SHE had risen to meet him, not concealing her pleasure at seeing him; and in the quiet ease with which she held out her little vigorous hand, introduced him to Vorkuev and indicated a red-haired, pretty little girl who was sitting at work, calling her her pupil, Levin recognised and liked the manners of a woman of the great world, always self-possessed and natural.
I am delighted, delighted, she repeated, and on her lips these simple words took for Levins ears a special significance. I have known you and liked you a long while, both from your friendship with Stiva and for your wifes sake. I knew her for a very short time, but she left on me the impression of an exquisite flower, simply a flower. And to think she will soon be a mother!
She spoke easily and without haste, looking now and then from Levin to her brother, and Levin felt that the impression he was making was good, and he felt immediately at home, simple and happy with her, as though he had known her from childhood.
Ivan Petrovitch and I settled in Alexeys study, she said in answer to Stepan Arkadyevitchs question whether he might smoke, just so as to be able to smokeand glancing at Levin, instead of asking whether he would smoke, she pulled a tortoiseshell cigar-case and took a cigarette.
Levin looked from the portrait to the original. A peculiar brilliance lighted up Annas face when she felt his eyes on her. Levin flushed, and to cover his confusion would have asked whether she had seen Darya Alexandrovna lately; but at that moment Anna spoke. We were just talking, Ivan Petrovitch and I, of Vashtchenkovs last pictures. Have you seen them?
Levin talked now not at all with that purely businesslike attitude to the subject with which he had been talking all the morning. Every word in his conversation with her had a special significance. And talking to her was pleasant; still pleasanter it was to listen to her.
I laugh, she said, as one laughs when one sees a very true portrait. What you said so perfectly hits off French art now, painting and literature too, indeedZola, Daudet. But perhaps it is always so, that men form their conceptions from fictitious, conventional types, and thenall the combinaisons madethey are tired of the fictitious figures and begin to invent more natural, true figures.
Levin did not hear what she was talking of as she leaned over to her brother, but he was struck by the change of her expression. Her faceso handsome a moment before in its reposesuddenly wore a look of strange curiosity, anger, and pride. But this lasted only an instant. She dropped her eyelids, as though recollecting something.
I was just telling Anna Arkadyevna, said Vorkuev, that if she were to put a hundredth part of the energy she devotes to this English girl to the public question of the education of Russian children, she would be doing a great and useful work.
Yes, but I cant help it; I couldnt do it. Count Alexey Kirillovitch urged me very much (as she uttered the words Count Alexey Kirillovitch she glanced with appealing timidity at Levin, and he unconsciously responded with a respectful and reassuring look), he urged me to take up the school in the village. I visited it several times. The children were very nice, but I could not feel drawn to the work. You speak of energy. Energy rests upon love; and come as it will, theres no forcing it. I took to this childI could not myself say why.
And she glanced again at Levin. And her smile and her glanceall told him that it was to him only she was addressing her words, valuing his good opinion, and at the same time sure beforehand that they understood each other.
I quite understand that, Levin answered. Its impossible to give ones heart to a school or such institutions in general, and I believe that thats just why philanthropic institutions always give such poor results.
Yes, yes, she agreed; I never could. Je nai pas le cur assez large to love a whole asylum of horrid little girls. Cela ne ma jamais réussi. There are so many women who have made themselves une position sociale in that way. And now more than ever, she said with a mournful, confiding expression, ostensibly addressing her brother, but unmistakably intending her words only for Levin, now when I have such need of some occupation, I cannot. And suddenly frowning (Levin saw that she was frowning at herself for talking about herself) she changed the subject. I know about you, she said to Levin; that youre not a public-spirited citizen, and I have defended you to the best of my ability.
You shouldnt have. My writing is something after the fashion of those little baskets and carving which Liza Mertsalov used to sell me from the prisons. She had the direction of the prison department in that society, she turned to Levin; and they were miracles of patience, the work of those poor wretches.
And Levin saw a new trait in this woman, who attracted him so extraordinarily. Besides wit, grace, beauty, she had truth. She had no wish to hide from him all the bitterness of her position. As she said that she sighed, and her face suddenly taking a hard expression, looked as it were turned to stone. With that expression on her face she was more beautiful than ever; but the expression was new; it was utterly unlike that expression, radiant with happiness and creating happiness, which had been caught by the painter in her portrait. Levin looked more than once at the portrait and at her figure, as taking her brothers arm she walked with him to the high doors, and he felt for her a tenderness and pity at which he wondered himself.
She asked Levin and Vorkuev to go into the drawing-room, while she stayed behind to say a few words to her brother. About her divorce, about Vronsky, and what hes doing at the club, about me? wondered Levin. And he was so keenly interested by the question of what she was saying to Stepan Arkadyevitch, that he scarcely heard what Vorkuev was telling him of the qualities of the story for children Anna Arkadyevna had written.
At tea the same pleasant sort of talk, full of interesting matter, continued. There was not a single instant when a subject for conversation was to seek; on the contrary, it was felt that one had hardly time to say what one had to say, and eagerly held back to hear what the others were saying. And all that was said, not only by her, but by Vorkuev and Stepan Arkadyevitchall, so it seemed to Levin, gained peculiar significance from her appreciation and her criticism. While he followed this interesting conversation, Levin was all the time admiring herher beauty, her intelligence, her culture, and at the same time her directness and genuine depth of feeling. He listened and talked, and all the while he was thinking of her inner life, trying to divine her feelings. And though he had judged her so severely hitherto, now by some strange chain of reasoning he was justifying her and also sorry for her, and afraid that Vronsky did not fully understand her. At eleven oclock, when Stepan Arkadyevitch got up to go (Vorkuev had left earlier), it seemed to Levin that he had only just come. Regretfully Levin too rose.
Tell your wife that I love her as before, and that if she cannot pardon me my position, then my wish for her is that she may never pardon it. To pardon it, one must go through what I have gone through, and may God spare her that.