Levin put on his big boots, and, for the first time, a cloth jacket, instead of his fur cloak, and went out to look after his farm, stepping over streams of water that flashed in the sunshine and dazzled his eyes, and treading one minute on ice and the next into sticky mud.
Spring is the time of plans and projects. And, as he came out into the farmyard, Levin, like a tree in spring that knows not what form will be taken by the young shoots and twigs imprisoned in its swelling buds, hardly knew what undertakings he was going to begin upon now in the farm work that was so dear to him. But he felt that he was full of the most splendid plans and projects. First of all he went to the cattle. The cows had been let out into their paddock, and their smooth sides were already shining with their new, sleek, spring coats; they basked in the sunshine and lowed to go to the meadow. Levin gazed admiringly at the cows he knew so intimately to the minutest detail of their condition, and gave orders for them to be driven out into the meadow, and the calves to be let into the paddock. The herdsman ran gaily to get ready for the meadow. The cowherd girls, picking up their petticoats, ran splashing through the mud with bare legs, still white, not yet brown from the sun, waving brush wood in their hands, chasing the calves that frolicked in the mirth of spring.
After admiring the young ones of that year, who were particularly fine—the early calves were the size of a peasant’s cow, and Pava’s daughter, at three months old, was as big as a yearling—Levin gave orders for a trough to be brought out and for them to be fed in the paddock. But it appeared that as the paddock had not been used during the winter, the hurdles made in the autumn for it were broken. He sent for the carpenter, who, according to his orders, ought to have been at work at the thrashing machine. But it appeared that the carpenter was repairing the harrows, which ought to have been repaired before Lent. This was very annoying to Levin. It was annoying to come upon that everlasting slovenliness in the farm work against which he had been striving with all his might for so many years. The hurdles, as he ascertained, being not wanted in winter, had been carried to the cart-horses’ stable; and there broken, as they were of light construction, only meant for feeding calves. Moreover, it was apparent also that the harrows and all the agricultural implements, which he had directed to be looked over and repaired in the winter, for which very purpose he had hired three carpenters, had not been put into repair, and the harrows were being repaired when they ought to have been harrowing the field. Levin sent for his bailiff, but immediately went off himself to look for him. The bailiff, beaming all over, like everyone that day, in a sheepskin bordered with astrachan, came out of the barn, twisting a bit of straw in his hands.
“Why isn’t the carpenter at the thrashing machine?”
“Oh, I meant to tell you yesterday, the harrows want repairing. Here it’s time they got to work in the fields.”
“But what were they doing in the winter, then?”
“But what did you want the carpenter for?”
“Where are the hurdles for the calves’ paddock?”
“I ordered them to be got ready. What would you have with those peasants!” said the bailiff, with a wave of his hand.
“It’s not those peasants but this bailiff!” said Levin, getting angry. “Why, what do I keep you for?” he cried. But, bethinking himself that this would not help matters, he stopped short in the middle of a sentence, and merely sighed. “Well, what do you say? Can sowing begin?” he asked, after a pause.
“Behind Turkin tomorrow or the next day they might begin.”
“And the clover?”
“I’ve sent Vassily and Mishka; they’re sowing. Only I don’t know if they’ll manage to get through; it’s so slushy.”
“How many acres?”
“Why not sow all?” cried Levin.
That they were only sowing the clover on fifteen acres, not on all the forty-five, was still more annoying to him. Clover, as he knew, both from books and from his own experience, never did well except when it was sown as early as possible, almost in the snow. And yet Levin could never get this done.
“There’s no one to send. What would you have with such a set of peasants? Three haven’t turned up. And there’s Semyon....”
“Well, you should have taken some men from the thatching.”
“And so I have, as it is.”
“Where are the peasants, then?”
“Five are making compôte” (which meant compost), “four are shifting the oats for fear of a touch of mildew, Konstantin Dmitrievitch.”
Levin knew very well that “a touch of mildew” meant that his English seed oats were already ruined. Again they had not done as he had ordered.
“Why, but I told you during Lent to put in pipes,” he cried.
“Don’t put yourself out; we shall get it all done in time.”
Levin waved his hand angrily, went into the granary to glance at the oats, and then to the stable. The oats were not yet spoiled. But the peasants were carrying the oats in spades when they might simply let them slide down into the lower granary; and arranging for this to be done, and taking two workmen from there for sowing clover, Levin got over his vexation with the bailiff. Indeed, it was such a lovely day that one could not be angry.
“Ignat!” he called to the coachman, who, with his sleeves tucked up, was washing the carriage wheels, “saddle me....”
“Well, let it be Kolpik.”
While they were saddling his horse, Levin again called up the bailiff, who was hanging about in sight, to make it up with him, and began talking to him about the spring operations before them, and his plans for the farm.
The wagons were to begin carting manure earlier, so as to get all done before the early mowing. And the ploughing of the further land to go on without a break so as to let it ripen lying fallow. And the mowing to be all done by hired labor, not on half-profits. The bailiff listened attentively, and obviously made an effort to approve of his employer’s projects. But still he had that look Levin knew so well that always irritated him, a look of hopelessness and despondency. That look said: “That’s all very well, but as God wills.”
Nothing mortified Levin so much as that tone. But it was the tone common to all the bailiffs he had ever had. They had all taken up that attitude to his plans, and so now he was not angered by it, but mortified, and felt all the more roused to struggle against this, as it seemed, elemental force continually ranged against him, for which he could find no other expression than “as God wills.”
“If we can manage it, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” said the bailiff.
“Why ever shouldn’t you manage it?”
“We positively must have another fifteen laborers. And they don’t turn up. There were some here today asking seventy roubles for the summer.”
Levin was silent. Again he was brought face to face with that opposing force. He knew that however much they tried, they could not hire more than forty—thirty-seven perhaps or thirty-eight—laborers for a reasonable sum. Some forty had been taken on, and there were no more. But still he could not help struggling against it.
“Send to Sury, to Tchefirovka; if they don’t come we must look for them.”
“Oh, I’ll send, to be sure,” said Vassily Fedorovitch despondently. “But there are the horses, too, they’re not good for much.”
“We’ll get some more. I know, of course,” Levin added laughing, “you always want to do with as little and as poor quality as possible; but this year I’m not going to let you have things your own way. I’ll see to everything myself.”
“Why, I don’t think you take much rest as it is. It cheers us up to work under the master’s eye....”
“So they’re sowing clover behind the Birch Dale? I’ll go and have a look at them,” he said, getting on to the little bay cob, Kolpik, who was led up by the coachman.
“You can’t get across the streams, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” the coachman shouted.
“All right, I’ll go by the forest.”
And Levin rode through the slush of the farmyard to the gate and out into the open country, his good little horse, after his long inactivity, stepping out gallantly, snorting over the pools, and asking, as it were, for guidance. If Levin had felt happy before in the cattle pens and farmyard, he felt happier yet in the open country. Swaying rhythmically with the ambling paces of his good little cob, drinking in the warm yet fresh scent of the snow and the air, as he rode through his forest over the crumbling, wasted snow, still left in parts, and covered with dissolving tracks, he rejoiced over every tree, with the moss reviving on its bark and the buds swelling on its shoots. When he came out of the forest, in the immense plain before him, his grass fields stretched in an unbroken carpet of green, without one bare place or swamp, only spotted here and there in the hollows with patches of melting snow. He was not put out of temper even by the sight of the peasants’ horses and colts trampling down his young grass (he told a peasant he met to drive them out), nor by the sarcastic and stupid reply of the peasant Ipat, whom he met on the way, and asked, “Well, Ipat, shall we soon be sowing?” “We must get the ploughing done first, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” answered Ipat. The further he rode, the happier he became, and plans for the land rose to his mind each better than the last; to plant all his fields with hedges along the southern borders, so that the snow should not lie under them; to divide them up into six fields of arable and three of pasture and hay; to build a cattle yard at the further end of the estate, and to dig a pond and to construct movable pens for the cattle as a means of manuring the land. And then eight hundred acres of wheat, three hundred of potatoes, and four hundred of clover, and not one acre exhausted.
Absorbed in such dreams, carefully keeping his horse by the hedges, so as not to trample his young crops, he rode up to the laborers who had been sent to sow clover. A cart with the seed in it was standing, not at the edge, but in the middle of the crop, and the winter corn had been torn up by the wheels and trampled by the horse. Both the laborers were sitting in the hedge, probably smoking a pipe together. The earth in the cart, with which the seed was mixed, was not crushed to powder, but crusted together or adhering in clods. Seeing the master, the laborer, Vassily, went towards the cart, while Mishka set to work sowing. This was not as it should be, but with the laborers Levin seldom lost his temper. When Vassily came up, Levin told him to lead the horse to the hedge.
“It’s all right, sir, it’ll spring up again,” responded Vassily.
“Please don’t argue,” said Levin, “but do as you’re told.”
“Yes, sir,” answered Vassily, and he took the horse’s head. “What a sowing, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” he said, hesitating; “first rate. Only it’s a work to get about! You drag a ton of earth on your shoes.”
“Why is it you have earth that’s not sifted?” said Levin.
“Well, we crumble it up,” answered Vassily, taking up some seed and rolling the earth in his palms.
Vassily was not to blame for their having filled up his cart with unsifted earth, but still it was annoying.
Levin had more than once already tried a way he knew for stifling his anger, and turning all that seemed dark right again, and he tried that way now. He watched how Mishka strode along, swinging the huge clods of earth that clung to each foot; and getting off his horse, he took the sieve from Vassily and started sowing himself.
“Where did you stop?”
Vassily pointed to the mark with his foot, and Levin went forward as best he could, scattering the seed on the land. Walking was as difficult as on a bog, and by the time Levin had ended the row he was in a great heat, and he stopped and gave up the sieve to Vassily.
“Well, master, when summer’s here, mind you don’t scold me for these rows,” said Vassily.
“Eh?” said Levin cheerily, already feeling the effect of his method.
“Why, you’ll see in the summer time. It’ll look different. Look you where I sowed last spring. How I did work at it! I do my best, Konstantin Dmitrievitch, d’ye see, as I would for my own father. I don’t like bad work myself, nor would I let another man do it. What’s good for the master’s good for us too. To look out yonder now,” said Vassily, pointing, “it does one’s heart good.”
“It’s a lovely spring, Vassily.”
“Why, it’s a spring such as the old men don’t remember the like of. I was up home; an old man up there has sown wheat too, about an acre of it. He was saying you wouldn’t know it from rye.”
“Have you been sowing wheat long?”
“Why, sir, it was you taught us the year before last. You gave me two measures. We sold about eight bushels and sowed a rood.”
“Well, mind you crumble up the clods,” said Levin, going towards his horse, “and keep an eye on Mishka. And if there’s a good crop you shall have half a rouble for every acre.”
“Humbly thankful. We are very well content, sir, as it is.”
Levin got on his horse and rode towards the field where was last year’s clover, and the one which was ploughed ready for the spring corn.
