Anna was the hostess only in conducting the conversation. The conversation was a difficult one for the lady of the house at a small table with persons present, like the steward and the architect, belonging to a completely different world, struggling not to be overawed by an elegance to which they were unaccustomed, and unable to sustain a large share in the general conversation. But this difficult conversation Anna directed with her usual tact and naturalness, and indeed she did so with actual enjoyment, as Darya Alexandrovna observed. The conversation began about the row Tushkevitch and Veslovsky had taken alone together in the boat, and Tushkevitch began describing the last boat races in Petersburg at the Yacht Club. But Anna, seizing the first pause, at once turned to the architect to draw him out of his silence.
“Nikolay Ivanitch was struck,” she said, meaning Sviazhsky, “at the progress the new building had made since he was here last; but I am there every day, and every day I wonder at the rate at which it grows.”
“It’s first-rate working with his excellency,” said the architect with a smile (he was respectful and composed, though with a sense of his own dignity). “It’s a very different matter to have to do with the district authorities. Where one would have to write out sheaves of papers, here I call upon the count, and in three words we settle the business.”
“The American way of doing business,” said Sviazhsky, with a smile.
“Yes, there they build in a rational fashion...”
The conversation passed to the misuse of political power in the United States, but Anna quickly brought it round to another topic, so as to draw the steward into talk.
“Have you ever seen a reaping machine?” she said, addressing Darya Alexandrovna. “We had just ridden over to look at one when we met. It’s the first time I ever saw one.”
“How do they work?” asked Dolly.
“Exactly like little scissors. A plank and a lot of little scissors. Like this.”
Anna took a knife and fork in her beautiful white hands covered with rings, and began showing how the machine worked. It was clear that she saw nothing would be understood from her explanation; but aware that her talk was pleasant and her hands beautiful she went on explaining.
“More like little penknives,” Veslovsky said playfully, never taking his eyes off her.
Anna gave a just perceptible smile, but made no answer. “Isn’t it true, Karl Fedoritch, that it’s just like little scissors?” she said to the steward.
“Oh, ja,” answered the German. "Es it ein ganz einfaches Ding," and he began to explain the construction of the machine.
“It’s a pity it doesn’t bind too. I saw one at the Vienna exhibition, which binds with a wire,” said Sviazhsky. “They would be more profitable in use.”
"Es kommt drauf an.... Der Preis vom Draht muss ausgerechnet werden." And the German, roused from his taciturnity, turned to Vronsky. "Das laesst sich ausrechnen, Erlaucht." The German was just feeling in the pocket where were his pencil and the notebook he always wrote in, but recollecting that he was at a dinner, and observing Vronsky’s chilly glance, he checked himself. "Zu compliziert, macht zu viel Klopot," he concluded.