“I tell you what I think,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling. “But I’ll say more: my wife is a wonderful woman...” Stepan Arkadyevitch sighed, remembering his position with his wife, and, after a moment’s silence, resumed—“She has a gift of foreseeing things. She sees right through people; but that’s not all; she knows what will come to pass, especially in the way of marriages. She foretold, for instance, that Princess Shahovskaya would marry Brenteln. No one would believe it, but it came to pass. And she’s on your side.”
“How do you mean?”
“It’s not only that she likes you—she says that Kitty is certain to be your wife.”
At these words Levin’s face suddenly lighted up with a smile, a smile not far from tears of emotion.
“She says that!” cried Levin. “I always said she was exquisite, your wife. There, that’s enough, enough said about it,” he said, getting up from his seat.
“All right, but do sit down.”
But Levin could not sit down. He walked with his firm tread twice up and down the little cage of a room, blinked his eyelids that his tears might not fall, and only then sat down to the table.
“You must understand,” said he, “it’s not love. I’ve been in love, but it’s not that. It’s not my feeling, but a sort of force outside me has taken possession of me. I went away, you see, because I made up my mind that it could never be, you understand, as a happiness that does not come on earth; but I’ve struggled with myself, I see there’s no living without it. And it must be settled.”
“What did you go away for?”
“Ah, stop a minute! Ah, the thoughts that come crowding on one! The questions one must ask oneself! Listen. You can’t imagine what you’ve done for me by what you said. I’m so happy that I’ve become positively hateful; I’ve forgotten everything. I heard today that my brother Nikolay...you know, he’s here...I had even forgotten him. It seems to me that he’s happy too. It’s a sort of madness. But one thing’s awful.... Here, you’ve been married, you know the feeling...it’s awful that we—old—with a past... not of love, but of sins...are brought all at once so near to a creature pure and innocent; it’s loathsome, and that’s why one can’t help feeling oneself unworthy.”
“Oh, well, you’ve not many sins on your conscience.”
“Alas! all the same,” said Levin, “when with loathing I go over my life, I shudder and curse and bitterly regret it.... Yes.”
“What would you have? The world’s made so,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“The one comfort is like that prayer, which I always liked: ’Forgive me not according to my unworthiness, but according to Thy lovingkindness.’ That’s the only way she can forgive me.”
Levin emptied his glass, and they were silent for a while.
“There’s one other thing I ought to tell you. Do you know Vronsky?” Stepan Arkadyevitch asked Levin.