FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 18

Leo TolstoyAug 25, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Anna looked at Dolly’s thin,
care-worn face, with its wrinkles filled with dust
from the road, and she was on the point of saying
what she was thinking, that is, that Dolly had got
thinner.  But, conscious that she herself had
grown handsomer, and that Dolly’s eyes were
telling her so, she sighed and began to speak about
herself.

“You are looking at me,”
she said, “and wondering how I can be happy
in my position?  Well! it’s shameful to
confess, but I…  I’m inexcusably happy. 
Something magical has happened to me, like a dream,
when you’re frightened, panic-stricken, and all
of a sudden you wake up and all the horrors are no
more.  I have waked up.  I have lived through
the misery, the dread, and now for a long while past,
especially since we’ve been here, I’ve
been so happy!…” she said, with a timid smile
of inquiry looking at Dolly.

“How glad I am!” said
Dolly smiling, involuntarily speaking more coldly
than she wanted to.  “I’m very glad
for you.  Why haven’t you written to me?”

“Why?…  Because I hadn’t
the courage….  You forget my position…”

“To me?  Hadn’t the
courage?  If you knew how I…I look at…”

Darya Alexandrovna wanted to express
her thoughts of the morning, but for some reason it
seemed to her now out of place to do so.

“But of that we’ll talk
later.  What’s this, what are all these
buildings?” she asked, wanting to change the
conversation and pointing to the red and green roofs
that came into view behind the green hedges of acacia
and lilac.  “Quite a little town.”

But Anna did not answer.

“No, no!  How do you look
at my position, what do you think of it?” she
asked.

“I consider…”  Darya
Alexandrovna was beginning, but at that instant Vassenka
Veslovsky, having brought the cob to gallop with the
right leg foremost, galloped past them, bumping heavily
up and down in his short jacket on the chamois leather
of the side saddle.  “He’s doing
it, Anna Arkadyevna!” he shouted.

Anna did not even glance at him; but
again it seemed to Darya Alexandrovna out of place
to enter upon such a long conversation in the carriage,
and so she cut short her thought.

“I don’t think anything,”
she said, “but I always loved you, and if one
loves anyone, one loves the whole person, just as they
are and not as one would like them to be….”

Anna, taking her eyes off her friend’s
face and dropping her eyelids (this was a new habit
Dolly had not seen in her before), pondered, trying
to penetrate the full significance of the words. 
And obviously interpreting them as she would have wished,
she glanced at Dolly.

“If you had any sins,”
she said, “they would all be forgiven you for
your coming to see me and these words.”

And Dolly saw that tears stood in
her eyes.  She pressed Anna’s hand in silence.

“Well, what are these buildings? 
How many there are of them!” After a moment’s
silence she repeated her question.

“These are the servants’
houses, barns, and stables,” answered Anna. 
“And there the park begins.  It had all
gone to ruin, but Alexey had everything renewed. 
He is very fond of this place, and, what I never
expected, he has become intensely interested in looking
after it.  But his is such a rich nature! 
Whatever he takes up, he does splendidly.  So
far from being bored by it, he works with passionate
interest.  He ­with his temperament
as I know it ­he has become careful and
businesslike, a first-rate manager, he positively
reckons every penny in his management of the land. 
But only in that.  When it’s a question
of tens of thousands, he doesn’t think of money.” 
She spoke with that gleefully sly smile with which
women often talk of the secret characteristics only
known to them ­of those they love. 
“Do you see that big building? that’s
the new hospital.  I believe it will cost over
a hundred thousand; that’s his hobby just now. 
And do you know how it all came about?  The peasants
asked him for some meadowland, I think it was, at
a cheaper rate, and he refused, and I accused him
of being miserly.  Of course it was not really
because of that, but everything together, he began
this hospital to prove, do you see, that he was not
miserly about money. C’est une petitesse,
if you like, but I love him all the more for it. 
And now you’ll see the house in a moment. 
It was his grandfather’s house, and he has
had nothing changed outside.”

“How beautiful!” said
Dolly, looking with involuntary admiration at the
handsome house with columns, standing out among the
different-colored greens of the old trees in the garden.

“Isn’t it fine? 
And from the house, from the top, the view is wonderful.”

They drove into a courtyard strewn
with gravel and bright with flowers, in which two
laborers were at work putting an edging of stones
round the light mould of a flower bed, and drew up
in a covered entry.

“Ah, they’re here already!”
said Anna, looking at the saddle horses, which were
just being led away from the steps.  “It
is a nice horse, isn’t it?  It’s
my cob; my favorite.  Lead him here and bring
me some sugar.  Where is the count?” she
inquired of two smart footmen who darted out. 
“Ah, there he is!” she said, seeing Vronsky
coming to meet her with Veslovsky.

“Where are you going to put
the princess?” said Vronsky in French, addressing
Anna, and without waiting for a reply, he once more
greeted Darya Alexandrovna, and this time he kissed
her hand.  “I think the big balcony room.”

“Oh, no, that’s too far
off!  Better in the corner room, we shall see
each other more.  Come, let’s go up,”
said Anna, as she gave her favorite horse the sugar
the footman had brought her.

Et vous oubliez vôtre devoir,”
she said to Veslovsky, who came out too on the steps.

Pardon, j’en aï tout
plein les poches
,” he answered, smiling,
putting his fingers in his waistcoat pocket.

Mais vous venez trop tard,”
she said, rubbing her handkerchief on her hand, which
the horse had made wet in taking the sugar.

Anna turned to Dolly.  “You
can stay some time?  For one day only? 
That’s impossible!”

“I promised to be back, and
the children…” said Dolly, feeling embarrassed
both because she had to get her bag out of the carriage,
and because she knew her face must be covered with
dust.

“No, Dolly, darling!… 
Well, we’ll see.  Come along, come along!”
and Anna led Dolly to her room.

That room was not the smart guest
chamber Vronsky had suggested, but the one of which
Anna had said that Dolly would excuse it.  And
this room, for which excuse was needed, was more full
of luxury than any in which Dolly had ever stayed,
a luxury that reminded her of the best hotels abroad.

“Well, darling, how happy I
am!” Anna said, sitting down in her riding habit
for a moment beside Dolly.  “Tell me about
all of you.  Stiva I had only a glimpse of, and
he cannot tell one about the children.  How is
my favorite, Tanya?  Quite a big girl, I expect?”

“Yes, she’s very tall,”
Darya Alexandrovna answered shortly, surprised herself
that she should respond so coolly about her children. 
“We are having a delightful stay at the Levins’,”
she added.

“Oh, if I had known,”
said Anna, “that you do not despise me!… 
You might have all come to us.  Stiva’s
an old friend and a great friend of Alexey’s,
you know,” she added, and suddenly she blushed.

“Yes, but we are all…” 
Dolly answered in confusion.

“But in my delight I’m
talking nonsense.  The one thing, darling, is
that I am so glad to have you!” said Anna, kissing
her again.  “You haven’t told me yet
how and what you think about me, and I keep wanting
to know.  But I’m glad you will see me as
I am.  The chief thing I shouldn’t like
would be for people to imagine I want to prove anything. 
I don’t want to prove anything; I merely want
to live, to do no one harm but myself.  I have
the right to do that, haven’t I?  But it
is a big subject, and we’ll talk over everything
properly later.  Now I’ll go and dress and
send a maid to you.”

 

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