The crop of clover coming up in the stubble was magnificent. It had survived everything, and stood up vividly green through the broken stalks of last year’s wheat. The horse sank in up to the pasterns, and he drew each hoof with a sucking sound out of the half-thawed ground. Over the ploughland riding was utterly impossible; the horse could only keep a foothold where there was ice, and in the thawing furrows he sank deep in at each step. The ploughland was in splendid condition; in a couple of days it would be fit for harrowing and sowing. Everything was capital, everything was cheering. Levin rode back across the streams, hoping the water would have gone down. And he did in fact get across, and startled two ducks. “There must be snipe too,” he thought, and just as he reached the turning homewards he met the forest keeper, who confirmed his theory about the snipe.
Levin went home at a trot, so as to have time to eat his dinner and get his gun ready for the evening.
As he rode up to the house in the happiest frame of mind, Levin heard the bell ring at the side of the principal entrance of the house.
“Yes, that’s someone from the railway station,” he thought, “just the time to be here from the Moscow train ... Who could it be? What if it’s brother Nikolay? He did say: ‘Maybe I’ll go to the waters, or maybe I’ll come down to you.’” He felt dismayed and vexed for the first minute, that his brother Nikolay’s presence should come to disturb his happy mood of spring. But he felt ashamed of the feeling, and at once he opened, as it were, the arms of his soul, and with a softened feeling of joy and expectation, now he hoped with all his heart that it was his brother. He pricked up his horse, and riding out from behind the acacias he saw a hired three-horse sledge from the railway station, and a gentleman in a fur coat. It was not his brother. “Oh, if it were only some nice person one could talk to a little!” he thought.
“Ah,” cried Levin joyfully, flinging up both his hands. “Here’s a delightful visitor! Ah, how glad I am to see you!” he shouted, recognizing Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“I shall find out for certain whether she’s married, or when she’s going to be married,” he thought. And on that delicious spring day he felt that the thought of her did not hurt him at all.
“Well, you didn’t expect me, eh?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting out of the sledge, splashed with mud on the bridge of his nose, on his cheek, and on his eyebrows, but radiant with health and good spirits. “I’ve come to see you in the first place,” he said, embracing and kissing him, “to have some stand-shooting second, and to sell the forest at Ergushovo third.”
“Delightful! What a spring we’re having! How ever did you get along in a sledge?”
“In a cart it would have been worse still, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” answered the driver, who knew him.
“Well, I’m very, very glad to see you,” said Levin, with a genuine smile of childlike delight.
Levin led his friend to the room set apart for visitors, where Stepan Arkadyevitch’s things were carried also—a bag, a gun in a case, a satchel for cigars. Leaving him there to wash and change his clothes, Levin went off to the counting house to speak about the ploughing and clover. Agafea Mihalovna, always very anxious for the credit of the house, met him in the hall with inquiries about dinner.
“Do just as you like, only let it be as soon as possible,” he said, and went to the bailiff.
When he came back, Stepan Arkadyevitch, washed and combed, came out of his room with a beaming smile, and they went upstairs together.
“Well, I am glad I managed to get away to you! Now I shall understand what the mysterious business is that you are always absorbed in here. No, really, I envy you. What a house, how nice it all is! So bright, so cheerful!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, forgetting that it was not always spring and fine weather like that day. “And your nurse is simply charming! A pretty maid in an apron might be even more agreeable, perhaps; but for your severe monastic style it does very well.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch told him many interesting pieces of news; especially interesting to Levin was the news that his brother, Sergey Ivanovitch, was intending to pay him a visit in the summer.
Not one word did Stepan Arkadyevitch say in reference to Kitty and the Shtcherbatskys; he merely gave him greetings from his wife. Levin was grateful to him for his delicacy and was very glad of his visitor. As always happened with him during his solitude, a mass of ideas and feelings had been accumulating within him, which he could not communicate to those about him. And now he poured out upon Stepan Arkadyevitch his poetic joy in the spring, and his failures and plans for the land, and his thoughts and criticisms on the books he had been reading, and the idea of his own book, the basis of which really was, though he was unaware of it himself, a criticism of all the old books on agriculture. Stepan Arkadyevitch, always charming, understanding everything at the slightest reference, was particularly charming on this visit, and Levin noticed in him a special tenderness, as it were, and a new tone of respect that flattered him.
The efforts of Agafea Mihalovna and the cook, that the dinner should be particularly good, only ended in the two famished friends attacking the preliminary course, eating a great deal of bread and butter, salt goose and salted mushrooms, and in Levin’s finally ordering the soup to be served without the accompaniment of little pies, with which the cook had particularly meant to impress their visitor. But though Stepan Arkadyevitch was accustomed to very different dinners, he thought everything excellent: the herb brandy, and the bread, and the butter, and above all the salt goose and the mushrooms, and the nettle soup, and the chicken in white sauce, and the white Crimean wine—everything was superb and delicious.
“Splendid, splendid!” he said, lighting a fat cigar after the roast. “I feel as if, coming to you, I had landed on a peaceful shore after the noise and jolting of a steamer. And so you maintain that the laborer himself is an element to be studied and to regulate the choice of methods in agriculture. Of course, I’m an ignorant outsider; but I should fancy theory and its application will have its influence on the laborer too.”
“Yes, but wait a bit. I’m not talking of political economy, I’m talking of the science of agriculture. It ought to be like the natural sciences, and to observe given phenomena and the laborer in his economic, ethnographical....”
At that instant Agafea Mihalovna came in with jam.
“Oh, Agafea Mihalovna,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, kissing the tips of his plump fingers, “what salt goose, what herb brandy!... What do you think, isn’t it time to start, Kostya?” he added.
Levin looked out of the window at the sun sinking behind the bare tree-tops of the forest.
“Yes, it’s time,” he said. “Kouzma, get ready the trap,” and he ran downstairs.
Stepan Arkadyevitch, going down, carefully took the canvas cover off his varnished gun case with his own hands, and opening it, began to get ready his expensive new-fashioned gun. Kouzma, who already scented a big tip, never left Stepan Arkadyevitch’s side, and put on him both his stockings and boots, a task which Stepan Arkadyevitch readily left him.
“Kostya, give orders that if the merchant Ryabinin comes ... I told him to come today, he’s to be brought in and to wait for me....”
“Why, do you mean to say you’re selling the forest to Ryabinin?”
“Yes. Do you know him?”
“To be sure I do. I have had to do business with him, ‘positively and conclusively.’”
Stepan Arkadyevitch laughed. “Positively and conclusively” were the merchant’s favorite words.
“Yes, it’s wonderfully funny the way he talks. She knows where her master’s going!” he added, patting Laska, who hung about Levin, whining and licking his hands, his boots, and his gun.
The trap was already at the steps when they went out.
“I told them to bring the trap round; or would you rather walk?”
“No, we’d better drive,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting into the trap. He sat down, tucked the tiger-skin rug round him, and lighted a cigar. “How is it you don’t smoke? A cigar is a sort of thing, not exactly a pleasure, but the crown and outward sign of pleasure. Come, this is life! How splendid it is! This is how I should like to live!”
“Why, who prevents you?” said Levin, smiling.
“No, you’re a lucky man! You’ve got everything you like. You like horses—and you have them; dogs—you have them; shooting—you have it; farming—you have it.”
“Perhaps because I rejoice in what I have, and don’t fret for what I haven’t,” said Levin, thinking of Kitty.
Stepan Arkadyevitch comprehended, looked at him, but said nothing.
Levin was grateful to Oblonsky for noticing, with his never-failing tact, that he dreaded conversation about the Shtcherbatskys, and so saying nothing about them. But now Levin was longing to find out what was tormenting him so, yet he had not the courage to begin.
“Come, tell me how things are going with you,” said Levin, bethinking himself that it was not nice of him to think only of himself.
Stepan Arkadyevitch’s eyes sparkled merrily.
“You don’t admit, I know, that one can be fond of new rolls when one has had one’s rations of bread—to your mind it’s a crime; but I don’t count life as life without love,” he said, taking Levin’s question his own way. “What am I to do? I’m made that way. And really, one does so little harm to anyone, and gives oneself so much pleasure....”
“What! is there something new, then?” queried Levin.
“Yes, my boy, there is! There, do you see, you know the type of Ossian’s women.... Women, such as one sees in dreams.... Well, these women are sometimes to be met in reality ... and these women are terrible. Woman, don’t you know, is such a subject that however much you study it, it’s always perfectly new.”
“Well, then, it would be better not to study it.”
“No. Some mathematician has said that enjoyment lies in the search for truth, not in the finding it.”
Levin listened in silence, and in spite of all the efforts he made, he could not in the least enter into the feelings of his friend and understand his sentiments and the charm of studying such women.
The place fixed on for the stand-shooting was not far above a stream in a little aspen copse. On reaching the copse, Levin got out of the trap and led Oblonsky to a corner of a mossy, swampy glade, already quite free from snow. He went back himself to a double birch tree on the other side, and leaning his gun on the fork of a dead lower branch, he took off his full overcoat, fastened his belt again, and worked his arms to see if they were free.
Gray old Laska, who had followed them, sat down warily opposite him and pricked up her ears. The sun was setting behind a thick forest, and in the glow of sunset the birch trees, dotted about in the aspen copse, stood out clearly with their hanging twigs, and their buds swollen almost to bursting.
From the thickest parts of the copse, where the snow still remained, came the faint sound of narrow winding threads of water running away. Tiny birds twittered, and now and then fluttered from tree to tree.
In the pauses of complete stillness there came the rustle of last year’s leaves, stirred by the thawing of the earth and the growth of the grass.
“Imagine! One can hear and see the grass growing!” Levin said to himself, noticing a wet, slate-colored aspen leaf moving beside a blade of young grass. He stood, listened, and gazed sometimes down at the wet mossy ground, sometimes at Laska listening all alert, sometimes at the sea of bare tree tops that stretched on the slope below him, sometimes at the darkening sky, covered with white streaks of cloud.
A hawk flew high over a forest far away with slow sweep of its wings; another flew with exactly the same motion in the same direction and vanished. The birds twittered more and more loudly and busily in the thicket. An owl hooted not far off, and Laska, starting, stepped cautiously a few steps forward, and putting her head on one side, began to listen intently. Beyond the stream was heard the cuckoo. Twice she uttered her usual cuckoo call, and then gave a hoarse, hurried call and broke down.
“Imagine! the cuckoo already!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, coming out from behind a bush.
“Yes, I hear it,” answered Levin, reluctantly breaking the stillness with his voice, which sounded disagreeable to himself. “Now it’s coming!”
Stepan Arkadyevitch’s figure again went behind the bush, and Levin saw nothing but the bright flash of a match, followed by the red glow and blue smoke of a cigarette.
“Tchk! tchk!” came the snapping sound of Stepan Arkadyevitch cocking his gun.
“What’s that cry?” asked Oblonsky, drawing Levin’s attention to a prolonged cry, as though a colt were whinnying in a high voice, in play.
“Oh, don’t you know it? That’s the hare. But enough talking! Listen, it’s flying!” almost shrieked Levin, cocking his gun.
