“No, I think the princess is tired, and horses don’t interest her,” Vronsky said to Anna, who wanted to go on to the stables, where Sviazhsky wished to see the new stallion. “You go on, while I escort the princess home, and we’ll have a little talk,” he said, “if you would like that?” he added, turning to her.
“I know nothing about horses, and I shall be delighted,” answered Darya Alexandrovna, rather astonished.
She saw by Vronsky’s face that he wanted something from her. She was not mistaken. As soon as they had passed through the little gate back into the garden, he looked in the direction Anna had taken, and having made sure that she could neither hear nor see them, he began:
“You guess that I have something I want to say to you,” he said, looking at her with laughing eyes. “I am not wrong in believing you to be a friend of Anna’s.” He took off his hat, and taking out his handkerchief, wiped his head, which was growing bald.
Darya Alexandrovna made no answer, and merely stared at him with dismay. When she was left alone with him, she suddenly felt afraid; his laughing eyes and stern expression scared her.
The most diverse suppositions as to what he was about to speak of to her flashed into her brain. “He is going to beg me to come to stay with them with the children, and I shall have to refuse; or to create a set that will receive Anna in Moscow.... Or isn’t it Vassenka Veslovsky and his relations with Anna? Or perhaps about Kitty, that he feels he was to blame?” All her conjectures were unpleasant, but she did not guess what he really wanted to talk about to her.
“You have so much influence with Anna, she is so fond of you,” he said; “do help me.”
Darya Alexandrovna looked with timid inquiry into his energetic face, which under the lime-trees was continually being lighted up in patches by the sunshine, and then passing into complete shadow again. She waited for him to say more, but he walked in silence beside her, scratching with his cane in the gravel.
“You have come to see us, you, the only woman of Anna’s former friends—I don’t count Princess Varvara—but I know that you have done this not because you regard our position as normal, but because, understanding all the difficulty of the position, you still love her and want to be a help to her. Have I understood you rightly?” he asked, looking round at her.
“Oh, yes,” answered Darya Alexandrovna, putting down her sunshade, “but....”
“No,” he broke in, and unconsciously, oblivious of the awkward position into which he was putting his companion, he stopped abruptly, so that she had to stop short too. “No one feels more deeply and intensely than I do all the difficulty of Anna’s position; and that you may well understand, if you do me the honor of supposing I have any heart. I am to blame for that position, and that is why I feel it.”
“I understand,” said Darya Alexandrovna, involuntarily admiring the sincerity and firmness with which he said this. “But just because you feel yourself responsible, you exaggerate it, I am afraid,” she said. “Her position in the world is difficult, I can well understand.”
“In the world it is hell!” he brought out quickly, frowning darkly. “You can’t imagine moral sufferings greater than what she went through in Petersburg in that fortnight ... and I beg you to believe it.”
“Yes, but here, so long as neither Anna ... nor you miss society....”
“Society!” he said contemptuously, “how could I miss society?”
“So far—and it may be so always—you are happy and at peace. I see in Anna that she is happy, perfectly happy, she has had time to tell me so much already,” said Darya Alexandrovna, smiling; and involuntarily, as she said this, at the same moment a doubt entered her mind whether Anna really were happy.
But Vronsky, it appeared, had no doubts on that score.
“Yes, yes,” he said, “I know that she has revived after all her sufferings; she is happy. She is happy in the present. But I?... I am afraid of what is before us ... I beg your pardon, you would like to walk on?”
“No, I don’t mind.”
“Well, then, let us sit here.”
Darya Alexandrovna sat down on a garden seat in a corner of the avenue. He stood up facing her.
“I see that she is happy,” he repeated, and the doubt whether she were happy sank more deeply into Darya Alexandrovna’s mind. “But can it last? Whether we have acted rightly or wrongly is another question, but the die is cast,” he said, passing from Russian to French, “and we are bound together for life. We are united by all the ties of love that we hold most sacred. We have a child, we may have other children. But the law and all the conditions of our position are such that thousands of complications arise which she does not see and does not want to see. And that one can well understand. But I can’t help seeing them. My daughter is by law not my daughter, but Karenin’s. I cannot bear this falsity!” he said, with a vigorous gesture of refusal, and he looked with gloomy inquiry towards Darya Alexandrovna.
She made no answer, but simply gazed at him. He went on:
“One day a son may be born, my son, and he will be legally a Karenin; he will not be the heir of my name nor of my property, and however happy we may be in our home life and however many children we may have, there will be no real tie between us. They will be Karenins. You can understand the bitterness and horror of this position! I have tried to speak of this to Anna. It irritates her. She does not understand, and to her I cannot speak plainly of all this. Now look at another side. I am happy, happy in her love, but I must have occupation. I have found occupation, and am proud of what I am doing and consider it nobler than the pursuits of my former companions at court and in the army. And most certainly I would not change the work I am doing for theirs. I am working here, settled in my own place, and I am happy and contented, and we need nothing more to make us happy. I love my work here. Ce n’est pas un pis-aller, on the contrary....”
Darya Alexandrovna noticed that at this point in his explanation he grew confused, and she did not quite understand this digression, but she felt that having once begun to speak of matters near his heart, of which he could not speak to Anna, he was now making a clean breast of everything, and that the question of his pursuits in the country fell into the same category of matters near his heart, as the question of his relations with Anna.
“Well, I will go on,” he said, collecting himself. “The great thing is that as I work I want to have a conviction that what I am doing will not die with me, that I shall have heirs to come after me,—and this I have not. Conceive the position of a man who knows that his children, the children of the woman he loves, will not be his, but will belong to someone who hates them and cares nothing about them! It is awful!”
He paused, evidently much moved.
“Yes, indeed, I see that. But what can Anna do?” queried Darya Alexandrovna.
“Yes, that brings me to the object of my conversation,” he said, calming himself with an effort. “Anna can, it depends on her.... Even to petition the Tsar for legitimization, a divorce is essential. And that depends on Anna. Her husband agreed to a divorce—at that time your husband had arranged it completely. And now, I know, he would not refuse it. It is only a matter of writing to him. He said plainly at that time that if she expressed the desire, he would not refuse. Of course,” he said gloomily, “it is one of those Pharisaical cruelties of which only such heartless men are capable. He knows what agony any recollection of him must give her, and knowing her, he must have a letter from her. I can understand that it is agony to her. But the matter is of such importance, that one must passer par-dessus toutes ces finesses de sentiment. Il y va du bonheur et de l’existence d’Anne et de ses enfants. I won’t speak of myself, though it’s hard for me, very hard,” he said, with an expression as though he were threatening someone for its being hard for him. “And so it is, princess, that I am shamelessly clutching at you as an anchor of salvation. Help me to persuade her to write to him and ask for a divorce.”
“Yes, of course,” Darya Alexandrovna said dreamily, as she vividly recalled her last interview with Alexey Alexandrovitch. “Yes, of course,” she repeated with decision, thinking of Anna.
“Use your influence with her, make her write. I don’t like—I’m almost unable to speak about this to her.”
“Very well, I will talk to her. But how is it she does not think of it herself?” said Darya Alexandrovna, and for some reason she suddenly at that point recalled Anna’s strange new habit of half-closing her eyes. And she remembered that Anna drooped her eyelids just when the deeper questions of life were touched upon. “Just as though she half-shut her eyes to her own life, so as not to see everything,” thought Dolly. “Yes, indeed, for my own sake and for hers I will talk to her,” Dolly said in reply to his look of gratitude.
They got up and walked to the house.
When Anna found Dolly at home before her, she looked intently in her eyes, as though questioning her about the talk she had had with Vronsky, but she made no inquiry in words.
“I believe it’s dinner time,” she said. “We’ve not seen each other at all yet. I am reckoning on the evening. Now I want to go and dress. I expect you do too; we all got splashed at the buildings.”
Dolly went to her room and she felt amused. To change her dress was impossible, for she had already put on her best dress. But in order to signify in some way her preparation for dinner, she asked the maid to brush her dress, changed her cuffs and tie, and put some lace on her head.
“This is all I can do,” she said with a smile to Anna, who came in to her in a third dress, again of extreme simplicity.
“Yes, we are too formal here,” she said, as it were apologizing for her magnificence. “Alexey is delighted at your visit, as he rarely is at anything. He has completely lost his heart to you,” she added. “You’re not tired?”
There was no time for talking about anything before dinner. Going into the drawing-room they found Princess Varvara already there, and the gentlemen of the party in black frock-coats. The architect wore a swallow-tail coat. Vronsky presented the doctor and the steward to his guest. The architect he had already introduced to her at the hospital.
A stout butler, resplendent with a smoothly shaven round chin and a starched white cravat, announced that dinner was ready, and the ladies got up. Vronsky asked Sviazhsky to take in Anna Arkadyevna, and himself offered his arm to Dolly. Veslovsky was before Tushkevitch in offering his arm to Princess Varvara, so that Tushkevitch with the steward and the doctor walked in alone.
The dinner, the dining-room, the service, the waiting at table, the wine, and the food, were not simply in keeping with the general tone of modern luxury throughout all the house, but seemed even more sumptuous and modern. Darya Alexandrovna watched this luxury which was novel to her, and as a good housekeeper used to managing a household—although she never dreamed of adapting anything she saw to her own household, as it was all in a style of luxury far above her own manner of living—she could not help scrutinizing every detail, and wondering how and by whom it was all done. Vassenka Veslovsky, her husband, and even Sviazhsky, and many other people she knew, would never have considered this question, and would have readily believed what every well-bred host tries to make his guests feel, that is, that all that is well-ordered in his house has cost him, the host, no trouble whatever, but comes of itself. Darya Alexandrovna was well aware that even porridge for the children’s breakfast does not come of itself, and that therefore, where so complicated and magnificent a style of luxury was maintained, someone must give earnest attention to its organization. And from the glance with which Alexey Kirillovitch scanned the table, from the way he nodded to the butler, and offered Darya Alexandrovna her choice between cold soup and hot soup, she saw that it was all organized and maintained by the care of the master of the house himself. It was evident that it all rested no more upon Anna than upon Veslovsky. She, Sviazhsky, the princess, and Veslovsky, were equally guests, with light hearts enjoying what had been arranged for them.
Anna was the hostess only in conducting the conversation. The conversation was a difficult one for the lady of the house at a small table with persons present, like the steward and the architect, belonging to a completely different world, struggling not to be overawed by an elegance to which they were unaccustomed, and unable to sustain a large share in the general conversation. But this difficult conversation Anna directed with her usual tact and naturalness, and indeed she did so with actual enjoyment, as Darya Alexandrovna observed. The conversation began about the row Tushkevitch and Veslovsky had taken alone together in the boat, and Tushkevitch began describing the last boat races in Petersburg at the Yacht Club. But Anna, seizing the first pause, at once turned to the architect to draw him out of his silence.
