Levin read it, and without raising his head stood with the note in his hands opposite Sergey Ivanovitch.
There was a struggle in his heart between the desire to forget his unhappy brother for the time, and the consciousness that it would be base to do so.
“He obviously wants to offend me,” pursued Sergey Ivanovitch; “but he cannot offend me, and I should have wished with all my heart to assist him, but I know it’s impossible to do that.”
“Yes, yes,” repeated Levin. “I understand and appreciate your attitude to him; but I shall go and see him.”
“If you want to, do; but I shouldn’t advise it,” said Sergey Ivanovitch. “As regards myself, I have no fear of your doing so; he will not make you quarrel with me; but for your own sake, I should say you would do better not to go. You can’t do him any good; still, do as you please.”
“Very likely I can’t do any good, but I feel—especially at such a moment—but that’s another thing—I feel I could not be at peace.”
“Well, that I don’t understand,” said Sergey Ivanovitch. “One thing I do understand,” he added; “it’s a lesson in humility. I have come to look very differently and more charitably on what is called infamous since brother Nikolay has become what he is...you know what he did...”
“Oh, it’s awful, awful!” repeated Levin.
After obtaining his brother’s address from Sergey Ivanovitch’s footman, Levin was on the point of setting off at once to see him, but on second thought he decided to put off his visit till the evening. The first thing to do to set his heart at rest was to accomplish what he had come to Moscow for. From his brother’s Levin went to Oblonsky’s office, and on getting news of the Shtcherbatskys from him, he drove to the place where he had been told he might find Kitty.
At four o’clock, conscious of his throbbing heart, Levin stepped out of a hired sledge at the Zoological Gardens, and turned along the path to the frozen mounds and the skating ground, knowing that he would certainly find her there, as he had seen the Shtcherbatskys’ carriage at the entrance.
It was a bright, frosty day. Rows of carriages, sledges, drivers, and policemen were standing in the approach. Crowds of well-dressed people, with hats bright in the sun, swarmed about the entrance and along the well-swept little paths between the little houses adorned with carving in the Russian style. The old curly birches of the gardens, all their twigs laden with snow, looked as though freshly decked in sacred vestments.
He walked along the path towards the skating-ground, and kept saying to himself—“You mustn’t be excited, you must be calm. What’s the matter with you? What do you want? Be quiet, stupid,” he conjured his heart. And the more he tried to compose himself, the more breathless he found himself. An acquaintance met him and called him by his name, but Levin did not even recognize him. He went towards the mounds, whence came the clank of the chains of sledges as they slipped down or were dragged up, the rumble of the sliding sledges, and the sounds of merry voices. He walked on a few steps, and the skating-ground lay open before his eyes, and at once, amidst all the skaters, he knew her.