, leaning out of the window. Phew! how hot it is! he said, in spite of twelve degrees of frost, flinging his open overcoat still wider open.
I believe you picture every woman simply as a female, une couveuse, said Stepan Arkadyevitch. If shes occupied, it must be with her children. No, she brings her up capitally, I believe, but one doesnt hear about her. Shes busy, in the first place, with what she writes. I see youre smiling ironically, but youre wrong. Shes writing a childrens book, and doesnt talk about it to any one, but she read it to me and I gave the manuscript to Vorkuev you know the publisher and hes an author himself too, I fancy. He understands those things, and he says its a remarkable piece of work. But are you fancying shes an authoress?not a bit of it. Shes a woman with a heart, before everything, but youll see. Now she has a little English girl with her, and a whole family shes looking after.
Why, you will look at everything in the worst light. Its not from philanthropy, its from the heart. Theythat is, Vronskyhad a trainer, an Englishman, first-rate in his own line, but a drunkard. Hes completely given up to drinkdelirium tremensand the family were cast on the world. She saw them, helped them, got more and more interested in them, and now the whole family is on her hands. But not by way of patronage, you know, helping with money; shes herself preparing the boys in Russian for the high school, and shes taken the little girl to live with her. But youll see her for yourself.
And without asking the servant who opened the door whether the lady were at home, Stepan Arkadyevitch walked into the hall. Levin followed him, more and more doubtful whether he was doing right or wrong.
Looking at himself in the glass, Levin noticed that he was red in the face, but he felt certain he was not drunk, and he followed Stepan Arkadyevitch up the carpeted stairs. At the top Stepan Arkadyevitch inquired of the footman, who bowed to him as to an intimate friend, who was with Anna Arkadyevna, and received the answer that it was M. Vorkuev.
Passing through the dining-room, a room not very large, with dark panelled walls, Stepan Arkadyevitch and Levin walked over the soft carpet to the half-dark study, lighted up by a single lamp with a big dark shade. Another lamp with a reflector was hanging on the wall, lighting up a big full-length portrait of a woman, which Levin could not help looking at. It was the portrait of Anna, painted in Italy by Mihailov. While Stepan Arkadyevitch went behind the treillage, and the mans voice which had been speaking paused, Levin gazed at the portrait, which stood out from the frame in the brilliant light thrown on it, and he could not tear himself away from it. He positively forgot where he was, and not even hearing what was said, he could not take his eyes off the marvellous portrait. It was not a picture, but a living, charming woman, with black curling hair, with bare arms and shoulders, with a pensive smile on the lips, covered with soft down; triumphantly and softly she looked at him with eyes that baffled him. She was not living only because she was more beautiful than a living woman can be.
I am delighted! He heard suddenly near him a voice, unmistakably addressing him, the voice of the very woman he had been admiring in the portrait. Anna had come from behind the treillage to meet him, and Levin saw in the dim light of the study the very woman of the portrait, in a dark blue shot gown, not in the same position nor with the same expression, but with the same perfection of beauty which the artist had caught in the portrait. She was less dazzling in reality, but, on the other hand, there was something fresh and seductive in the living woman which was not in the portrait.