“Perhaps they’re not at home?” said Levin, as he went into the hall of Countess Bola’s house.
“At home; please walk in,” said the porter, resolutely removing his overcoat.
“How annoying!” thought Levin with a sigh, taking off one glove and stroking his hat. “What did I come for? What have I to say to them?”
As he passed through the first drawing room Levin met in the doorway Countess Bola, giving some order to a servant with a care-worn and severe face. On seeing Levin she smiled, and asked him to come into the little drawing room, where he heard voices. In this room there were sitting in armchairs the two daughters of the countess, and a Moscow colonel, whom Levin knew. Levin went up, greeted them, and sat down beside the sofa with his hat on his knees.
“How is your wife? Have you been at the concert? We couldn’t go. Mamma had to be at the funeral service.”
“Yes, I heard.... What a sudden death!” said Levin.
The countess came in, sat down on the sofa, and she too asked after his wife and inquired about the concert.
Levin answered, and repeated an inquiry about Madame Apraksina’s sudden death.
“But she was always in weak health.”
“Were you at the opera yesterday?”
“Yes, I was.”
“Lucca was very good.”
“Yes, very good,” he said, and as it was utterly of no consequence to him what they thought of him, he began repeating what they had heard a hundred times about the characteristics of the singer’s talent. Countess Bola pretended to be listening. Then, when he had said enough and paused, the colonel, who had been silent till then, began to talk. The colonel too talked of the opera, and about culture. At last, after speaking of the proposed folle journee at Turin’s, the colonel laughed, got up noisily, and went away. Levin too rose, but he saw by the face of the countess that it was not yet time for him to go. He must stay two minutes longer. He sat down.
But as he was thinking all the while how stupid it was, he could not find a subject for conversation, and sat silent.
“You are not going to the public meeting? They say it will be very interesting,” began the countess.
“No, I promised my belle-soeur to fetch her from it,” said Levin.
A silence followed. The mother once more exchanged glances with a daughter.
“Well, now I think the time has come,” thought Levin, and he got up. The ladies shook hands with him, and begged him to say mille choses to his wife for them.
The porter asked him, as he gave him his coat, “Where is your honor staying?” and immediately wrote down his address in a big handsomely bound book.
“Of course I don’t care, but still I feel ashamed and awfully stupid,” thought Levin, consoling himself with the reflection that everyone does it. He drove to the public meeting, where he was to find his sister-in-law, so as to drive home with her.