“Nikolay Ivanitch was struck,” she said, meaning Sviazhsky, “at the progress the new building had made since he was here last; but I am there every day, and every day I wonder at the rate at which it grows.”
“It’s first-rate working with his excellency,” said the architect with a smile (he was respectful and composed, though with a sense of his own dignity). “It’s a very different matter to have to do with the district authorities. Where one would have to write out sheaves of papers, here I call upon the count, and in three words we settle the business.”
“The American way of doing business,” said Sviazhsky, with a smile.
“Yes, there they build in a rational fashion....”
The conversation passed to the misuse of political power in the United States, but Anna quickly brought it round to another topic, so as to draw the steward into talk.
“Have you ever seen a reaping machine?” she said, addressing Darya Alexandrovna. “We had just ridden over to look at one when we met. It’s the first time I ever saw one.”
“How do they work?” asked Dolly.
“Exactly like little scissors. A plank and a lot of little scissors. Like this.”
Anna took a knife and fork in her beautiful white hands covered with rings, and began showing how the machine worked. It was clear that she saw nothing would be understood from her explanation; but aware that her talk was pleasant and her hands beautiful she went on explaining.
“More like little penknives,” Veslovsky said playfully, never taking his eyes off her.
Anna gave a just perceptible smile, but made no answer. “Isn’t it true, Karl Fedoritch, that it’s just like little scissors?” she said to the steward.
“Oh, ja,” answered the German. “Es ist ein ganz einfaches Ding,” and he began to explain the construction of the machine.
“It’s a pity it doesn’t bind too. I saw one at the Vienna exhibition, which binds with a wire,” said Sviazhsky. “They would be more profitable in use.”
“Es kommt drauf an.... Der Preis vom Draht muss ausgerechnet werden.” And the German, roused from his taciturnity, turned to Vronsky. “Das lässt sich ausrechnen, Erlaucht.” The German was just feeling in the pocket where were his pencil and the notebook he always wrote in, but recollecting that he was at a dinner, and observing Vronsky’s chilly glance, he checked himself. “Zu compliziert, macht zu viel Klopot,” he concluded.
“Wünscht man Dochots, so hat man auch Klopots,” said Vassenka Veslovsky, mimicking the German. “J’adore l’allemand,” he addressed Anna again with the same smile.
“Cessez,” she said with playful severity.
“We expected to find you in the fields, Vassily Semyonitch,” she said to the doctor, a sickly-looking man; “have you been there?”
“I went there, but I had taken flight,” the doctor answered with gloomy jocoseness.
“Then you’ve taken a good constitutional?”
“Well, and how was the old woman? I hope it’s not typhus?”
“Typhus it is not, but it’s taking a bad turn.”
“What a pity!” said Anna, and having thus paid the dues of civility to her domestic circle, she turned to her own friends.
“It would be a hard task, though, to construct a machine from your description, Anna Arkadyevna,” Sviazhsky said jestingly.
“Oh, no, why so?” said Anna with a smile that betrayed that she knew there was something charming in her disquisitions upon the machine that had been noticed by Sviazhsky. This new trait of girlish coquettishness made an unpleasant impression on Dolly.
“But Anna Arkadyevna’s knowledge of architecture is marvelous,” said Tushkevitch.
“To be sure, I heard Anna Arkadyevna talking yesterday about plinths and damp-courses,” said Veslovsky. “Have I got it right?”
“There’s nothing marvelous about it, when one sees and hears so much of it,” said Anna. “But, I dare say, you don’t even know what houses are made of?”
Darya Alexandrovna saw that Anna disliked the tone of raillery that existed between her and Veslovsky, but fell in with it against her will.
Vronsky acted in this matter quite differently from Levin. He obviously attached no significance to Veslovsky’s chattering; on the contrary, he encouraged his jests.
“Come now, tell us, Veslovsky, how are the stones held together?”
“By cement, of course.”
“Bravo! And what is cement?”
“Oh, some sort of paste ... no, putty,” said Veslovsky, raising a general laugh.
The company at dinner, with the exception of the doctor, the architect, and the steward, who remained plunged in gloomy silence, kept up a conversation that never paused, glancing off one subject, fastening on another, and at times stinging one or the other to the quick. Once Darya Alexandrovna felt wounded to the quick, and got so hot that she positively flushed and wondered afterwards whether she had said anything extreme or unpleasant. Sviazhsky began talking of Levin, describing his strange view that machinery is simply pernicious in its effects on Russian agriculture.
“I have not the pleasure of knowing this M. Levin,” Vronsky said, smiling, “but most likely he has never seen the machines he condemns; or if he has seen and tried any, it must have been after a queer fashion, some Russian imitation, not a machine from abroad. What sort of views can anyone have on such a subject?”
“Turkish views, in general,” Veslovsky said, turning to Anna with a smile.
“I can’t defend his opinions,” Darya Alexandrovna said, firing up; “but I can say that he’s a highly cultivated man, and if he were here he would know very well how to answer you, though I am not capable of doing so.”
“I like him extremely, and we are great friends,” Sviazhsky said, smiling good-naturedly. “Mais pardon, il est un petit peu toqué; he maintains, for instance, that district councils and arbitration boards are all of no use, and he is unwilling to take part in anything.”
“It’s our Russian apathy,” said Vronsky, pouring water from an iced decanter into a delicate glass on a high stem; “we’ve no sense of the duties our privileges impose upon us, and so we refuse to recognize these duties.”
“I know no man more strict in the performance of his duties,” said Darya Alexandrovna, irritated by Vronsky’s tone of superiority.
“For my part,” pursued Vronsky, who was evidently for some reason or other keenly affected by this conversation, “such as I am, I am, on the contrary, extremely grateful for the honor they have done me, thanks to Nikolay Ivanitch” (he indicated Sviazhsky), “in electing me a justice of the peace. I consider that for me the duty of being present at the session, of judging some peasants’ quarrel about a horse, is as important as anything I can do. And I shall regard it as an honor if they elect me for the district council. It’s only in that way I can pay for the advantages I enjoy as a landowner. Unluckily they don’t understand the weight that the big landowners ought to have in the state.”
It was strange to Darya Alexandrovna to hear how serenely confident he was of being right at his own table. She thought how Levin, who believed the opposite, was just as positive in his opinions at his own table. But she loved Levin, and so she was on his side.
“So we can reckon upon you, count, for the coming elections?” said Sviazhsky. “But you must come a little beforehand, so as to be on the spot by the eighth. If you would do me the honor to stop with me.”
“I rather agree with your beau-frère,” said Anna, “though not quite on the same ground as he,” she added with a smile. “I’m afraid that we have too many of these public duties in these latter days. Just as in old days there were so many government functionaries that one had to call in a functionary for every single thing, so now everyone’s doing some sort of public duty. Alexey has been here now six months, and he’s a member, I do believe, of five or six different public bodies. Du train que cela va, the whole time will be wasted on it. And I’m afraid that with such a multiplicity of these bodies, they’ll end in being a mere form. How many are you a member of, Nikolay Ivanitch?” she turned to Sviazhsky—“over twenty, I fancy.”
Anna spoke lightly, but irritation could be discerned in her tone. Darya Alexandrovna, watching Anna and Vronsky attentively, detected it instantly. She noticed, too, that as she spoke Vronsky’s face had immediately taken a serious and obstinate expression. Noticing this, and that Princess Varvara at once made haste to change the conversation by talking of Petersburg acquaintances, and remembering what Vronsky had without apparent connection said in the garden of his work in the country, Dolly surmised that this question of public activity was connected with some deep private disagreement between Anna and Vronsky.
The dinner, the wine, the decoration of the table were all very good; but it was all like what Darya Alexandrovna had seen at formal dinners and balls which of late years had become quite unfamiliar to her; it all had the same impersonal and constrained character, and so on an ordinary day and in a little circle of friends it made a disagreeable impression on her.
After dinner they sat on the terrace, then they proceeded to play lawn tennis. The players, divided into two parties, stood on opposite sides of a tightly drawn net with gilt poles on the carefully leveled and rolled croquet-ground. Darya Alexandrovna made an attempt to play, but it was a long time before she could understand the game, and by the time she did understand it, she was so tired that she sat down with Princess Varvara and simply looked on at the players. Her partner, Tushkevitch, gave up playing too, but the others kept the game up for a long time. Sviazhsky and Vronsky both played very well and seriously. They kept a sharp lookout on the balls served to them, and without haste or getting in each other’s way, they ran adroitly up to them, waited for the rebound, and neatly and accurately returned them over the net. Veslovsky played worse than the others. He was too eager, but he kept the players lively with his high spirits. His laughter and outcries never paused. Like the other men of the party, with the ladies’ permission, he took off his coat, and his solid, comely figure in his white shirt-sleeves, with his red perspiring face and his impulsive movements, made a picture that imprinted itself vividly on the memory.
When Darya Alexandrovna lay in bed that night, as soon as she closed her eyes, she saw Vassenka Veslovsky flying about the croquet ground.
During the game Darya Alexandrovna was not enjoying herself. She did not like the light tone of raillery that was kept up all the time between Vassenka Veslovsky and Anna, and the unnaturalness altogether of grown-up people, all alone without children, playing at a child’s game. But to avoid breaking up the party and to get through the time somehow, after a rest she joined the game again, and pretended to be enjoying it. All that day it seemed to her as though she were acting in a theater with actors cleverer than she, and that her bad acting was spoiling the whole performance. She had come with the intention of staying two days, if all went well. But in the evening, during the game, she made up her mind that she would go home next day. The maternal cares and worries, which she had so hated on the way, now, after a day spent without them, struck her in quite another light, and tempted her back to them.
When, after evening tea and a row by night in the boat, Darya Alexandrovna went alone to her room, took off her dress, and began arranging her thin hair for the night, she had a great sense of relief.
It was positively disagreeable to her to think that Anna was coming to see her immediately. She longed to be alone with her own thoughts.
Dolly was wanting to go to bed when Anna came in to see her, attired for the night. In the course of the day Anna had several times begun to speak of matters near her heart, and every time after a few words she had stopped: “Afterwards, by ourselves, we’ll talk about everything. I’ve got so much I want to tell you,” she said.
Now they were by themselves, and Anna did not know what to talk about. She sat in the window looking at Dolly, and going over in her own mind all the stores of intimate talk which had seemed so inexhaustible beforehand, and she found nothing. At that moment it seemed to her that everything had been said already.
“Well, what of Kitty?” she said with a heavy sigh, looking penitently at Dolly. “Tell me the truth, Dolly: isn’t she angry with me?”
“Angry? Oh, no!” said Darya Alexandrovna, smiling.
“But she hates me, despises me?”
“Oh, no! But you know that sort of thing isn’t forgiven.”
“Yes, yes,” said Anna, turning away and looking out of the open window. “But I was not to blame. And who is to blame? What’s the meaning of being to blame? Could it have been otherwise? What do you think? Could it possibly have happened that you didn’t become the wife of Stiva?”
