“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 belle-sœur 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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