Stepan Arkadyevitch saw immediately that things were not going well in the drawing-room without him. Darya Alexandrovna, in her best gray silk gown, obviously worried about the children, who were to have their dinner by themselves in the nursery, and by her husband’s absence, was not equal to the task of making the party mix without him. All were sitting like so many priests’ wives on a visit (so the old prince expressed it), obviously wondering why they were there, and pumping up remarks simply to avoid being silent. Turovtsin—good, simple man—felt unmistakably a fish out of water, and the smile with which his thick lips greeted Stepan Arkadyevitch said, as plainly as words: “Well, old boy, you have popped me down in a learned set! A drinking party now, or the Chateau des Fleurs, would be more in my line!” The old prince sat in silence, his bright little eyes watching Karenin from one side, and Stepan Arkadyevitch saw that he had already formed a phrase to sum up that politician of whom guests were invited to partake as though he were a sturgeon. Kitty was looking at the door, calling up all her energies to keep her from blushing at the entrance of Konstantin Levin. Young Shtcherbatsky, who had not been introduced to Karenin, was trying to look as though he were not in the least conscious of it. Karenin himself had followed the Petersburg fashion for a dinner with ladies and was wearing evening dress and a white tie. Stepan Arkadyevitch saw by his face that he had come simply to keep his promise, and was performing a disagreeable duty in being present at this gathering. He was indeed the person chiefly responsible for the chill benumbing all the guests before Stepan Arkadyevitch came in.
On entering the drawing room Stepan Arkadyevitch apologized, explaining that he had been detained by that prince, who was always the scapegoat for all his absences and unpunctualities, and in one moment he had made all the guests acquainted with each other, and, bringing together Alexey Alexandrovitch and Sergey Koznishev, started them on a discussion of the Russification of Poland, into which they immediately plunged with Pestsov. Slapping Turovtsin on the shoulder, he whispered something comic in his ear, and set him down by his wife and the old prince. Then he told Kitty she was looking very pretty that evening, and presented Shtcherbatsky to Karenin. In a moment he had so kneaded together the social dough that the drawing room became very lively, and there was a merry buzz of voices. Konstantin Levin was the only person who had not arrived. But this was so much the better, as going into the dining room, Stepan Arkadyevitch found to his horror that the port and sherry had been procured from Depre, and not from Levy, and, directing that the coachman should be sent off as speedily as possible to Levy’s, he was going back to the drawing room.
In the dining room he was met by Konstantin Levin.
“I’m not late?”