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,
"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 she
At the hint he understood her.
"Oh, yes," he said. "Yes, yes, yes--you're right; you're right!"
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
"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
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
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
"You're playing secretaire?" 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.