FictionForest

PART THREE : Chapter 19

Leo TolstoyAug 23, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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In spite of Vronsky’s apparently
frivolous life in society, he was a man who hated
irregularity.  In early youth in the Corps of
Pages, he had experienced the humiliation of a refusal,
when he had tried, being in difficulties, to borrow
money, and since then he had never once put himself
in the same position again.

In order to keep his affairs in some
sort of order, he used about five times a year (more
or less frequently, according to circumstances) to
shut himself up alone and put all his affairs into
definite shape.  This he used to call his day
of reckoning or faire la lessive.

On waking up the day after the races,
Vronsky put on a white linen coat, and without shaving
or taking his bath, he distributed about the table
moneys, bills, and letters, and set to work. 
Petritsky, who knew he was ill-tempered on such occasions,
on waking up and seeing his comrade at the writing-table,
quietly dressed and went out without getting in his
way.

Every man who knows to the minutest
details all the complexity of the conditions surrounding
him, cannot help imagining that the complexity of
these conditions, and the difficulty of making them
clear, is something exceptional and personal, peculiar
to himself, and never supposes that others are surrounded
by just as complicated an array of personal affairs
as he is.  So indeed it seemed to Vronsky. 
And not without inward pride, and not without reason,
he thought that any other man would long ago have
been in difficulties, would have been forced to some
dishonorable course, if he had found himself in such
a difficult position.  But Vronsky felt that now
especially it was essential for him to clear up and
define his position if he were to avoid getting into
difficulties.

What Vronsky attacked first as being
the easiest was his pecuniary position.  Writing
out on note paper in his minute hand all that he owed,
he added up the amount and found that his debts amounted
to seventeen thousand and some odd hundreds, which
he left out for the sake of clearness.  Reckoning
up his money and his bank book, he found that he had
left one thousand eight hundred roubles, and nothing
coming in before the New Year.  Reckoning over
again his list of debts, Vronsky copied it, dividing
it into three classes.  In the first class he
put the debts which he would have to pay at once,
or for which he must in any case have the money ready
so that on demand for payment there could not be a
moment’s delay in paying.  Such debts amounted
to about four thousand:  one thousand five hundred
for a horse, and two thousand five hundred as surety
for a young comrade, Venovsky, who had lost that sum
to a cardsharper in Vronsky’s presence. 
Vronsky had wanted to pay the money at the time (he
had that amount then), but Venovsky and Yashvin had
insisted that they would pay and not Vronsky, who
had not played.  That was so far well, but Vronsky
knew that in this dirty business, though his only
share in it was undertaking by word of mouth to be
surety for Venovsky, it was absolutely necessary for
him to have the two thousand five hundred roubles
so as to be able to fling it at the swindler, and
have no more words with him.  And so for this
first and most important division he must have four
thousand roubles.  The second class ­eight
thousand roubles ­consisted of less important
debts.  These were principally accounts owing
in connection with his race horses, to the purveyor
of oats and hay, the English saddler, and so on. 
He would have to pay some two thousand roubles on
these debts too, in order to be quite free from anxiety. 
The last class of debts ­to shops, to hotels,
to his tailor ­were such as need not be considered. 
So that he needed at least six thousand roubles for
current expenses, and he only had one thousand eight
hundred.  For a man with one hundred thousand
roubles of revenue, which was what everyone fixed
as Vronsky’s income, such debts, one would suppose,
could hardly be embarrassing; but the fact was that
he was far from having one hundred thousand. 
His father’s immense property, which alone
yielded a yearly income of two hundred thousand, was
left undivided between the brothers.  At the time
when the elder brother, with a mass of debts, married
Princess Varya Tchirkova, the daughter of a Decembrist
without any fortune whatever, Alexey had given up
to his elder brother almost the whole income from
his father’s estate, reserving for himself only
twenty-five thousand a year from it.  Alexey had
said at the time to his brother that that sum would
be sufficient for him until he married, which he probably
never would do.  And his brother, who was in
command of one of the most expensive regiments, and
was only just married, could not decline the gift. 
His mother, who had her own separate property, had
allowed Alexey every year twenty thousand in addition
to the twenty-five thousand he had reserved, and Alexey
had spent it all.  Of late his mother, incensed
with him on account of his love affair and his leaving
Moscow, had given up sending him the money.  And
in consequence of this, Vronsky, who had been in the
habit of living on the scale of forty-five thousand
a year, having only received twenty thousand that
year, found himself now in difficulties.  To get
out of these difficulties, he could not apply to his
mother for money.  Her last letter, which he
had received the day before, had particularly exasperated
him by the hints in it that she was quite ready to
help him to succeed in the world and in the army,
but not to lead a life which was a scandal to all good
society.  His mother’s attempt to buy him
stung him to the quick and made him feel colder than
ever to her.  But he could not draw back from
the generous word when it was once uttered, even though
he felt now, vaguely foreseeing certain eventualities
in his intrigue with Madame Karenina, that this generous
word had been spoken thoughtlessly, and that even
though he were not married he might need all the hundred
thousand of income.  But it was impossible to
draw back.  He had only to recall his brother’s
wife, to remember how that sweet, delightful Varya
sought, at every convenient opportunity, to remind
him that she remembered his generosity and appreciated
it, to grasp the impossibility of taking back his
gift.  It was as impossible as beating a woman,
stealing, or lying.  One thing only could and
ought to be done, and Vronsky determined upon it without
an instant’s hesitation:  to borrow money
from a money-lender, ten thousand roubles, a proceeding
which presented no difficulty, to cut down his expenses
generally, and to sell his race horses.  Resolving
on this, he promptly wrote a note to Rolandak, who
had more than once sent to him with offers to buy
horses from him.  Then he sent for the Englishman
and the money-lender, and divided what money he had
according to the accounts he intended to pay. 
Having finished this business, he wrote a cold and
cutting answer to his mother.  Then he took out
of his notebook three notes of Anna’s, read
them again, burned them, and remembering their conversation
on the previous day, he sank into meditation.

 

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