FictionForest

PART FIVE : Chapter 7

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

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Vronsky and Anna had been traveling
for three months together in Europe.  They had
visited Venice, Rome, and Naples, and had just arrived
at a small Italian town where they meant to stay some
time.  A handsome head waiter, with thick pomaded
hair parted from the neck upwards, an evening coat,
a broad white cambric shirt front, and a bunch of
trinkets hanging above his rounded stomach, stood
with his hands in the full curve of his pockets, looking
contemptuously from under his eyelids while he gave
some frigid reply to a gentleman who had stopped him. 
Catching the sound of footsteps coming from the other
side of the entry towards the staircase, the head
waiter turned round, and seeing the Russian count,
who had taken their best rooms, he took his hands
out of his pockets deferentially, and with a bow informed
him that a courier had been, and that the business
about the palazzo had been arranged.  The steward
was prepared to sign the agreement.

“Ah!  I’m glad to
hear it,” said Vronsky.  “Is madame
at home or not?”

“Madame has been out for a walk
but has returned now,” answered the waiter.

Vronsky took off his soft, wide-brimmed
hat and passed his handkerchief over his heated brow
and hair, which had grown half over his ears, and
was brushed back covering the bald patch on his head. 
And glancing casually at the gentleman, who still
stood there gazing intently at him, he would have gone
on.

“This gentleman is a Russian,
and was inquiring after you,” said the head
waiter.

With mingled feelings of annoyance
at never being able to get away from acquaintances
anywhere, and longing to find some sort of diversion
from the monotony of his life, Vronsky looked once
more at the gentleman, who had retreated and stood
still again, and at the same moment a light came into
the eyes of both.

“Golenishtchev!”

“Vronsky!”

It really was Golenishtchev, a comrade
of Vronsky’s in the Corps of Pages.  In
the corps Golenishtchev had belonged to the liberal
party; he left the corps without entering the army,
and had never taken office under the government. 
Vronsky and he had gone completely different ways
on leaving the corps, and had only met once since.

At that meeting Vronsky perceived
that Golenishtchev had taken up a sort of lofty, intellectually
liberal line, and was consequently disposed to look
down upon Vronsky’s interests and calling in
life.  Hence Vronsky had met him with the chilling
and haughty manner he so well knew how to assume,
the meaning of which was:  “You may like
or dislike my way of life, that’s a matter of
the most perfect indifference to me; you will have
to treat me with respect if you want to know me.” 
Golenishtchev had been contemptuously indifferent
to the tone taken by Vronsky.  This second meeting
might have been expected, one would have supposed,
to estrange them still more.  But now they beamed
and exclaimed with delight on recognizing one another. 
Vronsky would never have expected to be so pleased
to see Golenishtchev, but probably he was not himself
aware how bored he was.  He forgot the disagreeable
impression of their last meeting, and with a face
of frank delight held out his hand to his old comrade. 
The same expression of delight replaced the look
of uneasiness on Golenishtchev’s face.

“How glad I am to meet you!”
said Vronsky, showing his strong white teeth in a
friendly smile.

“I heard the name Vronsky, but
I didn’t know which one.  I’m very,
very glad!”

“Let’s go in.  Come, tell me what
you’re doing.”

“I’ve been living here for two years. 
I’m working.”

“Ah!” said Vronsky, with
sympathy; “let’s go in.”  And
with the habit common with Russians, instead of saying
in Russian what he wanted to keep from the servants,
he began to speak in French.

“Do you know Madame Karenina? 
We are traveling together.  I am going to see
her now,” he said in French, carefully scrutinizing
Golenishtchev’s face.

“Ah!  I did not know”
(though he did know), Golenishtchev answered carelessly. 
“Have you been here long?” he added.

“Four days,” Vronsky answered,
once more scrutinizing his friend’s face intently.

“Yes, he’s a decent fellow,
and will look at the thing properly,” Vronsky
said to himself, catching the significance of Golenishtchev’s
face and the change of subject.  “I can
introduce him to Anna, he looks at it properly.”

During those three months that Vronsky
had spent abroad with Anna, he had always on meeting
new people asked himself how the new person would
look at his relations with Anna, and for the most
part, in men, he had met with the “proper”
way of looking at it.  But if he had been asked,
and those who looked at it “properly”
had been asked, exactly how they did look at it, both
he and they would have been greatly puzzled to answer.

In reality, those who in Vronsky’s
opinion had the “proper” view had no sort
of view at all, but behaved in general as well-bred
persons do behave in regard to all the complex and
insoluble problems with which life is encompassed
on all sides; they behaved with propriety, avoiding
allusions and unpleasant questions.  They assumed
an air of fully comprehending the import and force
of the situation, of accepting and even approving of
it, but of considering it superfluous and uncalled
for to put all this into words.

Vronsky at once divined that Golenishtchev
was of this class, and therefore was doubly pleased
to see him.  And in fact, Golenishtchev’s
manner to Madame Karenina, when he was taken to call
on her, was all that Vronsky could have desired. 
Obviously without the slightest effort he steered
clear of all subjects which might lead to embarrassment.

