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, Countess Nordston.
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.