FictionForest

PART TWO : Chapter 28

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

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When Alexey Alexandrovitch reached
the race-course, Anna was already sitting in the pavilion
beside Betsy, in that pavilion where all the highest
society had gathered.  She caught sight of her
husband in the distance.  Two men, her husband
and her lover, were the two centers of her existence,
and unaided by her external senses she was aware of
their nearness.  She was aware of her husband
approaching a long way off, and she could not help
following him in the surging crowd in the midst of
which he was moving.  She watched his progress
towards the pavilion, saw him now responding condescendingly
to an ingratiating bow, now exchanging friendly, nonchalant
greetings with his equals, now assiduously trying
to catch the eye of some great one of this world,
and taking off his big round hat that squeezed the
tips of his ears.  All these ways of his she
knew, and all were hateful to her.  “Nothing
but ambition, nothing but the desire to get on, that’s
all there is in his soul,” she thought; “as
for these lofty ideals, love of culture, religion,
they are only so many tools for getting on.”

From his glances towards the ladies’
pavilion (he was staring straight at her, but did
not distinguish his wife in the sea of muslin, ribbons,
feathers, parasols and flowers) she saw that he was
looking for her, but she purposely avoided noticing
him.

“Alexey Alexandrovitch!”
Princess Betsy called to him; “I’m sure
you don’t see your wife:  here she is.”

He smiled his chilly smile.

“There’s so much splendor
here that one’s eyes are dazzled,” he
said, and he went into the pavilion.  He smiled
to his wife as a man should smile on meeting his wife
after only just parting from her, and greeted the
princess and other acquaintances, giving to each what
was due ­that is to say, jesting with the
ladies and dealing out friendly greetings among the
men.  Below, near the pavilion, was standing
an adjutant-general of whom Alexey Alexandrovitch
had a high opinion, noted for his intelligence and
culture.  Alexey Alexandrovitch entered into conversation
with him.

There was an interval between the
races, and so nothing hindered conversation. 
The adjutant-general expressed his disapproval of
races.  Alexey Alexandrovitch replied defending
them.  Anna heard his high, measured tones, not
losing one word, and every word struck her as false,
and stabbed her ears with pain.

When the three-mile steeplechase was
beginning, she bent forward and gazed with fixed eyes
at Vronsky as he went up to his horse and mounted,
and at the same time she heard that loathsome, never-ceasing
voice of her husband.  She was in an agony of
terror for Vronsky, but a still greater agony was the
never-ceasing, as it seemed to her, stream of her husband’s
shrill voice with its familiar intonations.

“I’m a wicked woman, a
lost woman,” she thought; “but I don’t
like lying, I can’t endure falsehood, while as
for him (her husband) it’s the breath
of his life ­falsehood.  He knows all
about it, he sees it all; what does he care if he can
talk so calmly?  If he were to kill me, if he
were to kill Vronsky, I might respect him.  No,
all he wants is falsehood and propriety,” Anna
said to herself, not considering exactly what it was
she wanted of her husband, and how she would have
liked to see him behave.  She did not understand
either that Alexey Alexandrovitch’s peculiar
loquacity that day, so exasperating to her, was merely
the expression of his inward distress and uneasiness. 
As a child that has been hurt skips about, putting
all his muscles into movement to drown the pain, in
the same way Alexey Alexandrovitch needed mental exercise
to drown the thoughts of his wife that in her presence
and in Vronsky’s, and with the continual iteration
of his name, would force themselves on his attention. 
And it was as natural for him to talk well and cleverly,
as it is natural for a child to skip about.  He
was saying: 

“Danger in the races of officers,
of cavalry men, is an essential element in the race. 
If England can point to the most brilliant feats
of cavalry in military history, it is simply owing
to the fact that she has historically developed this
force both in beasts and in men.  Sport has,
in my opinion, a great value, and as is always the
case, we see nothing but what is most superficial.”