He had never met Anna before, and
was struck by her beauty, and still more by the frankness
with which she accepted her position.  She blushed
when Vronsky brought in Golenishtchev, and he was
extremely charmed by this childish blush overspreading
her candid and handsome face.  But what he liked
particularly was the way in which at once, as though
on purpose that there might be no misunderstanding
with an outsider, she called Vronsky simply Alexey,
and said they were moving into a house they had just
taken, what was here called a palazzo.  Golenishtchev
liked this direct and simple attitude to her own position. 
Looking at Anna’s manner of simple-hearted,
spirited gaiety, and knowing Alexey Alexandrovitch
and Vronsky, Golenishtchev fancied that he understood
her perfectly.  He fancied that he understood
what she was utterly unable to understand:  how
it was that, having made her husband wretched, having
abandoned him and her son and lost her good name,
she yet felt full of spirits, gaiety, and happiness.

“It’s in the guide-book,”
said Golenishtchev, referring to the palazzo Vronsky
had taken.  “There’s a first-rate
Tintoretto there.  One of his latest period.”

“I tell you what:  it’s
a lovely day, let’s go and have another look
at it,” said Vronsky, addressing Anna.

“I shall be very glad to; I’ll
go and put on my hat.  Would you say it’s
hot?” she said, stopping short in the doorway
and looking inquiringly at Vronsky.  And again
a vivid flush overspread her face.

Vronsky saw from her eyes that she
did not know on what terms he cared to be with Golenishtchev,
and so was afraid of not behaving as he would wish.

He looked a long, tender look at her.

“No, not very,” he said.

And it seemed to her that she understood
everything, most of all, that he was pleased with
her; and smiling to him, she walked with her rapid
step out at the door.

The friends glanced at one another,
and a look of hesitation came into both faces, as
though Golenishtchev, unmistakably admiring her, would
have liked to say something about her, and could not
find the right thing to say, while Vronsky desired
and dreaded his doing so.

“Well then,” Vronsky began
to start a conversation of some sort; “so you’re
settled here?  You’re still at the same
work, then?” he went on, recalling that he had
been told Golenishtchev was writing something.

“Yes, I’m writing the
second part of the Two Elements,” said
Golenishtchev, coloring with pleasure at the question ­“that
is, to be exact, I am not writing it yet; I am preparing,
collecting materials.  It will be of far wider
scope, and will touch on almost all questions. 
We in Russia refuse to see that we are the heirs
of Byzantium,” and he launched into a long and
heated explanation of his views.

Vronsky at the first moment felt embarrassed
at not even knowing of the first part of the Two
Elements
, of which the author spoke as something
well known.  But as Golenishtchev began to lay
down his opinions and Vronsky was able to follow them
even without knowing the Two Elements, he listened
to him with some interest, for Golenishtchev spoke
well.  But Vronsky was startled and annoyed by
the nervous irascibility with which Golenishtchev
talked of the subject that engrossed him.  As
he went on talking, his eyes glittered more and more
angrily; he was more and more hurried in his replies
to imaginary opponents, and his face grew more and
more excited and worried.  Remembering Golenishtchev,
a thin, lively, good-natured and well-bred boy, always
at the head of the class, Vronsky could not make out
the reason of his irritability, and he did not like
it.  What he particularly disliked was that Golenishtchev,
a man belonging to a good set, should put himself
on a level with some scribbling fellows, with whom
he was irritated and angry.  Was it worth it? 
Vronsky disliked it, yet he felt that Golenishtchev
was unhappy, and was sorry for him.  Unhappiness,
almost mental derangement, was visible on his mobile,
rather handsome face, while without even noticing
Anna’s coming in, he went on hurriedly and hotly
expressing his views.

When Anna came in in her hat and cape,
and her lovely hand rapidly swinging her parasol,
and stood beside him, it was with a feeling of relief
that Vronsky broke away from the plaintive eyes of
Golenishtchev which fastened persistently upon him,
and with a fresh rush of love looked at his charming
companion, full of life and happiness.  Golenishtchev
recovered himself with an effort, and at first was
dejected and gloomy, but Anna, disposed to feel friendly
with everyone as she was at that time, soon revived
his spirits by her direct and lively manner. 
After trying various subjects of conversation, she
got him upon painting, of which he talked very well,
and she listened to him attentively.  They walked
to the house they had taken, and looked over it.

“I am very glad of one thing,”
said Anna to Golenishtchev when they were on their
way back, “Alexey will have a capital atelier
You must certainly take that room,” she said
to Vronsky in Russian, using the affectionately familiar
form as though she saw that Golenishtchev would become
intimate with them in their isolation, and that there
was no need of reserve before him.

“Do you paint?” said Golenishtchev,
turning round quickly to Vronsky.

“Yes, I used to study long ago,
and now I have begun to do a little,” said Vronsky,
reddening.

“He has great talent,”
said Anna with a delighted smile.  “I’m
no judge, of course.  But good judges have said
the same.”

 

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