“If you care for my profession of faith as regards that, I’ll tell you that I don’t believe there was any tragedy about it. And this is why. To my mind, love...both the sorts of love, which you remember Plato defines in his Banquet, served as the test of men. Some men only understand one sort, and some only the other. And those who only know the non-platonic love have no need to talk of tragedy. In such love there can be no sort of tragedy. ’I’m much obliged for the gratification, my humble respects’—that’s all the tragedy. And in platonic love there can be no tragedy, because in that love all is clear and pure, because...”
At that instant Levin recollected his own sins and the inner conflict he had lived through. And he added unexpectedly:
“But perhaps you are right. Very likely...I don’t know, I don’t know.”
“It’s this, don’t you see,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, “you’re very much all of a piece. That’s your strong point and your failing. You have a character that’s all of a piece, and you want the whole of life to be of a piece too—but that’s not how it is. You despise public official work because you want the reality to be invariably corresponding all the while with the aim—and that’s not how it is. You want a man’s work, too, always to have a defined aim, and love and family life always to be undivided—and that’s not how it is. All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”
Levin sighed and made no reply. He was thinking of his own affairs, and did not hear Oblonsky.
And suddenly both of them felt that though they were friends, though they had been dining and drinking together, which should have drawn them closer, yet each was thinking only of his own affairs, and they had nothing to do with one another. Oblonsky had more than once experienced this extreme sense of aloofness, instead of intimacy, coming on after dinner, and he knew what to do in such cases.
“Bill!” he called, and he went into the next room where he promptly came across an aide-de-camp of his acquaintance and dropped into conversation with him about an actress and her protector. And at once in the conversation with the aide-de-camp Oblonsky had a sense of relaxation and relief after the conversation with Levin, which always put him to too great a mental and spiritual strain.
When the Tatar appeared with a bill for twenty-six roubles and odd kopecks, besides a tip for himself, Levin, who would another time have been horrified, like any one from the country, at his share of fourteen roubles, did not notice it, paid, and set off homewards to dress and go to the Shtcherbatskys’ there to decide his fate.
The young Princess Kitty Shtcherbatskaya was eighteen. It was the first winter that she had been out in the world. Her success in society had been greater than that of either of her elder sisters, and greater even than her mother had anticipated. To say nothing of the young men who danced at the Moscow balls being almost all in love with Kitty, two serious suitors had already this first winter made their appearance: Levin, and immediately after his departure, Count Vronsky.