They heard a shrill whistle in the distance, and in the exact time, so well known to the sportsman, two seconds later—another, a third, and after the third whistle the hoarse, guttural cry could be heard.
Levin looked about him to right and to left, and there, just facing him against the dusky blue sky above the confused mass of tender shoots of the aspens, he saw the flying bird. It was flying straight towards him; the guttural cry, like the even tearing of some strong stuff, sounded close to his ear; the long beak and neck of the bird could be seen, and at the very instant when Levin was taking aim, behind the bush where Oblonsky stood, there was a flash of red lightning: the bird dropped like an arrow, and darted upwards again. Again came the red flash and the sound of a blow, and fluttering its wings as though trying to keep up in the air, the bird halted, stopped still an instant, and fell with a heavy splash on the slushy ground.
“Can I have missed it?” shouted Stepan Arkadyevitch, who could not see for the smoke.
“Here it is!” said Levin, pointing to Laska, who with one ear raised, wagging the end of her shaggy tail, came slowly back as though she would prolong the pleasure, and as it were smiling, brought the dead bird to her master. “Well, I’m glad you were successful,” said Levin, who, at the same time, had a sense of envy that he had not succeeded in shooting the snipe.
“It was a bad shot from the right barrel,” responded Stepan Arkadyevitch, loading his gun. “Sh... it’s flying!”
The shrill whistles rapidly following one another were heard again. Two snipe, playing and chasing one another, and only whistling, not crying, flew straight at the very heads of the sportsmen. There was the report of four shots, and like swallows the snipe turned swift somersaults in the air and vanished from sight.
The stand-shooting was capital. Stepan Arkadyevitch shot two more birds and Levin two, of which one was not found. It began to get dark. Venus, bright and silvery, shone with her soft light low down in the west behind the birch trees, and high up in the east twinkled the red lights of Arcturus. Over his head Levin made out the stars of the Great Bear and lost them again. The snipe had ceased flying; but Levin resolved to stay a little longer, till Venus, which he saw below a branch of birch, should be above it, and the stars of the Great Bear should be perfectly plain. Venus had risen above the branch, and the ear of the Great Bear with its shaft was now all plainly visible against the dark blue sky, yet still he waited.
“Isn’t it time to go home?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
It was quite still now in the copse, and not a bird was stirring.
“Let’s stay a little while,” answered Levin.
“As you like.”
They were standing now about fifteen paces from one another.
“Stiva!” said Levin unexpectedly; “how is it you don’t tell me whether your sister-in-law’s married yet, or when she’s going to be?”
Levin felt so resolute and serene that no answer, he fancied, could affect him. But he had never dreamed of what Stepan Arkadyevitch replied.
“She’s never thought of being married, and isn’t thinking of it; but she’s very ill, and the doctors have sent her abroad. They’re positively afraid she may not live.”
“What!” cried Levin. “Very ill? What is wrong with her? How has she...?”
While they were saying this, Laska, with ears pricked up, was looking upwards at the sky, and reproachfully at them.
“They have chosen a time to talk,” she was thinking. “It’s on the wing.... Here it is, yes, it is. They’ll miss it,” thought Laska.
But at that very instant both suddenly heard a shrill whistle which, as it were, smote on their ears, and both suddenly seized their guns and two flashes gleamed, and two bangs sounded at the very same instant. The snipe flying high above instantly folded its wings and fell into a thicket, bending down the delicate shoots.
“Splendid! Together!” cried Levin, and he ran with Laska into the thicket to look for the snipe.
“Oh, yes, what was it that was unpleasant?” he wondered. “Yes, Kitty’s ill.... Well, it can’t be helped; I’m very sorry,” he thought.
“She’s found it! Isn’t she a clever thing?” he said, taking the warm bird from Laska’s mouth and packing it into the almost full game bag. “I’ve got it, Stiva!” he shouted.
On the way home Levin asked all details of Kitty’s illness and the Shtcherbatskys’ plans, and though he would have been ashamed to admit it, he was pleased at what he heard. He was pleased that there was still hope, and still more pleased that she should be suffering who had made him suffer so much. But when Stepan Arkadyevitch began to speak of the causes of Kitty’s illness, and mentioned Vronsky’s name, Levin cut him short.
“I have no right whatever to know family matters, and, to tell the truth, no interest in them either.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch smiled hardly perceptibly, catching the instantaneous change he knew so well in Levin’s face, which had become as gloomy as it had been bright a minute before.
“Have you quite settled about the forest with Ryabinin?” asked Levin.
“Yes, it’s settled. The price is magnificent; thirty-eight thousand. Eight straight away, and the rest in six years. I’ve been bothering about it for ever so long. No one would give more.”
“Then you’ve as good as given away your forest for nothing,” said Levin gloomily.
“How do you mean for nothing?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with a good-humored smile, knowing that nothing would be right in Levin’s eyes now.
“Because the forest is worth at least a hundred and fifty roubles the acre,” answered Levin.
“Oh, these farmers!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch playfully. “Your tone of contempt for us poor townsfolk!... But when it comes to business, we do it better than anyone. I assure you I have reckoned it all out,” he said, “and the forest is fetching a very good price—so much so that I’m afraid of this fellow’s crying off, in fact. You know it’s not ‘timber,’” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, hoping by this distinction to convince Levin completely of the unfairness of his doubts. “And it won’t run to more than twenty-five yards of fagots per acre, and he’s giving me at the rate of seventy roubles the acre.”
Levin smiled contemptuously. “I know,” he thought, “that fashion not only in him, but in all city people, who, after being twice in ten years in the country, pick up two or three phrases and use them in season and out of season, firmly persuaded that they know all about it. ‘Timber, run to so many yards the acre.’ He says those words without understanding them himself.”
“I wouldn’t attempt to teach you what you write about in your office,” said he, “and if need arose, I should come to you to ask about it. But you’re so positive you know all the lore of the forest. It’s difficult. Have you counted the trees?”
“How count the trees?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, laughing, still trying to draw his friend out of his ill-temper. “Count the sands of the sea, number the stars. Some higher power might do it.”
“Oh, well, the higher power of Ryabinin can. Not a single merchant ever buys a forest without counting the trees, unless they get it given them for nothing, as you’re doing now. I know your forest. I go there every year shooting, and your forest’s worth a hundred and fifty roubles an acre paid down, while he’s giving you sixty by installments. So that in fact you’re making him a present of thirty thousand.”
“Come, don’t let your imagination run away with you,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch piteously. “Why was it none would give it, then?”
“Why, because he has an understanding with the merchants; he’s bought them off. I’ve had to do with all of them; I know them. They’re not merchants, you know: they’re speculators. He wouldn’t look at a bargain that gave him ten, fifteen per cent. profit, but holds back to buy a rouble’s worth for twenty kopecks.”
“Well, enough of it! You’re out of temper.”
“Not the least,” said Levin gloomily, as they drove up to the house.
At the steps there stood a trap tightly covered with iron and leather, with a sleek horse tightly harnessed with broad collar-straps. In the trap sat the chubby, tightly belted clerk who served Ryabinin as coachman. Ryabinin himself was already in the house, and met the friends in the hall. Ryabinin was a tall, thinnish, middle-aged man, with mustache and a projecting clean-shaven chin, and prominent muddy-looking eyes. He was dressed in a long-skirted blue coat, with buttons below the waist at the back, and wore high boots wrinkled over the ankles and straight over the calf, with big galoshes drawn over them. He rubbed his face with his handkerchief, and wrapping round him his coat, which sat extremely well as it was, he greeted them with a smile, holding out his hand to Stepan Arkadyevitch, as though he wanted to catch something.
“So here you are,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, giving him his hand. “That’s capital.”
“I did not venture to disregard your excellency’s commands, though the road was extremely bad. I positively walked the whole way, but I am here at my time. Konstantin Dmitrievitch, my respects”; he turned to Levin, trying to seize his hand too. But Levin, scowling, made as though he did not notice his hand, and took out the snipe. “Your honors have been diverting yourselves with the chase? What kind of bird may it be, pray?” added Ryabinin, looking contemptuously at the snipe: “a great delicacy, I suppose.” And he shook his head disapprovingly, as though he had grave doubts whether this game were worth the candle.
“Would you like to go into my study?” Levin said in French to Stepan Arkadyevitch, scowling morosely. “Go into my study; you can talk there.”
“Quite so, where you please,” said Ryabinin with contemptuous dignity, as though wishing to make it felt that others might be in difficulties as to how to behave, but that he could never be in any difficulty about anything.
On entering the study Ryabinin looked about, as his habit was, as though seeking the holy picture, but when he had found it, he did not cross himself. He scanned the bookcases and bookshelves, and with the same dubious air with which he had regarded the snipe, he smiled contemptuously and shook his head disapprovingly, as though by no means willing to allow that this game were worth the candle.
“Well, have you brought the money?” asked Oblonsky. “Sit down.”
“Oh, don’t trouble about the money. I’ve come to see you to talk it over.”
“What is there to talk over? But do sit down.”
“I don’t mind if I do,” said Ryabinin, sitting down and leaning his elbows on the back of his chair in a position of the intensest discomfort to himself. “You must knock it down a bit, prince. It would be too bad. The money is ready conclusively to the last farthing. As to paying the money down, there’ll be no hitch there.”
Levin, who had meanwhile been putting his gun away in the cupboard, was just going out of the door, but catching the merchant’s words, he stopped.
“Why, you’ve got the forest for nothing as it is,” he said. “He came to me too late, or I’d have fixed the price for him.”
Ryabinin got up, and in silence, with a smile, he looked Levin down and up.
“Very close about money is Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” he said with a smile, turning to Stepan Arkadyevitch; “there’s positively no dealing with him. I was bargaining for some wheat of him, and a pretty price I offered too.”
“Why should I give you my goods for nothing? I didn’t pick it up on the ground, nor steal it either.”
“Mercy on us! nowadays there’s no chance at all of stealing. With the open courts and everything done in style, nowadays there’s no question of stealing. We are just talking things over like gentlemen. His excellency’s asking too much for the forest. I can’t make both ends meet over it. I must ask for a little concession.”
“But is the thing settled between you or not? If it’s settled, it’s useless haggling; but if it’s not,” said Levin, “I’ll buy the forest.”
The smile vanished at once from Ryabinin’s face. A hawklike, greedy, cruel expression was left upon it. With rapid, bony fingers he unbuttoned his coat, revealing a shirt, bronze waistcoat buttons, and a watch chain, and quickly pulled out a fat old pocketbook.
“Here you are, the forest is mine,” he said, crossing himself quickly, and holding out his hand. “Take the money; it’s my forest. That’s Ryabinin’s way of doing business; he doesn’t haggle over every half-penny,” he added, scowling and waving the pocketbook.
“I wouldn’t be in a hurry if I were you,” said Levin.
“Come, really,” said Oblonsky in surprise. “I’ve given my word, you know.”
Levin went out of the room, slamming the door. Ryabinin looked towards the door and shook his head with a smile.