“Really, I don’t know. But this is what I want you to tell me....”
“Yes, yes, but we’ve not finished about Kitty. Is she happy? He’s a very nice man, they say.”
“He’s much more than very nice. I don’t know a better man.”
“Ah, how glad I am! I’m so glad! Much more than very nice,” she repeated.
“But tell me about yourself. We’ve a great deal to talk about. And I’ve had a talk with....” Dolly did not know what to call him. She felt it awkward to call him either the count or Alexey Kirillovitch.
“With Alexey,” said Anna, “I know what you talked about. But I wanted to ask you directly what you think of me, of my life?”
“How am I to say like that straight off? I really don’t know.”
“No, tell me all the same.... You see my life. But you mustn’t forget that you’re seeing us in the summer, when you have come to us and we are not alone.... But we came here early in the spring, lived quite alone, and shall be alone again, and I desire nothing better. But imagine me living alone without him, alone, and that will be ... I see by everything that it will often be repeated, that he will be half the time away from home,” she said, getting up and sitting down close by Dolly.
“Of course,” she interrupted Dolly, who would have answered, “of course I won’t try to keep him by force. I don’t keep him indeed. The races are just coming, his horses are running, he will go. I’m very glad. But think of me, fancy my position.... But what’s the use of talking about it?” She smiled. “Well, what did he talk about with you?”
“He spoke of what I want to speak about of myself, and it’s easy for me to be his advocate; of whether there is not a possibility ... whether you could not....” (Darya Alexandrovna hesitated) “correct, improve your position.... You know how I look at it.... But all the same, if possible, you should get married....”
“Divorce, you mean?” said Anna. “Do you know, the only woman who came to see me in Petersburg was Betsy Tverskaya? You know her, of course? Au fond, c’est la femme la plus depravée qui existe. She had an intrigue with Tushkevitch, deceiving her husband in the basest way. And she told me that she did not care to know me so long as my position was irregular. Don’t imagine I would compare ... I know you, darling. But I could not help remembering.... Well, so what did he say to you?” she repeated.
“He said that he was unhappy on your account and his own. Perhaps you will say that it’s egoism, but what a legitimate and noble egoism. He wants first of all to legitimize his daughter, and to be your husband, to have a legal right to you.”
“What wife, what slave can be so utterly a slave as I, in my position?” she put in gloomily.
“The chief thing he desires ... he desires that you should not suffer.”
“That’s impossible. Well?”
“Well, and the most legitimate desire—he wishes that your children should have a name.”
“What children?” Anna said, not looking at Dolly, and half closing her eyes.
“Annie and those to come....”
“He need not trouble on that score; I shall have no more children.”
“How can you tell that you won’t?”
“I shall not, because I don’t wish it.” And, in spite of all her emotion, Anna smiled, as she caught the naïve expression of curiosity, wonder, and horror on Dolly’s face.
“The doctor told me after my illness....”
“Impossible!” said Dolly, opening her eyes wide.
For her this was one of those discoveries the consequences and deductions from which are so immense that all that one feels for the first instant is that it is impossible to take it all in, and that one will have to reflect a great, great deal upon it.
This discovery, suddenly throwing light on all those families of one or two children, which had hitherto been so incomprehensible to her, aroused so many ideas, reflections, and contradictory emotions, that she had nothing to say, and simply gazed with wide-open eyes of wonder at Anna. This was the very thing she had been dreaming of, but now learning that it was possible, she was horrified. She felt that it was too simple a solution of too complicated a problem.
“N’est-ce pas immoral?” was all she said, after a brief pause.
“Why so? Think, I have a choice between two alternatives: either to be with child, that is an invalid, or to be the friend and companion of my husband—practically my husband,” Anna said in a tone intentionally superficial and frivolous.
“Yes, yes,” said Darya Alexandrovna, hearing the very arguments she had used to herself, and not finding the same force in them as before.
“For you, for other people,” said Anna, as though divining her thoughts, “there may be reason to hesitate; but for me.... You must consider, I am not his wife; he loves me as long as he loves me. And how am I to keep his love? Not like this!”
She moved her white hands in a curve before her waist with extraordinary rapidity, as happens during moments of excitement; ideas and memories rushed into Darya Alexandrovna’s head. “I,” she thought, “did not keep my attraction for Stiva; he left me for others, and the first woman for whom he betrayed me did not keep him by being always pretty and lively. He deserted her and took another. And can Anna attract and keep Count Vronsky in that way? If that is what he looks for, he will find dresses and manners still more attractive and charming. And however white and beautiful her bare arms are, however beautiful her full figure and her eager face under her black curls, he will find something better still, just as my disgusting, pitiful, and charming husband does.”
Dolly made no answer, she merely sighed. Anna noticed this sigh, indicating dissent, and she went on. In her armory she had other arguments so strong that no answer could be made to them.
“Do you say that it’s not right? But you must consider,” she went on; “you forget my position. How can I desire children? I’m not speaking of the suffering, I’m not afraid of that. Think only, what are my children to be? Ill-fated children, who will have to bear a stranger’s name. For the very fact of their birth they will be forced to be ashamed of their mother, their father, their birth.”
“But that is just why a divorce is necessary.” But Anna did not hear her. She longed to give utterance to all the arguments with which she had so many times convinced herself.
“What is reason given me for, if I am not to use it to avoid bringing unhappy beings into the world!” She looked at Dolly, but without waiting for a reply she went on:
“I should always feel I had wronged these unhappy children,” she said. “If they are not, at any rate they are not unhappy; while if they are unhappy, I alone should be to blame for it.”
These were the very arguments Darya Alexandrovna had used in her own reflections; but she heard them without understanding them. “How can one wrong creatures that don’t exist?” she thought. And all at once the idea struck her: could it possibly, under any circumstances, have been better for her favorite Grisha if he had never existed? And this seemed to her so wild, so strange, that she shook her head to drive away this tangle of whirling, mad ideas.
“No, I don’t know; it’s not right,” was all she said, with an expression of disgust on her face.
“Yes, but you mustn’t forget that you and I.... And besides that,” added Anna, in spite of the wealth of her arguments and the poverty of Dolly’s objections, seeming still to admit that it was not right, “don’t forget the chief point, that I am not now in the same position as you. For you the question is: do you desire not to have any more children; while for me it is: do I desire to have them? And that’s a great difference. You must see that I can’t desire it in my position.”
Darya Alexandrovna made no reply. She suddenly felt that she had got far away from Anna; that there lay between them a barrier of questions on which they could never agree, and about which it was better not to speak.
“Then there is all the more reason for you to legalize your position, if possible,” said Dolly.
“Yes, if possible,” said Anna, speaking all at once in an utterly different tone, subdued and mournful.
“Surely you don’t mean a divorce is impossible? I was told your husband had consented to it.”
“Dolly, I don’t want to talk about that.”
“Oh, we won’t then,” Darya Alexandrovna hastened to say, noticing the expression of suffering on Anna’s face. “All I see is that you take too gloomy a view of things.”
“I? Not at all! I’m always bright and happy. You see, je fais des passions. Veslovsky....”
“Yes, to tell the truth, I don’t like Veslovsky’s tone,” said Darya Alexandrovna, anxious to change the subject.
“Oh, that’s nonsense! It amuses Alexey, and that’s all; but he’s a boy, and quite under my control. You know, I turn him as I please. It’s just as it might be with your Grisha.... Dolly!”—she suddenly changed the subject—“you say I take too gloomy a view of things. You can’t understand. It’s too awful! I try not to take any view of it at all.”
“But I think you ought to. You ought to do all you can.”
“But what can I do? Nothing. You tell me to marry Alexey, and say I don’t think about it. I don’t think about it!” she repeated, and a flush rose into her face. She got up, straightening her chest, and sighed heavily. With her light step she began pacing up and down the room, stopping now and then. “I don’t think of it? Not a day, not an hour passes that I don’t think of it, and blame myself for thinking of it ... because thinking of that may drive me mad. Drive me mad!” she repeated. “When I think of it, I can’t sleep without morphine. But never mind. Let us talk quietly. They tell me, divorce. In the first place, he won’t give me a divorce. He’s under the influence of Countess Lidia Ivanovna now.”
Darya Alexandrovna, sitting erect on a chair, turned her head, following Anna with a face of sympathetic suffering.
“You ought to make the attempt,” she said softly.
“Suppose I make the attempt. What does it mean?” she said, evidently giving utterance to a thought, a thousand times thought over and learned by heart. “It means that I, hating him, but still recognizing that I have wronged him—and I consider him magnanimous—that I humiliate myself to write to him.... Well, suppose I make the effort; I do it. Either I receive a humiliating refusal or consent.... Well, I have received his consent, say....” Anna was at that moment at the furthest end of the room, and she stopped there, doing something to the curtain at the window. “I receive his consent, but my ... my son? They won’t give him up to me. He will grow up despising me, with his father, whom I’ve abandoned. Do you see, I love ... equally, I think, but both more than myself—two creatures, Seryozha and Alexey.”
She came out into the middle of the room and stood facing Dolly, with her arms pressed tightly across her chest. In her white dressing gown her figure seemed more than usually grand and broad. She bent her head, and with shining, wet eyes looked from under her brows at Dolly, a thin little pitiful figure in her patched dressing jacket and nightcap, shaking all over with emotion.
“It is only those two creatures that I love, and one excludes the other. I can’t have them together, and that’s the only thing I want. And since I can’t have that, I don’t care about the rest. I don’t care about anything, anything. And it will end one way or another, and so I can’t, I don’t like to talk of it. So don’t blame me, don’t judge me for anything. You can’t with your pure heart understand all that I’m suffering.” She went up, sat down beside Dolly, and with a guilty look, peeped into her face and took her hand.
“What are you thinking? What are you thinking about me? Don’t despise me. I don’t deserve contempt. I’m simply unhappy. If anyone is unhappy, I am,” she articulated, and turning away, she burst into tears.
Left alone, Darya Alexandrovna said her prayers and went to bed. She had felt for Anna with all her heart while she was speaking to her, but now she could not force herself to think of her. The memories of home and of her children rose up in her imagination with a peculiar charm quite new to her, with a sort of new brilliance. That world of her own seemed to her now so sweet and precious that she would not on any account spend an extra day outside it, and she made up her mind that she would certainly go back next day.
Anna meantime went back to her boudoir, took a wine-glass and dropped into it several drops of a medicine, of which the principal ingredient was morphine. After drinking it off and sitting still a little while, she went into her bedroom in a soothed and more cheerful frame of mind.
When she went into the bedroom, Vronsky looked intently at her. He was looking for traces of the conversation which he knew that, staying so long in Dolly’s room, she must have had with her. But in her expression of restrained excitement, and of a sort of reserve, he could find nothing but the beauty that always bewitched him afresh though he was used to it, the consciousness of it, and the desire that it should affect him. He did not want to ask her what they had been talking of, but he hoped that she would tell him something of her own accord. But she only said:
“I am so glad you like Dolly. You do, don’t you?”
