FictionForest

PART TWO : Chapter 18

Leo TolstoyAug 22, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Although all Vronsky’s inner
life was absorbed in his passion, his external life
unalterably and inevitably followed along the old
accustomed lines of his social and regimental ties
and interests.  The interests of his regiment
took an important place in Vronsky’s life, both
because he was fond of the regiment, and because the
regiment was fond of him.  They were not only
fond of Vronsky in his regiment, they respected him
too, and were proud of him; proud that this man, with
his immense wealth, his brilliant education and abilities,
and the path open before him to every kind of success,
distinction, and ambition, had disregarded all that,
and of all the interests of life had the interests
of his regiment and his comrades nearest to his heart. 
Vronsky was aware of his comrades’ view of him,
and in addition to his liking for the life, he felt
bound to keep up that reputation.

It need not be said that he did not
speak of his love to any of his comrades, nor did
he betray his secret even in the wildest drinking
bouts (though indeed he was never so drunk as to lose
all control of himself).  And he shut up any of
his thoughtless comrades who attempted to allude to
his connection.  But in spite of that, his love
was known to all the town; everyone guessed with more
or less confidence at his relations with Madame Karenina. 
The majority of the younger men envied him for just
what was the most irksome factor in his love ­the
exalted position of Karenin, and the consequent publicity
of their connection in society.

The greater number of the young women,
who envied Anna and had long been weary of hearing
her called virtuous, rejoiced at the fulfillment
of their predictions, and were only waiting for a
decisive turn in public opinion to fall upon her with
all the weight of their scorn.  They were already
making ready their handfuls of mud to fling at her
when the right moment arrived.  The greater number
of the middle-aged people and certain great personages
were displeased at the prospect of the impending scandal
in society.

Vronsky’s mother, on hearing
of his connection, was at first pleased at it, because
nothing to her mind gave such a finishing touch to
a brilliant young man as a liaison in the highest
society; she was pleased, too, that Madame Karenina,
who had so taken her fancy, and had talked so much
of her son, was, after all, just like all other pretty
and well-bred women, ­at least according
to the Countess Vronskaya’s ideas.  But
she had heard of late that her son had refused a position
offered him of great importance to his career, simply
in order to remain in the regiment, where he could
be constantly seeing Madame Karenina.  She learned
that great personages were displeased with him on
this account, and she changed her opinion.  She
was vexed, too, that from all she could learn of this
connection it was not that brilliant, graceful, worldly
liaison which she would have welcomed, but
a sort of Wertherish, desperate passion, so she was
told, which might well lead him into imprudence. 
She had not seen him since his abrupt departure from
Moscow, and she sent her elder son to bid him come
to see her.

This elder son, too, was displeased
with his younger brother.  He did not distinguish
what sort of love his might be, big or little, passionate
or passionless, lasting or passing (he kept a ballet
girl himself, though he was the father of a family,
so he was lenient in these matters), but he knew that
this love affair was viewed with displeasure by those
whom it was necessary to please, and therefore he
did not approve of his brother’s conduct.

Besides the service and society, Vronsky
had another great interest ­horses; he was
passionately fond of horses.

That year races and a steeplechase
had been arranged for the officers.  Vronsky
had put his name down, bought a thoroughbred English
mare, and in spite of his love affair, he was looking
forward to the races with intense, though reserved,
excitement…

These two passions did not interfere
with one another.  On the contrary, he needed
occupation and distraction quite apart from his love,
so as to recruit and rest himself from the violent
emotions that agitated him.

 

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