“It’s all youthfulness—positively nothing but boyishness. Why, I’m buying it, upon my honor, simply, believe me, for the glory of it, that Ryabinin, and no one else, should have bought the copse of Oblonsky. And as to the profits, why, I must make what God gives. In God’s name. If you would kindly sign the title-deed....”
Within an hour the merchant, stroking his big overcoat neatly down, and hooking up his jacket, with the agreement in his pocket, seated himself in his tightly covered trap, and drove homewards.
“Ugh, these gentlefolks!” he said to the clerk. “They—they’re a nice lot!”
“That’s so,” responded the clerk, handing him the reins and buttoning the leather apron. “But I can congratulate you on the purchase, Mihail Ignatitch?”
Stepan Arkadyevitch went upstairs with his pocket bulging with notes, which the merchant had paid him for three months in advance. The business of the forest was over, the money in his pocket; their shooting had been excellent, and Stepan Arkadyevitch was in the happiest frame of mind, and so he felt specially anxious to dissipate the ill-humor that had come upon Levin. He wanted to finish the day at supper as pleasantly as it had been begun.
Levin certainly was out of humor, and in spite of all his desire to be affectionate and cordial to his charming visitor, he could not control his mood. The intoxication of the news that Kitty was not married had gradually begun to work upon him.
Kitty was not married, but ill, and ill from love for a man who had slighted her. This slight, as it were, rebounded upon him. Vronsky had slighted her, and she had slighted him, Levin. Consequently Vronsky had the right to despise Levin, and therefore he was his enemy. But all this Levin did not think out. He vaguely felt that there was something in it insulting to him, and he was not angry now at what had disturbed him, but he fell foul of everything that presented itself. The stupid sale of the forest, the fraud practiced upon Oblonsky and concluded in his house, exasperated him.
“Well, finished?” he said, meeting Stepan Arkadyevitch upstairs. “Would you like supper?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say no to it. What an appetite I get in the country! Wonderful! Why didn’t you offer Ryabinin something?”
“Oh, damn him!”
“Still, how you do treat him!” said Oblonsky. “You didn’t even shake hands with him. Why not shake hands with him?”
“Because I don’t shake hands with a waiter, and a waiter’s a hundred times better than he is.”
“What a reactionist you are, really! What about the amalgamation of classes?” said Oblonsky.
“Anyone who likes amalgamating is welcome to it, but it sickens me.”
“You’re a regular reactionist, I see.”
“Really, I have never considered what I am. I am Konstantin Levin, and nothing else.”
“And Konstantin Levin very much out of temper,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling.
“Yes, I am out of temper, and do you know why? Because—excuse me—of your stupid sale....”
Stepan Arkadyevitch frowned good-humoredly, like one who feels himself teased and attacked for no fault of his own.
“Come, enough about it!” he said. “When did anybody ever sell anything without being told immediately after the sale, ‘It was worth much more’? But when one wants to sell, no one will give anything.... No, I see you’ve a grudge against that unlucky Ryabinin.”
“Maybe I have. And do you know why? You’ll say again that I’m a reactionist, or some other terrible word; but all the same it does annoy and anger me to see on all sides the impoverishing of the nobility to which I belong, and, in spite of the amalgamation of classes, I’m glad to belong. And their impoverishment is not due to extravagance—that would be nothing; living in good style—that’s the proper thing for noblemen; it’s only the nobles who know how to do it. Now the peasants about us buy land, and I don’t mind that. The gentleman does nothing, while the peasant works and supplants the idle man. That’s as it ought to be. And I’m very glad for the peasant. But I do mind seeing the process of impoverishment from a sort of—I don’t know what to call it—innocence. Here a Polish speculator bought for half its value a magnificent estate from a young lady who lives in Nice. And there a merchant will get three acres of land, worth ten roubles, as security for the loan of one rouble. Here, for no kind of reason, you’ve made that rascal a present of thirty thousand roubles.”
“Well, what should I have done? Counted every tree?”
“Of course, they must be counted. You didn’t count them, but Ryabinin did. Ryabinin’s children will have means of livelihood and education, while yours maybe will not!”
“Well, you must excuse me, but there’s something mean in this counting. We have our business and they have theirs, and they must make their profit. Anyway, the thing’s done, and there’s an end of it. And here come some poached eggs, my favorite dish. And Agafea Mihalovna will give us that marvelous herb-brandy....”
Stepan Arkadyevitch sat down at the table and began joking with Agafea Mihalovna, assuring her that it was long since he had tasted such a dinner and such a supper.
“Well, you do praise it, anyway,” said Agafea Mihalovna, “but Konstantin Dmitrievitch, give him what you will—a crust of bread—he’ll eat it and walk away.”
Though Levin tried to control himself, he was gloomy and silent. He wanted to put one question to Stepan Arkadyevitch, but he could not bring himself to the point, and could not find the words or the moment in which to put it. Stepan Arkadyevitch had gone down to his room, undressed, again washed, and attired in a nightshirt with goffered frills, he had got into bed, but Levin still lingered in his room, talking of various trifling matters, and not daring to ask what he wanted to know.
“How wonderfully they make this soap,” he said gazing at a piece of soap he was handling, which Agafea Mihalovna had put ready for the visitor but Oblonsky had not used. “Only look; why, it’s a work of art.”
“Yes, everything’s brought to such a pitch of perfection nowadays,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, with a moist and blissful yawn. “The theater, for instance, and the entertainments ... a—a—a!” he yawned. “The electric light everywhere ... a—a—a!”
“Yes, the electric light,” said Levin. “Yes. Oh, and where’s Vronsky now?” he asked suddenly, laying down the soap.
“Vronsky?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, checking his yawn; “he’s in Petersburg. He left soon after you did, and he’s not once been in Moscow since. And do you know, Kostya, I’ll tell you the truth,” he went on, leaning his elbow on the table, and propping on his hand his handsome ruddy face, in which his moist, good-natured, sleepy eyes shone like stars. “It’s your own fault. You took fright at the sight of your rival. But, as I told you at the time, I couldn’t say which had the better chance. Why didn’t you fight it out? I told you at the time that....” He yawned inwardly, without opening his mouth.
“Does he know, or doesn’t he, that I did make an offer?” Levin wondered, gazing at him. “Yes, there’s something humbugging, diplomatic in his face,” and feeling he was blushing, he looked Stepan Arkadyevitch straight in the face without speaking.
“If there was anything on her side at the time, it was nothing but a superficial attraction,” pursued Oblonsky. “His being such a perfect aristocrat, don’t you know, and his future position in society, had an influence not with her, but with her mother.”
Levin scowled. The humiliation of his rejection stung him to the heart, as though it were a fresh wound he had only just received. But he was at home, and the walls of home are a support.
“Stay, stay,” he began, interrupting Oblonsky. “You talk of his being an aristocrat. But allow me to ask what it consists in, that aristocracy of Vronsky or of anybody else, beside which I can be looked down upon? You consider Vronsky an aristocrat, but I don’t. A man whose father crawled up from nothing at all by intrigue, and whose mother—God knows whom she wasn’t mixed up with.... No, excuse me, but I consider myself aristocratic, and people like me, who can point back in the past to three or four honorable generations of their family, of the highest degree of breeding (talent and intellect, of course that’s another matter), and have never curried favor with anyone, never depended on anyone for anything, like my father and my grandfather. And I know many such. You think it mean of me to count the trees in my forest, while you make Ryabinin a present of thirty thousand; but you get rents from your lands and I don’t know what, while I don’t and so I prize what’s come to me from my ancestors or been won by hard work.... We are aristocrats, and not those who can only exist by favor of the powerful of this world, and who can be bought for twopence halfpenny.”
“Well, but whom are you attacking? I agree with you,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, sincerely and genially; though he was aware that in the class of those who could be bought for twopence halfpenny Levin was reckoning him too. Levin’s warmth gave him genuine pleasure. “Whom are you attacking? Though a good deal is not true that you say about Vronsky, but I won’t talk about that. I tell you straight out, if I were you, I should go back with me to Moscow, and....”
“No; I don’t know whether you know it or not, but I don’t care. And I tell you—I did make an offer and was rejected, and Katerina Alexandrovna is nothing now to me but a painful and humiliating reminiscence.”
“What ever for? What nonsense!”
“But we won’t talk about it. Please forgive me, if I’ve been nasty,” said Levin. Now that he had opened his heart, he became as he had been in the morning. “You’re not angry with me, Stiva? Please don’t be angry,” he said, and smiling, he took his hand.
“Of course not; not a bit, and no reason to be. I’m glad we’ve spoken openly. And do you know, stand-shooting in the morning is unusually good—why not go? I couldn’t sleep the night anyway, but I might go straight from shooting to the station.”
Although all Vronsky’s inner life was absorbed in his passion, his external life unalterably and inevitably followed along the old accustomed lines of his social and regimental ties and interests. The interests of his regiment took an important place in Vronsky’s life, both because he was fond of the regiment, and because the regiment was fond of him. They were not only fond of Vronsky in his regiment, they respected him too, and were proud of him; proud that this man, with his immense wealth, his brilliant education and abilities, and the path open before him to every kind of success, distinction, and ambition, had disregarded all that, and of all the interests of life had the interests of his regiment and his comrades nearest to his heart. Vronsky was aware of his comrades’ view of him, and in addition to his liking for the life, he felt bound to keep up that reputation.
It need not be said that he did not speak of his love to any of his comrades, nor did he betray his secret even in the wildest drinking bouts (though indeed he was never so drunk as to lose all control of himself). And he shut up any of his thoughtless comrades who attempted to allude to his connection. But in spite of that, his love was known to all the town; everyone guessed with more or less confidence at his relations with Madame Karenina. The majority of the younger men envied him for just what was the most irksome factor in his love—the exalted position of Karenin, and the consequent publicity of their connection in society.
The greater number of the young women, who envied Anna and had long been weary of hearing her called virtuous, rejoiced at the fulfillment of their predictions, and were only waiting for a decisive turn in public opinion to fall upon her with all the weight of their scorn. They were already making ready their handfuls of mud to fling at her when the right moment arrived. The greater number of the middle-aged people and certain great personages were displeased at the prospect of the impending scandal in society.
Vronsky’s mother, on hearing of his connection, was at first pleased at it, because nothing to her mind gave such a finishing touch to a brilliant young man as a liaison in the highest society; she was pleased, too, that Madame Karenina, who had so taken her fancy, and had talked so much of her son, was, after all, just like all other pretty and well-bred women,—at least according to the Countess Vronskaya’s ideas. But she had heard of late that her son had refused a position offered him of great importance to his career, simply in order to remain in the regiment, where he could be constantly seeing Madame Karenina. She learned that great personages were displeased with him on this account, and she changed her opinion. She was vexed, too, that from all she could learn of this connection it was not that brilliant, graceful, worldly liaison which she would have welcomed, but a sort of Wertherish, desperate passion, so she was told, which might well lead him into imprudence. She had not seen him since his abrupt departure from Moscow, and she sent her elder son to bid him come to see her.
