At four o'clock, conscious of his throbbing heart, Levin stepped out of a hired
sledge at the Zoological Gardens, and turned along the path to the frozen
mounds and the skating ground, knowing that he would certainly find her there,
as he had seen the Shtcherbatskys' carriage at the entrance.
It was a bright, frosty day. Rows of carriages, sledges, drivers, and policemen
were standing in the approach. Crowds of well-dressed people, with hats bright in
the sun, swarmed about the entrance and along the well-swept little paths
between the little houses adorned with carving in the Russian style. The old curly
birches of the gardens, all their twigs laden with snow, looked as though freshly
decked in sacred vestments.
He walked along the path towards the skating-ground, and kept saying to
himself--"You mustn't be excited, you must be calm. What's the matter with you?
What do you want? Be quiet, stupid," he conjured his heart. And the more he
tried to compose himself, the more breathless he found himself. An acquaintance
met him and called him by his name, but Levin did not even recognize him. He
went towards the mounds, whence came the clank of the chains of sledges as
they slipped down or were dragged up, the rumble of the sliding sledges, and the
sounds of merry voices. He walked on a few steps, and the skating-ground lay
open before his eyes, and at once, amidst all the skaters, he knew her.
He knew she was there by the rapture and the terror that seized on his heart.
She was standing talking to a lady at the opposite end of the ground. There was
apparently nothing striking either in her dress or her attitude. But for Levin she
was as easy to find in that crowd as a rose among nettles. Everything was made
bright by her. She was the smile that shed light on all round her. "Is it possible I
can go over there on the ice, go up to her?" he thought. The place where she
stood seemed to him a holy shrine, unapproachable, and there was one moment
when he was almost retreating, so overwhelmed was he with terror. He had to
make an effort to master himself, and to remind himself that people of all sorts
were moving about her, and that he too might come there to skate. He walked
down, for a long while avoiding looking at her as at the sun, but seeing her, as
one does the sun, without looking.
On that day of the week and at that time of day people of one set, all acquainted
with one another, used to meet on the ice. There were crack skaters there,
showing off their skill, and learners clinging to chairs with timid, awkward
movements, boys, and elderly people skating with hygienic motives. They
seemed to Levin an elect band of blissful beings because they were here, near
her. All the skaters, it seemed, with perfect self-possession, skated towards her,