FictionForest

PART FOUR : Chapter 6

Leo TolstoyAug 24, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Alexey Alexandrovitch had gained a
brilliant victory at the sitting of the Commission
of the 17th of August, but in the sequel this victory
cut the ground from under his feet.  The new
commission for the inquiry into the condition of the
native tribes in all its branches had been formed
and despatched to its destination with an unusual
speed and energy inspired by Alexey Alexandrovitch. 
Within three months a report was presented. 
The condition of the native tribes was investigated
in its political, administrative, economic, ethnographic,
material, and religious aspects.  To all these
questions there were answers admirably stated, and
answers admitting no shade of doubt, since they were
not a product of human thought, always liable to error,
but were all the product of official activity. 
The answers were all based on official data furnished
by governors and heads of churches, and founded on
the reports of district magistrates and ecclesiastical
superintendents, founded in their turn on the reports
of parochial overseers and parish priests; and so all
of these answers were unhesitating and certain. 
All such questions as, for instance, of the cause
of failure of crops, of the adherence of certain tribes
to their ancient beliefs, etc. ­ questions
which, but for the convenient intervention of the
official machine, are not, and cannot be solved for
ages ­ received full, unhesitating solution. 
And this solution was in favor of Alexey Alexandrovitch’s
contention.  But Stremov, who had felt stung
to the quick at the last sitting, had, on the reception
of the commission’s report, resorted to tactics
which Alexey Alexandrovitch had not anticipated. 
Stremov, carrying with him several members, went
over to Alexey Alexandrovitch’s side, and not
contenting himself with warmly defending the measure
proposed by Karenin, proposed other more extreme measures
in the same direction.  These measures, still
further exaggerated in opposition to what was Alexey
Alexandrovitch’s fundamental idea, were passed
by the commission, and then the aim of Stremov’s
tactics became apparent.  Carried to an extreme,
the measures seemed at once to be so absurd that the
highest authorities, and public opinion, and intellectual
ladies, and the newspapers, all at the same time fell
foul of them, expressing their indignation both with
the measures and their nominal father, Alexey Alexandrovitch. 
Stremov drew back, affecting to have blindly followed
Karenin, and to be astounded and distressed at what
had been done.  This meant the defeat of Alexey
Alexandrovitch.  But in spite of failing health,
in spite of his domestic griefs, he did not give in. 
There was a split in the commission.  Some members,
with Stremov at their head, justified their mistake
on the ground that they had put faith in the commission
of revision, instituted by Alexey Alexandrovitch, and
maintained that the report of the commission was rubbish,
and simply so much waste paper.  Alexey Alexandrovitch,
with a following of those who saw the danger of so
revolutionary an attitude to official documents, persisted
in upholding the statements obtained by the revising
commission.  In consequence of this, in the higher
spheres, and even in society, all was chaos, and although
everyone was interested, no one could tell whether
the native tribes really were becoming impoverished
and ruined, or whether they were in a flourishing
condition.  The position of Alexey Alexandrovitch,
owing to this, and partly owing to the contempt lavished
on him for his wife’s infidelity, became very
precarious.  And in this position he took an
important resolution.  To the astonishment of
the commission, he announced that he should ask permission
to go himself to investigate the question on the spot. 
And having obtained permission, Alexey Alexandrovitch
prepared to set off to these remote provinces.

Alexey Alexandrovitch’s departure
made a great sensation, the more so as just before
he started he officially returned the posting-fares
allowed him for twelve horses, to drive to his destination.

“I think it very noble,”
Betsy said about this to the Princess Myakaya. 
“Why take money for posting-horses when everyone
knows that there are railways everywhere now?”

But Princess Myakaya did not agree,
and the Princess Tverskaya’s opinion annoyed
her indeed.

“It’s all very well for
you to talk,” said she, “when you have
I don’t know how many millions; but I am very
glad when my husband goes on a revising tour in the
summer.  It’s very good for him and pleasant
traveling about, and it’s a settled arrangement
for me to keep a carriage and coachman on the money.”

On his way to the remote provinces
Alexey Alexandrovitch stopped for three days at Moscow.

The day after his arrival he was driving
back from calling on the governor-general.  At
the crossroads by Gazetoy Place, where there are always
crowds of carriages and sledges, Alexey Alexandrovitch
suddenly heard his name called out in such a loud
and cheerful voice that he could not help looking round. 
At the corner of the pavement, in a short, stylish
overcoat and a low-crowned fashionable hat, jauntily
askew, with a smile that showed a gleam of white teeth
and red lips, stood Stepan Arkadyevitch, radiant,
young, and beaming.  He called him vigorously
and urgently, and insisted on his stopping.  He
had one arm on the window of a carriage that was stopping
at the corner, and out of the window were thrust the
heads of a lady in a velvet hat, and two children. 
Stepan Arkadyevitch was smiling and beckoning to
his brother-in-law.  The lady smiled a kindly
smile too, and she too waved her hand to Alexey Alexandrovitch. 
It was Dolly with her children.

Alexey Alexandrovitch did not want
to see anyone in Moscow, and least of all his wife’s
brother.  He raised his hat and would have driven
on, but Stepan Arkadyevitch told his coachman to stop,
and ran across the snow to him.

“Well, what a shame not to have
let us know!  Been here long?  I was at
Dussot’s yesterday and saw ‘Karenin’
on the visitors’ list, but it never entered
my head that it was you,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch,
sticking his head in at the window of the carriage,
“or I should have looked you up.  I am glad
to see you!” he said, knocking one foot against
the other to shake the snow off.  “What
a shame of you not to let us know!” he repeated.

“I had no time; I am very busy,”
Alexey Alexandrovitch responded dryly.

“Come to my wife, she does so want to see you.”

Alexey Alexandrovitch unfolded the
rug in which his frozen feet were wrapped, and getting
out of his carriage made his way over the snow to
Darya Alexandrovna.

“Why, Alexey Alexandrovitch,
what are you cutting us like this for?” said
Dolly, smiling.

“I was very busy.  Delighted
to see you!” he said in a tone clearly indicating
that he was annoyed by it.  “How are you?”

“Tell me, how is my darling Anna?”

Alexey Alexandrovitch mumbled something
and would have gone on.  But Stepan Arkadyevitch
stopped him.

“I tell you what we’ll
do tomorrow.  Dolly, ask him to dinner. 
We’ll ask Koznishev and Pestsov, so as to entertain
him with our Moscow celebrities.”

“Yes, please, do come,”
said Dolly; “we will expect you at five, or
six o’clock, if you like.  How is my darling
Anna?  How long…”

“She is quite well,” Alexey
Alexandrovitch mumbled, frowning.  “Delighted!”
and he moved away towards his carriage.

“You will come?” Dolly called after him.

Alexey Alexandrovitch said something
which Dolly could not catch in the noise of the moving
carriages.

“I shall come round tomorrow!”
Stepan Arkadyevitch shouted to him.

Alexey Alexandrovitch got into his
carriage, and buried himself in it so as neither to
see nor be seen.

“Queer fish!” said Stepan
Arkadyevitch to his wife, and glancing at his watch,
he made a motion of his hand before his face, indicating
a caress to his wife and children, and walked jauntily
along the pavement.

“Stiva!  Stiva!” Dolly called, reddening.

He turned round.

“I must get coats, you know,
for Grisha and Tanya.  Give me the money.”

“Never mind; you tell them I’ll
pay the bill!” and he vanished, nodding genially
to an acquaintance who drove by.

 

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