“I don’t know what you are referring to, maman,” he answered coldly. “Come, maman, let us go.”
Madame Karenina entered the carriage again to say good-bye to the countess.
“Well, countess, you have met your son, and I my brother,” she said. “And all my gossip is exhausted. I should have nothing more to tell you.”
“Oh, no,” said the countess, taking her hand. “I could go all around the world with you and never be dull. You are one of those delightful women in whose company it’s sweet to be silent as well as to talk. Now please don’t fret over your son; you can’t expect never to be parted.”
Madame Karenina stood quite still, holding herself very erect, and her eyes were smiling.
“Anna Arkadyevna,” the countess said in explanation to her son, “has a little son eight years old, I believe, and she has never been parted from him before, and she keeps fretting over leaving him.”
“Yes, the countess and I have been talking all the time, I of my son and she of hers,” said Madame Karenina, and again a smile lighted up her face, a caressing smile intended for him.
“I am afraid that you must have been dreadfully bored,” he said, promptly catching the ball of coquetry she had flung him. But apparently she did not care to pursue the conversation in that strain, and she turned to the old countess.
“Thank you so much. The time has passed so quickly. Good-bye, countess.”
“Good-bye, my love,” answered the countess. “Let me have a kiss of your pretty face. I speak plainly, at my age, and I tell you simply that I’ve lost my heart to you.”
Stereotyped as the phrase was, Madame Karenina obviously believed it and was delighted by it. She flushed, bent down slightly, and put her cheek to the countess’s lips, drew herself up again, and with the same smile fluttering between her lips and her eyes, she gave her hand to Vronsky. He pressed the little hand she gave him, and was delighted, as though at something special, by the energetic squeeze with which she freely and vigorously shook his hand. She went out with the rapid step which bore her rather fully-developed figure with such strange lightness.
“Very charming,” said the countess.
That was just what her son was thinking. His eyes followed her till her graceful figure was out of sight, and then the smile remained on his face. He saw out of the window how she went up to her brother, put her arm in his, and began telling him something eagerly, obviously something that had nothing to do with him, Vronsky, and at that he felt annoyed.
“Well, maman, are you perfectly well?” he repeated, turning to his mother.
“Everything has been delightful. Alexander has been very good, and Marie has grown very pretty. She’s very interesting.”
And she began telling him again of what interested her most—the christening of her grandson, for which she had been staying in Petersburg, and the special favor shown her elder son by the Tsar.