Chapter 7Steps were heard at the door, and Princess Betsy, knowing it was Madame Karenina, glanced at Vronsky. He was looking toward the door, and his face wore a strange new expression. Joyfully, intently, and at the same time timidly, he gazed at the approaching figure, and slowly he rose to his feet. Anna walked into the drawing room. Holding herself extremely erect, as always, looking straight before her, and moving with her swift, resolute and light step, that distinguished her walk from that of other society women, she crossed the few paces that separated her from her hostess, shook hands with her, smiled, and with the same smile looked around at Vronsky. Vronsky bowed low and pushed a chair up for her.
She acknowledged this only by a slight nod, flushed, and frowned. But immediately, while rapidly greeting her acquaintances, and shaking the hands proffered to her, she addressed Princess Betsy:
`I have been at Countess Lidia's, and meant to have come here earlier, but I stayed on. Sir John was there. A most interesting man.'
`Oh, that's this missionary?'
`Yes; he told us about life in India, most interestingly.'
The conversation, interrupted by her coming in, flickered up again like the light of a lamp being blown out.
`Sir John! Yes, Sir John. I've seen him. He speaks well. Vlassieva is altogether in love with him.'
`And is it true that the younger Vlassieva is to marry Topov?'
`Yes - they say it's quite settled.'
`I wonder at the parents! They say it's a marriage of passion.'
`Of passion? What antediluvian notions you have! Whoever talks of passion nowadays?' said the ambassador's wife.
`What would you do? This silly old fashion is still far from dead,' said Vronsky.
`So much the worse for those who keep up the fashion. The only happy marriages I know are marriages of prudence.'
`Yes, - but then, how often the happiness of these prudent marriages is scattered like dust, precisely because that passion to which recognition has been denied appears on the scene,' said Vronsky.
`But by marriages of prudence we mean those in which both parties have sown their wild oats already. That's like scarlatina - one has to go through with it and get it over with.'
`In that case we must learn how to vaccinate for love, like small-pox.'
`I was in love in my young days - with a church clerk,' said the Princess Miaghkaia. `I don't know that it did me any good.'
`No; I think - all jokes aside - that to know love, one must first make a fault, and then mend it,' said Princess Betsy.
`Even after marriage?' said the ambassador's wife playfully.
`It's never too late to mend,' the diplomatist repeated the English proverb.
`Just so,' Betsy agreed; `one must make a mistake and rectify it. What do you think about it?' She turned to Anna, who, with a barely perceptible resolute smile on her lips, was listening to the conversation.