“Oh, why so?.... No, I have nothing to trouble me,” she responded coldly; and she added immediately: “You haven’t seen Mlle. Linon, have you?”
“Go and speak to her, she likes you so much.”
“What’s wrong? I have offended her. Lord help me!” thought Levin, and he flew towards the old Frenchwoman with the gray ringlets, who was sitting on a bench. Smiling and showing her false teeth, she greeted him as an old friend.
“Yes, you see we’re growing up,” she said to him, glancing towards Kitty, “and growing old. Tiny bear has grown big now!” pursued the Frenchwoman, laughing, and she reminded him of his joke about the three young ladies whom he had compared to the three bears in the English nursery tale. “Do you remember that’s what you used to call them?”
He remembered absolutely nothing, but she had been laughing at the joke for ten years now, and was fond of it.
“Now, go and skate, go and skate. Our Kitty has learned to skate nicely, hasn’t she?”
When Levin darted up to Kitty her face was no longer stern; her eyes looked at him with the same sincerity and friendliness, but Levin fancied that in her friendliness there was a certain note of deliberate composure. And he felt depressed. After talking a little of her old governess and her peculiarities, she questioned him about his life.
“Surely you must be dull in the country in the winter, aren’t you?” she said.
“No, I’m not dull, I am very busy,” he said, feeling that she was holding him in check by her composed tone, which he would not have the force to break through, just as it had been at the beginning of the winter.
“Are you going to stay in town long?” Kitty questioned him.
“I don’t know,” he answered, not thinking of what he was saying. The thought that if he were held in check by her tone of quiet friendliness he would end by going back again without deciding anything came into his mind, and he resolved to make a struggle against it.
“How is it you don’t know?”
“I don’t know. It depends upon you,” he said, and was immediately horror-stricken at his own words.
Whether it was that she had heard his words, or that she did not want to hear them, she made a sort of stumble, twice struck out, and hurriedly skated away from him. She skated up to Mlle. Linon, said something to her, and went towards the pavilion where the ladies took off their skates.
“My God! what have I done! Merciful God! help me, guide me,” said Levin, praying inwardly, and at the same time, feeling a need of violent exercise, he skated about describing inner and outer circles.
At that moment one of the young men, the best of the skaters of the day, came out of the coffee-house in his skates, with a cigarette in his mouth. Taking a run, he dashed down the steps in his skates, crashing and bounding up and down. He flew down, and without even changing the position of his hands, skated away over the ice.