FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 20

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

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“Here’s Dolly for you,
princess, you were so anxious to see her,” said
Anna, coming out with Darya Alexandrovna onto the stone
terrace where Princess Varvara was sitting in the shade
at an embroidery frame, working at a cover for Count
Alexey Kirillovitch’s easy chair.  “She
says she doesn’t want anything before dinner,
but please order some lunch for her, and I’ll
go and look for Alexey and bring them all in.”

Princess Varvara gave Dolly a cordial
and rather patronizing reception, and began at once
explaining to her that she was living with Anna because
she had always cared more for her than her sister
Katerina Pavlovna, the aunt that had brought Anna up,
and that now, when every one had abandoned Anna, she
thought it her duty to help her in this most difficult
period of transition.

“Her husband will give her a
divorce, and then I shall go back to my solitude;
but now I can be of use, and I am doing my duty, however
difficult it may be for me ­not like some
other people.  And how sweet it is of you, how
right of you to have come!  They live like the
best of married couples; it’s for God to judge
them, not for us.  And didn’t Biryuzovsky
and Madame Avenieva…and Sam Nikandrov, and Vassiliev
and Madame Mamonova, and Liza Neptunova…  Did
no one say anything about them?  And it has ended
by their being received by everyone.  And then,
c’est un interieur si joli, si comme il faut. 
Tout-a-fait a l’anglaise.  On se reunit
lé matin au breakfast, et puis on se sépare.

Everyone does as he pleases till dinnertime. 
Dinner at seven o’clock.  Stiva did very
rightly to send you.  He needs their support. 
You know that through his mother and brother he can
do anything.  And then they do so much good. 
He didn’t tell you about his hospital? Ce
sera admirable
­everything from Paris.”

Their conversation was interrupted
by Anna, who had found the men of the party in the
billiard room, and returned with them to the terrace. 
There was still a long time before the dinner-hour,
it was exquisite weather, and so several different
methods of spending the next two hours were proposed. 
There were very many methods of passing the time
at Vozdvizhenskoe, and these were all unlike those
in use at Pokrovskoe.

Une partie de lawn-tennis,
Veslovsky proposed, with his handsome smile. 
“We’ll be partners again, Anna Arkadyevna.”

“No, it’s too hot; better
stroll about the garden and have a row in the boat,
show Darya Alexandrovna the river banks.” 
Vronsky proposed.

“I agree to anything,” said Sviazhsky.

“I imagine that what Dolly would
like best would be a stroll ­ wouldn’t
you?  And then the boat, perhaps,” said
Anna.

So it was decided.  Veslovsky
and Tushkevitch went off to the bathing place, promising
to get the boat ready and to wait there for them.

They walked along the path in two
couples, Anna with Sviazhsky, and Dolly with Vronsky. 
Dolly was a little embarrassed and anxious in the
new surroundings in which she found herself. 
Abstractly, theoretically, she did not merely justify,
she positively approved of Anna’s conduct. 
As is indeed not unfrequent with women of unimpeachable
virtue, weary of the monotony of respectable existence,
at a distance she not only excused illicit love, she
positively envied it.  Besides, she loved Anna
with all her heart.  But seeing Anna in actual
life among these strangers, with this fashionable
tone that was so new to Darya Alexandrovna, she felt
ill at ease.  What she disliked particularly
was seeing Princess Varvara ready to overlook everything
for the sake of the comforts she enjoyed.

As a general principle, abstractly,
Dolly approved of Anna’s action; but to see
the man for whose sake her action had been taken was
disagreeable to her.  Moreover, she had never
liked Vronsky.  She thought him very proud, and
saw nothing in him of which he could be proud except
his wealth.  But against her own will, here in
his own house, he overawed her more than ever, and
she could not be at ease with him.  She felt with
him the same feeling she had had with the maid about
her dressing jacket.  Just as with the maid she
had felt not exactly ashamed, but embarrassed at her
darns, so she felt with him not exactly ashamed, but
embarrassed at herself.

Dolly was ill at ease, and tried to
find a subject of conversation.  Even though
she supposed that, through his pride, praise of his
house and garden would be sure to be disagreeable
to him, she did all the same tell him how much she
liked his house.

“Yes, it’s a very fine
building, and in the good old-fashioned style,”
he said.

“I like so much the court in
front of the steps.  Was that always so?”

“Oh, no!” he said, and
his face beamed with pleasure.  “If you
could only have seen that court last spring!”

And he began, at first rather diffidently,
but more and more carried away by the subject as he
went on, to draw her attention to the various details
of the decoration of his house and garden.  It
was evident that, having devoted a great deal of trouble
to improve and beautify his home, Vronsky felt a need
to show off the improvements to a new person, and
was genuinely delighted at Darya Alexandrovna’s
praise.

“If you would care to look at
the hospital, and are not tired, indeed, it’s
not far.  Shall we go?” he said, glancing
into her face to convince himself that she was not
bored.  “Are you coming, Anna?” he
turned to her.

