But at that very moment the princess came in. There was a look of horror on her
face when she saw them alone, and their disturbed faces. Levin bowed to her,
and said nothing. Kitty did not speak nor lift her eyes. "Thank God, she has
refused him," thought the mother, and her face lighted up with the habitual smile
with which she greeted her guests on Thursdays. She sat down and began
questioning Levin about his life in the country. He sat down again, waiting for
other visitors to arrive, in order to retreat unnoticed.
Five minutes later there came in a friend of Kitty's, married the preceding winter,
She was a thin, sallow, sickly, and nervous woman, with brilliant black eyes. She
was fond of Kitty, and her affection for her showed itself, as the affection of
married women for girls always does, in the desire to make a match for Kitty after
her own ideal of married happiness; she wanted her to marry Vronsky. Levin she
had often met at the Shtcherbatskys' early in the winter, and she had always
disliked him. Her invariable and favorite pursuit, when they met, consisted in
making fun of him.
"I do like it when he looks down at me from the height of his grandeur, or breaks
off his learned conversation with me because I'm a fool, or is condescending to
me. I like that so; to see him condescending! I am so glad he can't bear me," she
used to say of him.
She was right, for Levin actually could not bear her, and despised her for what
she was proud of and regarded as a fine characteristic--her nervousness, her
delicate contempt and indifference for everything coarse and earthly.
The Countess Nordston and Levin got into that relation with one another not
seldom seen in society, when two persons, who remain externally on friendly
terms, despise each other to such a degree that they cannot even take each
other seriously, and cannot even be offended by each other.
The Countess Nordston pounced upon Levin at once.
"Ah, Konstantin Dmitrievitch! So you've come back to our corrupt Babylon," she
said, giving him her tiny, yellow hand, and recalling what he had chanced to say
early in the winter, that Moscow was a Babylon. "Come, is Babylon reformed, or
have you degenerated?" she added, glancing with a simper at Kitty.
"It's very flattering for me, countess, that you remember my words so well,"
responded Levin, who had succeeded in recovering his composure, and at once