When they rose from table, Levin would
have liked to follow Kitty into the drawing room;
but he was afraid she might dislike this, as too obviously
paying her attention. He remained in the little
ring of men, taking part in the general conversation,
and without looking at Kitty, he was aware of her
movements, her looks, and the place where she was
in the drawing room.
He did at once, and without the smallest
effort, keep the promise he had made her always
to think well of all men, and to like everyone always.
The conversation fell on the village commune, in
which Pestsov saw a sort of special principle, called
by him the choral principle. Levin did not agree
with Pestsov, nor with his brother, who had a special
attitude of his own, both admitting and not admitting
the significance of the Russian commune. But
he talked to them, simply trying to reconcile and
soften their differences. He was not in the least
interested in what he said himself, and even less
so in what they said; all he wanted was that they
and everyone should be happy and contented. He
knew now the one thing of importance; and that one
thing was at first there, in the drawing room, and
then began moving across and came to a standstill
at the door. Without turning round he felt the
eyes fixed on him, and the smile, and he could not
help turning round. She was standing in the
doorway with Shtcherbatsky, looking at him.
“I thought you were going towards
the piano,” said he, going up to her.
“That’s something I miss in the country music.”
“No; we only came to fetch you
and thank you,” she said, rewarding him with
a smile that was like a gift, “for coming.
What do they want to argue for? No one ever convinces
anyone, you know.”
“Yes; that’s true,”
said Levin; “it generally happens that one argues
warmly simply because one can’t make out what
one’s opponent wants to prove.”
Levin had often noticed in discussions
between the most intelligent people that after enormous
efforts, and an enormous expenditure of logical subtleties
and words, the disputants finally arrived at being
aware that what they had so long been struggling to
prove to one another had long ago, from the beginning
of the argument, been known to both, but that they
liked different things, and would not define what they
liked for fear of its being attacked. He had
often had the experience of suddenly in a discussion
grasping what it was his opponent liked and at once
liking it too, and immediately he found himself agreeing,
and then all arguments fell away as useless.
Sometimes, too, he had experienced the opposite, expressing
at last what he liked himself, which he was devising
arguments to defend, and, chancing to express it well
and genuinely, he had found his opponent at once agreeing
and ceasing to dispute his position. He tried
to say this.
She knitted her brow, trying to understand.
But directly he began to illustrate his meaning,
she understood at once.
“I know: one must find
out what he is arguing for, what is precious to him,
then one can…”
She had completely guessed and expressed
his badly expressed idea. Levin smiled joyfully;
he was struck by this transition from the confused,
verbose discussion with Pestsov and his brother to
this laconic, clear, almost wordless communication
of the most complex ideas.
Shtcherbatsky moved away from them,
and Kitty, going up to a card table, sat down, and,
taking up the chalk, began drawing diverging circles
over the new green cloth.
They began again on the subject that
had been started at dinner the liberty
and occupations of women. Levin was of the opinion
of Darya Alexandrovna that a girl who did not marry
should find a woman’s duties in a family.
He supported this view by the fact that no family
can get on without women to help; that in every family,
poor or rich, there are and must be nurses, either
relations or hired.
“No,” said Kitty, blushing,
but looking at him all the more boldly with her truthful
eyes; “a girl may be so circumstanced that she
cannot live in the family without humiliation, while
At the hint he understood her.
“Oh, yes,” he said. “Yes,
yes, yes you’re right; you’re
And he saw all that Pestsov had been
maintaining at dinner of the liberty of woman, simply
from getting a glimpse of the terror of an old maid’s
existence and its humiliation in Kitty’s heart;
and loving her, he felt that terror and humiliation,
and at once gave up his arguments.
A silence followed. She was
still drawing with the chalk on the table. Her
eyes were shining with a soft light. Under the
influence of her mood he felt in all his being a continually
growing tension of happiness.
“Ah! I’ve scribbled
all over the table!” she said, and, laying down
the chalk, she made a movement as though to get up.
“What! shall I be left alone without
her?” he thought with horror, and he took the
chalk. “Wait a minute,” he said,
sitting down to the table. “I’ve
long wanted to ask you one thing.”
He looked straight into her caressing,
though frightened eyes.
“Please, ask it.”
“Here,” he said; and he
wrote the initial letters, w, y, t, m, i, c, n,
b, d, t, m, n, o, t. These letters meant,
“When you told me it could never be, did that
mean never, or then?” There seemed no likelihood
that she could make out this complicated sentence;
but he looked at her as though his life depended on
her understanding the words. She glanced at
him seriously, then leaned her puckered brow on her
hands and began to read. Once or twice she stole
a look at him, as though asking him, “Is it what
“I understand,” she said, flushing a little.
“What is this word?” he
said, pointing to the n that stood for never.
“It means never,” she said; “but
that’s not true!”
He quickly rubbed out what he had
written, gave her the chalk, and stood up. She
wrote, t, i, c, n, a, d.
Dolly was completely comforted in
the depression caused by her conversation with Alexey
Alexandrovitch when she caught sight of the two figures:
Kitty with the chalk in her hand, with a shy and happy
smile looking upwards at Levin, and his handsome figure
bending over the table with glowing eyes fastened one
minute on the table and the next on her. He
was suddenly radiant: he had understood.
It meant, “Then I could not answer differently.”
He glanced at her questioningly, timidly.
“Yes,” her smile answered.
“And n…and now?” he asked.
“Well, read this. I’ll
tell you what I should like should like
so much!” she wrote the initial letters, i, y,
c, f, a, f, w, h. This meant, “If you could
forget and forgive what happened.”
He snatched the chalk with nervous,
trembling fingers, and breaking it, wrote the initial
letters of the following phrase, “I have nothing
to forget and to forgive; I have never ceased to love
She glanced at him with a smile that did not waver.
“I understand,” she said in a whisper.
He sat down and wrote a long phrase.
She understood it all, and without asking him, “Is
it this?” took the chalk and at once answered.
For a long while he could not understand
what she had written, and often looked into her eyes.
He was stupefied with happiness. He could not
supply the word she had meant; but in her charming
eyes, beaming with happiness, he saw all he needed
to know. And he wrote three letters. But
he had hardly finished writing when she read them
over her arm, and herself finished and wrote the answer,
“You’re playing secrétaire?”
said the old prince. “But we must really
be getting along if you want to be in time at the
Levin got up and escorted Kitty to the door.
In their conversation everything had
been said; it had been said that she loved him, and
that she would tell her father and mother that he
would come tomorrow morning.