“Oh, I’ve known her a long while, you know. She’s very good-hearted, I suppose, mais excessivement terre-à-terre. Still, I’m very glad to see her.”
He took Anna’s hand and looked inquiringly into her eyes.
Misinterpreting the look, she smiled to him. Next morning, in spite of the protests of her hosts, Darya Alexandrovna prepared for her homeward journey. Levin’s coachman, in his by no means new coat and shabby hat, with his ill-matched horses and his coach with the patched mud-guards, drove with gloomy determination into the covered gravel approach.
Darya Alexandrovna disliked taking leave of Princess Varvara and the gentlemen of the party. After a day spent together, both she and her hosts were distinctly aware that they did not get on together, and that it was better for them not to meet. Only Anna was sad. She knew that now, from Dolly’s departure, no one again would stir up within her soul the feelings that had been roused by their conversation. It hurt her to stir up these feelings, but yet she knew that that was the best part of her soul, and that that part of her soul would quickly be smothered in the life she was leading.
As she drove out into the open country, Darya Alexandrovna had a delightful sense of relief, and she felt tempted to ask the two men how they had liked being at Vronsky’s, when suddenly the coachman, Philip, expressed himself unasked:
“Rolling in wealth they may be, but three pots of oats was all they gave us. Everything cleared up till there wasn’t a grain left by cockcrow. What are three pots? A mere mouthful! And oats now down to forty-five kopecks. At our place, no fear, all comers may have as much as they can eat.”
“The master’s a screw,” put in the counting-house clerk.
“Well, did you like their horses?” asked Dolly.
“The horses!—there’s no two opinions about them. And the food was good. But it seemed to me sort of dreary there, Darya Alexandrovna. I don’t know what you thought,” he said, turning his handsome, good-natured face to her.
“I thought so too. Well, shall we get home by evening?”
“Eh, we must!”
On reaching home and finding everyone entirely satisfactory and particularly charming, Darya Alexandrovna began with great liveliness telling them how she had arrived, how warmly they had received her, of the luxury and good taste in which the Vronskys lived, and of their recreations, and she would not allow a word to be said against them.
“One has to know Anna and Vronsky—I have got to know him better now—to see how nice they are, and how touching,” she said, speaking now with perfect sincerity, and forgetting the vague feeling of dissatisfaction and awkwardness she had experienced there.
Vronsky and Anna spent the whole summer and part of the winter in the country, living in just the same condition, and still taking no steps to obtain a divorce. It was an understood thing between them that they should not go away anywhere; but both felt, the longer they lived alone, especially in the autumn, without guests in the house, that they could not stand this existence, and that they would have to alter it.
Their life was apparently such that nothing better could be desired. They had the fullest abundance of everything; they had a child, and both had occupation. Anna devoted just as much care to her appearance when they had no visitors, and she did a great deal of reading, both of novels and of what serious literature was in fashion. She ordered all the books that were praised in the foreign papers and reviews she received, and read them with that concentrated attention which is only given to what is read in seclusion. Moreover, every subject that was of interest to Vronsky, she studied in books and special journals, so that he often went straight to her with questions relating to agriculture or architecture, sometimes even with questions relating to horse-breeding or sport. He was amazed at her knowledge, her memory, and at first was disposed to doubt it, to ask for confirmation of her facts; and she would find what he asked for in some book, and show it to him.
The building of the hospital, too, interested her. She did not merely assist, but planned and suggested a great deal herself. But her chief thought was still of herself—how far she was dear to Vronsky, how far she could make up to him for all he had given up. Vronsky appreciated this desire not only to please, but to serve him, which had become the sole aim of her existence, but at the same time he wearied of the loving snares in which she tried to hold him fast. As time went on, and he saw himself more and more often held fast in these snares, he had an ever growing desire, not so much to escape from them, as to try whether they hindered his freedom. Had it not been for this growing desire to be free, not to have scenes every time he wanted to go to the town to a meeting or a race, Vronsky would have been perfectly satisfied with his life. The rôle he had taken up, the rôle of a wealthy landowner, one of that class which ought to be the very heart of the Russian aristocracy, was entirely to his taste; and now, after spending six months in that character, he derived even greater satisfaction from it. And his management of his estate, which occupied and absorbed him more and more, was most successful. In spite of the immense sums cost him by the hospital, by machinery, by cows ordered from Switzerland, and many other things, he was convinced that he was not wasting, but increasing his substance. In all matters affecting income, the sales of timber, wheat, and wool, the letting of lands, Vronsky was hard as a rock, and knew well how to keep up prices. In all operations on a large scale on this and his other estates, he kept to the simplest methods involving no risk, and in trifling details he was careful and exacting to an extreme degree. In spite of all the cunning and ingenuity of the German steward, who would try to tempt him into purchases by making his original estimate always far larger than really required, and then representing to Vronsky that he might get the thing cheaper, and so make a profit, Vronsky did not give in. He listened to his steward, cross-examined him, and only agreed to his suggestions when the implement to be ordered or constructed was the very newest, not yet known in Russia, and likely to excite wonder. Apart from such exceptions, he resolved upon an increased outlay only where there was a surplus, and in making such an outlay he went into the minutest details, and insisted on getting the very best for his money; so that by the method on which he managed his affairs, it was clear that he was not wasting, but increasing his substance.
In October there were the provincial elections in the Kashinsky province, where were the estates of Vronsky, Sviazhsky, Koznishev, Oblonsky, and a small part of Levin’s land.
These elections were attracting public attention from several circumstances connected with them, and also from the people taking part in them. There had been a great deal of talk about them, and great preparations were being made for them. Persons who never attended the elections were coming from Moscow, from Petersburg, and from abroad to attend these. Vronsky had long before promised Sviazhsky to go to them. Before the elections Sviazhsky, who often visited Vozdvizhenskoe, drove over to fetch Vronsky. On the day before there had been almost a quarrel between Vronsky and Anna over this proposed expedition. It was the very dullest autumn weather, which is so dreary in the country, and so, preparing himself for a struggle, Vronsky, with a hard and cold expression, informed Anna of his departure as he had never spoken to her before. But, to his surprise, Anna accepted the information with great composure, and merely asked when he would be back. He looked intently at her, at a loss to explain this composure. She smiled at his look. He knew that way she had of withdrawing into herself, and knew that it only happened when she had determined upon something without letting him know her plans. He was afraid of this; but he was so anxious to avoid a scene that he kept up appearances, and half sincerely believed in what he longed to believe in—her reasonableness.
“I hope you won’t be dull?”
“I hope not,” said Anna. “I got a box of books yesterday from Gautier’s. No, I shan’t be dull.”
“She’s trying to take that tone, and so much the better,” he thought, “or else it would be the same thing over and over again.”
And he set off for the elections without appealing to her for a candid explanation. It was the first time since the beginning of their intimacy that he had parted from her without a full explanation. From one point of view this troubled him, but on the other side he felt that it was better so. “At first there will be, as this time, something undefined kept back, and then she will get used to it. In any case I can give up anything for her, but not my masculine independence,” he thought.
In September Levin moved to Moscow for Kitty’s confinement. He had spent a whole month in Moscow with nothing to do, when Sergey Ivanovitch, who had property in the Kashinsky province, and took great interest in the question of the approaching elections, made ready to set off to the elections. He invited his brother, who had a vote in the Seleznevsky district, to come with him. Levin had, moreover, to transact in Kashin some extremely important business relating to the wardship of land and to the receiving of certain redemption money for his sister, who was abroad.
Levin still hesitated, but Kitty, who saw that he was bored in Moscow, and urged him to go, on her own authority ordered him the proper nobleman’s uniform, costing seven pounds. And that seven pounds paid for the uniform was the chief cause that finally decided Levin to go. He went to Kashin....
Levin had been six days in Kashin, visiting the assembly each day, and busily engaged about his sister’s business, which still dragged on. The district marshals of nobility were all occupied with the elections, and it was impossible to get the simplest thing done that depended upon the court of wardship. The other matter, the payment of the sums due, was met too by difficulties. After long negotiations over the legal details, the money was at last ready to be paid; but the notary, a most obliging person, could not hand over the order, because it must have the signature of the president, and the president, though he had not given over his duties to a deputy, was at the elections. All these worrying negotiations, this endless going from place to place, and talking with pleasant and excellent people, who quite saw the unpleasantness of the petitioner’s position, but were powerless to assist him—all these efforts that yielded no result, led to a feeling of misery in Levin akin to the mortifying helplessness one experiences in dreams when one tries to use physical force. He felt this frequently as he talked to his most good-natured solicitor. This solicitor did, it seemed, everything possible, and strained every nerve to get him out of his difficulties. “I tell you what you might try,” he said more than once; “go to so-and-so and so-and-so,” and the solicitor drew up a regular plan for getting round the fatal point that hindered everything. But he would add immediately, “It’ll mean some delay, anyway, but you might try it.” And Levin did try, and did go. Everyone was kind and civil, but the point evaded seemed to crop up again in the end, and again to bar the way. What was particularly trying, was that Levin could not make out with whom he was struggling, to whose interest it was that his business should not be done. That no one seemed to know; the solicitor certainly did not know. If Levin could have understood why, just as he saw why one can only approach the booking office of a railway station in single file, it would not have been so vexatious and tiresome to him. But with the hindrances that confronted him in his business, no one could explain why they existed.
But Levin had changed a good deal since his marriage; he was patient, and if he could not see why it was all arranged like this, he told himself that he could not judge without knowing all about it, and that most likely it must be so, and he tried not to fret.
In attending the elections, too, and taking part in them, he tried now not to judge, not to fall foul of them, but to comprehend as fully as he could the question which was so earnestly and ardently absorbing honest and excellent men whom he respected. Since his marriage there had been revealed to Levin so many new and serious aspects of life that had previously, through his frivolous attitude to them, seemed of no importance, that in the question of the elections too he assumed and tried to find some serious significance.
Sergey Ivanovitch explained to him the meaning and object of the proposed revolution at the elections. The marshal of the province in whose hands the law had placed the control of so many important public functions—the guardianship of wards (the very department which was giving Levin so much trouble just now), the disposal of large sums subscribed by the nobility of the province, the high schools, female, male, and military, and popular instruction on the new model, and finally, the district council—the marshal of the province, Snetkov, was a nobleman of the old school,—dissipating an immense fortune, a good-hearted man, honest after his own fashion, but utterly without any comprehension of the needs of modern days. He always took, in every question, the side of the nobility; he was positively antagonistic to the spread of popular education, and he succeeded in giving a purely party character to the district council which ought by rights to be of such an immense importance. What was needed was to put in his place a fresh, capable, perfectly modern man, of contemporary ideas, and to frame their policy so as from the rights conferred upon the nobles, not as the nobility, but as an element of the district council, to extract all the powers of self-government that could possibly be derived from them. In the wealthy Kashinsky province, which always took the lead of other provinces in everything, there was now such a preponderance of forces that this policy, once carried through properly there, might serve as a model for other provinces for all Russia. And hence the whole question was of the greatest importance. It was proposed to elect as marshal in place of Snetkov either Sviazhsky, or, better still, Nevyedovsky, a former university professor, a man of remarkable intelligence and a great friend of Sergey Ivanovitch.