This elder son, too, was displeased with his younger brother. He did not distinguish what sort of love his might be, big or little, passionate or passionless, lasting or passing (he kept a ballet girl himself, though he was the father of a family, so he was lenient in these matters), but he knew that this love affair was viewed with displeasure by those whom it was necessary to please, and therefore he did not approve of his brother’s conduct.
Besides the service and society, Vronsky had another great interest—horses; he was passionately fond of horses.
That year races and a steeplechase had been arranged for the officers. Vronsky had put his name down, bought a thoroughbred English mare, and in spite of his love affair, he was looking forward to the races with intense, though reserved, excitement....
These two passions did not interfere with one another. On the contrary, he needed occupation and distraction quite apart from his love, so as to recruit and rest himself from the violent emotions that agitated him.
On the day of the races at Krasnoe Selo, Vronsky had come earlier than usual to eat beefsteak in the common messroom of the regiment. He had no need to be strict with himself, as he had very quickly been brought down to the required light weight; but still he had to avoid gaining flesh, and so he eschewed farinaceous and sweet dishes. He sat with his coat unbuttoned over a white waistcoat, resting both elbows on the table, and while waiting for the steak he had ordered he looked at a French novel that lay open on his plate. He was only looking at the book to avoid conversation with the officers coming in and out; he was thinking.
He was thinking of Anna’s promise to see him that day after the races. But he had not seen her for three days, and as her husband had just returned from abroad, he did not know whether she would be able to meet him today or not, and he did not know how to find out. He had had his last interview with her at his cousin Betsy’s summer villa. He visited the Karenins’ summer villa as rarely as possible. Now he wanted to go there, and he pondered the question how to do it.
“Of course I shall say Betsy has sent me to ask whether she’s coming to the races. Of course, I’ll go,” he decided, lifting his head from the book. And as he vividly pictured the happiness of seeing her, his face lighted up.
“Send to my house, and tell them to have out the carriage and three horses as quick as they can,” he said to the servant, who handed him the steak on a hot silver dish, and moving the dish up he began eating.
From the billiard room next door came the sound of balls knocking, of talk and laughter. Two officers appeared at the entrance-door: one, a young fellow, with a feeble, delicate face, who had lately joined the regiment from the Corps of Pages; the other, a plump, elderly officer, with a bracelet on his wrist, and little eyes, lost in fat.
Vronsky glanced at them, frowned, and looking down at his book as though he had not noticed them, he proceeded to eat and read at the same time.
“What? Fortifying yourself for your work?” said the plump officer, sitting down beside him.
“As you see,” responded Vronsky, knitting his brows, wiping his mouth, and not looking at the officer.
“So you’re not afraid of getting fat?” said the latter, turning a chair round for the young officer.
“What?” said Vronsky angrily, making a wry face of disgust, and showing his even teeth.
“You’re not afraid of getting fat?”
“Waiter, sherry!” said Vronsky, without replying, and moving the book to the other side of him, he went on reading.
The plump officer took up the list of wines and turned to the young officer.
“You choose what we’re to drink,” he said, handing him the card, and looking at him.
“Rhine wine, please,” said the young officer, stealing a timid glance at Vronsky, and trying to pull his scarcely visible mustache. Seeing that Vronsky did not turn round, the young officer got up.
“Let’s go into the billiard room,” he said.
The plump officer rose submissively, and they moved towards the door.
At that moment there walked into the room the tall and well-built Captain Yashvin. Nodding with an air of lofty contempt to the two officers, he went up to Vronsky.
“Ah! here he is!” he cried, bringing his big hand down heavily on his epaulet. Vronsky looked round angrily, but his face lighted up immediately with his characteristic expression of genial and manly serenity.
“That’s it, Alexey,” said the captain, in his loud baritone. “You must just eat a mouthful, now, and drink only one tiny glass.”
“Oh, I’m not hungry.”
“There go the inseparables,” Yashvin dropped, glancing sarcastically at the two officers who were at that instant leaving the room. And he bent his long legs, swathed in tight riding breeches, and sat down in the chair, too low for him, so that his knees were cramped up in a sharp angle.
“Why didn’t you turn up at the Red Theater yesterday? Numerova wasn’t at all bad. Where were you?”
“I was late at the Tverskoys’,” said Vronsky.
“Ah!” responded Yashvin.
Yashvin, a gambler and a rake, a man not merely without moral principles, but of immoral principles, Yashvin was Vronsky’s greatest friend in the regiment. Vronsky liked him both for his exceptional physical strength, which he showed for the most part by being able to drink like a fish, and do without sleep without being in the slightest degree affected by it; and for his great strength of character, which he showed in his relations with his comrades and superior officers, commanding both fear and respect, and also at cards, when he would play for tens of thousands and however much he might have drunk, always with such skill and decision that he was reckoned the best player in the English Club. Vronsky respected and liked Yashvin particularly because he felt Yashvin liked him, not for his name and his money, but for himself. And of all men he was the only one with whom Vronsky would have liked to speak of his love. He felt that Yashvin, in spite of his apparent contempt for every sort of feeling, was the only man who could, so he fancied, comprehend the intense passion which now filled his whole life. Moreover, he felt certain that Yashvin, as it was, took no delight in gossip and scandal, and interpreted his feeling rightly, that is to say, knew and believed that this passion was not a jest, not a pastime, but something more serious and important.
Vronsky had never spoken to him of his passion, but he was aware that he knew all about it, and that he put the right interpretation on it, and he was glad to see that in his eyes.
“Ah! yes,” he said, to the announcement that Vronsky had been at the Tverskoys’; and his black eyes shining, he plucked at his left mustache, and began twisting it into his mouth, a bad habit he had.
“Well, and what did you do yesterday? Win anything?” asked Vronsky.
“Eight thousand. But three don’t count; he won’t pay up.”
“Oh, then you can afford to lose over me,” said Vronsky, laughing. (Yashvin had bet heavily on Vronsky in the races.)
“No chance of my losing. Mahotin’s the only one that’s risky.”
And the conversation passed to forecasts of the coming race, the only thing Vronsky could think of just now.
“Come along, I’ve finished,” said Vronsky, and getting up he went to the door. Yashvin got up too, stretching his long legs and his long back.
“It’s too early for me to dine, but I must have a drink. I’ll come along directly. Hi, wine!” he shouted, in his rich voice, that always rang out so loudly at drill, and set the windows shaking now.
“No, all right,” he shouted again immediately after. “You’re going home, so I’ll go with you.”
And he walked out with Vronsky.
Vronsky was staying in a roomy, clean, Finnish hut, divided into two by a partition. Petritsky lived with him in camp too. Petritsky was asleep when Vronsky and Yashvin came into the hut.
“Get up, don’t go on sleeping,” said Yashvin, going behind the partition and giving Petritsky, who was lying with ruffled hair and with his nose in the pillow, a prod on the shoulder.
Petritsky jumped up suddenly onto his knees and looked round.
“Your brother’s been here,” he said to Vronsky. “He waked me up, damn him, and said he’d look in again.” And pulling up the rug he flung himself back on the pillow. “Oh, do shut up, Yashvin!” he said, getting furious with Yashvin, who was pulling the rug off him. “Shut up!” He turned over and opened his eyes. “You’d better tell me what to drink; such a nasty taste in my mouth, that....”
“Brandy’s better than anything,” boomed Yashvin. “Tereshtchenko! brandy for your master and cucumbers,” he shouted, obviously taking pleasure in the sound of his own voice.
“Brandy, do you think? Eh?” queried Petritsky, blinking and rubbing his eyes. “And you’ll drink something? All right then, we’ll have a drink together! Vronsky, have a drink?” said Petritsky, getting up and wrapping the tiger-skin rug round him. He went to the door of the partition wall, raised his hands, and hummed in French, “There was a king in Thule.” “Vronsky, will you have a drink?”
“Go along,” said Vronsky, putting on the coat his valet handed to him.
“Where are you off to?” asked Yashvin. “Oh, here are your three horses,” he added, seeing the carriage drive up.
“To the stables, and I’ve got to see Bryansky, too, about the horses,” said Vronsky.
Vronsky had as a fact promised to call at Bryansky’s, some eight miles from Peterhof, and to bring him some money owing for some horses; and he hoped to have time to get that in too. But his comrades were at once aware that he was not only going there.
Petritsky, still humming, winked and made a pout with his lips, as though he would say: “Oh, yes, we know your Bryansky.”
“Mind you’re not late!” was Yashvin’s only comment; and to change the conversation: “How’s my roan? is he doing all right?” he inquired, looking out of the window at the middle one of the three horses, which he had sold Vronsky.
“Stop!” cried Petritsky to Vronsky as he was just going out. “Your brother left a letter and a note for you. Wait a bit; where are they?”
“Well, where are they?”
“Where are they? That’s just the question!” said Petritsky solemnly, moving his forefinger upwards from his nose.
“Come, tell me; this is silly!” said Vronsky smiling.
“I have not lighted the fire. Here somewhere about.”
“Come, enough fooling! Where is the letter?”
“No, I’ve forgotten really. Or was it a dream? Wait a bit, wait a bit! But what’s the use of getting in a rage. If you’d drunk four bottles yesterday as I did you’d forget where you were lying. Wait a bit, I’ll remember!”
Petritsky went behind the partition and lay down on his bed.
“Wait a bit! This was how I was lying, and this was how he was standing. Yes—yes—yes.... Here it is!”—and Petritsky pulled a letter out from under the mattress, where he had hidden it.
Vronsky took the letter and his brother’s note. It was the letter he was expecting—from his mother, reproaching him for not having been to see her—and the note was from his brother to say that he must have a little talk with him. Vronsky knew that it was all about the same thing. “What business is it of theirs!” thought Vronsky, and crumpling up the letters he thrust them between the buttons of his coat so as to read them carefully on the road. In the porch of the hut he was met by two officers; one of his regiment and one of another.
Vronsky’s quarters were always a meeting place for all the officers.
“Where are you off to?”
“I must go to Peterhof.”
“Has the mare come from Tsarskoe?”
“Yes, but I’ve not seen her yet.”
“They say Mahotin’s Gladiator’s lame.”
“Nonsense! But however are you going to race in this mud?” said the other.
“Here are my saviors!” cried Petritsky, seeing them come in. Before him stood the orderly with a tray of brandy and salted cucumbers. “Here’s Yashvin ordering me to drink a pick-me-up.”
“Well, you did give it to us yesterday,” said one of those who had come in; “you didn’t let us get a wink of sleep all night.”
“Oh, didn’t we make a pretty finish!” said Petritsky. “Volkov climbed onto the roof and began telling us how sad he was. I said: ‘Let’s have music, the funeral march!’ He fairly dropped asleep on the roof over the funeral march.”
“Drink it up; you positively must drink the brandy, and then seltzer water and a lot of lemon,” said Yashvin, standing over Petritsky like a mother making a child take medicine, “and then a little champagne—just a small bottle.”
“Come, there’s some sense in that. Stop a bit, Vronsky. We’ll all have a drink.”
“No; good-bye all of you. I’m not going to drink today.”
