FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 25

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

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Vronsky and Anna spent the whole summer
and part of the winter in the country, living in just
the same condition, and still taking no steps to obtain
a divorce.  It was an understood thing between
them that they should not go away anywhere; but both
felt, the longer they lived alone, especially in the
autumn, without guests in the house, that they could
not stand this existence, and that they would have
to alter it.

Their life was apparently such that
nothing better could be desired.  They had the
fullest abundance of everything; they had a child,
and both had occupation.  Anna devoted just as
much care to her appearance when they had no visitors,
and she did a great deal of reading, both of novels
and of what serious literature was in fashion. 
She ordered all the books that were praised in the
foreign papers and reviews she received, and read them
with that concentrated attention which is only given
to what is read in seclusion.  Moreover, every
subject that was of interest to Vronsky, she studied
in books and special journals, so that he often went
straight to her with questions relating to agriculture
or architecture, sometimes even with questions relating
to horse-breeding or sport.  He was amazed at
her knowledge, her memory, and at first was disposed
to doubt it, to ask for confirmation of her facts;
and she would find what he asked for in some book,
and show it to him.

The building of the hospital, too,
interested her.  She did not merely assist, but
planned and suggested a great deal herself.  But
her chief thought was still of herself ­how
far she was dear to Vronsky, how far she could make
up to him for all he had given up.  Vronsky appreciated
this desire not only to please, but to serve him,
which had become the sole aim of her existence, but
at the same time he wearied of the loving snares in
which she tried to hold him fast.  As time went
on, and he saw himself more and more often held fast
in these snares, he had an ever growing desire, not
so much to escape from them, as to try whether they
hindered his freedom.  Had it not been for this
growing desire to be free, not to have scenes every
time he wanted to go to the town to a meeting or a
race, Vronsky would have been perfectly satisfied
with his life.  The rôle he had taken up, the
rôle of a wealthy landowner, one of that class which
ought to be the very heart of the Russian aristocracy,
was entirely to his taste; and now, after spending
six months in that character, he derived even greater
satisfaction from it.  And his management of his
estate, which occupied and absorbed him more and more,
was most successful.  In spite of the immense
sums cost him by the hospital, by machinery, by cows
ordered from Switzerland, and many other things, he
was convinced that he was not wasting, but increasing
his substance.  In all matters affecting income,
the sales of timber, wheat, and wool, the letting
of lands, Vronsky was hard as a rock, and knew well
how to keep up prices.  In all operations on
a large scale on this and his other estates, he kept
to the simplest methods involving no risk, and in trifling
details he was careful and exacting to an extreme degree. 
In spite of all the cunning and ingenuity of the
German steward, who would try to tempt him into purchases
by making his original estimate always far larger
than really required, and then representing to Vronsky
that he might get the thing cheaper, and so make a
profit, Vronsky did not give in.  He listened
to his steward, cross-examined him, and only agreed
to his suggestions when the implement to be ordered
or constructed was the very newest, not yet known
in Russia, and likely to excite wonder.  Apart
from such exceptions, he resolved upon an increased
outlay only where there was a surplus, and in making
such an outlay he went into the minutest details,
and insisted on getting the very best for his money;
so that by the method on which he managed his affairs,
it was clear that he was not wasting, but increasing
his substance.

In October there were the provincial
elections in the Kashinsky province, where were the
estates of Vronsky, Sviazhsky, Koznishev, Oblonsky,
and a small part of Levin’s land.

These elections were attracting public
attention from several circumstances connected with
them, and also from the people taking part in them. 
There had been a great deal of talk about them, and
great preparations were being made for them. 
Persons who never attended the elections were coming
from Moscow, from Petersburg, and from abroad to attend
these.  Vronsky had long before promised Sviazhsky
to go to them.  Before the elections Sviazhsky,
who often visited Vozdvizhenskoe, drove over to fetch
Vronsky.  On the day before there had been almost
a quarrel between Vronsky and Anna over this proposed
expedition.  It was the very dullest autumn weather,
which is so dreary in the country, and so, preparing
himself for a struggle, Vronsky, with a hard and cold
expression, informed Anna of his departure as he had
never spoken to her before.  But, to his surprise,
Anna accepted the information with great composure,
and merely asked when he would be back.  He looked
intently at her, at a loss to explain this composure. 
She smiled at his look.  He knew that way she
had of withdrawing into herself, and knew that it only
happened when she had determined upon something without
letting him know her plans.  He was afraid of
this; but he was so anxious to avoid a scene that
he kept up appearances, and half sincerely believed
in what he longed to believe in ­her reasonableness.

“I hope you won’t be dull?”

“I hope not,” said Anna. 
“I got a box of books yesterday from Gautier’s. 
No, I shan’t be dull.”

“She’s trying to take
that tone, and so much the better,” he thought,
“or else it would be the same thing over and
over again.”

And he set off for the elections without
appealing to her for a candid explanation.  It
was the first time since the beginning of their intimacy
that he had parted from her without a full explanation. 
From one point of view this troubled him, but on
the other side he felt that it was better so. 
“At first there will be, as this time, something
undefined kept back, and then she will get used to
it.  In any case I can give up anything for her,
but not my masculine independence,” he thought.

 

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