The meeting was opened by the governor, who made a speech to the nobles, urging them to elect the public functionaries, not from regard for persons, but for the service and welfare of their fatherland, and hoping that the honorable nobility of the Kashinsky province would, as at all former elections, hold their duty as sacred, and vindicate the exalted confidence of the monarch.
When he had finished with his speech, the governor walked out of the hall, and the noblemen noisily and eagerly—some even enthusiastically—followed him and thronged round him while he put on his fur coat and conversed amicably with the marshal of the province. Levin, anxious to see into everything and not to miss anything, stood there too in the crowd, and heard the governor say: “Please tell Marya Ivanovna my wife is very sorry she couldn’t come to the Home.” And thereupon the nobles in high good-humor sorted out their fur coats and all drove off to the cathedral.
In the cathedral Levin, lifting his hand like the rest and repeating the words of the archdeacon, swore with most terrible oaths to do all the governor had hoped they would do. Church services always affected Levin, and as he uttered the words “I kiss the cross,” and glanced round at the crowd of young and old men repeating the same, he felt touched.
On the second and third days there was business relating to the finances of the nobility and the female high school, of no importance whatever, as Sergey Ivanovitch explained, and Levin, busy seeing after his own affairs, did not attend the meetings. On the fourth day the auditing of the marshal’s accounts took place at the high table of the marshal of the province. And then there occurred the first skirmish between the new party and the old. The committee who had been deputed to verify the accounts reported to the meeting that all was in order. The marshal of the province got up, thanked the nobility for their confidence, and shed tears. The nobles gave him a loud welcome, and shook hands with him. But at that instant a nobleman of Sergey Ivanovitch’s party said that he had heard that the committee had not verified the accounts, considering such a verification an insult to the marshal of the province. One of the members of the committee incautiously admitted this. Then a small gentleman, very young-looking but very malignant, began to say that it would probably be agreeable to the marshal of the province to give an account of his expenditures of the public moneys, and that the misplaced delicacy of the members of the committee was depriving him of this moral satisfaction. Then the members of the committee tried to withdraw their admission, and Sergey Ivanovitch began to prove that they must logically admit either that they had verified the accounts or that they had not, and he developed this dilemma in detail. Sergey Ivanovitch was answered by the spokesman of the opposite party. Then Sviazhsky spoke, and then the malignant gentleman again. The discussion lasted a long time and ended in nothing. Levin was surprised that they should dispute upon this subject so long, especially as, when he asked Sergey Ivanovitch whether he supposed that money had been misappropriated, Sergey Ivanovitch answered:
“Oh, no! He’s an honest man. But those old-fashioned methods of paternal family arrangements in the management of provincial affairs must be broken down.”
On the fifth day came the elections of the district marshals. It was rather a stormy day in several districts. In the Seleznevsky district Sviazhsky was elected unanimously without a ballot, and he gave a dinner that evening.
The sixth day was fixed for the election of the marshal of the province.
The rooms, large and small, were full of noblemen in all sorts of uniforms. Many had come only for that day. Men who had not seen each other for years, some from the Crimea, some from Petersburg, some from abroad, met in the rooms of the Hall of Nobility. There was much discussion around the governor’s table under the portrait of the Tsar.
The nobles, both in the larger and the smaller rooms, grouped themselves in camps, and from their hostile and suspicious glances, from the silence that fell upon them when outsiders approached a group, and from the way that some, whispering together, retreated to the farther corridor, it was evident that each side had secrets from the other. In appearance the noblemen were sharply divided into two classes: the old and the new. The old were for the most part either in old uniforms of the nobility, buttoned up closely, with spurs and hats, or in their own special naval, cavalry, infantry, or official uniforms. The uniforms of the older men were embroidered in the old-fashioned way with epaulets on their shoulders; they were unmistakably tight and short in the waist, as though their wearers had grown out of them. The younger men wore the uniform of the nobility with long waists and broad shoulders, unbuttoned over white waistcoats, or uniforms with black collars and with the embroidered badges of justices of the peace. To the younger men belonged the court uniforms that here and there brightened up the crowd.
But the division into young and old did not correspond with the division of parties. Some of the young men, as Levin observed, belonged to the old party; and some of the very oldest noblemen, on the contrary, were whispering with Sviazhsky, and were evidently ardent partisans of the new party.
Levin stood in the smaller room, where they were smoking and taking light refreshments, close to his own friends, and listening to what they were saying, he conscientiously exerted all his intelligence trying to understand what was said. Sergey Ivanovitch was the center round which the others grouped themselves. He was listening at that moment to Sviazhsky and Hliustov, the marshal of another district, who belonged to their party. Hliustov would not agree to go with his district to ask Snetkov to stand, while Sviazhsky was persuading him to do so, and Sergey Ivanovitch was approving of the plan. Levin could not make out why the opposition was to ask the marshal to stand whom they wanted to supersede.
Stepan Arkadyevitch, who had just been drinking and taking some lunch, came up to them in his uniform of a gentleman of the bedchamber, wiping his lips with a perfumed handkerchief of bordered batiste.
“We are placing our forces,” he said, pulling out his whiskers, “Sergey Ivanovitch!”
And listening to the conversation, he supported Sviazhsky’s contention.
“One district’s enough, and Sviazhsky’s obviously of the opposition,” he said, words evidently intelligible to all except Levin.
“Why, Kostya, you here too! I suppose you’re converted, eh?” he added, turning to Levin and drawing his arm through his. Levin would have been glad indeed to be converted, but could not make out what the point was, and retreating a few steps from the speakers, he explained to Stepan Arkadyevitch his inability to understand why the marshal of the province should be asked to stand.
“O sancta simplicitas!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, and briefly and clearly he explained it to Levin. If, as at previous elections, all the districts asked the marshal of the province to stand, then he would be elected without a ballot. That must not be. Now eight districts had agreed to call upon him: if two refused to do so, Snetkov might decline to stand at all; and then the old party might choose another of their party, which would throw them completely out in their reckoning. But if only one district, Sviazhsky’s, did not call upon him to stand, Snetkov would let himself be balloted for. They were even, some of them, going to vote for him, and purposely to let him get a good many votes, so that the enemy might be thrown off the scent, and when a candidate of the other side was put up, they too might give him some votes. Levin understood to some extent, but not fully, and would have put a few more questions, when suddenly everyone began talking and making a noise and they moved towards the big room.
“What is it? eh? whom?” “No guarantee? whose? what?” “They won’t pass him?” “No guarantee?” “They won’t let Flerov in?” “Eh, because of the charge against him?” “Why, at this rate, they won’t admit anyone. It’s a swindle!” “The law!” Levin heard exclamations on all sides, and he moved into the big room together with the others, all hurrying somewhere and afraid of missing something. Squeezed by the crowding noblemen, he drew near the high table where the marshal of the province, Sviazhsky, and the other leaders were hotly disputing about something.
Levin was standing rather far off. A nobleman breathing heavily and hoarsely at his side, and another whose thick boots were creaking, prevented him from hearing distinctly. He could only hear the soft voice of the marshal faintly, then the shrill voice of the malignant gentleman, and then the voice of Sviazhsky. They were disputing, as far as he could make out, as to the interpretation to be put on the act and the exact meaning of the words: “liable to be called up for trial.”
The crowd parted to make way for Sergey Ivanovitch approaching the table. Sergey Ivanovitch, waiting till the malignant gentleman had finished speaking, said that he thought the best solution would be to refer to the act itself, and asked the secretary to find the act. The act said that in case of difference of opinion, there must be a ballot.
Sergey Ivanovitch read the act and began to explain its meaning, but at that point a tall, stout, round-shouldered landowner, with dyed whiskers, in a tight uniform that cut the back of his neck, interrupted him. He went up to the table, and striking it with his finger ring, he shouted loudly: “A ballot! Put it to the vote! No need for more talking!” Then several voices began to talk all at once, and the tall nobleman with the ring, getting more and more exasperated, shouted more and more loudly. But it was impossible to make out what he said.
He was shouting for the very course Sergey Ivanovitch had proposed; but it was evident that he hated him and all his party, and this feeling of hatred spread through the whole party and roused in opposition to it the same vindictiveness, though in a more seemly form, on the other side. Shouts were raised, and for a moment all was confusion, so that the marshal of the province had to call for order.
“A ballot! A ballot! Every nobleman sees it! We shed our blood for our country!... The confidence of the monarch.... No checking the accounts of the marshal; he’s not a cashier.... But that’s not the point.... Votes, please! Beastly!...” shouted furious and violent voices on all sides. Looks and faces were even more violent and furious than their words. They expressed the most implacable hatred. Levin did not in the least understand what was the matter, and he marveled at the passion with which it was disputed whether or not the decision about Flerov should be put to the vote. He forgot, as Sergey Ivanovitch explained to him afterwards, this syllogism: that it was necessary for the public good to get rid of the marshal of the province; that to get rid of the marshal it was necessary to have a majority of votes; that to get a majority of votes it was necessary to secure Flerov’s right to vote; that to secure the recognition of Flerov’s right to vote they must decide on the interpretation to be put on the act.
“And one vote may decide the whole question, and one must be serious and consecutive, if one wants to be of use in public life,” concluded Sergey Ivanovitch. But Levin forgot all that, and it was painful to him to see all these excellent persons, for whom he had a respect, in such an unpleasant and vicious state of excitement. To escape from this painful feeling he went away into the other room where there was nobody except the waiters at the refreshment bar. Seeing the waiters busy over washing up the crockery and setting in order their plates and wine-glasses, seeing their calm and cheerful faces, Levin felt an unexpected sense of relief as though he had come out of a stuffy room into the fresh air. He began walking up and down, looking with pleasure at the waiters. He particularly liked the way one gray-whiskered waiter, who showed his scorn for the other younger ones and was jeered at by them, was teaching them how to fold up napkins properly. Levin was just about to enter into conversation with the old waiter, when the secretary of the court of wardship, a little old man whose specialty it was to know all the noblemen of the province by name and patronymic, drew him away.
“Please come, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” he said, “your brother’s looking for you. They are voting on the legal point.”
