"Ah, Konstantin Dmitrievitch! So you've come back to our corrupt
Babylon," she said, giving him her tiny, yellow hand, and
recalling what he had chanced to say early in the winter, that
Moscow was a Babylon. "Come, is Babylon reformed, or have you
degenerated?" she added, glancing with a simper at Kitty.
"It's very flattering for me, countess, that you remember my
words so well," responded Levin, who had succeeded in recovering
his composure, and at once from habit dropped into his tone of
joking hostility to the Countess Nordston. "They must certainly
make a great impression on you."
"Oh, I should think so! I always note them all down. Well,
Kitty, have you been skating again?...
And she began talking to Kitty. Awkward as it was for Levin to
withdraw now, it would still have been easier for him to
perpetrate this awkwardness than to remain all the evening and
see Kitty, who glanced at him now and then and avoided his eyes.
He was on the point of getting up, when the princess, noticing
that he was silent, addressed him.
"Shall you be long in Moscow? You're busy with the district
council, though, aren't you, and can't be away for long?"
"No, princess, I'm no longer a member of the council," he said.
"I have come up for a few days."
"There's something the matter with him," thought Countess
Nordston, glancing at his stern, serious face. "He isn't in his
old argumentative mood. But I'll draw him out. I do love making
a fool of him before Kitty, and I'll do it."
"Konstantin Dmitrievitch," she said to him, "do explain to me,
please, what's the meaning of it. You know all about such
things. At home in our village of Kaluga all the peasants and
all the women have drunk up all they possessed, and now they
can't pay us any rent. What's the meaning of that? You always
praise the peasants so."
At that instant another lady came into the room, and Levin got