Koznyshev rehearses his proposal to Varenka in his head. Although it is clear that marriage is on both their minds, they discuss mushrooms. Koznyshev opens his mouth portentously, but asks a question about mushroom; Varenka replies about mushrooms, and the moment has passed. On the way home, Koznyshev thinks that his reasoning about Varenka had been wrong, and that he should not betray his old love, the girl who died. When they return, Kitty can tell immediately by Varenka’s calm manner that they are not engaged, and she says so to Levin.
But the perfect setup falters. Tolstoy shows the reader that even matches where the stars seem perfectly aligned might not come to fruition, whereas others that don’t seem to work at all—i.e., Dolly and Oblonsky—continue to persist and somehow thrive. Koznyshev and Varenka do not share a subverbal, coded bond: when they talk about mushrooms, they are actually just talking about mushrooms.