On entering the drawing room Stepan Arkadyevich apologized, explaining that he had been detained by that Prince who was always the scapegoat for all his absences and unpunctualities, and in one moment he had made all the guests acquainted with each other, and, bringing together Alexei Alexandrovich and Sergei Koznishev, had started them on a discussion of the Russification of Poland, into which they immediately plunged with Pestsov. Slapping Turovtsin on the shoulder, he whispered something comic in his ear, and set him down by his wife and the old Prince. Then he told Kitty she was looking very pretty that evening, and presented Shcherbatsky to Karenin. In a moment he had so kneaded together the social dough that the drawing room became very lively, and there was a merry buzz of voices. Konstantin Levin was the only person who had not arrived. But this was so much the better, as, going into the dining room, Stepan Arkadyevich found to his horror that the port and sherry had been procured from Depre, and not from Leve, and, directing that the coachman should be sent off as speedily as possible to Leve's he started back to the drawing room.
In the dining room he was met by Konstantin Levin.
`I'm not late?'
`You can never help being late!' said Stepan Arkadyevich, taking his arm.
`Have you a lot of people? Who's here?' asked Levin, unable to help blushing, as he knocked the snow off his cap with his glove.
`All our own set. Kitty's here. Come along, I'll introduce you to Karenin.'
Stepan Arkadyevich, for all his liberal views, was well aware that to meet Karenin was sure to be felt a flattering distinction, and so treated his best friends to this honor. But at that instant Konstantin Levin was not in a condition to feel all the gratification of making such an acquaintance. He had not seen Kitty since that memorable evening when he met Vronsky - not counting, that is, the moment when he had had a glimpse of her on the highroad. He had known at the bottom of his heart that he would see her here today. But, to keep his thoughts free, he had tried to persuade himself that he did not know it. Now when he heard that she was here, he was suddenly conscious of such delight, and at the same time of such dread, that his breath failed him and he could not utter what he wanted to say.
`What is she like, what is she like? As she used to be, or as she was in the carriage? What if Darya Alexandrovna told the truth? Why shouldn't it be the truth?' he thought.
`Oh, please, introduce me to Karenin,' he brought out with an effort, and with a desperately determined step he walked into the drawing room and beheld her.
She was not the same as she used to be, nor was she as she had been in the carriage; she was quite different.
She was scared, shy, shamefaced, and because of all this, still more charming. She saw him the very instant he walked into the room. She had been expecting him. She was delighted, and so confused at her own delight that there was a moment, the moment when he went up to her sister and glanced again at her, when she, and he, and Dolly, who saw it all, thought she would break down and begin to cry. She crimsoned, turned white, crimsoned again, and grew faint, waiting with quivering lips for him to come to her.
He went up to her, bowed, and held out his hand without speaking. Except for the slight quiver of her lips and the moisture in her eyes, making them brighter, her smile was almost calm as she said:
`How long it is since we've seen each other!' and, with desperate determination, with her cold hand squeezed his.
`You've not seen me, but I've seen you,' said Levin, with a radiant smile of happiness. `I saw you when you were driving from the railway station to Ergushovo.'
`When?' she asked, wondering.
`You were driving to Ergushovo,' said Levin, feeling as if he would sob with the rapture that was flooding his heart. - `And how dared I associate a thought of anything not innocent with this touching creature?
And, yes, I do believe what Darya Alexandrovna told me is true,' he thought.
Stepan Arkadyevich took him by the arm and led him away to Karenin.
`Let me introduce you.' He mentioned their names.
`Very glad to meet you again,' said Alexei Alexandrovich coldly, shaking hands with Levin.
`You are acquainted?' Stepan Arkadyevich asked in surprise.
`We spent three hours together in the train,' said Levin smiling, `but got out, just as in a masquerade, quite mystified - at least I was.'
`Oh, so that's it! Come along, please,' said Stepan Arkadyevich, pointing in the direction of the dining room.
The men went into the dining room and went up to the table for hors d'oeuvres, laid with six sorts of vodka and as many kinds of cheese, some with little silver spades and some without, caviar, herrings, preserves of various kinds, and plates with slices of French bread.
The men stood round the strong-smelling spirits and salt delicacies, and the discussion of the Russification of Poland between Koznishev, Karenin and Pestsov, died down in anticipation of dinner.
Sergei Ivanovich was unequaled in his skill in winding up the most heated and serious argument by some unexpected pinch of Attic salt that changed the disposition of his opponent. He did this now.
Alexei Alexandrovich had been maintaining that the Russification of Poland could only be accomplished as a result of greater principles, which ought to be introduced by the Russian government.
Pestsov insisted that one country can absorb another only when it is the more densely populated.
Koznishev admitted both points, but with limitations. As they were going out of the drawing room to conclude the argument, Koznishev said smiling:
`So, then, for the Russification of our foreign populations there is but one method - to bring up as many children as one can. My brother and I are terribly at fault, I see. You married men - especially you, Stepan Arkadyevich - are the real patriots: what number have you reached?' he said, smiling genially at their host and holding out a tiny wineglass to him.