Levin came back to the house only when they sent to summon him to supper. On the stairs were standing Kitty and Agafea Mihalovna, consulting about wines for supper.
“But why are you making all this fuss? Have what we usually do.”
“No, Stiva doesn’t drink … Kostya, stop, what’s the matter?” Kitty began, hurrying after him, but he strode ruthlessly away to the dining-room without waiting for her, and at once joined in the lively general conversation which was being maintained there by Vassenka Veslovsky and Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Well, what do you say, are we going shooting tomorrow?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Please, do let’s go,” said Veslovsky, moving to another chair, where he sat down sideways, with one fat leg crossed under him.
“I shall be delighted, we will go. And have you had any shooting yet this year?” said Levin to Veslovsky, looking intently at his leg, but speaking with that forced amiability that Kitty knew so well in him, and that was so out of keeping with him. “I can’t answer for our finding grouse, but there are plenty of snipe. Only we ought to start early. You’re not tired? Aren’t you tired, Stiva?”
“Me tired? I’ve never been tired yet. Suppose we stay up all night. Let’s go for a walk!”
“Yes, really, let’s not go to bed at all! Capital!” Veslovsky chimed in.
“Oh, we all know you can do without sleep, and keep other people up too,” Dolly said to her husband, with that faint note of irony in her voice which she almost always had now with her husband. “But to my thinking, it’s time for bed now…. I’m going, I don’t want supper.”
“No, do stay a little, Dolly,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, going round to her side behind the table where they were having supper. “I’ve so much still to tell you.”
“Nothing really, I suppose.”
“Do you know Veslovsky has been at Anna’s, and he’s going to them again? You know they’re hardly fifty miles from you, and I too must certainly go over there. Veslovsky, come here!”
Vassenka crossed over to the ladies, and sat down beside Kitty.
“Ah, do tell me, please; you have stayed with her? How was she?” Darya Alexandrovna appealed to him.
Levin was left at the other end of the table, and though never pausing in his conversation with the princess and Varenka, he saw that there was an eager and mysterious conversation going on between Stepan Arkadyevitch, Dolly, Kitty, and Veslovsky. And that was not all. He saw on his wife’s face an expression of real feeling as she gazed with fixed eyes on the handsome face of Vassenka, who was telling them something with great animation.
“It’s exceedingly nice at their place,” Veslovsky was telling them about Vronsky and Anna. “I can’t, of course, take it upon myself to judge, but in their house you feel the real feeling of home.”
“What do they intend doing?”
“I believe they think of going to Moscow.”
“How jolly it would be for us all to go over to them together! When are you going there?” Stepan Arkadyevitch asked Vassenka.
“I’m spending July there.”
“Will you go?” Stepan Arkadyevitch said to his wife.
“I’ve been wanting to a long while; I shall certainly go,” said Dolly. “I am sorry for her, and I know her. She’s a splendid woman. I will go alone, when you go back, and then I shall be in no one’s way. And it will be better indeed without you.”
“To be sure,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “And you, Kitty?”
“I? Why should I go?” Kitty said, flushing all over, and she glanced round at her husband.
“Do you know Anna Arkadyevna, then?” Veslovsky asked her. “She’s a very fascinating woman.”
“Yes,” she answered Veslovsky, crimsoning still more. She got up and walked across to her husband.
“Are you going shooting, then, tomorrow?” she said.
His jealousy had in these few moments, especially at the flush that had overspread her cheeks while she was talking to Veslovsky, gone far indeed. Now as he heard her words, he construed them in his own fashion. Strange as it was to him afterwards to recall it, it seemed to him at the moment clear that in asking whether he was going shooting, all she cared to know was whether he would give that pleasure to Vassenka Veslovsky, with whom, as he fancied, she was in love.
“Yes, I’m going,” he answered her in an unnatural voice, disagreeable to himself.
“No, better spend the day here tomorrow, or Dolly won’t see anything of her husband, and set off the day after,” said Kitty.
The motive of Kitty’s words was interpreted by Levin thus: “Don’t separate me from him. I don’t care about your going, but do let me enjoy the society of this delightful young man.”
“Oh, if you wish, we’ll stay here tomorrow,” Levin answered, with peculiar amiability.
Vassenka meanwhile, utterly unsuspecting the misery his presence had occasioned, got up from the table after Kitty, and watching her with smiling and admiring eyes, he followed her.
Levin saw that look. He turned white, and for a minute he could hardly breathe. “How dare he look at my wife like that!” was the feeling that boiled within him.
“Tomorrow, then? Do, please, let us go,” said Vassenka, sitting down on a chair, and again crossing his leg as his habit was.
