FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 6

Leo TolstoyAug 25, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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“Perhaps they’re not at
home?” said Levin, as he went into the hall
of Countess Bola’s house.

“At home; please walk in,”
said the porter, resolutely removing his overcoat.

“How annoying!” thought
Levin with a sigh, taking off one glove and stroking
his hat.  “What did I come for?  What
have I to say to them?”

As he passed through the first drawing
room Levin met in the doorway Countess Bola, giving
some order to a servant with a care-worn and severe
face.  On seeing Levin she smiled, and asked
him to come into the little drawing room, where he
heard voices.  In this room there were sitting
in armchairs the two daughters of the countess, and
a Moscow colonel, whom Levin knew.  Levin went
up, greeted them, and sat down beside the sofa with
his hat on his knees.

“How is your wife?  Have
you been at the concert?  We couldn’t go. 
Mamma had to be at the funeral service.”

“Yes, I heard….  What a sudden death!”
said Levin.

The countess came in, sat down on
the sofa, and she too asked after his wife and inquired
about the concert.

Levin answered, and repeated an inquiry
about Madame Apraksina’s sudden death.

“But she was always in weak health.”

“Were you at the opera yesterday?”

“Yes, I was.”

“Lucca was very good.”

“Yes, very good,” he said,
and as it was utterly of no consequence to him what
they thought of him, he began repeating what they
had heard a hundred times about the characteristics
of the singer’s talent.  Countess Bola
pretended to be listening.  Then, when he had
said enough and paused, the colonel, who had been
silent till then, began to talk.  The colonel
too talked of the opera, and about culture. 
At last, after speaking of the proposed folle journée
at Turin’s, the colonel laughed, got up noisily,
and went away.  Levin too rose, but he saw by
the face of the countess that it was not yet time
for him to go.  He must stay two minutes longer. 
He sat down.

But as he was thinking all the while
how stupid it was, he could not find a subject for
conversation, and sat silent.

“You are not going to the public
meeting?  They say it will be very interesting,”
began the countess.

“No, I promised my bellesoeur
to fetch her from it,” said Levin.

A silence followed.  The mother
once more exchanged glances with a daughter.

“Well, now I think the time
has come,” thought Levin, and he got up. 
The ladies shook hands with him, and begged him to
say mille choses to his wife for them.

The porter asked him, as he gave him
his coat, “Where is your honor staying?”
and immediately wrote down his address in a big handsomely
bound book.

“Of course I don’t care,
but still I feel ashamed and awfully stupid,”
thought Levin, consoling himself with the reflection
that everyone does it.  He drove to the public
meeting, where he was to find his sister-in-law, so
as to drive home with her.

At the public meeting of the committee
there were a great many people, and almost all the
highest society.  Levin was in time for the report
which, as everyone said, was very interesting. 
When the reading of the report was over, people moved
about, and Levin met Sviazhsky, who invited him very
pressingly to come that evening to a meeting of the
Society of Agriculture, where a celebrated lecture
was to be delivered, and Stepan Arkadyevitch, who
had only just come from the races, and many other
acquaintances; and Levin heard and uttered various
criticisms on the meeting, on the new fantasia, and
on a public trial.  But, probably from the mental
fatigue he was beginning to feel, he made a blunder
in speaking of the trial, and this blunder he recalled
several times with vexation.  Speaking of the
sentence upon a foreigner who had been condemned in
Russia, and of how unfair it would be to punish him
by exile abroad, Levin repeated what he had heard
the day before in conversation from an acquaintance.

“I think sending him abroad
is much the same as punishing a carp by putting it
into the water,” said Levin.  Then he recollected
that this idea, which he had heard from an acquaintance
and uttered as his own, came from a fable of Krilov’s,
and that the acquaintance had picked it up from a
newspaper article.

After driving home with his sister-in-law,
and finding Kitty in good spirits and quite well,
Levin drove to the club.

 

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