Anna karenina, p.102
Anna Karenina, p.102graf Leo Tolstoy
The Karenins, husband and wife, continued living in the same house, metevery day, but were complete strangers to one another. AlexeyAlexandrovitch made it a rule to see his wife every day, so that theservants might have no grounds for suppositions, but avoided dining athome. Vronsky was never at Alexey Alexandrovitch's house, but Anna sawhim away from home, and her husband was aware of it.
The position was one of misery for all three; and not one of them wouldhave been equal to enduring this position for a single day, if it hadnot been for the expectation that it would change, that it was merely atemporary painful ordeal which would pass over. Alexey Alexandrovitchhoped that this passion would pass, as everything does pass, thateveryone would forget about it, and his name would remain unsullied.Anna, on whom the position depended, and for whom it was more miserablethan for anyone, endured it because she not merely hoped, but firmlybelieved, that it would all very soon be settled and come right. She hadnot the least idea what would settle the position, but she firmlybelieved that something would very soon turn up now. Vronsky, againsthis 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. Aforeign prince, who had come on a visit to Petersburg, was put under hischarge, and he had to show him the sights worth seeing. Vronsky was ofdistinguished appearance; he possessed, moreover, the art of behavingwith respectful dignity, and was used to having to do with such grandpersonages--that was how he came to be put in charge of the prince. Buthe felt his duties very irksome. The prince was anxious to miss nothingof which he would be asked at home, had he seen that in Russia? And onhis own account he was anxious to enjoy to the utmost all Russian formsof amusement. Vronsky was obliged to be his guide in satisfying boththese inclinations. The mornings they spent driving to look at places ofinterest; the evenings they passed enjoying the national entertainments.The prince rejoiced in health exceptional even among princes. Bygymnastics and careful attention to his health he had brought himself tosuch a point that in spite of his excess in pleasure he looked as freshas a big glossy green Dutch cucumber. The prince had traveled a greatdeal, and considered one of the chief advantages of modern facilities ofcommunication was the accessibility of the pleasures of all nations.
He had been in Spain, and there had indulged in serenades and had madefriends with a Spanish girl who played the mandolin. In Switzerland hehad killed chamois. In England he had galloped in a red coat over hedgesand killed two hundred pheasants for a bet. In Turkey he had got into aharem; in India he had hunted on an elephant, and now in Russia hewished to taste all the specially Russian forms of pleasure.
Vronsky, who was, as it were, chief master of the ceremonies to him, wasat great pains to arrange all the Russian amusements suggested byvarious persons to the prince. They had race horses, and Russianpancakes and bear hunts and three-horse sledges, and gypsies anddrinking feasts, with the Russian accompaniment of broken crockery. Andthe prince with surprising ease fell in with the Russian spirit, smashedtrays full of crockery, sat with a gypsy girl on his knee, and seemed tobe asking--what more, and does the whole Russian spirit consist in justthis?
In reality, of all the Russian entertainments the prince liked bestFrench actresses and ballet dancers and white-seal champagne. Vronskywas 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 seemedfearfully wearisome to him. The whole of that week he experienced asensation 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, fearingfor his own reason. Vronsky was continually conscious of the necessityof never for a second relaxing the tone of stern officialrespectfulness, that he might not himself be insulted. The prince'smanner of treating the very people who, to Vronsky's surprise, wereready to descend to any depths to provide him with Russian amusements,was contemptuous. His criticisms of Russian women, whom he wished tostudy, more than once made Vronsky crimson with indignation. The chiefreason why the prince was so particularly disagreeable to Vronsky wasthat he could not help seeing himself in him. And what he saw in thismirror did not gratify his self-esteem. He was a very stupid and veryself-satisfied and very healthy and very well-washed man, and nothingelse. He was a gentleman--that was true, and Vronsky could not deny it.He was equable and not cringing with his superiors, was free andingratiating in his behavior with his equals, and was contemptuouslyindulgent with his inferiors. Vronsky was himself the same, and regardedit 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 theprince, who was starting for Moscow, and received his thanks, he washappy to be rid of his uncomfortable position and the unpleasantreflection of himself. He said good-bye to him at the station on theirreturn from a bear hunt, at which they had had a display of Russianprowess kept up all night.
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