“It’s not superficial,”
said Princess Tverskaya.  “One of the officers,
they say, has broken two ribs.”

Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled his smile,
which uncovered his teeth, but revealed nothing more.

“We’ll admit, princess,
that that’s not superficial,” he said,
“but internal.  But that’s not the
point,” and he turned again to the general with
whom he was talking seriously; “we mustn’t
forget that those who are taking part in the race are
military men, who have chosen that career, and one
must allow that every calling has its disagreeable
side.  It forms an integral part of the duties
of an officer.  Low sports, such as prize-fighting
or Spanish bull-fights, are a sign of barbarity. 
But specialized trials of skill are a sign of development.”

“No, I shan’t come another
time; it’s too upsetting,” said Princess
Betsy.  “Isn’t it, Anna?”

“It is upsetting, but one can’t
tear oneself away,” said another lady. 
“If I’d been a Roman woman I should never
have missed a single circus.”

Anna said nothing, and keeping her
opera glass up, gazed always at the same spot.

At that moment a tall general walked
through the pavilion.  Breaking off what he was
saying, Alexey Alexandrovitch got up hurriedly, though
with dignity, and bowed low to the general.

“You’re not racing?”
the officer asked, chaffing him.

“My race is a harder one,”
Alexey Alexandrovitch responded deferentially.

And though the answer meant nothing,
the general looked as though he had heard a witty
remark from a witty man, and fully relished la
pointe de la sauce
.

“There are two aspects,”
Alexey Alexandrovitch resumed:  “those who
take part and those who look on; and love for such
spectacles is an unmistakable proof of a low degree
of development in the spectator, I admit, but…”

“Princess, bets!” sounded
Stepan Arkadyevitch’s voice from below, addressing
Betsy.  “Who’s your favorite?”

“Anna and I are for Kuzovlev,” replied
Betsy.

“I’m for Vronsky.  A pair of gloves?”

“Done!”

“But it is a pretty sight, isn’t it?”

Alexey Alexandrovitch paused while
there was talking about him, but he began again directly.

“I admit that manly sports do not…”
he was continuing.

But at that moment the racers started,
and all conversation ceased.  Alexey Alexandrovitch
too was silent, and everyone stood up and turned towards
the stream.  Alexey Alexandrovitch took no interest
in the race, and so he did not watch the racers, but
fell listlessly to scanning the spectators with his
weary eyes.  His eyes rested upon Anna.

Her face was white and set. 
She was obviously seeing nothing and no one but one
man.  Her hand had convulsively clutched her fan,
and she held her breath.  He looked at her and
hastily turned away, scrutinizing other faces.

“But here’s this lady
too, and others very much moved as well; it’s
very natural,” Alexey Alexandrovitch told himself. 
He tried not to look at her, but unconsciously his
eyes were drawn to her.  He examined that face
again, trying not to read what was so plainly written
on it, and against his own will, with horror read
on it what he did not want to know.

The first fall ­Kuzovlev’s,
at the stream ­agitated everyone, but Alexey
Alexandrovitch saw distinctly on Anna’s pale,
triumphant face that the man she was watching had not
fallen.  When, after Mahotin and Vronsky had cleared
the worst barrier, the next officer had been thrown
straight on his head at it and fatally injured, and
a shudder of horror passed over the whole public,
Alexey Alexandrovitch saw that Anna did not even notice
it, and had some difficulty in realizing what they
were talking of about her.  But more and more
often, and with greater persistence, he watched her. 
Anna, wholly engrossed as she was with the race,
became aware of her husband’s cold eyes fixed
upon her from one side.

She glanced round for an instant,
looked inquiringly at him, and with a slight frown
turned away again.

“Ah, I don’t care!”
she seemed to say to him, and she did not once glance
at him again.

The race was an unlucky one, and of
the seventeen officers who rode in it more than half
were thrown and hurt.  Towards the end of the
race everyone was in a state of agitation, which was
intensified by the fact that the Tsar was displeased.

 

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