Levin walked into the room, received a white ball, and followed his brother, Sergey Ivanovitch, to the table where Sviazhsky was standing with a significant and ironical face, holding his beard in his fist and sniffing at it. Sergey Ivanovitch put his hand into the box, put the ball somewhere, and making room for Levin, stopped. Levin advanced, but utterly forgetting what he was to do, and much embarrassed, he turned to Sergey Ivanovitch with the question, “Where am I to put it?” He asked this softly, at a moment when there was talking going on near, so that he had hoped his question would not be overheard. But the persons speaking paused, and his improper question was overheard. Sergey Ivanovitch frowned.
“That is a matter for each man’s own decision,” he said severely.
Several people smiled. Levin crimsoned, hurriedly thrust his hand under the cloth, and put the ball to the right as it was in his right hand. Having put it in, he recollected that he ought to have thrust his left hand too, and so he thrust it in though too late, and, still more overcome with confusion, he beat a hasty retreat into the background.
“A hundred and twenty-six for admission! Ninety-eight against!” sang out the voice of the secretary, who could not pronounce the letter r. Then there was a laugh; a button and two nuts were found in the box. The nobleman was allowed the right to vote, and the new party had conquered.
But the old party did not consider themselves conquered. Levin heard that they were asking Snetkov to stand, and he saw that a crowd of noblemen was surrounding the marshal, who was saying something. Levin went nearer. In reply Snetkov spoke of the trust the noblemen of the province had placed in him, the affection they had shown him, which he did not deserve, as his only merit had been his attachment to the nobility, to whom he had devoted twelve years of service. Several times he repeated the words: “I have served to the best of my powers with truth and good faith, I value your goodness and thank you,” and suddenly he stopped short from the tears that choked him, and went out of the room. Whether these tears came from a sense of the injustice being done him, from his love for the nobility, or from the strain of the position he was placed in, feeling himself surrounded by enemies, his emotion infected the assembly, the majority were touched, and Levin felt a tenderness for Snetkov.
In the doorway the marshal of the province jostled against Levin.
“Beg pardon, excuse me, please,” he said as to a stranger, but recognizing Levin, he smiled timidly. It seemed to Levin that he would have liked to say something, but could not speak for emotion. His face and his whole figure in his uniform with the crosses, and white trousers striped with braid, as he moved hurriedly along, reminded Levin of some hunted beast who sees that he is in evil case. This expression in the marshal’s face was particularly touching to Levin, because, only the day before, he had been at his house about his trustee business and had seen him in all his grandeur, a kind-hearted, fatherly man. The big house with the old family furniture; the rather dirty, far from stylish, but respectful footmen, unmistakably old house serfs who had stuck to their master; the stout, good-natured wife in a cap with lace and a Turkish shawl, petting her pretty grandchild, her daughter’s daughter; the young son, a sixth form high school boy, coming home from school, and greeting his father, kissing his big hand; the genuine, cordial words and gestures of the old man—all this had the day before roused an instinctive feeling of respect and sympathy in Levin. This old man was a touching and pathetic figure to Levin now, and he longed to say something pleasant to him.
“So you’re sure to be our marshal again,” he said.
“It’s not likely,” said the marshal, looking round with a scared expression. “I’m worn out, I’m old. If there are men younger and more deserving than I, let them serve.”
And the marshal disappeared through a side door.
The most solemn moment was at hand. They were to proceed immediately to the election. The leaders of both parties were reckoning white and black on their fingers.
The discussion upon Flerov had given the new party not only Flerov’s vote, but had also gained time for them, so that they could send to fetch three noblemen who had been rendered unable to take part in the elections by the wiles of the other party. Two noble gentlemen, who had a weakness for strong drink, had been made drunk by the partisans of Snetkov, and a third had been robbed of his uniform.
On learning this, the new party had made haste, during the dispute about Flerov, to send some of their men in a sledge to clothe the stripped gentleman, and to bring along one of the intoxicated to the meeting.
“I’ve brought one, drenched him with water,” said the landowner, who had gone on this errand, to Sviazhsky. “He’s all right? he’ll do.”
“Not too drunk, he won’t fall down?” said Sviazhsky, shaking his head.
“No, he’s first-rate. If only they don’t give him any more here.... I’ve told the waiter not to give him anything on any account.”
The narrow room, in which they were smoking and taking refreshments, was full of noblemen. The excitement grew more intense, and every face betrayed some uneasiness. The excitement was specially keen for the leaders of each party, who knew every detail, and had reckoned up every vote. They were the generals organizing the approaching battle. The rest, like the rank and file before an engagement, though they were getting ready for the fight, sought for other distractions in the interval. Some were lunching, standing at the bar, or sitting at the table; others were walking up and down the long room, smoking cigarettes, and talking with friends whom they had not seen for a long while.
Levin did not care to eat, and he was not smoking; he did not want to join his own friends, that is Sergey Ivanovitch, Stepan Arkadyevitch, Sviazhsky and the rest, because Vronsky in his equerry’s uniform was standing with them in eager conversation. Levin had seen him already at the meeting on the previous day, and he had studiously avoided him, not caring to greet him. He went to the window and sat down, scanning the groups, and listening to what was being said around him. He felt depressed, especially because everyone else was, as he saw, eager, anxious, and interested, and he alone, with an old, toothless little man with mumbling lips wearing a naval uniform, sitting beside him, had no interest in it and nothing to do.
“He’s such a blackguard! I have told him so, but it makes no difference. Only think of it! He couldn’t collect it in three years!” he heard vigorously uttered by a round-shouldered, short, country gentleman, who had pomaded hair hanging on his embroidered collar, and new boots obviously put on for the occasion, with heels that tapped energetically as he spoke. Casting a displeased glance at Levin, this gentleman sharply turned his back.
“Yes, it’s a dirty business, there’s no denying,” a small gentleman assented in a high voice.
Next, a whole crowd of country gentlemen, surrounding a stout general, hurriedly came near Levin. These persons were unmistakably seeking a place where they could talk without being overheard.
“How dare he say I had his breeches stolen! Pawned them for drink, I expect. Damn the fellow, prince indeed! He’d better not say it, the beast!”
“But excuse me! They take their stand on the act,” was being said in another group; “the wife must be registered as noble.”
“Oh, damn your acts! I speak from my heart. We’re all gentlemen, aren’t we? Above suspicion.”
“Shall we go on, your excellency, fine champagne?”
Another group was following a nobleman, who was shouting something in a loud voice; it was one of the three intoxicated gentlemen.
“I always advised Marya Semyonovna to let for a fair rent, for she can never save a profit,” he heard a pleasant voice say. The speaker was a country gentleman with gray whiskers, wearing the regimental uniform of an old general staff-officer. It was the very landowner Levin had met at Sviazhsky’s. He knew him at once. The landowner too stared at Levin, and they exchanged greetings.
“Very glad to see you! To be sure! I remember you very well. Last year at our district marshal, Nikolay Ivanovitch’s.”
“Well, and how is your land doing?” asked Levin.
“Oh, still just the same, always at a loss,” the landowner answered with a resigned smile, but with an expression of serenity and conviction that so it must be. “And how do you come to be in our province?” he asked. “Come to take part in our coup d’état?” he said, confidently pronouncing the French words with a bad accent. “All Russia’s here—gentlemen of the bedchamber, and everything short of the ministry.” He pointed to the imposing figure of Stepan Arkadyevitch in white trousers and his court uniform, walking by with a general.
“I ought to own that I don’t very well understand the drift of the provincial elections,” said Levin.
The landowner looked at him.
“Why, what is there to understand? There’s no meaning in it at all. It’s a decaying institution that goes on running only by the force of inertia. Just look, the very uniforms tell you that it’s an assembly of justices of the peace, permanent members of the court, and so on, but not of noblemen.”
“Then why do you come?” asked Levin.
“From habit, nothing else. Then, too, one must keep up connections. It’s a moral obligation of a sort. And then, to tell the truth, there’s one’s own interests. My son-in-law wants to stand as a permanent member; they’re not rich people, and he must be brought forward. These gentlemen, now, what do they come for?” he said, pointing to the malignant gentleman, who was talking at the high table.
“That’s the new generation of nobility.”
“New it may be, but nobility it isn’t. They’re proprietors of a sort, but we’re the landowners. As noblemen, they’re cutting their own throats.”
“But you say it’s an institution that’s served its time.”
“That it may be, but still it ought to be treated a little more respectfully. Snetkov, now.... We may be of use, or we may not, but we’re the growth of a thousand years. If we’re laying out a garden, planning one before the house, you know, and there you’ve a tree that’s stood for centuries in the very spot.... Old and gnarled it may be, and yet you don’t cut down the old fellow to make room for the flowerbeds, but lay out your beds so as to take advantage of the tree. You won’t grow him again in a year,” he said cautiously, and he immediately changed the conversation. “Well, and how is your land doing?”
“Oh, not very well. I make five per cent.”
“Yes, but you don’t reckon your own work. Aren’t you worth something too? I’ll tell you my own case. Before I took to seeing after the land, I had a salary of three hundred pounds from the service. Now I do more work than I did in the service, and like you I get five per cent. on the land, and thank God for that. But one’s work is thrown in for nothing.”
“Then why do you do it, if it’s a clear loss?”
“Oh, well, one does it! What would you have? It’s habit, and one knows it’s how it should be. And what’s more,” the landowner went on, leaning his elbows on the window and chatting on, “my son, I must tell you, has no taste for it. There’s no doubt he’ll be a scientific man. So there’ll be no one to keep it up. And yet one does it. Here this year I’ve planted an orchard.”
“Yes, yes,” said Levin, “that’s perfectly true. I always feel there’s no real balance of gain in my work on the land, and yet one does it.... It’s a sort of duty one feels to the land.”
“But I tell you what,” the landowner pursued; “a neighbor of mine, a merchant, was at my place. We walked about the fields and the garden. ‘No,’ said he, ‘Stepan Vassilievitch, everything’s well looked after, but your garden’s neglected.’ But, as a fact, it’s well kept up. ‘To my thinking, I’d cut down that lime-tree. Here you’ve thousands of limes, and each would make two good bundles of bark. And nowadays that bark’s worth something. I’d cut down the lot.’”
“And with what he made he’d increase his stock, or buy some land for a trifle, and let it out in lots to the peasants,” Levin added, smiling. He had evidently more than once come across those commercial calculations. “And he’d make his fortune. But you and I must thank God if we keep what we’ve got and leave it to our children.”
“You’re married, I’ve heard?” said the landowner.
“Yes,” Levin answered, with proud satisfaction. “Yes, it’s rather strange,” he went on. “So we live without making anything, as though we were ancient vestals set to keep in a fire.”
The landowner chuckled under his white mustaches.
“There are some among us, too, like our friend Nikolay Ivanovitch, or Count Vronsky, that’s settled here lately, who try to carry on their husbandry as though it were a factory; but so far it leads to nothing but making away with capital on it.”
“But why is it we don’t do like the merchants? Why don’t we cut down our parks for timber?” said Levin, returning to a thought that had struck him.
