Anna karenina, p.110
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Anna Karenina, p.110

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 9

  It was past five, and several guests had already arrived, before thehost himself got home. He went in together with Sergey IvanovitchKoznishev and Pestsov, who had reached the street door at the samemoment. These were the two leading representatives of the Moscowintellectuals, as Oblonsky had called them. Both were men respected fortheir character and their intelligence. They respected each other, butwere in complete and hopeless disagreement upon almost every subject,not because they belonged to opposite parties, but precisely becausethey were of the same party (their enemies refused to see anydistinction between their views); but, in that party, each had his ownspecial shade of opinion. And since no difference is less easilyovercome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions,they never agreed in any opinion, and had long, indeed, been accustomedto jeer without anger, each at the other's incorrigible aberrations.

  They were just going in at the door, talking of the weather, when StepanArkadyevitch overtook them. In the drawing room there were alreadysitting Prince Alexander Dmitrievitch Shtcherbatsky, youngShtcherbatsky, Turovtsin, Kitty, and Karenin.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch saw immediately that things were not going well inthe drawing-room without him. Darya Alexandrovna, in her best gray silkgown, obviously worried about the children, who were to have theirdinner by themselves in the nursery, and by her husband's absence, wasnot equal to the task of making the party mix without him. All weresitting like so many priests' wives on a visit (so the old princeexpressed it), obviously wondering why they were there, and pumping upremarks simply to avoid being silent. Turovtsin--good, simple man--feltunmistakably a fish out of water, and the smile with which his thicklips greeted Stepan Arkadyevitch said, as plainly as words: "Well, oldboy, you have popped me down in a learned set! A drinking party now, orthe _Chateau des Fleurs_, would be more in my line!" The old prince satin silence, his bright little eyes watching Karenin from one side, andStepan Arkadyevitch saw that he had already formed a phrase to sum upthat politician of whom guests were invited to partake as though he werea sturgeon. Kitty was looking at the door, calling up all her energiesto keep her from blushing at the entrance of Konstantin Levin. YoungShtcherbatsky, who had not been introduced to Karenin, was trying tolook as though he were not in the least conscious of it. Karenin himselfhad followed the Petersburg fashion for a dinner with ladies and waswearing evening dress and a white tie. Stepan Arkadyevitch saw by hisface that he had come simply to keep his promise, and was performing adisagreeable duty in being present at this gathering. He was indeed theperson chiefly responsible for the chill benumbing all the guests beforeStepan Arkadyevitch came in.

  On entering the drawing room Stepan Arkadyevitch apologized, explainingthat he had been detained by that prince, who was always the scapegoatfor all his absences and unpunctualities, and in one moment he had madeall the guests acquainted with each other, and, bringing together AlexeyAlexandrovitch and Sergey Koznishev, started them on a discussion of theRussification of Poland, into which they immediately plunged withPestsov. Slapping Turovtsin on the shoulder, he whispered somethingcomic in his ear, and set him down by his wife and the old prince. Thenhe told Kitty she was looking very pretty that evening, and presentedShtcherbatsky to Karenin. In a moment he had so kneaded together thesocial dough that the drawing room became very lively, and there was amerry buzz of voices. Konstantin Levin was the only person who had notarrived. But this was so much the better, as going into the dining room,Stepan Arkadyevitch found to his horror that the port and sherry hadbeen procured from Depre, and not from Levy, and, directing that thecoachman should be sent off as speedily as possible to Levy's, he wasgoing back to the drawing room.

  In the dining room he was met by Konstantin Levin.

  "I'm not late?"

  "You can never help being late!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, taking hisarm.

  "Have you a lot of people? Who's here?" asked Levin, unable to helpblushing, as he knocked the snow off his cap with his glove.

  "All our own set. Kitty's here. Come along, I'll introduce you toKarenin."

  Stepan Arkadyevitch, for all his liberal views, was well aware that tomeet Karenin was sure to be felt a flattering distinction, and sotreated his best friends to this honor. But at that instant KonstantinLevin was not in a condition to feel all the gratification of makingsuch an acquaintance. He had not seen Kitty since that memorable eveningwhen he met Vronsky, not counting, that is, the moment when he had had aglimpse of her on the highroad. He had known at the bottom of his heartthat he would see her here today. But to keep his thoughts free, he hadtried to persuade himself that he did not know it. Now when he heardthat she was here, he was suddenly conscious of such delight, and at thesame time of such dread, that his breath failed him and he could notutter what he wanted to say.

  "What is she like, what is she like? Like what she used to be, or likewhat she was in the carriage? What if Darya Alexandrovna told the truth?Why shouldn't it be the truth?" he thought.

  "Oh, please, introduce me to Karenin," he brought out with an effort,and with a desperately determined step he walked into the drawing roomand beheld her.

  She was not the same as she used to be, nor was she as she had been inthe carriage; she was quite different.

  She was scared, shy, shame-faced, and still more charming from it. Shesaw him the very instant he walked into the room. She had been expectinghim. She was delighted, and so confused at her own delight that therewas a moment, the moment when he went up to her sister and glanced againat her, when she, and he, and Dolly, who saw it all, thought she wouldbreak down and would begin to cry. She crimsoned, turned white,crimsoned again, and grew faint, waiting with quivering lips for him tocome to her. He went up to her, bowed, and held out his hand withoutspeaking. Except for the slight quiver of her lips and the moisture inher eyes that made them brighter, her smile was almost calm as she said:

  "How long it is since we've seen each other!" and with desperatedetermination she pressed his hand with her cold hand.

  "You've not seen me, but I've seen you," said Levin, with a radiantsmile of happiness. "I saw you when you were driving from the railwaystation to Ergushovo."

  "When?" she asked, wondering.

