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PART FOUR : Chapter 1

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

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The Karenins, husband and wife, continued
living in the same house, met every day, but were
complete strangers to one another.  Alexey Alexandrovitch
made it a rule to see his wife every day, so that
the servants might have no grounds for suppositions,
but avoided dining at home.  Vronsky was never
at Alexey Alexandrovitch’s house, but Anna saw
him away from home, and her husband was aware of it.

The position was one of misery for
all three; and not one of them would have been equal
to enduring this position for a single day, if it
had not been for the expectation that it would change,
that it was merely a temporary painful ordeal which
would pass over.  Alexey Alexandrovitch hoped
that this passion would pass, as everything does pass,
that everyone would forget about it, and his name
would remain unsullied.  Anna, on whom the position
depended, and for whom it was more miserable than for
anyone, endured it because she not merely hoped, but
firmly believed, that it would all very soon be settled
and come right.  She had not the least idea what
would settle the position, but she firmly believed
that something would very soon turn up now.  Vronsky,
against his own will or wishes, followed her lead,
hoped too that something, apart from his own action,
would be sure to solve all difficulties.

In the middle of the winter Vronsky
spent a very tiresome week.  A foreign prince,
who had come on a visit to Petersburg, was put under
his charge, and he had to show him the sights worth
seeing.  Vronsky was of distinguished appearance;
he possessed, moreover, the art of behaving with respectful
dignity, and was used to having to do with such grand
personages ­that was how he came to be put
in charge of the prince.  But he felt his duties
very irksome.  The prince was anxious to miss
nothing of which he would be asked at home, had he
seen that in Russia?  And on his own account
he was anxious to enjoy to the utmost all Russian
forms of amusement.  Vronsky was obliged to be
his guide in satisfying both these inclinations. 
The mornings they spent driving to look at places
of interest; the evenings they passed enjoying the
national entertainments.  The prince rejoiced
in health exceptional even among princes.  By
gymnastics and careful attention to his health he
had brought himself to such a point that in spite
of his excess in pleasure he looked as fresh as a
big glossy green Dutch cucumber.  The prince had
traveled a great deal, and considered one of the chief
advantages of modern facilities of communication was
the accessibility of the pleasures of all nations.

He had been in Spain, and there had
indulged in serenades and had made friends with a
Spanish girl who played the mandolin.  In Switzerland
he had killed chamois.  In England he had galloped
in a red coat over hedges and killed two hundred pheasants
for a bet.  In Turkey he had got into a harem;
in India he had hunted on an elephant, and now in
Russia he wished to taste all the specially Russian
forms of pleasure.

Vronsky, who was, as it were, chief
master of the ceremonies to him, was at great pains
to arrange all the Russian amusements suggested by
various persons to the prince.  They had race
horses, and Russian pancakes and bear hunts and three-horse
sledges, and gypsies and drinking feasts, with the
Russian accompaniment of broken crockery.  And
the prince with surprising ease fell in with the Russian
spirit, smashed trays full of crockery, sat with a
gypsy girl on his knee, and seemed to be asking ­what
more, and does the whole Russian spirit consist in
just this?

In reality, of all the Russian entertainments
the prince liked best French actresses and ballet
dancers and white-seal champagne.  Vronsky was
used to princes, but, either because he had himself
changed of late, or that he was in too close proximity
to the prince, that week seemed fearfully wearisome
to him.  The whole of that week he experienced
a sensation such as a man might have set in charge
of a dangerous madman, afraid of the madman, and at
the same time, from being with him, fearing for his
own reason.  Vronsky was continually conscious
of the necessity of never for a second relaxing the
tone of stern official respectfulness, that he might
not himself be insulted.  The prince’s manner
of treating the very people who, to Vronsky’s
surprise, were ready to descend to any depths to provide
him with Russian amusements, was contemptuous. 
His criticisms of Russian women, whom he wished to
study, more than once made Vronsky crimson with indignation. 
The chief reason why the prince was so particularly
disagreeable to Vronsky was that he could not help
seeing himself in him.  And what he saw in this
mirror did not gratify his self-esteem.  He was
a very stupid and very self-satisfied and very healthy
and very well-washed man, and nothing else. 
He was a gentleman ­that was true, and Vronsky
could not deny it.  He was equable and not cringing
with his superiors, was free and ingratiating in his
behavior with his equals, and was contemptuously indulgent
with his inferiors.  Vronsky was himself the same,
and regarded it as a great merit to be so.  But
for this prince he was an inferior, and his contemptuous
and indulgent attitude to him revolted him.

“Brainless beef! can I be like that?”
he thought.

Be that as it might, when, on the
seventh day, he parted from the prince, who was starting
for Moscow, and received his thanks, he was happy
to be rid of his uncomfortable position and the unpleasant
reflection of himself.  He said good-bye to him
at the station on their return from a bear hunt, at
which they had had a display of Russian prowess kept
up all night.

 

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