“Why, are you gaining weight? All right, then we must have it alone. Give us the seltzer water and lemon.”
“Vronsky!” shouted someone when he was already outside.
“You’d better get your hair cut, it’ll weigh you down, especially at the top.”
Vronsky was in fact beginning, prematurely, to get a little bald. He laughed gaily, showing his even teeth, and pulling his cap over the thin place, went out and got into his carriage.
“To the stables!” he said, and was just pulling out the letters to read them through, but he thought better of it, and put off reading them so as not to distract his attention before looking at the mare. “Later!”
The temporary stable, a wooden shed, had been put up close to the race course, and there his mare was to have been taken the previous day. He had not yet seen her there.
During the last few days he had not ridden her out for exercise himself, but had put her in the charge of the trainer, and so now he positively did not know in what condition his mare had arrived yesterday and was today. He had scarcely got out of his carriage when his groom, the so-called “stable boy,” recognizing the carriage some way off, called the trainer. A dry-looking Englishman, in high boots and a short jacket, clean-shaven, except for a tuft below his chin, came to meet him, walking with the uncouth gait of jockey, turning his elbows out and swaying from side to side.
“Well, how’s Frou-Frou?” Vronsky asked in English.
“All right, sir,” the Englishman’s voice responded somewhere in the inside of his throat. “Better not go in,” he added, touching his hat. “I’ve put a muzzle on her, and the mare’s fidgety. Better not go in, it’ll excite the mare.”
“No, I’m going in. I want to look at her.”
“Come along, then,” said the Englishman, frowning, and speaking with his mouth shut, and, with swinging elbows, he went on in front with his disjointed gait.
They went into the little yard in front of the shed. A stable boy, spruce and smart in his holiday attire, met them with a broom in his hand, and followed them. In the shed there were five horses in their separate stalls, and Vronsky knew that his chief rival, Gladiator, a very tall chestnut horse, had been brought there, and must be standing among them. Even more than his mare, Vronsky longed to see Gladiator, whom he had never seen. But he knew that by the etiquette of the race course it was not merely impossible for him to see the horse, but improper even to ask questions about him. Just as he was passing along the passage, the boy opened the door into the second horse-box on the left, and Vronsky caught a glimpse of a big chestnut horse with white legs. He knew that this was Gladiator, but, with the feeling of a man turning away from the sight of another man’s open letter, he turned round and went into Frou-Frou’s stall.
“The horse is here belonging to Mak... Mak... I never can say the name,” said the Englishman, over his shoulder, pointing his big finger and dirty nail towards Gladiator’s stall.
“Mahotin? Yes, he’s my most serious rival,” said Vronsky.
“If you were riding him,” said the Englishman, “I’d bet on you.”
“Frou-Frou’s more nervous; he’s stronger,” said Vronsky, smiling at the compliment to his riding.
“In a steeplechase it all depends on riding and on pluck,” said the Englishman.
Of pluck—that is, energy and courage—Vronsky did not merely feel that he had enough; what was of far more importance, he was firmly convinced that no one in the world could have more of this “pluck” than he had.
“Don’t you think I want more thinning down?”
“Oh, no,” answered the Englishman. “Please, don’t speak loud. The mare’s fidgety,” he added, nodding towards the horse-box, before which they were standing, and from which came the sound of restless stamping in the straw.
He opened the door, and Vronsky went into the horse-box, dimly lighted by one little window. In the horse-box stood a dark bay mare, with a muzzle on, picking at the fresh straw with her hoofs. Looking round him in the twilight of the horse-box, Vronsky unconsciously took in once more in a comprehensive glance all the points of his favorite mare. Frou-Frou was a beast of medium size, not altogether free from reproach, from a breeder’s point of view. She was small-boned all over; though her chest was extremely prominent in front, it was narrow. Her hind-quarters were a little drooping, and in her fore-legs, and still more in her hind-legs, there was a noticeable curvature. The muscles of both hind- and fore-legs were not very thick; but across her shoulders the mare was exceptionally broad, a peculiarity specially striking now that she was lean from training. The bones of her legs below the knees looked no thicker than a finger from in front, but were extraordinarily thick seen from the side. She looked altogether, except across the shoulders, as it were, pinched in at the sides and pressed out in depth. But she had in the highest degree the quality that makes all defects forgotten: that quality was blood, the blood that tells, as the English expression has it. The muscles stood up sharply under the network of sinews, covered with the delicate, mobile skin, soft as satin, and they were hard as bone. Her clean-cut head, with prominent, bright, spirited eyes, broadened out at the open nostrils, that showed the red blood in the cartilage within. About all her figure, and especially her head, there was a certain expression of energy, and, at the same time, of softness. She was one of those creatures which seem only not to speak because the mechanism of their mouth does not allow them to.
To Vronsky, at any rate, it seemed that she understood all he felt at that moment, looking at her.
Directly Vronsky went towards her, she drew in a deep breath, and, turning back her prominent eye till the white looked bloodshot, she started at the approaching figures from the opposite side, shaking her muzzle, and shifting lightly from one leg to the other.
“There, you see how fidgety she is,” said the Englishman.
“There, darling! There!” said Vronsky, going up to the mare and speaking soothingly to her.
But the nearer he came, the more excited she grew. Only when he stood by her head, she was suddenly quieter, while the muscles quivered under her soft, delicate coat. Vronsky patted her strong neck, straightened over her sharp withers a stray lock of her mane that had fallen on the other side, and moved his face near her dilated nostrils, transparent as a bat’s wing. She drew a loud breath and snorted out through her tense nostrils, started, pricked up her sharp ear, and put out her strong, black lip towards Vronsky, as though she would nip hold of his sleeve. But remembering the muzzle, she shook it and again began restlessly stamping one after the other her shapely legs.
“Quiet, darling, quiet!” he said, patting her again over her hind-quarters; and with a glad sense that his mare was in the best possible condition, he went out of the horse-box.
The mare’s excitement had infected Vronsky. He felt that his heart was throbbing, and that he, too, like the mare, longed to move, to bite; it was both dreadful and delicious.
“Well, I rely on you, then,” he said to the Englishman; “half-past six on the ground.”
“All right,” said the Englishman. “Oh, where are you going, my lord?” he asked suddenly, using the title “my lord,” which he had scarcely ever used before.
Vronsky in amazement raised his head, and stared, as he knew how to stare, not into the Englishman’s eyes, but at his forehead, astounded at the impertinence of his question. But realizing that in asking this the Englishman had been looking at him not as an employer, but as a jockey, he answered:
“I’ve got to go to Bryansky’s; I shall be home within an hour.”
“How often I’m asked that question today!” he said to himself, and he blushed, a thing which rarely happened to him. The Englishman looked gravely at him; and, as though he, too, knew where Vronsky was going, he added:
“The great thing’s to keep quiet before a race,” said he; “don’t get out of temper or upset about anything.”
“All right,” answered Vronsky, smiling; and jumping into his carriage, he told the man to drive to Peterhof.
Before he had driven many paces away, the dark clouds that had been threatening rain all day broke, and there was a heavy downpour of rain.
“What a pity!” thought Vronsky, putting up the roof of the carriage. “It was muddy before, now it will be a perfect swamp.” As he sat in solitude in the closed carriage, he took out his mother’s letter and his brother’s note, and read them through.
Yes, it was the same thing over and over again. Everyone, his mother, his brother, everyone thought fit to interfere in the affairs of his heart. This interference aroused in him a feeling of angry hatred—a feeling he had rarely known before. “What business is it of theirs? Why does everybody feel called upon to concern himself about me? And why do they worry me so? Just because they see that this is something they can’t understand. If it were a common, vulgar, worldly intrigue, they would have left me alone. They feel that this is something different, that this is not a mere pastime, that this woman is dearer to me than life. And this is incomprehensible, and that’s why it annoys them. Whatever our destiny is or may be, we have made it ourselves, and we do not complain of it,” he said, in the word we linking himself with Anna. “No, they must needs teach us how to live. They haven’t an idea of what happiness is; they don’t know that without our love, for us there is neither happiness nor unhappiness—no life at all,” he thought.
He was angry with all of them for their interference just because he felt in his soul that they, all these people, were right. He felt that the love that bound him to Anna was not a momentary impulse, which would pass, as worldly intrigues do pass, leaving no other traces in the life of either but pleasant or unpleasant memories. He felt all the torture of his own and her position, all the difficulty there was for them, conspicuous as they were in the eye of all the world, in concealing their love, in lying and deceiving; and in lying, deceiving, feigning, and continually thinking of others, when the passion that united them was so intense that they were both oblivious of everything else but their love.
He vividly recalled all the constantly recurring instances of inevitable necessity for lying and deceit, which were so against his natural bent. He recalled particularly vividly the shame he had more than once detected in her at this necessity for lying and deceit. And he experienced the strange feeling that had sometimes come upon him since his secret love for Anna. This was a feeling of loathing for something—whether for Alexey Alexandrovitch, or for himself, or for the whole world, he could not have said. But he always drove away this strange feeling. Now, too, he shook it off and continued the thread of his thoughts.
“Yes, she was unhappy before, but proud and at peace; and now she cannot be at peace and feel secure in her dignity, though she does not show it. Yes, we must put an end to it,” he decided.
And for the first time the idea clearly presented itself that it was essential to put an end to this false position, and the sooner the better. “Throw up everything, she and I, and hide ourselves somewhere alone with our love,” he said to himself.
The rain did not last long, and by the time Vronsky arrived, his shaft-horse trotting at full speed and dragging the trace-horses galloping through the mud, with their reins hanging loose, the sun had peeped out again, the roofs of the summer villas and the old limetrees in the gardens on both sides of the principal streets sparkled with wet brilliance, and from the twigs came a pleasant drip and from the roofs rushing streams of water. He thought no more of the shower spoiling the race course, but was rejoicing now that—thanks to the rain—he would be sure to find her at home and alone, as he knew that Alexey Alexandrovitch, who had lately returned from a foreign watering place, had not moved from Petersburg.
Hoping to find her alone, Vronsky alighted, as he always did, to avoid attracting attention, before crossing the bridge, and walked to the house. He did not go up the steps to the street door, but went into the court.
“Has your master come?” he asked a gardener.
“No, sir. The mistress is at home. But will you please go to the front door; there are servants there,” the gardener answered. “They’ll open the door.”
“No, I’ll go in from the garden.”
And feeling satisfied that she was alone, and wanting to take her by surprise, since he had not promised to be there today, and she would certainly not expect him to come before the races, he walked, holding his sword and stepping cautiously over the sandy path, bordered with flowers, to the terrace that looked out upon the garden. Vronsky forgot now all that he had thought on the way of the hardships and difficulties of their position. He thought of nothing but that he would see her directly, not in imagination, but living, all of her, as she was in reality. He was just going in, stepping on his whole foot so as not to creak, up the worn steps of the terrace, when he suddenly remembered what he always forgot, and what caused the most torturing side of his relations with her, her son with his questioning—hostile, as he fancied—eyes.