“Why, as you said, to keep the fire in. Besides that’s not work for a nobleman. And our work as noblemen isn’t done here at the elections, but yonder, each in our corner. There’s a class instinct, too, of what one ought and oughtn’t to do. There’s the peasants, too, I wonder at them sometimes; any good peasant tries to take all the land he can. However bad the land is, he’ll work it. Without a return too. At a simple loss.”
“Just as we do,” said Levin. “Very, very glad to have met you,” he added, seeing Sviazhsky approaching him.
“And here we’ve met for the first time since we met at your place,” said the landowner to Sviazhsky, “and we’ve had a good talk too.”
“Well, have you been attacking the new order of things?” said Sviazhsky with a smile.
“That we’re bound to do.”
“You’ve relieved your feelings?”
Sviazhsky took Levin’s arm, and went with him to his own friends.
This time there was no avoiding Vronsky. He was standing with Stepan Arkadyevitch and Sergey Ivanovitch, and looking straight at Levin as he drew near.
“Delighted! I believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you ... at Princess Shtcherbatskaya’s,” he said, giving Levin his hand.
“Yes, I quite remember our meeting,” said Levin, and blushing crimson, he turned away immediately, and began talking to his brother.
With a slight smile Vronsky went on talking to Sviazhsky, obviously without the slightest inclination to enter into conversation with Levin. But Levin, as he talked to his brother, was continually looking round at Vronsky, trying to think of something to say to him to gloss over his rudeness.
“What are we waiting for now?” asked Levin, looking at Sviazhsky and Vronsky.
“For Snetkov. He has to refuse or to consent to stand,” answered Sviazhsky.
“Well, and what has he done, consented or not?”
“That’s the point, that he’s done neither,” said Vronsky.
“And if he refuses, who will stand then?” asked Levin, looking at Vronsky.
“Whoever chooses to,” said Sviazhsky.
“Shall you?” asked Levin.
“Certainly not I,” said Sviazhsky, looking confused, and turning an alarmed glance at the malignant gentleman, who was standing beside Sergey Ivanovitch.
“Who then? Nevyedovsky?” said Levin, feeling he was putting his foot into it.
But this was worse still. Nevyedovsky and Sviazhsky were the two candidates.
“I certainly shall not, under any circumstances,” answered the malignant gentleman.
This was Nevyedovsky himself. Sviazhsky introduced him to Levin.
“Well, you find it exciting too?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, winking at Vronsky. “It’s something like a race. One might bet on it.”
“Yes, it is keenly exciting,” said Vronsky. “And once taking the thing up, one’s eager to see it through. It’s a fight!” he said, scowling and setting his powerful jaws.
“What a capable fellow Sviazhsky is! Sees it all so clearly.”
“Oh, yes!” Vronsky assented indifferently.
A silence followed, during which Vronsky—since he had to look at something—looked at Levin, at his feet, at his uniform, then at his face, and noticing his gloomy eyes fixed upon him, he said, in order to say something:
“How is it that you, living constantly in the country, are not a justice of the peace? You are not in the uniform of one.”
“It’s because I consider that the justice of the peace is a silly institution,” Levin answered gloomily. He had been all the time looking for an opportunity to enter into conversation with Vronsky, so as to smooth over his rudeness at their first meeting.
“I don’t think so, quite the contrary,” Vronsky said, with quiet surprise.
“It’s a plaything,” Levin cut him short. “We don’t want justices of the peace. I’ve never had a single thing to do with them during eight years. And what I have had was decided wrongly by them. The justice of the peace is over thirty miles from me. For some matter of two roubles I should have to send a lawyer, who costs me fifteen.”
And he related how a peasant had stolen some flour from the miller, and when the miller told him of it, had lodged a complaint for slander. All this was utterly uncalled for and stupid, and Levin felt it himself as he said it.
“Oh, this is such an original fellow!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with his most soothing, almond-oil smile. “But come along; I think they’re voting....”
And they separated.
“I can’t understand,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, who had observed his brother’s clumsiness, “I can’t understand how anyone can be so absolutely devoid of political tact. That’s where we Russians are so deficient. The marshal of the province is our opponent, and with him you’re ami cochon, and you beg him to stand. Count Vronsky, now ... I’m not making a friend of him; he’s asked me to dinner, and I’m not going; but he’s one of our side—why make an enemy of him? Then you ask Nevyedovsky if he’s going to stand. That’s not a thing to do.”
“Oh, I don’t understand it at all! And it’s all such nonsense,” Levin answered gloomily.
“You say it’s all such nonsense, but as soon as you have anything to do with it, you make a muddle.”
Levin did not answer, and they walked together into the big room.
The marshal of the province, though he was vaguely conscious in the air of some trap being prepared for him, and though he had not been called upon by all to stand, had still made up his mind to stand. All was silence in the room. The secretary announced in a loud voice that the captain of the guards, Mihail Stepanovitch Snetkov, would now be balloted for as marshal of the province.
The district marshals walked carrying plates, on which were balls, from their tables to the high table, and the election began.
“Put it in the right side,” whispered Stepan Arkadyevitch, as with his brother Levin followed the marshal of his district to the table. But Levin had forgotten by now the calculations that had been explained to him, and was afraid Stepan Arkadyevitch might be mistaken in saying “the right side.” Surely Snetkov was the enemy. As he went up, he held the ball in his right hand, but thinking he was wrong, just at the box he changed to the left hand, and undoubtedly put the ball to the left. An adept in the business, standing at the box and seeing by the mere action of the elbow where each put his ball, scowled with annoyance. It was no good for him to use his insight.
Everything was still, and the counting of the balls was heard. Then a single voice rose and proclaimed the numbers for and against. The marshal had been voted for by a considerable majority. All was noise and eager movement towards the doors. Snetkov came in, and the nobles thronged round him, congratulating him.
“Well, now is it over?” Levin asked Sergey Ivanovitch.
“It’s only just beginning,” Sviazhsky said, replying for Sergey Ivanovitch with a smile. “Some other candidate may receive more votes than the marshal.”
Levin had quite forgotten about that. Now he could only remember that there was some sort of trickery in it, but he was too bored to think what it was exactly. He felt depressed, and longed to get out of the crowd.
As no one was paying any attention to him, and no one apparently needed him, he quietly slipped away into the little room where the refreshments were, and again had a great sense of comfort when he saw the waiters. The little old waiter pressed him to have something, and Levin agreed. After eating a cutlet with beans and talking to the waiters of their former masters, Levin, not wishing to go back to the hall, where it was all so distasteful to him, proceeded to walk through the galleries. The galleries were full of fashionably dressed ladies, leaning over the balustrade and trying not to lose a single word of what was being said below. With the ladies were sitting and standing smart lawyers, high school teachers in spectacles, and officers. Everywhere they were talking of the election, and of how worried the marshal was, and how splendid the discussions had been. In one group Levin heard his brother’s praises. One lady was telling a lawyer:
“How glad I am I heard Koznishev! It’s worth losing one’s dinner. He’s exquisite! So clear and distinct all of it! There’s not one of you in the law courts that speaks like that. The only one is Meidel, and he’s not so eloquent by a long way.”
Finding a free place, Levin leaned over the balustrade and began looking and listening.
All the noblemen were sitting railed off behind barriers according to their districts. In the middle of the room stood a man in a uniform, who shouted in a loud, high voice:
“As a candidate for the marshalship of the nobility of the province we call upon staff-captain Yevgeney Ivanovitch Apuhtin!” A dead silence followed, and then a weak old voice was heard: “Declined!”
“We call upon the privy councilor Pyotr Petrovitch Bol,” the voice began again.
“Declined!” a high boyish voice replied.
Again it began, and again “Declined.” And so it went on for about an hour. Levin, with his elbows on the balustrade, looked and listened. At first he wondered and wanted to know what it meant; then feeling sure that he could not make it out he began to be bored. Then recalling all the excitement and vindictiveness he had seen on all the faces, he felt sad; he made up his mind to go, and went downstairs. As he passed through the entry to the galleries he met a dejected high school boy walking up and down with tired-looking eyes. On the stairs he met a couple—a lady running quickly on her high heels and the jaunty deputy prosecutor.
“I told you you weren’t late,” the deputy prosecutor was saying at the moment when Levin moved aside to let the lady pass.
Levin was on the stairs to the way out, and was just feeling in his waistcoat pocket for the number of his overcoat, when the secretary overtook him.
“This way, please, Konstantin Dmitrievitch; they are voting.”
The candidate who was being voted on was Nevyedovsky, who had so stoutly denied all idea of standing. Levin went up to the door of the room; it was locked. The secretary knocked, the door opened, and Levin was met by two red-faced gentlemen, who darted out.
“I can’t stand any more of it,” said one red-faced gentleman.
After them the face of the marshal of the province was poked out. His face was dreadful-looking from exhaustion and dismay.
“I told you not to let anyone out!” he cried to the doorkeeper.
“I let someone in, your excellency!”
“Mercy on us!” and with a heavy sigh the marshal of the province walked with downcast head to the high table in the middle of the room, his legs staggering in his white trousers.
Nevyedovsky had scored a higher majority, as they had planned, and he was the new marshal of the province. Many people were amused, many were pleased and happy, many were in ecstasies, many were disgusted and unhappy. The former marshal of the province was in a state of despair, which he could not conceal. When Nevyedovsky went out of the room, the crowd thronged round him and followed him enthusiastically, just as they had followed the governor who had opened the meetings, and just as they had followed Snetkov when he was elected.
The newly elected marshal and many of the successful party dined that day with Vronsky.
Vronsky had come to the elections partly because he was bored in the country and wanted to show Anna his right to independence, and also to repay Sviazhsky by his support at the election for all the trouble he had taken for Vronsky at the district council election, but chiefly in order strictly to perform all those duties of a nobleman and landowner which he had taken upon himself. But he had not in the least expected that the election would so interest him, so keenly excite him, and that he would be so good at this kind of thing. He was quite a new man in the circle of the nobility of the province, but his success was unmistakable, and he was not wrong in supposing that he had already obtained a certain influence. This influence was due to his wealth and reputation, the capital house in the town lent him by his old friend Shirkov, who had a post in the department of finances and was director of a flourishing bank in Kashin; the excellent cook Vronsky had brought from the country, and his friendship with the governor, who was a schoolfellow of Vronsky’s—a schoolfellow he had patronized and protected indeed. But what contributed more than all to his success was his direct, equable manner with everyone, which very quickly made the majority of the noblemen reverse the current opinion of his supposed haughtiness. He was himself conscious that, except that whimsical gentleman married to Kitty Shtcherbatskaya, who had à propos de bottes poured out a stream of irrelevant absurdities with such spiteful fury, every nobleman with whom he had made acquaintance had become his adherent. He saw clearly, and other people recognized it, too, that he had done a great deal to secure the success of Nevyedovsky. And now at his own table, celebrating Nevyedovsky’s election, he was experiencing an agreeable sense of triumph over the success of his candidate. The election itself had so fascinated him that, if he could succeed in getting married during the next three years, he began to think of standing himself—much as after winning a race ridden by a jockey, he had longed to ride a race himself.
