“Ah, that’s a new trick!” said Levin, and he promptly ran up to the top to do this new trick.
“Don’t break your neck! it needs practice!” Nikolay Shtcherbatsky shouted after him.
Levin went to the steps, took a run from above as best he could, and dashed down, preserving his balance in this unwonted movement with his hands. On the last step he stumbled, but barely touching the ice with his hand, with a violent effort recovered himself, and skated off, laughing.
“How splendid, how nice he is!” Kitty was thinking at that time, as she came out of the pavilion with Mlle. Linon, and looked towards him with a smile of quiet affection, as though he were a favorite brother. “And can it be my fault, can I have done anything wrong? They talk of flirtation. I know it’s not he that I love; but still I am happy with him, and he’s so jolly. Only, why did he say that?...” she mused.
Catching sight of Kitty going away, and her mother meeting her at the steps, Levin, flushed from his rapid exercise, stood still and pondered a minute. He took off his skates, and overtook the mother and daughter at the entrance of the gardens.
“Delighted to see you,” said Princess Shtcherbatskaya. “On Thursdays we are home, as always.”
“We shall be pleased to see you,” the princess said stiffly.
This stiffness hurt Kitty, and she could not resist the desire to smooth over her mother’s coldness. She turned her head, and with a smile said:
“Good-bye till this evening.”
At that moment Stepan Arkadyevitch, his hat cocked on one side, with beaming face and eyes, strode into the garden like a conquering hero. But as he approached his mother-in-law, he responded in a mournful and crestfallen tone to her inquiries about Dolly’s health. After a little subdued and dejected conversation with his mother-in-law, he threw out his chest again, and put his arm in Levin’s.
“Well, shall we set off?” he asked. “I’ve been thinking about you all this time, and I’m very, very glad you’ve come,” he said, looking him in the face with a significant air.
“Yes, come along,” answered Levin in ecstasy, hearing unceasingly the sound of that voice saying, “Good-bye till this evening,” and seeing the smile with which it was said.
“To the England or the Hermitage?”
“I don’t mind which.”
“All right, then, the England,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, selecting that restaurant because he owed more there than at the Hermitage, and consequently considered it mean to avoid it. “Have you got a sledge? That’s first-rate, for I sent my carriage home.”
The friends hardly spoke all the way. Levin was wondering what that change in Kitty’s expression had meant, and alternately assuring himself that there was hope, and falling into despair, seeing clearly that his hopes were insane, and yet all the while he felt himself quite another man, utterly unlike what he had been before her smile and those words, “Good-bye till this evening.”