FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 9

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

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“Oblonsky’s carriage!”
the porter shouted in an angry bass.  The carriage
drove up and both got in.  It was only for the
first few moments, while the carriage was driving
out of the clubhouse gates, that Levin was still under
the influence of the club atmosphere of repose, comfort,
and unimpeachable good form.  But as soon as
the carriage drove out into the street, and he felt
it jolting over the uneven road, heard the angry shout
of a sledge driver coming towards them, saw in the
uncertain light the red blind of a tavern and the
shops, this impression was dissipated, and he began
to think over his actions, and to wonder whether he
was doing right in going to see Anna.  What would
Kitty say?  But Stepan Arkadyevitch gave him
no time for reflection, and, as though divining his
doubts, he scattered them.

“How glad I am,” he said,
“that you should know her!  You know Dolly
has long wished for it.  And Lvov’s been
to see her, and often goes.  Though she is my
sister,” Stepan Arkadyevitch pursued, “I
don’t hesitate to say that she’s a remarkable
woman.  But you will see.  Her position is
very painful, especially now.”

“Why especially now?”

“We are carrying on negotiations
with her husband about a divorce.  And he’s
agreed; but there are difficulties in regard to the
son, and the business, which ought to have been arranged
long ago, has been dragging on for three months past. 
As soon as the divorce is over, she will marry Vronsky. 
How stupid these old ceremonies are, that no one
believes in, and which only prevent people being comfortable!”
Stepan Arkadyevitch put in.  “Well, then
their position will be as regular as mine, as yours.”

“What is the difficulty?” said Levin.

“Oh, it’s a long and tedious
story!  The whole business is in such an anomalous
position with us.  But the point is she has been
for three months in Moscow, where everyone knows her,
waiting for the divorce; she goes out nowhere, sees
no woman except Dolly, because, do you understand,
she doesn’t care to have people come as a favor. 
That fool Princess Varvara, even she has left her,
considering this a breach of propriety.  Well,
you see, in such a position any other woman would not
have found resources in herself.  But you’ll
see how she has arranged her life ­how calm,
how dignified she is.  To the left, in the crescent
opposite the church!” shouted Stepan Arkadyevitch,
leaning out of the window.  “Phew! how hot
it is!” he said, in spite of twelve degrees
of frost, flinging his open overcoat still wider open.

“But she has a daughter: 
no doubt she’s busy looking after her?”
said Levin.

“I believe you picture every
woman simply as a female, une couveuse,
said Stepan Arkadyevitch.  “If she’s
occupied, it must be with her children.  No,
she brings her up capitally, I believe, but one doesn’t
hear about her.  She’s busy, in the first
place, with what she writes.  I see you’re
smiling ironically, but you’re wrong. 
She’s writing a children’s book, and doesn’t
talk about it to anyone, but she read it to me and
I gave the manuscript to Vorkuev…you know the publisher…and
he’s an author himself too, I fancy.  He
understands those things, and he says it’s a
remarkable piece of work.  But are you fancying
she’s an authoress? ­not a bit of it. 
She’s a woman with a heart, before everything,
but you’ll see.  Now she has a little English
girl with her, and a whole family she’s looking
after.”

“Oh, something in a philanthropic way?”

“Why, you will look at everything
in the worst light.  It’s not from philanthropy,
it’s from the heart.  They ­that
is, Vronsky ­ had a trainer, an Englishman,
first-rate in his own line, but a drunkard. 
He’s completely given up to drink ­delirium
tremens ­ and the family were cast on the
world.  She saw them, helped them, got more and
more interested in them, and now the whole family
is on her hands.  But not by way of patronage,
you know, helping with money; she’s herself
preparing the boys in Russian for the high school,
and she’s taken the little girl to live with
her.  But you’ll see her for yourself.”

The carriage drove into the courtyard,
and Stepan Arkadyevitch rang loudly at the entrance
where sledges were standing.

And without asking the servant who
opened the door whether the lady were at home, Stepan
Arkadyevitch walked into the hall.  Levin followed
him, more and more doubtful whether he was doing right
or wrong.

Looking at himself in the glass, Levin
noticed that he was red in the face, but he felt certain
he was not drunk, and he followed Stepan Arkadyevitch
up the carpeted stairs.  At the top Stepan Arkadyevitch
inquired of the footman, who bowed to him as to an
intimate friend, who was with Anna Arkadyevna, and
received the answer that it was M. Vorkuev.

“Where are they?”

“In the study.”

Passing through the dining room, a
room not very large, with dark, paneled walls, Stepan
Arkadyevitch and Levin walked over the soft carpet
to the half-dark study, lighted up by a single lamp
with a big dark shade.  Another lamp with a reflector
was hanging on the wall, lighting up a big full-length
portrait of a woman, which Levin could not help looking
at.  It was the portrait of Anna, painted in
Italy by Mihailov.  While Stepan Arkadyevitch
went behind the treillage, and the man’s
voice which had been speaking paused, Levin gazed
at the portrait, which stood out from the frame in
the brilliant light thrown on it, and he could not
tear himself away from it.  He positively forgot
where he was, and not even hearing what was said, he
could not take his eyes off the marvelous portrait. 
It was not a picture, but a living, charming woman,
with black curling hair, with bare arms and shoulders,
with a pensive smile on the lips, covered with soft
down; triumphantly and softly she looked at him with
eyes that baffled him.  She was not living only
because she was more beautiful than a living woman
can be.

“I am delighted!” He heard
suddenly near him a voice, unmistakably addressing
him, the voice of the very woman he had been admiring
in the portrait.  Anna had come from behind the
treillage to meet him, and Levin saw in the dim light
of the study the very woman of the portrait, in a
dark blue shot gown, not in the same position nor
with the same expression, but with the same perfection
of beauty which the artist had caught in the portrait. 
She was less dazzling in reality, but, on the other
hand, there was something fresh and seductive in the
living woman which was not in the portrait.

 

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