`If only they're better than I! That's all I desire. You don't know yet all the work,' he said, `with boys who've been left like mine to run wild abroad.'

`You'll catch up with all that. They're such clever children. The great thing is the education of character. That's what I learn when I look at your children.'

`You talk of the education of character. You can't imagine how difficult that is! You have hardly succeeded in combating one tendency when others crop up, and the struggle begins again. If one had not a support in religion - you remember we talked about that - no father could bring children up relying on his own strength alone, without that help.'

This subject, which always interested Levin, was cut short by the entrance of the beauty Natalya Alexandrovna, dressed to go out.

`I didn't know you were here,' she said, unmistakably feeling no regret, but a positive pleasure, in interrupting this conversation on a topic she had heard so much of that she was by now weary of it. `Well, how is Kitty? I am dining with you today. I tell you what, Arsenii,' she turned to her husband, `you take the carriage.'

And the husband and wife began to discuss their arrangements for the day. As the husband had to drive to meet someone on official business, while the wife had to go to the concert and some public meeting of a committee on the South-Eastern Question, there was a great deal to consider and settle. Levin had to take part in their plans as one of themselves. It was settled that Levin should go with Natalie to the concert and the meeting, and that from there they should send the carriage to the office for Arsenii and he should call for her and take her to Kitty's; or that, if he had not finished his work, he should send the carriage back and Levin would go with her.

`He's spoiling me,' Lvov said to his wife: `he assures me that our children are splendid, when I know how much bad there is in them.'

`Arsenii goes to extremes, I always say,' said his wife. `If you look for perfection, you will never be satisfied. And it's true, as papa says - that when we were brought up there was one extreme - we were kept in the attic, while our parents lived in the best rooms; now it's just the other way - the parents are in the washhouse, while the children are in the best rooms. Parents now are not expected to live at all, but to exist altogether for their children.'

`Well, what if they like it better? Lvov said, with his beautiful smile, touching her hand. `Anyone who didn't know you would think you were a stepmother, not a true mother.'

`No, extremes are not good in anything,' Natalie said serenely, putting his paper knife straight in its proper place on the table.

`Well, come here, you perfect children,' Lvov said to the two handsome boys who came in, and, after bowing to Levin, went up to their father, obviously wishing to ask him about something.

Levin would have liked to talk to them, to hear what they would say to their father, but Natalie began talking to him, and then Lvov's colleague in the service, Makhotin, walked in, wearing his Court dress, to go with him to meet someone, and a conversation was kept up without a break upon Herzegovina, Princess Korzinskaya, the town council, and the sudden death of Madame Apraksina.

Levin even forgot the commission intrusted to him. He recollected it as he was going into the hall.

`O, Kitty told me to talk to you about Oblonsky,' he said, as Lvov was standing on the stairs, seeing his wife and Levin off.

`Yes, yes, maman wants us, les beaux-frères, to attack him,' he said, blushing. `But why should I?'

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