"Oblonsky's carriage!" the porter shouted in an angry bass. The carriage drove up and both got in. It was only for the first few moments, while the carriage was driving out of the clubhouse gates, that Levin was still under the influence of the club atmosphere of repose, comfort, and unimpeachable good form. But as soon as the carriage drove out into the street, and he felt it jolting over the uneven road, heard the angry shout of a sledge driver coming towards them, saw in the uncertain light the red blind of a tavern and the shops, this impression was dissipated, and he began to think over his actions, and to wonder whether he was doing right in going to see Anna. What would Kitty say? But Stepan Arkadyevitch gave him no time for reflection, and, as though divining his doubts, he scattered them.
"How glad I am," he said, "that you should know her! You know Dolly has long wished for it. And Lvov's been to see her, and often goes. Though she is my sister," Stepan Arkadyevitch pursued, "I don't hesitate to say that she's a remarkable woman. But you will see. Her position is very painful, especially now."
"Why especially now?"
"We are carrying on negotiations with her husband about a divorce. And he's agreed; but there are difficulties in regard to the son, and the business, which ought to have been arranged long ago, has been dragging on for three months past. As soon as the divorce is over, she will marry Vronsky. How stupid these old ceremonies are, that no one believes in, and which only prevent people being comfortable!" Stepan Arkadyevitch put in. "Well, then their position will be as regular as mine, as yours."
"What is the difficulty?" said Levin.
"Oh, it's a long and tedious story! The whole business is in such an anomalous position with us. But the point is she has been for three months in Moscow, where everyone knows her, waiting for the divorce; she goes out nowhere, sees no woman except Dolly, because, do you understand, she doesn't care to have people come as a favor. That fool Princess Varvara, even she has left her, considering this a breach of propriety. Well, you see, in such a position any other woman would not have found resources in herself. But you'll see how she has arranged her life—how calm, how dignified she is. To the left, in the crescent opposite the church!" shouted Stepan Arkadyevitch, leaning out of the window. "Phew! how hot it is!" he said, in spite of twelve degrees of frost, flinging his open overcoat still wider open.
"But she has a daughter: no doubt she's busy looking after her?" said Levin.
"I believe you picture every woman simply as a female, une couveuse," said Stepan Arkadyevitch. "If she's occupied, it must be with her children. No, she brings her up capitally, I believe, but one doesn't hear about her. She's busy, in the first place, with what she writes. I see you're smiling ironically, but you're wrong. She's writing a children's book, and doesn't talk about it to anyone, but she read it to me and I gave the manuscript to Vorkuev…you know the publisher…and he's an author himself too, I fancy. He understands those things, and he says it's a remarkable piece of work. But are you fancying she's an authoress?—not a bit of it. She's a woman with a heart, before everything, but you'll see. Now she has a little English girl with her, and a whole family she's looking after."
"Oh, something in a philanthropic way?"
"Why, you will look at everything in the worst light. It's not from philanthropy, it's from the heart. They—that is, Vronsky— had a trainer, an Englishman, first-rate in his own line, but a drunkard. He's completely given up to drink—delirium tremens— and the family were cast on the world. She saw them, helped them, got more and more interested in them, and now the whole family is on her hands. But not by way of patronage, you know, helping with money; she's herself preparing the boys in Russian for the high school, and she's taken the little girl to live with her. But you'll see her for yourself."
The carriage drove into the courtyard, and Stepan Arkadyevitch rang loudly at the entrance where sledges were standing.
And without asking the servant who opened the door whether the lady were at home, Stepan Arkadyevitch walked into the hall. Levin followed him, more and more doubtful whether he was doing right or wrong.
Looking at himself in the glass, Levin noticed that he was red in the face, but he felt certain he was not drunk, and he followed Stepan Arkadyevitch up the carpeted stairs. At the top Stepan Arkadyevitch inquired of the footman, who bowed to him as to an intimate friend, who was with Anna Arkadyevna, and received the answer that it was M. Vorkuev.
"Where are they?"
"In the study."
Passing through the dining room, a room not very large, with dark, paneled walls, Stepan Arkadyevitch and Levin walked over the soft carpet to the half-dark study, lighted up by a single lamp with a big dark shade. Another lamp with a reflector was hanging on the wall, lighting up a big full-length portrait of a woman, which Levin could not help looking at. It was the portrait of Anna, painted in Italy by Mihailov. While Stepan Arkadyevitch went behind the treillage, and the man's voice which had been speaking paused, Levin gazed at the portrait, which stood out from the frame in the brilliant light thrown on it, and he could not tear himself away from it. He positively forgot where he was, and not even hearing what was said, he could not take his eyes off the marvelous portrait. It was not a picture, but a living, charming woman, with black curling hair, with bare arms and shoulders, with a pensive smile on the lips, covered with soft down; triumphantly and softly she looked at him with eyes that baffled him. She was not living only because she was more beautiful than a living woman can be.
"I am delighted!" He heard suddenly near him a voice, unmistakably addressing him, the voice of the very woman he had been admiring in the portrait. Anna had come from behind the treillage to meet him, and Levin saw in the dim light of the study the very woman of the portrait, in a dark blue shot gown, not in the same position nor with the same expression, but with the same perfection of beauty which the artist had caught in the portrait. She was less dazzling in reality, but, on the other hand, there was something fresh and seductive in the living woman which was not in the portrait.