Anna karenina, p.199
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       Anna Karenina, p.199

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 10

  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 girlwho was sitting at work, calling her her pupil, Levin recognized andliked the manners of a woman of the great world, always self-possessedand natural.

  "I am delighted, delighted," she repeated, and on her lips these simplewords took for Levin's ears a special significance. "I have known youand liked you for a long while, both from your friendship with Stiva andfor your wife's sake.... I knew her for a very short time, but she lefton me the impression of an exquisite flower, simply a flower. And tothink she will soon be a mother!"

  She spoke easily and without haste, looking now and then from Levin toher 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 hehad known her from childhood.

  "Ivan Petrovitch and I settled in Alexey's study," she said in answer toStepan Arkadyevitch's question whether he might smoke, "just so as to beable to smoke"--and glancing at Levin, instead of asking whether hewould smoke, she pulled closer a tortoise-shell cigar-case and took acigarette.

  "How are you feeling today?" her brother asked her.

  "Oh, nothing. Nerves, as usual."

  "Yes, isn't it extraordinarily fine?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, noticingthat Levin was scrutinizing the picture.

  "I have never seen a better portrait."

  "And extraordinarily like, isn't it?" said Vorkuev.

  Levin looked from the portrait to the original. A peculiar brilliancelighted up Anna's face when she felt his eyes on her. Levin flushed, andto cover his confusion would have asked whether she had seen DaryaAlexandrovna lately; but at that moment Anna spoke. "We were justtalking, Ivan Petrovitch and I, of Vashtchenkov's last pictures. Haveyou seen them?"

  "Yes, I have seen them," answered Levin.

  "But, I beg your pardon, I interrupted you ... you were saying?..."

  Levin asked if she had seen Dolly lately.

  "She was here yesterday. She was very indignant with the high schoolpeople on Grisha's account. The Latin teacher, it seems, had been unfairto him."

  "Yes, I have seen his pictures. I didn't care for them very much," Levinwent back to the subject she had started.

  Levin talked now not at all with that purely businesslike attitude tothe subject with which he had been talking all the morning. Every wordin his conversation with her had a special significance. And talking toher was pleasant; still pleasanter it was to listen to her.

  Anna talked not merely naturally and cleverly, but cleverly andcarelessly, attaching no value to her own ideas and giving great weightto the ideas of the person she was talking to.

  The conversation turned on the new movement in art, on the newillustrations of the Bible by a French artist. Vorkuev attacked theartist for a realism carried to the point of coarseness.

  Levin said that the French had carried conventionality further thananyone, and that consequently they see a great merit in the return torealism. In the fact of not lying they see poetry.

  Never had anything clever said by Levin given him so much pleasure asthis remark. Anna's face lighted up at once, as at once she appreciatedthe thought. She laughed.

  "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 andliterature too, indeed--Zola, Daudet. But perhaps it is always so, thatmen form their conceptions from fictitious, conventional types, andthen--all the _combinaisons_ made--they are tired of the fictitiousfigures and begin to invent more natural, true figures."

  "That's perfectly true," said Vorknev.

  "So you've been at the club?" she said to her brother.

  "Yes, yes, this is a woman!" Levin thought, forgetting himself andstaring persistently at her lovely, mobile face, which at that momentwas all at once completely transformed. Levin did not hear what she wastalking of as she leaned over to her brother, but he was struck by thechange of her expression. Her face--so handsome a moment before in itsrepose--suddenly wore a look of strange curiosity, anger, and pride. Butthis lasted only an instant. She dropped her eyelids, as thoughrecollecting something.

  "Oh, well, but that's of no interest to anyone," she said, and sheturned to the English girl.

  "Please order the tea in the drawing room," she said in English.

  The girl got up and went out.

  "Well, how did she get through her examination?" asked StepanArkadyevitch.

  "Splendidly! She's a very gifted child and a sweet character."

  "It will end in your loving her more than your own."

  "There a man speaks. In love there's no more nor less. I love mydaughter with one love, and her with another."

  "I was just telling Anna Arkadyevna," said Vorkuev, "that if she were toput a hundredth part of the energy she devotes to this English girl tothe public question of the education of Russian children, she would bedoing a great and useful work."