This boy was more often than anyone else a check upon their freedom. When he was present, both Vronsky and Anna did not merely avoid speaking of anything that they could not have repeated before everyone; they did not even allow themselves to refer by hints to anything the boy did not understand. They had made no agreement about this, it had settled itself. They would have felt it wounding themselves to deceive the child. In his presence they talked like acquaintances. But in spite of this caution, Vronsky often saw the child’s intent, bewildered glance fixed upon him, and a strange shyness, uncertainty, at one time friendliness, at another, coldness and reserve, in the boy’s manner to him; as though the child felt that between this man and his mother there existed some important bond, the significance of which he could not understand.
As a fact, the boy did feel that he could not understand this relation, and he tried painfully, and was not able to make clear to himself what feeling he ought to have for this man. With a child’s keen instinct for every manifestation of feeling, he saw distinctly that his father, his governess, his nurse,—all did not merely dislike Vronsky, but looked on him with horror and aversion, though they never said anything about him, while his mother looked on him as her greatest friend.
“What does it mean? Who is he? How ought I to love him? If I don’t know, it’s my fault; either I’m stupid or a naughty boy,” thought the child. And this was what caused his dubious, inquiring, sometimes hostile, expression, and the shyness and uncertainty which Vronsky found so irksome. This child’s presence always and infallibly called up in Vronsky that strange feeling of inexplicable loathing which he had experienced of late. This child’s presence called up both in Vronsky and in Anna a feeling akin to the feeling of a sailor who sees by the compass that the direction in which he is swiftly moving is far from the right one, but that to arrest his motion is not in his power, that every instant is carrying him further and further away, and that to admit to himself his deviation from the right direction is the same as admitting his certain ruin.
This child, with his innocent outlook upon life, was the compass that showed them the point to which they had departed from what they knew, but did not want to know.
This time Seryozha was not at home, and she was completely alone. She was sitting on the terrace waiting for the return of her son, who had gone out for his walk and been caught in the rain. She had sent a manservant and a maid out to look for him. Dressed in a white gown, deeply embroidered, she was sitting in a corner of the terrace behind some flowers, and did not hear him. Bending her curly black head, she pressed her forehead against a cool watering pot that stood on the parapet, and both her lovely hands, with the rings he knew so well, clasped the pot. The beauty of her whole figure, her head, her neck, her hands, struck Vronsky every time as something new and unexpected. He stood still, gazing at her in ecstasy. But, directly he would have made a step to come nearer to her, she was aware of his presence, pushed away the watering pot, and turned her flushed face towards him.
“What’s the matter? You are ill?” he said to her in French, going up to her. He would have run to her, but remembering that there might be spectators, he looked round towards the balcony door, and reddened a little, as he always reddened, feeling that he had to be afraid and be on his guard.
“No, I’m quite well,” she said, getting up and pressing his outstretched hand tightly. “I did not expect ... thee.”
“Mercy! what cold hands!” he said.
“You startled me,” she said. “I’m alone, and expecting Seryozha; he’s out for a walk; they’ll come in from this side.”
But, in spite of her efforts to be calm, her lips were quivering.
“Forgive me for coming, but I couldn’t pass the day without seeing you,” he went on, speaking French, as he always did to avoid using the stiff Russian plural form, so impossibly frigid between them, and the dangerously intimate singular.
“Forgive you? I’m so glad!”
“But you’re ill or worried,” he went on, not letting go her hands and bending over her. “What were you thinking of?”
“Always the same thing,” she said, with a smile.
She spoke the truth. If ever at any moment she had been asked what she was thinking of, she could have answered truly: of the same thing, of her happiness and her unhappiness. She was thinking, just when he came upon her, of this: why was it, she wondered, that to others, to Betsy (she knew of her secret connection with Tushkevitch) it was all easy, while to her it was such torture? Today this thought gained special poignancy from certain other considerations. She asked him about the races. He answered her questions, and, seeing that she was agitated, trying to calm her, he began telling her in the simplest tone the details of his preparations for the races.
“Tell him or not tell him?” she thought, looking into his quiet, affectionate eyes. “He is so happy, so absorbed in his races that he won’t understand as he ought, he won’t understand all the gravity of this fact to us.”
“But you haven’t told me what you were thinking of when I came in,” he said, interrupting his narrative; “please tell me!”
She did not answer, and, bending her head a little, she looked inquiringly at him from under her brows, her eyes shining under their long lashes. Her hand shook as it played with a leaf she had picked. He saw it, and his face expressed that utter subjection, that slavish devotion, which had done so much to win her.
“I see something has happened. Do you suppose I can be at peace, knowing you have a trouble I am not sharing? Tell me, for God’s sake,” he repeated imploringly.
“Yes, I shan’t be able to forgive him if he does not realize all the gravity of it. Better not tell; why put him to the proof?” she thought, still staring at him in the same way, and feeling the hand that held the leaf was trembling more and more.
“For God’s sake!” he repeated, taking her hand.
“Shall I tell you?”
“Yes, yes, yes....”
“I’m with child,” she said, softly and deliberately. The leaf in her hand shook more violently, but she did not take her eyes off him, watching how he would take it. He turned white, would have said something, but stopped; he dropped her hand, and his head sank on his breast. “Yes, he realizes all the gravity of it,” she thought, and gratefully she pressed his hand.
But she was mistaken in thinking he realized the gravity of the fact as she, a woman, realized it. On hearing it, he felt come upon him with tenfold intensity that strange feeling of loathing of someone. But at the same time, he felt that the turning-point he had been longing for had come now; that it was impossible to go on concealing things from her husband, and it was inevitable in one way or another that they should soon put an end to their unnatural position. But, besides that, her emotion physically affected him in the same way. He looked at her with a look of submissive tenderness, kissed her hand, got up, and, in silence, paced up and down the terrace.
“Yes,” he said, going up to her resolutely. “Neither you nor I have looked on our relations as a passing amusement, and now our fate is sealed. It is absolutely necessary to put an end”—he looked round as he spoke—“to the deception in which we are living.”
“Put an end? How put an end, Alexey?” she said softly.
She was calmer now, and her face lighted up with a tender smile.
“Leave your husband and make our life one.”
“It is one as it is,” she answered, scarcely audibly.
“Yes, but altogether; altogether.”
“But how, Alexey, tell me how?” she said in melancholy mockery at the hopelessness of her own position. “Is there any way out of such a position? Am I not the wife of my husband?”
“There is a way out of every position. We must take our line,” he said. “Anything’s better than the position in which you’re living. Of course, I see how you torture yourself over everything—the world and your son and your husband.”
“Oh, not over my husband,” she said, with a quiet smile. “I don’t know him, I don’t think of him. He doesn’t exist.”
“You’re not speaking sincerely. I know you. You worry about him too.”
“Oh, he doesn’t even know,” she said, and suddenly a hot flush came over her face; her cheeks, her brow, her neck crimsoned, and tears of shame came into her eyes. “But we won’t talk of him.”
Vronsky had several times already, though not so resolutely as now, tried to bring her to consider their position, and every time he had been confronted by the same superficiality and triviality with which she met his appeal now. It was as though there were something in this which she could not or would not face, as though directly she began to speak of this, she, the real Anna, retreated somehow into herself, and another strange and unaccountable woman came out, whom he did not love, and whom he feared, and who was in opposition to him. But today he was resolved to have it out.
“Whether he knows or not,” said Vronsky, in his usual quiet and resolute tone, “that’s nothing to do with us. We cannot ... you cannot stay like this, especially now.”
“What’s to be done, according to you?” she asked with the same frivolous irony. She who had so feared he would take her condition too lightly was now vexed with him for deducing from it the necessity of taking some step.
“Tell him everything, and leave him.”
“Very well, let us suppose I do that,” she said. “Do you know what the result of that would be? I can tell you it all beforehand,” and a wicked light gleamed in her eyes, that had been so soft a minute before. “‘Eh, you love another man, and have entered into criminal intrigues with him?’” (Mimicking her husband, she threw an emphasis on the word “criminal,” as Alexey Alexandrovitch did.) “‘I warned you of the results in the religious, the civil, and the domestic relation. You have not listened to me. Now I cannot let you disgrace my name,—’” “and my son,” she had meant to say, but about her son she could not jest,—“‘disgrace my name, and’—and more in the same style,” she added. “In general terms, he’ll say in his official manner, and with all distinctness and precision, that he cannot let me go, but will take all measures in his power to prevent scandal. And he will calmly and punctually act in accordance with his words. That’s what will happen. He’s not a man, but a machine, and a spiteful machine when he’s angry,” she added, recalling Alexey Alexandrovitch as she spoke, with all the peculiarities of his figure and manner of speaking, and reckoning against him every defect she could find in him, softening nothing for the great wrong she herself was doing him.
“But, Anna,” said Vronsky, in a soft and persuasive voice, trying to soothe her, “we absolutely must, anyway, tell him, and then be guided by the line he takes.”
“What, run away?”
“And why not run away? I don’t see how we can keep on like this. And not for my sake—I see that you suffer.”
“Yes, run away, and become your mistress,” she said angrily.
“Anna,” he said, with reproachful tenderness.
“Yes,” she went on, “become your mistress, and complete the ruin of....”
Again she would have said “my son,” but she could not utter that word.
Vronsky could not understand how she, with her strong and truthful nature, could endure this state of deceit, and not long to get out of it. But he did not suspect that the chief cause of it was the word—son, which she could not bring herself to pronounce. When she thought of her son, and his future attitude to his mother, who had abandoned his father, she felt such terror at what she had done, that she could not face it; but, like a woman, could only try to comfort herself with lying assurances that everything would remain as it always had been, and that it was possible to forget the fearful question of how it would be with her son.
“I beg you, I entreat you,” she said suddenly, taking his hand, and speaking in quite a different tone, sincere and tender, “never speak to me of that!”
“Never. Leave it to me. I know all the baseness, all the horror of my position; but it’s not so easy to arrange as you think. And leave it to me, and do what I say. Never speak to me of it. Do you promise me?... No, no, promise!...”
“I promise everything, but I can’t be at peace, especially after what you have told me. I can’t be at peace, when you can’t be at peace....”
“I?” she repeated. “Yes, I am worried sometimes; but that will pass, if you will never talk about this. When you talk about it—it’s only then it worries me.”
“I don’t understand,” he said.
“I know,” she interrupted him, “how hard it is for your truthful nature to lie, and I grieve for you. I often think that you have ruined your whole life for me.”
“I was just thinking the very same thing,” he said; “how could you sacrifice everything for my sake? I can’t forgive myself that you’re unhappy!”
“I unhappy?” she said, coming closer to him, and looking at him with an ecstatic smile of love. “I am like a hungry man who has been given food. He may be cold, and dressed in rags, and ashamed, but he is not unhappy. I unhappy? No, this is my unhappiness....”
She could hear the sound of her son’s voice coming towards them, and glancing swiftly round the terrace, she got up impulsively. Her eyes glowed with the fire he knew so well; with a rapid movement she raised her lovely hands, covered with rings, took his head, looked a long look into his face, and, putting up her face with smiling, parted lips, swiftly kissed his mouth and both eyes, and pushed him away. She would have gone, but he held her back.
