FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 18

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

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Vronsky followed the guard to the
carriage, and at the door of the compartment he stopped
short to make room for a lady who was getting out.

With the insight of a man of the world,
from one glance at this lady’s appearance Vronsky
classified her as belonging to the best society. 
He begged pardon, and was getting into the carriage,
but felt he must glance at her once more; not that
she was very beautiful, not on account of the elegance
and modest grace which were apparent in her whole
figure, but because in the expression of her charming
face, as she passed close by him, there was something
peculiarly caressing and soft.  As he looked round,
she too turned her head.  Her shining gray eyes,
that looked dark from the thick lashes, rested with
friendly attention on his face, as though she were
recognizing him, and then promptly turned away to
the passing crowd, as though seeking someone. 
In that brief look Vronsky had time to notice the
suppressed eagerness which played over her face, and
flitted between the brilliant eyes and the faint smile
that curved her red lips.  It was as though her
nature were so brimming over with something that against
her will it showed itself now in the flash of her
eyes, and now in her smile.  Deliberately she
shrouded the light in her eyes, but it shone against
her will in the faintly perceptible smile.

Vronsky stepped into the carriage. 
His mother, a dried-up old lady with black eyes and
ringlets, screwed up her eyes, scanning her son, and
smiled slightly with her thin lips.  Getting up
from the seat and handing her maid a bag, she gave
her little wrinkled hand to her son to kiss, and lifting
his head from her hand, kissed him on the cheek.

“You got my telegram?  Quite well? 
Thank God.”

“You had a good journey?”
said her son, sitting down beside her, and involuntarily
listening to a woman’s voice outside the door. 
He knew it was the voice of the lady he had met at
the door.

“All the same I don’t
agree with you,” said the lady’s voice.

“It’s the Petersburg view, madame.”

“Not Petersburg, but simply feminine,”
she responded.

“Well, well, allow me to kiss your hand.”

“Good-bye, Ivan Petrovitch. 
And could you see if my brother is here, and send
him to me?” said the lady in the doorway, and
stepped back again into the compartment.

“Well, have you found your brother?”
said Countess Vronskaya, addressing the lady.

Vronsky understood now that this was
Madame Karenina.

“Your brother is here,”
he said, standing up.  “Excuse me, I did
not know you, and, indeed, our acquaintance was so
slight,” said Vronsky, bowing, “that no
doubt you do not remember me.”

“Oh, no,” said she, “I
should have known you because your mother and I have
been talking, I think, of nothing but you all the
way.”  As she spoke she let the eagerness
that would insist on coming out show itself in her
smile.  “And still no sign of my brother.”

“Do call him, Alexey,”
said the old countess.  Vronsky stepped out onto
the platform and shouted: 

“Oblonsky!  Here!”

Madame Karenina, however, did not
wait for her brother, but catching sight of him she
stepped out with her light, resolute step.  And
as soon as her brother had reached her, with a gesture
that struck Vronsky by its decision and its grace,
she flung her left arm around his neck, drew him rapidly
to her, and kissed him warmly.  Vronsky gazed,
never taking his eyes from her, and smiled, he could
not have said why.  But recollecting that his
mother was waiting for him, he went back again into
the carriage.

“She’s very sweet, isn’t
she?” said the countess of Madame Karenina. 
“Her husband put her with me, and I was delighted
to have her.  We’ve been talking all the
way.  And so you, I hear…_vous filez
parfait amour.  Tant mieux, mon
cher, tant mieux._”

“I don’t know what you
are referring to, maman,” he answered coldly. 
Come, maman, let us go.”

Madame Karenina entered the carriage
again to say good-bye to the countess.

“Well, countess, you have met
your son, and I my brother,” she said. 
“And all my gossip is exhausted.  I should
have nothing more to tell you.”

“Oh, no,” said the countess,
taking her hand.  “I could go all around
the world with you and never be dull.  You are
one of those delightful women in whose company it’s
sweet to be silent as well as to talk.  Now please
don’t fret over your son; you can’t expect
never to be parted.”

Madame Karenina stood quite still,
holding herself very erect, and her eyes were smiling.

“Anna Arkadyevna,” the
countess said in explanation to her son, “has
a little son eight years old, I believe, and she has
never been parted from him before, and she keeps fretting
over leaving him.”

“Yes, the countess and I have
been talking all the time, I of my son and she of
hers,” said Madame Karenina, and again a smile
lighted up her face, a caressing smile intended for
him.

“I am afraid that you must have
been dreadfully bored,” he said, promptly catching
the ball of coquetry she had flung him.  But
apparently she did not care to pursue the conversation
in that strain, and she turned to the old countess.

“Thank you so much.  The
time has passed so quickly.  Good-bye, countess.”

“Good-bye, my love,” answered
the countess.  “Let me have a kiss of your
pretty face.  I speak plainly, at my age, and
I tell you simply that I’ve lost my heart to
you.”