  "Yes, but I can't help it; I couldn't do it. Count Alexey Kirillovitchurged me very much" (as she uttered the words _Count AlexeyKirillovitch_ she glanced with appealing timidity at Levin, and heunconsciously responded with a respectful and reassuring look); "heurged me to take up the school in the village. I visited it severaltimes. The children were very nice, but I could not feel drawn to thework. You speak of energy. Energy rests upon love; and come as it will,there's no forcing it. I took to this child--I could not myself saywhy."

  And she glanced again at Levin. And her smile and her glance--all toldhim that it was to him only she was addressing her words, valuing hisgood opinion, and at the same time sure beforehand that they understoodeach other.

  "I quite understand that," Levin answered. "It's impossible to giveone's heart to a school or such institutions in general, and I believethat's just why philanthropic institutions always give such poorresults."

  She was silent for a while, then she smiled.

  "Yes, yes," she agreed; "I never could. _Je n'ai pas le coeur assez_large to love a whole asylum of horrid little girls. _Cela ne m'a jamaisreussi._ There are so many women who have made themselves _une positionsociale_ in that way. And now more than ever," she said with a mournful,confiding expression, ostensibly addressing her brother, butunmistakably intending her words only for Levin, "now when I have suchneed of some occupation, I cannot." And suddenly frowning (Levin sawthat she was frowning at herself for talking about herself) she changedthe subject. "I know about you," she said to Levin; "that you're not apublic-spirited citizen, and I have defended you to the best of myability."

  "How have you defended me?"

  "Oh, according to the attacks made on you. But won't you have some tea?"She rose and took up a book bound in morocco.

  "Give it to me, Anna Arkadyevna," said Vorkuev, indicating the book."It's well worth taking up."

  "Oh, no, it's all so sketchy."

  "I told him about it," Stepan Arkadyevitch said to his sister, noddingat Levin.

  "You shouldn't have. My writing is something after the fashion of thoselittle baskets and carving which Liza Mertsalova used to sell me fromthe prisons. She had the direction of the prison department in thatsociety," she turned to Levin; "and they were miracles of patience, thework of those poor wretches."

  And Levin saw a new trait in this woman, who attracted him soextraordinarily. Besides wit, grace, and beauty, she had truth. She hadno wish to hide from him all the bitterness of her position. As she saidthat she sighed, and her face suddenly taking a hard expression, lookedas it were turned to stone. With that expression on her face she wasmore beautiful than ever; but the expression was new; it was utterlyunlike that expression, radiant with happiness and creating happiness,which had been caught by the painter in her portrait. Levin looked morethan once at the portrait and at her figure, as taking her brother's armshe walked with him to the high doors and he felt for her a tender
nessand pity at which he wondered himself.

  She asked Levin and Vorkuev to go into the drawing room, while shestayed behind to say a few words to her brother. "About her divorce,about Vronsky, and what he's doing at the club, about me?" wonderedLevin. And he was so keenly interested by the question of what she wassaying to Stepan Arkadyevitch, that he scarcely heard what Vorkuev wastelling him of the qualities of the story for children Anna Arkadyevnahad written.

  At tea the same pleasant sort of talk, full of interesting matter,continued. There was not a single instant when a subject forconversation was to seek; on the contrary, it was felt that one hadhardly time to say what one had to say, and eagerly held back to hearwhat the others were saying. And all that was said, not only by her, butby Vorkuev and Stepan Arkadyevitch--all, so it seemed to Levin, gainedpeculiar significance from her appreciation and her criticism. While hefollowed this interesting conversation, Levin was all the time admiringher--her beauty, her intelligence, her culture, and at the same time herdirectness and genuine depth of feeling. He listened and talked, and allthe while he was thinking of her inner life, trying to divine herfeelings. And though he had judged her so severely hitherto, now by somestrange chain of reasoning he was justifying her and was also sorry forher, and afraid that Vronsky did not fully understand her. At eleveno'clock, when Stepan Arkadyevitch got up to go (Vorkuev had leftearlier), it seemed to Levin that he had only just come. RegretfullyLevin too rose.

  "Good-bye," she said, holding his hand and glancing into his face with awinning look. "I am very glad _que la glace est rompue._"

  She dropped his hand, and half closed her eyes.

  "Tell your wife that I love her as before, and that if she cannot pardonme my position, then my wish for her is that she may never pardon it. Topardon it, one must go through what I have gone through, and may Godspare her that."

  "Certainly, yes, I will tell her..." Levin said, blushing.

 
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