FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 17

Leo TolstoyAug 21, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Next day at eleven o’clock in
the morning Vronsky drove to the station of the Petersburg
railway to meet his mother, and the first person he
came across on the great flight of steps was Oblonsky,
who was expecting his sister by the same train.

“Ah! your excellency!”
cried Oblonsky, “whom are you meeting?”

“My mother,” Vronsky responded,
smiling, as everyone did who met Oblonsky.  He
shook hands with him, and together they ascended the
steps.  “She is to be here from Petersburg
today.”

“I was looking out for you till
two o’clock last night.  Where did you
go after the Shtcherbatskys’?”

“Home,” answered Vronsky. 
“I must own I felt so well content yesterday
after the Shtcherbatskys’ that I didn’t
care to go anywhere.”

     “I know a gallant
steed by tokens sure,
     And by his eyes I know
a youth in love,”

declaimed Stepan Arkadyevitch, just
as he had done before to Levin.

Vronsky smiled with a look that seemed
to say that he did not deny it, but he promptly changed
the subject.

“And whom are you meeting?” he asked.

“I?  I’ve come to meet a pretty woman,”
said Oblonsky.

“You don’t say so!”

Honi soit qui mal y pense! My sister
Anna.”

“Ah! that’s Madame Karenina,” said
Vronsky.

“You know her, no doubt?”

“I think I do.  Or perhaps
not…I really am not sure,” Vronsky answered
heedlessly, with a vague recollection of something
stiff and tedious evoked by the name Karenina.

“But Alexey Alexandrovitch,
my celebrated brother-in-law, you surely must know. 
All the world knows him.”

“I know him by reputation and
by sight.  I know that he’s clever, learned,
religious somewhat….  But you know that’s
not…_not in my line,_” said Vronsky in English.

“Yes, he’s a very remarkable
man; rather a conservative, but a splendid man,”
observed Stepan Arkadyevitch, “a splendid man.”

“Oh, well, so much the better
for him,” said Vronsky smiling.  “Oh,
you’ve come,” he said, addressing a tall
old footman of his mother’s, standing at the
door; “come here.”

Besides the charm Oblonsky had in
general for everyone, Vronsky had felt of late specially
drawn to him by the fact that in his imagination he
was associated with Kitty.

“Well, what do you say? 
Shall we give a supper on Sunday for the diva?
he said to him with a smile, taking his arm.

“Of course.  I’m
collecting subscriptions.  Oh, did you make the
acquaintance of my friend Levin?” asked Stepan
Arkadyevitch.

“Yes; but he left rather early.”

“He’s a capital fellow,” pursued
Oblonsky.  “Isn’t he?”

“I don’t know why it is,”
responded Vronsky, “in all Moscow people ­present
company of course excepted,” he put in jestingly,
“there’s something uncompromising. 
They are all on the defensive, lose their tempers,
as though they all want to make one feel something…”

“Yes, that’s true, it
is so,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, laughing good-humoredly.

“Will the train soon be in?”
Vronsky asked a railway official.

“The train’s signaled,” answered
the man.

The approach of the train was more
and more evident by the preparatory bustle in the
station, the rush of porters, the movement of policemen
and attendants, and people meeting the train. 
Through the frosty vapor could be seen workmen in
short sheepskins and soft felt boots crossing the
rails of the curving line.  The hiss of the boiler
could be heard on the distant rails, and the rumble
of something heavy.

“No,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch,
who felt a great inclination to tell Vronsky of Levin’s
intentions in regard to Kitty.  “No, you’ve
not got a true impression of Levin.  He’s
a very nervous man, and is sometimes out of humor,
it’s true, but then he is often very nice. 
He’s such a true, honest nature, and a heart
of gold.  But yesterday there were special reasons,”
pursued Stepan Arkadyevitch, with a meaning smile,
totally oblivious of the genuine sympathy he had felt
the day before for his friend, and feeling the same
sympathy now, only for Vronsky.  “Yes, there
were reasons why he could not help being either particularly
happy or particularly unhappy.”

Vronsky stood still and asked directly: 
“How so?  Do you mean he made your belle-soeur
an offer yesterday?”

“Maybe,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. 
“I fancied something of the sort yesterday. 
Yes, if he went away early, and was out of humor
too, it must mean it….  He’s been so long
in love, and I’m very sorry for him.”

“So that’s it!  I
should imagine, though, she might reckon on a better
match,” said Vronsky, drawing himself up and
walking about again, “though I don’t know
him, of course,” he added.  “Yes,
that is a hateful position!  That’s why
most fellows prefer to have to do with Klaras. 
If you don’t succeed with them it only proves
that you’ve not enough cash, but in this case
one’s dignity’s at stake.  But here’s
the train.”

The engine had already whistled in
the distance.  A few instants later the platform
was quivering, and with puffs of steam hanging low
in the air from the frost, the engine rolled up, with
the lever of the middle wheel rhythmically moving
up and down, and the stooping figure of the engine-driver
covered with frost.  Behind the tender, setting
the platform more and more slowly swaying, came the
luggage van with a dog whining in it.  At last
the passenger carriages rolled in, oscillating before
coming to a standstill.

A smart guard jumped out, giving a
whistle, and after him one by one the impatient passengers
began to get down:  an officer of the guards,
holding himself erect, and looking severely about
him; a nimble little merchant with a satchel, smiling
gaily; a peasant with a sack over his shoulder.

Vronsky, standing beside Oblonsky,
watched the carriages and the passengers, totally
oblivious of his mother.  What he had just heard
about Kitty excited and delighted him.  Unconsciously
he arched his chest, and his eyes flashed.  He
felt himself a conqueror.

“Countess Vronskaya is in that
compartment,” said the smart guard, going up
to Vronsky.

The guard’s words roused him,
and forced him to think of his mother and his approaching
meeting with her.  He did not in his heart respect
his mother, and without acknowledging it to himself,
he did not love her, though in accordance with the
ideas of the set in which he lived, and with his own
education, he could not have conceived of any behavior
to his mother not in the highest degree respectful
and obedient, and the more externally obedient and
respectful his behavior, the less in his heart he
respected and loved her.

 

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