Stereotyped as the phrase was, Madame
Karenina obviously believed it and was delighted by
it.  She flushed, bent down slightly, and put
her cheek to the countess’s lips, drew herself
up again, and with the same smile fluttering between
her lips and her eyes, she gave her hand to Vronsky. 
He pressed the little hand she gave him, and was
delighted, as though at something special, by the
energetic squeeze with which she freely and vigorously
shook his hand.  She went out with the rapid
step which bore her rather fully-developed figure
with such strange lightness.

“Very charming,” said the countess.

That was just what her son was thinking. 
His eyes followed her till her graceful figure was
out of sight, and then the smile remained on his face. 
He saw out of the window how she went up to her brother,
put her arm in his, and began telling him something
eagerly, obviously something that had nothing to do
with him, Vronsky, and at that he felt annoyed.

“Well, maman, are you perfectly
well?” he repeated, turning to his mother.

“Everything has been delightful. 
Alexander has been very good, and Marie has grown
very pretty.  She’s very interesting.”

And she began telling him again of
what interested her most ­the christening
of her grandson, for which she had been staying in
Petersburg, and the special favor shown her elder son
by the Tsar.

“Here’s Lavrenty,”
said Vronsky, looking out of the window; “now
we can go, if you like.”

The old butler who had traveled with
the countess, came to the carriage to announce that
everything was ready, and the countess got up to go.

“Come; there’s not such a crowd now,”
said Vronsky.

The maid took a handbag and the lap
dog, the butler and a porter the other baggage. 
Vronsky gave his mother his arm; but just as they
were getting out of the carriage several men ran suddenly
by with panic-stricken faces.  The station-master,
too, ran by in his extraordinary colored cap. 
Obviously something unusual had happened.  The
crowd who had left the train were running back again.

“What?…  What?… 
Where?…  Flung himself!…  Crushed!…”
was heard among the crowd.  Stepan Arkadyevitch,
with his sister on his arm, turned back.  They
too looked scared, and stopped at the carriage door
to avoid the crowd.

The ladies got in, while Vronsky and
Stepan Arkadyevitch followed the crowd to find out
details of the disaster.

A guard, either drunk or too much
muffled up in the bitter frost, had not heard the
train moving back, and had been crushed.

Before Vronsky and Oblonsky came back
the ladies heard the facts from the butler.

Oblonsky and Vronsky had both seen
the mutilated corpse.  Oblonsky was evidently
upset.  He frowned and seemed ready to cry.

“Ah, how awful!  Ah, Anna,
if you had seen it!  Ah, how awful!” he
said.

Vronsky did not speak; his handsome
face was serious, but perfectly composed.

“Oh, if you had seen it, countess,”
said Stepan Arkadyevitch.  “And his wife
was there….  It was awful to see her!…. 
She flung herself on the body.  They say he
was the only support of an immense family.  How
awful!”

“Couldn’t one do anything
for her?” said Madame Karenina in an agitated
whisper.

Vronsky glanced at her, and immediately
got out of the carriage.

“I’ll be back directly,
maman,” he remarked, turning round in the
doorway.

When he came back a few minutes later,
Stepan Arkadyevitch was already in conversation with
the countess about the new singer, while the countess
was impatiently looking towards the door, waiting
for her son.

“Now let us be off,” said
Vronsky, coming in.  They went out together. 
Vronsky was in front with his mother.  Behind
walked Madame Karenina with her brother.  Just
as they were going out of the station the station-master
overtook Vronsky.

“You gave my assistant two hundred
roubles.  Would you kindly explain for whose
benefit you intend them?”

“For the widow,” said
Vronsky, shrugging his shoulders.  “I should
have thought there was no need to ask.”

“You gave that?” cried
Oblonsky, behind, and, pressing his sister’s
hand, he added:  “Very nice, very nice! 
Isn’t he a splendid fellow?  Good-bye,
countess.”

And he and his sister stood still,
looking for her maid.

When they went out the Vronsky’s
carriage had already driven away.  People coming
in were still talking of what happened.

“What a horrible death!”
said a gentleman, passing by.  “They say
he was cut in two pieces.”

“On the contrary, I think it’s
the easiest ­instantaneous,” observed
another.

“How is it they don’t
take proper precautions?” said a third.

Madame Karenina seated herself in
the carriage, and Stepan Arkadyevitch saw with surprise
that her lips were quivering, and she was with difficulty
restraining her tears.

“What is it, Anna?” he
asked, when they had driven a few hundred yards.

“It’s an omen of evil,” she said.

“What nonsense!” said
Stepan Arkadyevitch.  “You’ve come,
that’s the chief thing.  You can’t
conceive how I’m resting my hopes on you.”

“Have you known Vronsky long?” she asked.

“Yes.  You know we’re hoping he will
marry Kitty.”

“Yes?” said Anna softly. 
“Come now, let us talk of you,” she added,
tossing her head, as though she would physically shake
off something superfluous oppressing her.  “Let
us talk of your affairs.  I got your letter,
and here I am.”

“Yes, all my hopes are in you,” said Stepan
Arkadyevitch.

“Well, tell me all about it.”

And Stepan Arkadyevitch began to tell his story.

On reaching home Oblonsky helped his
sister out, sighed, pressed her hand, and set off
to his office.

 

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