“We will come, won’t we?”
she said, addressing Sviazhsky. “Mais il
ne faut pas laisser lé pauvre Veslovsky et Tushkevitch
se morfondre la dans lé bateau.
We must send
and tell them.”

“Yes, this is a monument he
is setting up here,” said Anna, turning to Dolly
with that sly smile of comprehension with which she
had previously talked about the hospital.

“Oh, it’s a work of real
importance!” said Sviazhsky.  But to show
he was not trying to ingratiate himself with Vronsky,
he promptly added some slightly critical remarks.

“I wonder, though, count,”
he said, “that while you do so much for the
health of the peasants, you take so little interest
in the schools.”

C’est devenu tellement
commun les écoles,
” said Vronsky.  “You
understand it’s not on that account, but it just
happens so, my interest has been diverted elsewhere. 
This way then to the hospital,” he said to
Darya Alexandrovna, pointing to a turning out of the
avenue.

The ladies put up their parasols and
turned into the side path.  After going down several
turnings, and going through a little gate, Darya Alexandrovna
saw standing on rising ground before her a large pretentious-looking
red building, almost finished.  The iron roof,
which was not yet painted, shone with dazzling brightness
in the sunshine.  Beside the finished building
another had been begun, surrounded by scaffolding. 
Workmen in aprons, standing on scaffolds, were laying
bricks, pouring mortar out of vats, and smoothing
it with trowels.

“How quickly work gets done
with you!” said Sviazhsky.  “When
I was here last time the roof was not on.”

“By the autumn it will all be
ready.  Inside almost everything is done,”
said Anna.

“And what’s this new building?”

“That’s the house for
the doctor and the dispensary,” answered Vronsky,
seeing the architect in a short jacket coming towards
him; and excusing himself to the ladies, he went to
meet him.

Going round a hole where the workmen
were slaking lime, he stood still with the architect
and began talking rather warmly.

“The front is still too low,”
he said to Anna, who had asked what was the matter.

“I said the foundation ought
to be raised,” said Anna.

“Yes, of course it would have
been much better, Anna Arkadyevna,” said the
architect, “but now it’s too late.”

“Yes, I take a great interest
in it,” Anna answered Sviazhsky, who was expressing
his surprise at her knowledge of architecture. 
“This new building ought to have been in harmony
with the hospital.  It was an afterthought, and
was begun without a plan.”

Vronsky, having finished his talk
with the architect, joined the ladies, and led them
inside the hospital.

Although they were still at work on
the cornices outside and were painting on the ground
floor, upstairs almost all the rooms were finished. 
Going up the broad cast-iron staircase to the landing,
they walked into the first large room.  The walls
were stuccoed to look like marble, the huge plate-glass
windows were already in, only the parquet floor was
not yet finished, and the carpenters, who were planing
a block of it, left their work, taking off the bands
that fastened their hair, to greet the gentry.

“This is the reception room,”
said Vronsky.  “Here there will be a desk,
tables, and benches, and nothing more.”

“This way; let us go in here. 
Don’t go near the window,” said Anna,
trying the paint to see if it were dry.  “Alexey,
the paint’s dry already,” she added.

From the reception room they went
into the corridor.  Here Vronsky showed them
the mechanism for ventilation on a novel system. 
Then he showed them marble baths, and beds with extraordinary
springs.  Then he showed them the wards one after
another, the storeroom, the linen room, then the heating
stove of a new pattern, then the trolleys, which would
make no noise as they carried everything needed along
the corridors, and many other things.  Sviazhsky,
as a connoisseur in the latest mechanical improvements,
appreciated everything fully.  Dolly simply wondered
at all she had not seen before, and, anxious to understand
it all, made minute inquiries about everything, which
gave Vronsky great satisfaction.

“Yes, I imagine that this will
be the solitary example of a properly fitted hospital
in Russia,” said Sviazhsky.

“And won’t you have a
lying-in ward?” asked Dolly.  “That’s
so much needed in the country.  I have often…”

In spite of his usual courtesy, Vronsky
interrupted her.

“This is not a lying-in home,
but a hospital for the sick, and is intended for all
diseases, except infectious complaints,” he
said.  “Ah! look at this,” and he
rolled up to Darya Alexandrovna an invalid chair that
had just been ordered for the convalescents. 
“Look.”  He sat down in the chair
and began moving it.  “The patient can’t
walk ­still too weak, perhaps, or something
wrong with his legs, but he must have air, and he
moves, rolls himself along….”

Darya Alexandrovna was interested
by everything.  She liked everything very much,
but most of all she liked Vronsky himself with his
natural, simple-hearted eagerness.  “Yes,
he’s a very nice, good man,” she thought
several times, not hearing what he said, but looking
at him and penetrating into his expression, while
she mentally put herself in Anna’s place. 
She liked him so much just now with his eager interest
that she saw how Anna could be in love with him.

 

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