Levin’s jealousy went further still. Already he saw himself a deceived husband, looked upon by his wife and her lover as simply necessary to provide them with the conveniences and pleasures of life…. But in spite of that he made polite and hospitable inquiries of Vassenka about his shooting, his gun, and his boots, and agreed to go shooting next day.
Happily for Levin, the old princess cut short his agonies by getting up herself and advising Kitty to go to bed. But even at this point Levin could not escape another agony. As he said good-night to his hostess, Vassenka would again have kissed her hand, but Kitty, reddening, drew back her hand and said with a naïve bluntness, for which the old princess scolded her afterwards:
“We don’t like that fashion.”
In Levin’s eyes she was to blame for having allowed such relations to arise, and still more to blame for showing so awkwardly that she did not like them.
“Why, how can one want to go to bed!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, who, after drinking several glasses of wine at supper, was now in his most charming and sentimental humor. “Look, Kitty,” he said, pointing to the moon, which had just risen behind the lime trees—“how exquisite! Veslovsky, this is the time for a serenade. You know, he has a splendid voice; we practiced songs together along the road. He has brought some lovely songs with him, two new ones. Varvara Andreevna and he must sing some duets.”
When the party had broken up, Stepan Arkadyevitch walked a long while about the avenue with Veslovsky; their voices could be heard singing one of the new songs.
Levin hearing these voices sat scowling in an easy-chair in his wife’s bedroom, and maintained an obstinate silence when she asked him what was wrong. But when at last with a timid glance she hazarded the question: “Was there perhaps something you disliked about Veslovsky?”—it all burst out, and he told her all. He was humiliated himself at what he was saying, and that exasperated him all the more.
He stood facing her with his eyes glittering menacingly under his scowling brows, and he squeezed his strong arms across his chest, as though he were straining every nerve to hold himself in. The expression of his face would have been grim, and even cruel, if it had not at the same time had a look of suffering which touched her. His jaws were twitching, and his voice kept breaking.
“You must understand that I’m not jealous, that’s a nasty word. I can’t be jealous, and believe that…. I can’t say what I feel, but this is awful…. I’m not jealous, but I’m wounded, humiliated that anybody dare think, that anybody dare look at you with eyes like that.”
“Eyes like what?” said Kitty, trying as conscientiously as possible to recall every word and gesture of that evening and every shade implied in them.
At the very bottom of her heart she did think there had been something precisely at the moment when he had crossed over after her to the other end of the table; but she dared not own it even to herself, and would have been even more unable to bring herself to say so to him, and so increase his suffering.
“And what can there possibly be attractive about me as I am now?…”
“Ah!” he cried, clutching at his head, “you shouldn’t say that!… If you had been attractive then….”
“Oh, no, Kostya, oh, wait a minute, oh, do listen!” she said, looking at him with an expression of pained commiseration. “Why, what can you be thinking about! When for me there’s no one in the world, no one, no one!… Would you like me never to see anyone?”
For the first minute she had been offended at his jealousy; she was angry that the slightest amusement, even the most innocent, should be forbidden her; but now she would readily have sacrificed, not merely such trifles, but everything, for his peace of mind, to save him from the agony he was suffering.
“You must understand the horror and comedy of my position,” he went on in a desperate whisper; “that he’s in my house, that he’s done nothing improper positively except his free and easy airs and the way he sits on his legs. He thinks it’s the best possible form, and so I’m obliged to be civil to him.”
“But, Kostya, you’re exaggerating,” said Kitty, at the bottom of her heart rejoicing at the depth of his love for her, shown now in his jealousy.
“The most awful part of it all is that you’re just as you always are, and especially now when to me you’re something sacred, and we’re so happy, so particularly happy—and all of a sudden a little wretch…. He’s not a little wretch; why should I abuse him? I have nothing to do with him. But why should my, and your, happiness….”
“Do you know, I understand now what it’s all come from,” Kitty was beginning.
“Well, what? what?”
“I saw how you looked while we were talking at supper.”
“Well, well!” Levin said in dismay.
She told him what they had been talking about. And as she told him, she was breathless with emotion. Levin was silent for a space, then he scanned her pale and distressed face, and suddenly he clutched at his head.
“Katya, I’ve been worrying you! Darling, forgive me! It’s madness! Katya, I’m a criminal. And how could you be so distressed at such idiocy?”
“Oh, I was sorry for you.”
“For me? for me? How mad I am!… But why make you miserable? It’s awful to think that any outsider can shatter our happiness.”
“It’s humiliating too, of course.”
“Oh, then I’ll keep him here all the summer, and will overwhelm him with civility,” said Levin, kissing her hands. “You shall see. Tomorrow…. Oh, yes, we are going tomorrow.”