Today he was celebrating the success of his jockey. Vronsky sat at the head of the table, on his right hand sat the young governor, a general of high rank. To all the rest he was the chief man in the province, who had solemnly opened the elections with his speech, and aroused a feeling of respect and even of awe in many people, as Vronsky saw; to Vronsky he was little Katka Maslov—that had been his nickname in the Pages’ Corps—whom he felt to be shy and tried to mettre à son aise. On the left hand sat Nevyedovsky with his youthful, stubborn, and malignant face. With him Vronsky was simple and deferential.
Sviazhsky took his failure very light-heartedly. It was indeed no failure in his eyes, as he said himself, turning, glass in hand, to Nevyedovsky; they could not have found a better representative of the new movement, which the nobility ought to follow. And so every honest person, as he said, was on the side of today’s success and was rejoicing over it.
Stepan Arkadyevitch was glad, too, that he was having a good time, and that everyone was pleased. The episode of the elections served as a good occasion for a capital dinner. Sviazhsky comically imitated the tearful discourse of the marshal, and observed, addressing Nevyedovsky, that his excellency would have to select another more complicated method of auditing the accounts than tears. Another nobleman jocosely described how footmen in stockings had been ordered for the marshal’s ball, and how now they would have to be sent back unless the new marshal would give a ball with footmen in stockings.
Continually during dinner they said of Nevyedovsky: “our marshal,” and “your excellency.”
This was said with the same pleasure with which a bride is called “Madame” and her husband’s name. Nevyedovsky affected to be not merely indifferent but scornful of this appellation, but it was obvious that he was highly delighted, and had to keep a curb on himself not to betray the triumph which was unsuitable to their new liberal tone.
After dinner several telegrams were sent to people interested in the result of the election. And Stepan Arkadyevitch, who was in high good humor, sent Darya Alexandrovna a telegram: “Nevyedovsky elected by twenty votes. Congratulations. Tell people.” He dictated it aloud, saying: “We must let them share our rejoicing.” Darya Alexandrovna, getting the message, simply sighed over the rouble wasted on it, and understood that it was an after-dinner affair. She knew Stiva had a weakness after dining for faire jouer le télégraphe.
Everything, together with the excellent dinner and the wine, not from Russian merchants, but imported direct from abroad, was extremely dignified, simple, and enjoyable. The party—some twenty—had been selected by Sviazhsky from among the more active new liberals, all of the same way of thinking, who were at the same time clever and well bred. They drank, also half in jest, to the health of the new marshal of the province, of the governor, of the bank director, and of “our amiable host.”
Vronsky was satisfied. He had never expected to find so pleasant a tone in the provinces.
Towards the end of dinner it was still more lively. The governor asked Vronsky to come to a concert for the benefit of the Servians which his wife, who was anxious to make his acquaintance, had been getting up.
“There’ll be a ball, and you’ll see the belle of the province. Worth seeing, really.”
“Not in my line,” Vronsky answered. He liked that English phrase. But he smiled, and promised to come.
Before they rose from the table, when all of them were smoking, Vronsky’s valet went up to him with a letter on a tray.
“From Vozdvizhenskoe by special messenger,” he said with a significant expression.
“Astonishing! how like he is to the deputy prosecutor Sventitsky,” said one of the guests in French of the valet, while Vronsky, frowning, read the letter.
The letter was from Anna. Before he read the letter, he knew its contents. Expecting the elections to be over in five days, he had promised to be back on Friday. Today was Saturday, and he knew that the letter contained reproaches for not being back at the time fixed. The letter he had sent the previous evening had probably not reached her yet.
The letter was what he had expected, but the form of it was unexpected, and particularly disagreeable to him. “Annie is very ill, the doctor says it may be inflammation. I am losing my head all alone. Princess Varvara is no help, but a hindrance. I expected you the day before yesterday, and yesterday, and now I am sending to find out where you are and what you are doing. I wanted to come myself, but thought better of it, knowing you would dislike it. Send some answer, that I may know what to do.”
The child ill, yet she had thought of coming herself. Their daughter ill, and this hostile tone.
The innocent festivities over the election, and this gloomy, burdensome love to which he had to return struck Vronsky by their contrast. But he had to go, and by the first train that night he set off home.
Before Vronsky’s departure for the elections, Anna had reflected that the scenes constantly repeated between them each time he left home, might only make him cold to her instead of attaching him to her, and resolved to do all she could to control herself so as to bear the parting with composure. But the cold, severe glance with which he had looked at her when he came to tell her he was going had wounded her, and before he had started her peace of mind was destroyed.
In solitude afterwards, thinking over that glance which had expressed his right to freedom, she came, as she always did, to the same point—the sense of her own humiliation. “He has the right to go away when and where he chooses. Not simply to go away, but to leave me. He has every right, and I have none. But knowing that, he ought not to do it. What has he done, though?... He looked at me with a cold, severe expression. Of course that is something indefinable, impalpable, but it has never been so before, and that glance means a great deal,” she thought. “That glance shows the beginning of indifference.”
And though she felt sure that a coldness was beginning, there was nothing she could do, she could not in any way alter her relations to him. Just as before, only by love and by charm could she keep him. And so, just as before, only by occupation in the day, by morphine at night, could she stifle the fearful thought of what would be if he ceased to love her. It is true there was still one means; not to keep him—for that she wanted nothing more than his love—but to be nearer to him, to be in such a position that he would not leave her. That means was divorce and marriage. And she began to long for that, and made up her mind to agree to it the first time he or Stiva approached her on the subject.
Absorbed in such thoughts, she passed five days without him, the five days that he was to be at the elections.
Walks, conversation with Princess Varvara, visits to the hospital, and, most of all, reading—reading of one book after another—filled up her time. But on the sixth day, when the coachman came back without him, she felt that now she was utterly incapable of stifling the thought of him and of what he was doing there, just at that time her little girl was taken ill. Anna began to look after her, but even that did not distract her mind, especially as the illness was not serious. However hard she tried, she could not love this little child, and to feign love was beyond her powers. Towards the evening of that day, still alone, Anna was in such a panic about him that she decided to start for the town, but on second thoughts wrote him the contradictory letter that Vronsky received, and without reading it through, sent it off by a special messenger. The next morning she received his letter and regretted her own. She dreaded a repetition of the severe look he had flung at her at parting, especially when he knew that the baby was not dangerously ill. But still she was glad she had written to him. At this moment Anna was positively admitting to herself that she was a burden to him, that he would relinquish his freedom regretfully to return to her, and in spite of that she was glad he was coming. Let him weary of her, but he would be here with her, so that she would see him, would know of every action he took.
She was sitting in the drawing-room near a lamp, with a new volume of Taine, and as she read, listening to the sound of the wind outside, and every minute expecting the carriage to arrive. Several times she had fancied she heard the sound of wheels, but she had been mistaken. At last she heard not the sound of wheels, but the coachman’s shout and the dull rumble in the covered entry. Even Princess Varvara, playing patience, confirmed this, and Anna, flushing hotly, got up; but instead of going down, as she had done twice before, she stood still. She suddenly felt ashamed of her duplicity, but even more she dreaded how he might meet her. All feeling of wounded pride had passed now; she was only afraid of the expression of his displeasure. She remembered that her child had been perfectly well again for the last two days. She felt positively vexed with her for getting better from the very moment her letter was sent off. Then she thought of him, that he was here, all of him, with his hands, his eyes. She heard his voice. And forgetting everything, she ran joyfully to meet him.
“Well, how is Annie?” he said timidly from below, looking up to Anna as she ran down to him.
He was sitting on a chair, and a footman was pulling off his warm over-boot.
“Oh, she is better.”
“And you?” he said, shaking himself.
She took his hand in both of hers, and drew it to her waist, never taking her eyes off him.
“Well, I’m glad,” he said, coldly scanning her, her hair, her dress, which he knew she had put on for him. All was charming, but how many times it had charmed him! And the stern, stony expression that she so dreaded settled upon his face.
“Well, I’m glad. And are you well?” he said, wiping his damp beard with his handkerchief and kissing her hand.
“Never mind,” she thought, “only let him be here, and so long as he’s here he cannot, he dare not, cease to love me.”
The evening was spent happily and gaily in the presence of Princess Varvara, who complained to him that Anna had been taking morphine in his absence.
“What am I to do? I couldn’t sleep.... My thoughts prevented me. When he’s here I never take it—hardly ever.”
He told her about the election, and Anna knew how by adroit questions to bring him to what gave him most pleasure—his own success. She told him of everything that interested him at home; and all that she told him was of the most cheerful description.
But late in the evening, when they were alone, Anna, seeing that she had regained complete possession of him, wanted to erase the painful impression of the glance he had given her for her letter. She said:
“Tell me frankly, you were vexed at getting my letter, and you didn’t believe me?”
As soon as she had said it, she felt that however warm his feelings were to her, he had not forgiven her for that.
“Yes,” he said, “the letter was so strange. First, Annie ill, and then you thought of coming yourself.”
“It was all the truth.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt it.”
“Yes, you do doubt it. You are vexed, I see.”
“Not for one moment. I’m only vexed, that’s true, that you seem somehow unwilling to admit that there are duties....”
“The duty of going to a concert....”
“But we won’t talk about it,” he said.
“Why not talk about it?” she said.
“I only meant to say that matters of real importance may turn up. Now, for instance, I shall have to go to Moscow to arrange about the house.... Oh, Anna, why are you so irritable? Don’t you know that I can’t live without you?”
“If so,” said Anna, her voice suddenly changing, “it means that you are sick of this life.... Yes, you will come for a day and go away, as men do....”
“Anna, that’s cruel. I am ready to give up my whole life.”
But she did not hear him.
“If you go to Moscow, I will go too. I will not stay here. Either we must separate or else live together.”
“Why, you know, that’s my one desire. But for that....”
“We must get a divorce. I will write to him. I see I cannot go on like this.... But I will come with you to Moscow.”
“You talk as if you were threatening me. But I desire nothing so much as never to be parted from you,” said Vronsky, smiling.
But as he said these words there gleamed in his eyes not merely a cold look, but the vindictive look of a man persecuted and made cruel.
She saw the look and correctly divined its meaning.
“If so, it’s a calamity!” that glance told her. It was a moment’s impression, but she never forgot it.
Anna wrote to her husband asking him about a divorce, and towards the end of November, taking leave of Princess Varvara, who wanted to go to Petersburg, she went with Vronsky to Moscow. Expecting every day an answer from Alexey Alexandrovitch, and after that the divorce, they now established themselves together like married people.