“Oh, you’re laughing at it!”
“On the contrary, you can’t imagine how, when I look at you, I’m always learning the task that lies before me, that is the education of one’s children.”
“Well, there’s nothing for you to learn,” said Lvov.
“All I know,” said Levin, “is that I have never seen better brought-up children than yours, and I wouldn’t wish for children better than yours.”
Lvov visibly tried to restrain the expression of his delight, but he was positively radiant with smiles.
“If only they’re better than I! That’s all I desire. You don’t know yet all the work,” he said, “with boys who’ve been left like mine to run wild abroad.”
“You’ll catch all that up. They’re such clever children. The great thing is the education of character. That’s what I learn when I look at your children.”
“You talk of the education of character. You can’t imagine how difficult that is! You have hardly succeeded in combating one tendency when others crop up, and the struggle begins again. If one had not a support in religion—you remember we talked about that—no father could bring children up relying on his own strength alone without that help.”
This subject, which always interested Levin, was cut short by the entrance of the beauty Natalia Alexandrovna, dressed to go out.
“I didn’t know you were here,” she said, unmistakably feeling no regret, but a positive pleasure, in interrupting this conversation on a topic she had heard so much of that she was by now weary of it. “Well, how is Kitty? I am dining with you today. I tell you what, Arseny,” she turned to her husband, “you take the carriage.”
And the husband and wife began to discuss their arrangements for the day. As the husband had to drive to meet someone on official business, while the wife had to go to the concert and some public meeting of a committee on the Eastern Question, there was a great deal to consider and settle. Levin had to take part in their plans as one of themselves. It was settled that Levin should go with Natalia to the concert and the meeting, and that from there they should send the carriage to the office for Arseny, and he should call for her and take her to Kitty’s; or that, if he had not finished his work, he should send the carriage back and Levin would go with her.
“He’s spoiling me,” Lvov said to his wife; “he assures me that our children are splendid, when I know how much that’s bad there is in them.”
“Arseny goes to extremes, I always say,” said his wife. “If you look for perfection, you will never be satisfied. And it’s true, as papa says,—that when we were brought up there was one extreme—we were kept in the basement, while our parents lived in the best rooms; now it’s just the other way—the parents are in the wash house, while the children are in the best rooms. Parents now are not expected to live at all, but to exist altogether for their children.”