FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 10

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

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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 recognized 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 Levin’s ears a special significance. 
“I have known you and liked you for a long
while, both from your friendship with Stiva and for
your wife’s 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 Alexey’s study,” she said in answer
to Stepan Arkadyevitch’s question whether he
might smoke, “just so as to be able to smoke” ­and
glancing at Levin, instead of asking whether he would
smoke, she pulled closer a tortoise-shell cigar-case
and took a cigarette.

“How are you feeling today?” her brother
asked her.

“Oh, nothing.  Nerves, as usual.”

“Yes, isn’t it extraordinarily
fine?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, noticing that
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 brilliance lighted
up Anna’s 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 Vashtchenkov’s
last pictures.  Have you 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 school people
on Grisha’s account.  The Latin teacher,
it seems, had been unfair to him.”

“Yes, I have seen his pictures. 
I didn’t care for them very much,” Levin
went back to the subject she had started.

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.

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

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

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

Never had anything clever said by
Levin given him so much pleasure as this remark. 
Anna’s face lighted up at once, as at once
she appreciated the 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 and literature too, indeed ­Zola,
Daudet.  But perhaps it is always so, that men
form their conceptions from fictitious, conventional
types, and then ­all the combinaisons
made ­they are tired of the fictitious figures
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 and staring persistently
at her lovely, mobile face, which at that moment was
all at once completely transformed.  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 face ­so handsome
a moment before in its repose ­suddenly wore
a look of strange curiosity, anger, and pride. 
But this lasted only an instant.  She dropped
her eyelids, as though recollecting something.

“Oh, well, but that’s
of no interest to anyone,” she said, and she
turned 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 Stepan Arkadyevitch.

“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
my daughter with one love, and her with another.”

“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 can’t help
it; I couldn’t 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, there’s no forcing it. 
I took to this child ­I could not myself
say why.”

And she glanced again at Levin. 
And her smile and her glance ­ all 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.  “It’s impossible
to give one’s heart to a school or such institutions
in general, and I believe that’s just why philanthropic
institutions always give such poor results.”

She was silent for a while, then she smiled.

“Yes, yes,” she agreed;
“I never could. Je n’ai pas lé coeur
assez
large to love a whole asylum of horrid little
girls. Cela ne m’a jamais reussi. 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 you’re not a public-spirited
citizen, and I have defended you to the best of my
ability.”

“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, nodding at
Levin.

“You shouldn’t have. 
My writing is something after the fashion of those
little baskets and carving which Liza Mertsalova 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, and 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 brother’s 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 he’s 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 Arkadyevitch ­all, 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 her ­
her 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 was also sorry for her, and afraid that Vronsky
did not fully understand her.  At eleven o’clock,
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.

“Good-bye,” she said,
holding his hand and glancing into his face with a
winning 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 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.”

“Certainly, yes, I will tell
her…”  Levin said, blushing.

 

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