possessed, and now they can't pay us any rent. What's the meaning of that? You always praise the mouzhiks so.'

At that instant another lady came into the room, and Levin got up.

`Excuse me, Countess, but I really know nothing about it, and can't tell you anything,' he said, and looked round at the officer who came in behind the lady.

`That must be Vronsky,' thought Levin, and, to be sure of it, glanced at Kitty. She had already had time to look at Vronsky, and looked round at Levin. And, simply from the look in her eyes, that grew unconsciously brighter, Levin knew that she loved this man - knew it as surely as if she had told him in so many words. But what sort of a man was he?

Now, whether for good or for ill, Levin could not choose but remain; he must find out what the man was like whom she loved.

There are people who, on meeting a successful rival, no matter in what, are at once disposed to turn their backs on everything good in him, and to see only what is bad. There are people who, on the contrary, desire above all to find in that successful rival the qualities by which he has worsted them, and seek with a throbbing ache at heart only what is good. Levin belonged to the second class. But he had no difficulty in finding what was good and attractive in Vronsky. It was apparent at the first glance. Vronsky was a squarely built, dark man, not very tall, with a good-humored, handsome and exceedingly calm and firm face. Everything about his face and figure, from his short-cropped black hair and freshly shaven chin down to his loosely fitting, brand-new uniform, was simple and at the same time elegant. Making way for the lady who had come in, Vronsky went up to the Princess and then to Kitty.

As he approached her, his beautiful eyes shone with an especially tender light, and with a faint, happy and modestly triumphant smile (so it seemed to Levin), bowing carefully and respectfully over her, he held out his small broad hand to her.

Greeting and saying a few words to everyone, he sat down without once glancing at Levin, who had never taken his eyes off him.

`Let me introduce you,' said the Princess, indicating Levin. `Constantin Dmitrievich Levin, Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky.'

Vronsky got up and, looking cordially at Levin, shook hands with him.

`I believe I was to have dined with you this winter,' he said, smiling his simple and open smile; `but you had unexpectedly left for the country.'

`Constantin Dmitrievich despises and hates the town, and us townspeople,' said Countess Nordstone.

`My words must make a deep impression on you, since you remember them so well,' said Levin, and, suddenly becoming conscious that he had said just the same thing before, he reddened.

Vronsky looked at Levin and Countess Nordstone, and smiled.

`Are you always in the country?' he inquired. `I should think it must be dull in the winter.'

`It's not dull if one has work to do; besides, one's not dull by oneself,' Levin replied abruptly.

`I am fond of the country,' said Vronsky, noticing, yet affecting not to notice, Levin's tone.

`But I hope, Count, you would not consent to live in the country always,' said Countess Nordstone.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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