“When?” he murmured in a whisper, gazing in ecstasy at her.
“Tonight, at one o’clock,” she whispered, and, with a heavy sigh, she walked with her light, swift step to meet her son.
Seryozha had been caught by the rain in the big garden, and he and his nurse had taken shelter in an arbor.
“Well, au revoir,” she said to Vronsky. “I must soon be getting ready for the races. Betsy promised to fetch me.”
Vronsky, looking at his watch, went away hurriedly.
When Vronsky looked at his watch on the Karenins’ balcony, he was so greatly agitated and lost in his thoughts that he saw the figures on the watch’s face, but could not take in what time it was. He came out on to the highroad and walked, picking his way carefully through the mud, to his carriage. He was so completely absorbed in his feeling for Anna, that he did not even think what o’clock it was, and whether he had time to go to Bryansky’s. He had left him, as often happens, only the external faculty of memory, that points out each step one has to take, one after the other. He went up to his coachman, who was dozing on the box in the shadow, already lengthening, of a thick limetree; he admired the shifting clouds of midges circling over the hot horses, and, waking the coachman, he jumped into the carriage, and told him to drive to Bryansky’s. It was only after driving nearly five miles that he had sufficiently recovered himself to look at his watch, and realize that it was half-past five, and he was late.
There were several races fixed for that day: the Mounted Guards’ race, then the officers’ mile-and-a-half race, then the three-mile race, and then the race for which he was entered. He could still be in time for his race, but if he went to Bryansky’s he could only just be in time, and he would arrive when the whole of the court would be in their places. That would be a pity. But he had promised Bryansky to come, and so he decided to drive on, telling the coachman not to spare the horses.
He reached Bryansky’s, spent five minutes there, and galloped back. This rapid drive calmed him. All that was painful in his relations with Anna, all the feeling of indefiniteness left by their conversation, had slipped out of his mind. He was thinking now with pleasure and excitement of the race, of his being anyhow, in time, and now and then the thought of the blissful interview awaiting him that night flashed across his imagination like a flaming light.
The excitement of the approaching race gained upon him as he drove further and further into the atmosphere of the races, overtaking carriages driving up from the summer villas or out of Petersburg.
At his quarters no one was left at home; all were at the races, and his valet was looking out for him at the gate. While he was changing his clothes, his valet told him that the second race had begun already, that a lot of gentlemen had been to ask for him, and a boy had twice run up from the stables. Dressing without hurry (he never hurried himself, and never lost his self-possession), Vronsky drove to the sheds. From the sheds he could see a perfect sea of carriages, and people on foot, soldiers surrounding the race course, and pavilions swarming with people. The second race was apparently going on, for just as he went into the sheds he heard a bell ringing. Going towards the stable, he met the white-legged chestnut, Mahotin’s Gladiator, being led to the race-course in a blue forage horsecloth, with what looked like huge ears edged with blue.
“Where’s Cord?” he asked the stable-boy.
“In the stable, putting on the saddle.”
In the open horse-box stood Frou-Frou, saddled ready. They were just going to lead her out.
“I’m not too late?”
“All right! All right!” said the Englishman; “don’t upset yourself!”
Vronsky once more took in in one glance the exquisite lines of his favorite mare; who was quivering all over, and with an effort he tore himself from the sight of her, and went out of the stable. He went towards the pavilions at the most favorable moment for escaping attention. The mile-and-a-half race was just finishing, and all eyes were fixed on the horse-guard in front and the light hussar behind, urging their horses on with a last effort close to the winning post. From the center and outside of the ring all were crowding to the winning post, and a group of soldiers and officers of the horse-guards were shouting loudly their delight at the expected triumph of their officer and comrade. Vronsky moved into the middle of the crowd unnoticed, almost at the very moment when the bell rang at the finish of the race, and the tall, mudspattered horse-guard who came in first, bending over the saddle, let go the reins of his panting gray horse that looked dark with sweat.
The horse, stiffening out its legs, with an effort stopped its rapid course, and the officer of the horse-guards looked round him like a man waking up from a heavy sleep, and just managed to smile. A crowd of friends and outsiders pressed round him.
Vronsky intentionally avoided that select crowd of the upper world, which was moving and talking with discreet freedom before the pavilions. He knew that Madame Karenina was there, and Betsy, and his brother’s wife, and he purposely did not go near them for fear of something distracting his attention. But he was continually met and stopped by acquaintances, who told him about the previous races, and kept asking him why he was so late.
At the time when the racers had to go to the pavilion to receive the prizes, and all attention was directed to that point, Vronsky’s elder brother, Alexander, a colonel with heavy fringed epaulets, came up to him. He was not tall, though as broadly built as Alexey, and handsomer and rosier than he; he had a red nose, and an open, drunken-looking face.
“Did you get my note?” he said. “There’s never any finding you.”
Alexander Vronsky, in spite of the dissolute life, and in especial the drunken habits, for which he was notorious, was quite one of the court circle.
Now, as he talked to his brother of a matter bound to be exceedingly disagreeable to him, knowing that the eyes of many people might be fixed upon him, he kept a smiling countenance, as though he were jesting with his brother about something of little moment.
“I got it, and I really can’t make out what you are worrying yourself about,” said Alexey.
“I’m worrying myself because the remark has just been made to me that you weren’t here, and that you were seen in Peterhof on Monday.”
“There are matters which only concern those directly interested in them, and the matter you are so worried about is....”
“Yes, but if so, you may as well cut the service....”
“I beg you not to meddle, and that’s all I have to say.”
Alexey Vronsky’s frowning face turned white, and his prominent lower jaw quivered, which happened rarely with him. Being a man of very warm heart, he was seldom angry; but when he was angry, and when his chin quivered, then, as Alexander Vronsky knew, he was dangerous. Alexander Vronsky smiled gaily.
“I only wanted to give you Mother’s letter. Answer it, and don’t worry about anything just before the race. Bonne chance,” he added, smiling and he moved away from him. But after him another friendly greeting brought Vronsky to a standstill.
“So you won’t recognize your friends! How are you, mon cher?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, as conspicuously brilliant in the midst of all the Petersburg brilliance as he was in Moscow, his face rosy, and his whiskers sleek and glossy. “I came up yesterday, and I’m delighted that I shall see your triumph. When shall we meet?”
“Come tomorrow to the messroom,” said Vronsky, and squeezing him by the sleeve of his coat, with apologies, he moved away to the center of the race course, where the horses were being led for the great steeplechase.
The horses who had run in the last race were being led home, steaming and exhausted, by the stable-boys, and one after another the fresh horses for the coming race made their appearance, for the most part English racers, wearing horsecloths, and looking with their drawn-up bellies like strange, huge birds. On the right was led in Frou-Frou, lean and beautiful, lifting up her elastic, rather long pasterns, as though moved by springs. Not far from her they were taking the rug off the lop-eared Gladiator. The strong, exquisite, perfectly correct lines of the stallion, with his superb hind-quarters and excessively short pasterns almost over his hoofs, attracted Vronsky’s attention in spite of himself. He would have gone up to his mare, but he was again detained by an acquaintance.
“Oh, there’s Karenin!” said the acquaintance with whom he was chatting. “He’s looking for his wife, and she’s in the middle of the pavilion. Didn’t you see her?”
“No,” answered Vronsky, and without even glancing round towards the pavilion where his friend was pointing out Madame Karenina, he went up to his mare.
Vronsky had not had time to look at the saddle, about which he had to give some direction, when the competitors were summoned to the pavilion to receive their numbers and places in the row at starting. Seventeen officers, looking serious and severe, many with pale faces, met together in the pavilion and drew the numbers. Vronsky drew the number seven. The cry was heard: “Mount!”
Feeling that with the others riding in the race, he was the center upon which all eyes were fastened, Vronsky walked up to his mare in that state of nervous tension in which he usually became deliberate and composed in his movements. Cord, in honor of the races, had put on his best clothes, a black coat buttoned up, a stiffly starched collar, which propped up his cheeks, a round black hat, and top boots. He was calm and dignified as ever, and was with his own hands holding Frou-Frou by both reins, standing straight in front of her. Frou-Frou was still trembling as though in a fever. Her eye, full of fire, glanced sideways at Vronsky. Vronsky slipped his finger under the saddle-girth. The mare glanced aslant at him, drew up her lip, and twitched her ear. The Englishman puckered up his lips, intending to indicate a smile that anyone should verify his saddling.
“Get up; you won’t feel so excited.”
Vronsky looked round for the last time at his rivals. He knew that he would not see them during the race. Two were already riding forward to the point from which they were to start. Galtsin, a friend of Vronsky’s and one of his more formidable rivals, was moving round a bay horse that would not let him mount. A little light hussar in tight riding breeches rode off at a gallop, crouched up like a cat on the saddle, in imitation of English jockeys. Prince Kuzovlev sat with a white face on his thoroughbred mare from the Grabovsky stud, while an English groom led her by the bridle. Vronsky and all his comrades knew Kuzovlev and his peculiarity of “weak nerves” and terrible vanity. They knew that he was afraid of everything, afraid of riding a spirited horse. But now, just because it was terrible, because people broke their necks, and there was a doctor standing at each obstacle, and an ambulance with a cross on it, and a sister of mercy, he had made up his mind to take part in the race. Their eyes met, and Vronsky gave him a friendly and encouraging nod. Only one he did not see, his chief rival, Mahotin on Gladiator.
“Don’t be in a hurry,” said Cord to Vronsky, “and remember one thing: don’t hold her in at the fences, and don’t urge her on; let her go as she likes.”
“All right, all right,” said Vronsky, taking the reins.
“If you can, lead the race; but don’t lose heart till the last minute, even if you’re behind.”
Before the mare had time to move, Vronsky stepped with an agile, vigorous movement into the steel-toothed stirrup, and lightly and firmly seated himself on the creaking leather of the saddle. Getting his right foot in the stirrup, he smoothed the double reins, as he always did, between his fingers, and Cord let go.
As though she did not know which foot to put first, Frou-Frou started, dragging at the reins with her long neck, and as though she were on springs, shaking her rider from side to side. Cord quickened his step, following him. The excited mare, trying to shake off her rider first on one side and then the other, pulled at the reins, and Vronsky tried in vain with voice and hand to soothe her.
They were just reaching the dammed-up stream on their way to the starting point. Several of the riders were in front and several behind, when suddenly Vronsky heard the sound of a horse galloping in the mud behind him, and he was overtaken by Mahotin on his white-legged, lop-eared Gladiator. Mahotin smiled, showing his long teeth, but Vronsky looked angrily at him. He did not like him, and regarded him now as his most formidable rival. He was angry with him for galloping past and exciting his mare. Frou-Frou started into a gallop, her left foot forward, made two bounds, and fretting at the tightened reins, passed into a jolting trot, bumping her rider up and down. Cord, too, scowled, and followed Vronsky almost at a trot.