FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 31

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

Light off Small Medium Large

The newly elected marshal and many
of the successful party dined that day with Vronsky.

Vronsky had come to the elections
partly because he was bored in the country and wanted
to show Anna his right to independence, and also to
repay Sviazhsky by his support at the election for
all the trouble he had taken for Vronsky at the district
council election, but chiefly in order strictly to
perform all those duties of a nobleman and landowner
which he had taken upon himself.  But he had
not in the least expected that the election would
so interest him, so keenly excite him, and that he
would be so good at this kind of thing.  He was
quite a new man in the circle of the nobility of the
province, but his success was unmistakable, and he
was not wrong in supposing that he had already obtained
a certain influence.  This influence was due to
his wealth and reputation, the capital house in the
town lent him by his old friend Shirkov, who had a
post in the department of finances and was director
of a flourishing bank in Kashin; the excellent cook
Vronsky had brought from the country, and his friendship
with the governor, who was a schoolfellow of Vronsky’s ­a
schoolfellow he had patronized and protected indeed. 
But what contributed more than all to his success was
his direct, equable manner with everyone, which very
quickly made the majority of the noblemen reverse
the current opinion of his supposed haughtiness. 
He was himself conscious that, except that whimsical
gentleman married to Kitty Shtcherbatskaya, who had
a propos de bottes poured out a stream of irrelevant
absurdities with such spiteful fury, every nobleman
with whom he had made acquaintance had become his
adherent.  He saw clearly, and other people recognized
it, too, that he had done a great deal to secure the
success of Nevyedovsky.  And now at his own table,
celebrating Nevyedovsky’s election, he was experiencing
an agreeable sense of triumph over the success of
his candidate.  The election itself had so fascinated
him that, if he could succeed in getting married during
the next three years, he began to think of standing
himself ­much as after winning a race ridden
by a jockey, he had longed to ride a race himself.

Today he was celebrating the success
of his jockey.  Vronsky sat at the head of the
table, on his right hand sat the young governor, a
general of high rank.  To all the rest he was
the chief man in the province, who had solemnly opened
the elections with his speech, and aroused a feeling
of respect and even of awe in many people, as Vronsky
saw; to Vronsky he was little Katka Maslov ­that
had been his nickname in the Pages’ Corps ­whom
he felt to be shy and tried to mettre a son aise
On the left hand sat Nevyedovsky with his youthful,
stubborn, and malignant face.  With him Vronsky
was simple and deferential.

Sviazhsky took his failure very light-heartedly. 
It was indeed no failure in his eyes, as he said
himself, turning, glass in hand, to Nevyedovsky; they
could not have found a better representative of the
new movement, which the nobility ought to follow. 
And so every honest person, as he said, was on the
side of today’s success and was rejoicing over
it.

Stepan Arkadyevitch was glad, too,
that he was having a good time, and that everyone
was pleased.  The episode of the elections served
as a good occasion for a capital dinner.  Sviazhsky
comically imitated the tearful discourse of the marshal,
and observed, addressing Nevyedovsky, that his excellency
would have to select another more complicated method
of auditing the accounts than tears.  Another
nobleman jocosely described how footmen in stockings
had been ordered for the marshal’s ball, and
how now they would have to be sent back unless the
new marshal would give a ball with footmen in stockings.

Continually during dinner they said
of Nevyedovsky:  “our marshal,” and
“your excellency.”

This was said with the same pleasure
with which a bride is called “Madame”
and her husband’s name.  Nevyedovsky affected
to be not merely indifferent but scornful of this
appellation, but it was obvious that he was highly
delighted, and had to keep a curb on himself not to
betray the triumph which was unsuitable to their new
liberal tone.

After dinner several telegrams were
sent to people interested in the result of the election. 
And Stepan Arkadyevitch, who was in high good humor,
sent Darya Alexandrovna a telegram:  “Nevyedovsky
elected by twenty votes.  Congratulations. 
Tell people.”  He dictated it aloud, saying: 
“We must let them share our rejoicing.” 
Darya Alexandrovna, getting the message, simply sighed
over the rouble wasted on it, and understood that it
was an after-dinner affair.  She knew Stiva had
a weakness after dining for faire jouer lé télégraphe.

Everything, together with the excellent
dinner and the wine, not from Russian merchants, but
imported direct from abroad, was extremely dignified,
simple, and enjoyable.  The party ­some
twenty ­had been selected by Sviazhsky from
among the more active new liberals, all of the same
way of thinking, who were at the same time clever
and well bred.  They drank, also half in jest,
to the health of the new marshal of the province, of
the governor, of the bank director, and of “our
amiable host.”

Vronsky was satisfied.  He had
never expected to find so pleasant a tone in the provinces.

Towards the end of dinner it was still
more lively.  The governor asked Vronsky to come
to a concert for the benefit of the Servians which
his wife, who was anxious to make his acquaintance,
had been getting up.

“There’ll be a ball, and
you’ll see the belle of the province.  Worth
seeing, really.”

“Not in my line,” Vronsky
answered.  He liked that English phrase. 
But he smiled, and promised to come.

Before they rose from the table, when
all of them were smoking, Vronsky’s valet went
up to him with a letter on a tray.

“From Vozdvizhenskoe by special
messenger,” he said with a significant expression.

“Astonishing! how like he is
to the deputy prosecutor Sventitsky,” said one
of the guests in French of the valet, while Vronsky,
frowning, read the letter.

The letter was from Anna.  Before
he read the letter, he knew its contents.  Expecting
the elections to be over in five days, he had promised
to be back on Friday.  Today was Saturday, and
he knew that the letter contained reproaches for not
being back at the time fixed.  The letter he
had sent the previous evening had probably not reached
her yet.

The letter was what he had expected,
but the form of it was unexpected, and particularly
disagreeable to him.  “Annie is very ill,
the doctor says it may be inflammation.  I am
losing my head all alone.  Princess Varvara is
no help, but a hindrance.  I expected you the
day before yesterday, and yesterday, and now I am
sending to find out where you are and what you are
doing.  I wanted to come myself, but thought
better of it, knowing you would dislike it. 
Send some answer, that I may know what to do.”

The child ill, yet she had thought
of coming herself.  Their daughter ill, and this
hostile tone.

The innocent festivities over the
election, and this gloomy, burdensome love to which
he had to return struck Vronsky by their contrast. 
But he had to go, and by the first train that night
he set off home.

 

Leave a Reply