  "You were driving to Ergushovo," said Levin, feeling as if he would sobwith the rapture that was flooding his heart. "And how dared I associatea thought of anything not innocent with this touching creature? And,yes, I do believe it's true what Darya Alexandrovna told me," hethought.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch took him by the arm and led him away to Karenin.

  "Let me introduce you." He mentioned their names.

  "Very glad to meet you again," said Alexey Alexandrovitch coldly,shaking hands with Levin.

  "You are acquainted?" Stepan Arkadyevitch asked in surprise.

  "We spent three hours together in the train," said Levin smiling, "butgot out, just as in a masquerade, quite mystified--at least I was."

  "Nonsense! Come along, please," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, pointing inthe direction of the dining room.

  The men went into the dining-room and went up to a table, laid with sixsorts of spirits and as many kinds of cheese, some with little silverspades and some without, caviar, herrings, preserves of various kinds,and plates with slices of French bread.

  The men stood round the strong-smelling spirits and salt delicacies, andthe discussion of the Russification of Poland between Koznishev,Karenin, and Pestsov died down in anticipation of dinner.

  Sergey Ivanovitch was unequaled in his skill in winding up the mostheated and serious argument by some unexpected pinch of Attic salt thatchanged the disposition of his opponent. He did this now.

  Alexey Alexandrovitch had been maintaining that the Russification ofPoland could only be accomplished as a result of larger measures whichought to be introduced by the Russian government.

  Pestsov insisted that one country can only absorb another when it is themore densely populated.

  Koznishev admitted both points, but with limitations.
As they were goingout of the drawing room to conclude the argument, Koznishev said,smiling:

  "So, then, for the Russification of our foreign populations there is butone method--to bring up as many children as one can. My brother and Iare terribly in fault, I see. You married men, especially you, StepanArkadyevitch, are the real patriots: what number have you reached?" hesaid, smiling genially at their host and holding out a tiny wine glassto him.

  Everyone laughed, and Stepan Arkadyevitch with particular good humor.

  "Oh, yes, that's the best method!" he said, munching cheese and fillingthe wine-glass with a special sort of spirit. The conversation droppedat the jest.

  "This cheese is not bad. Shall I give you some?" said the master of thehouse. "Why, have you been going in for gymnastics again?" he askedLevin, pinching his muscle with his left hand. Levin smiled, bent hisarm, and under Stepan Arkadyevitch's fingers the muscles swelled up likea sound cheese, hard as a knob of iron, through the fine cloth of thecoat.

  "What biceps! A perfect Samson!"

  "I imagine great strength is needed for hunting bears," observed AlexeyAlexandrovitch, who had the mistiest notions about the chase. He cut offand spread with cheese a wafer of bread fine as a spider-web.

  Levin smiled.

  "Not at all. Quite the contrary; a child can kill a bear," he said, witha slight bow moving aside for the ladies, who were approaching thetable.

  "You have killed a bear, I've been told!" said Kitty, trying assiduouslyto catch with her fork a perverse mushroom that would slip away, andsetting the lace quivering over her white arm. "Are there bears on yourplace?" she added, turning her charming little head to him and smiling.

  There was apparently nothing extraordinary in what she said, but whatunutterable meaning there was for him in every sound, in every turn ofher lips, her eyes, her hand as she said it! There was entreaty forforgiveness, and trust in him, and tenderness--soft, timidtenderness--and promise and hope and love for him, which he could notbut believe in and which choked him with happiness.

  "No, we've been hunting in the Tver province. It was coming back fromthere that I met your _beaufrere_ in the train, or your _beaufrere's_brother-in-law," he said with a smile. "It was an amusing meeting."

  And he began telling with droll good-humor how, after not sleeping allnight, he had, wearing an old fur-lined, full-skirted coat, got intoAlexey Alexandrovitch's compartment.

  "The conductor, forgetting the proverb, would have chucked me out onaccount of my attire; but thereupon I began expressing my feelings inelevated language, and ... you, too," he said, addressing Karenin andforgetting his name, "at first would have ejected me on the ground ofthe old coat, but afterwards you took my part, for which I am extremelygrateful."

  "The rights of passengers generally to choose their seats are tooill-defined," said Alexey Alexandrovitch, rubbing the tips of hisfingers on his handkerchief.

  "I saw you were in uncertainty about me," said Levin, smilinggood-naturedly, "but I made haste to plunge into intellectualconversation to smooth over the defects of my attire." SergeyIvanovitch, while he kept up a conversation with their hostess, had oneear for his brother, and he glanced askance at him. "What is the matterwith him today? Why such a conquering hero?" he thought. He did not knowthat Levin was feeling as though he had grown wings. Levin knew she waslistening to his words and that she was glad to listen to him. And thiswas the only thing that interested him. Not in that room only, but inthe whole world, there existed for him only himself, with enormouslyincreased importance and dignity in his own eyes, and she. He felthimself on a pinnacle that made him giddy, and far away down below wereall those nice excellent Karenins, Oblonskys, and all the world.

  Quite without attracting notice, without glancing at them, as thoughthere were no other places left, Stepan Arkadyevitch put Levin and Kittyside by side.

  "Oh, you may as well sit there," he said to Levin.

  The dinner was as choice as the china, in which Stepan Arkadyevitch wasa connoisseur. The _soupe Marie-Louise_ was a splendid success; the tinypies eaten with it melted in the mouth and were irreproachable. The twofootmen and Matvey, in white cravats, did their duty with the dishes andwines unobtrusively, quietly, and swiftly. On the material side thedinner was a success; it was no less so on the immaterial. Theconversation, at times general and at times between individuals, neverpaused, and towards the end the company was so lively that the men rosefrom the table, without stopping speaking, and even AlexeyAlexandrovitch thawed.

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
  • 33 684
  • 0
Add comment

Add comment