"I rather agree with your beau-frere," said Anna, "though not
quite on the same ground as he," she added with a smile. "I'm
afraid that we have too many of these public duties in these
latter days. Just as in old days there were so many government
functionaries that one had to call in a functionary for every
single thing, so now everyone's doing some sort of public duty.
Alexey has been here now six months, and he's a member, I do
believe, of five or six different public bodies. Du train que
cela va, the whole time will be wasted on it. And I'm afraid
that with such a multiplicity of these bodies, they'll end in
being a mere form. How many are you a member of, Nikolay
Ivanitch?" she turned to Sviazhsky--"over twenty, I fancy."
Anna spoke lightly, but irritation could be discerned in her
tone. Darya Alexandrovna, watching Anna and Vronsky attentively,
detected it instantly. She noticed, too, that as she spoke
Vronsky's face had immediately taken a serious and obstinate
expression. Noticing this, and that Princess Varvara at once
made haste to change the conversation by talking of Petersburg
acquaintances, and remembering what Vronsky had without apparent
connection said in the garden of his work in the country, Dolly
surmised that this question of public activity was connected with
some deep private disagreement between Anna and Vronsky.
The dinner, the wine, the decoration of the table were all very
good; but it was all like what Darya Alexandrovna had seen at
formal dinners and balls which of late years had become quite
unfamiliar to her; it all had the same impersonal and constrained
character, and so on an ordinary day and in a little circle of
friends it made a disagreeable impression on her.