Anna karenina, p.108
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       Anna Karenina, p.108

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 7

  The next day was Sunday. Stepan Arkadyevitch went to the Grand Theaterto a rehearsal of the ballet, and gave Masha Tchibisova, a prettydancing-girl whom he had just taken under his protection, the coralnecklace he had promised her the evening before, and behind the scenesin the dim daylight of the theater, managed to kiss her pretty littleface, radiant over her present. Besides the gift of the necklace hewanted to arrange with her about meeting after the ballet. Afterexplaining that he could not come at the beginning of the ballet, hepromised he would come for the last act and take her to supper. From thetheater Stepan Arkadyevitch drove to Ohotny Row, selected himself thefish and asparagus for dinner, and by twelve o'clock was at Dussot's,where he had to see three people, luckily all staying at the same hotel:Levin, who had recently come back from abroad and was staying there; thenew head of his department, who had just been promoted to that position,and had come on a tour of revision to Moscow; and his brother-in-law,Karenin, whom he must see, so as to be sure of bringing him to dinner.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch liked dining, but still better he liked to give adinner, small, but very choice, both as regards the food and drink andas regards the selection of guests. He particularly liked the program ofthat day's dinner. There would be fresh perch, asparagus, and _la piecede resistance_--first-rate, but quite plain, roast beef, and wines tosuit: so much for the eating and drinking. Kitty and Levin would be ofthe party, and that this might not be obtrusively evident, there wouldbe a girl cousin too, and young Shtcherbatsky, and _la piece deresistance_ among the guests--Sergey Koznishev and AlexeyAlexandrovitch. Sergey Ivanovitch was a Moscow man, and a philosopher;Alexey Alexandrovitch a Petersburger, and a practical politician. He wasasking, too, the well-known eccentric enthusiast, Pestsov, a liberal, agreat talker, a musician, an historian, and the most delightfullyyouthful person of fifty, who would be a sauce or garnish for Koznishevand Karenin. He would provoke them and set them off.

  The second installment for the forest had been received from themerchant and was not yet exhausted; Dolly had been very amiable andgoodhumored of late, and the idea of the dinner pleased StepanArkadyevitch from every point of view. He was in the most light-heartedmood. There were two circumstances a little unpleasant, but these twocircumstances were drowned in the sea of good-humored gaiety whichflooded the soul of Stepan Arkadyevitch. These two circumstances were:first, that on meeting Alexey Alexandrovitch the day before in thestreet he had noticed that he was cold and reserved with him, andputting the expression of Alexey Alexandrovitch's face and the fact thathe had not come to see them or let them know of his arrival with therumors he had heard about Anna and Vronsky, Stepan Arkadyevitch guessedthat something was wrong between the husband and wife.

  That was one disagreeable thing. The other slightly disagreeable factwas that the new head of his department, like all new heads, had thereputation already of a terrible person, who got up at six o'clock inthe morning, worked like a horse, and insisted on his subordinatesworking in the same way. Moreover, this new head had the furtherreputation of being a bear in his manners, and was, according to allreports, a man of a class in all respects the opposite of that to whichhis predecessor had belonged, and to which Stepan Arkadyevitch hadhitherto belonged himself. On the previous day Stepan Arkadyevitch hadappeared at the office in a uniform, and the new chief had been veryaffable and had talked to him as to an acquaintance. Consequently StepanArkadyevitch deemed it his duty to call upon him in his non-officialdress. The thought that the new chief might not tender him a warmreception was the other unpleasant thing. But Stepan Arkadyevitchinstinctively felt that everything would _come round_ all right."They're all people, all men, like us poor sinners; why be nasty andquarrelsome?" he thought as he went into the hotel.

  "Good-day, Vassily," he said, walking into the corridor with his hatcocked on one side, and addressing a footman he knew; "why, you've letyour whiskers grow! Levin, number seven, eh? Take me up, please. Andfind out whether Count Anitchkin" (this was the new head) "isreceiving."

  "Yes, sir," Vassily responded, smiling. "You've not been to see us for along while."

  "I was here yesterday, but at the other entrance. Is this number seven?"

  Levin was standing with a peasant from Tver in the middle of the room,measuring a fresh bearskin, when Stepan Arkadyevitch went in.

  "What! you killed him?" cried Stepan Arkadyevitch. "Well done! Ashe-bear? How are you, Arhip!"

  He shook hands with the peasant and sat down on the edge of a chair,without taking off his coat and hat.

  "Come, take off your coat and stay a little," said Levin, taking hishat.

  "No, I haven't time; I've only looked in for a tiny second," answeredStepan Arkadyevitch. He threw open his coat, but afterwards did take itoff, and sat on for a whole hour, talking to Levin about hunting and themost intimate subjects.

  "Come, tell me, please, what you did abroad? Where have you been?" saidStepan Arkadyevitch, when the peasant had gone.

  "Oh, I stayed in Germany, in Prussia, in France, and in England--not inthe capitals, but in the manufacturing towns, and saw a great deal thatwas new to me. And I'm glad I went."

  "Yes, I knew your idea of the solution of the labor question."

  "Not a bit: in Russia there can be no labor question. In Russia thequestion is that of the relation of the working people to the land;though the question exists there too--but there it's a matter ofrepairing what's been ruined, while with us..."

  Stepan Arkadyevitch listened attentively to Levin.

  "Yes, yes!" he said, "it's very possible you're right. But I'm gladyou're in good spirits, and are hunting bears, and working, andinterested. Shtcherbatsky told me another story--he met you--that youwere in such a depressed state, talking of nothing but death...."

  "Well, what of it? I've not given up thinking of death," said Levin."It's true that it's high time I was dead; and that all this isnonsense. It's the truth I'm telling you. I do value my idea and my workawfully; but in reality only consider this: all this world of ours isnothing but a speck of mildew, which has grown up on a tiny planet. Andfor us to suppose we can have something great--ideas, work--it's alldust and ashes."

  "But all that's as old as the hills, my boy!"

  "It is old; but do you know, when you grasp this fully, then somehoweverything becomes of no consequence. When you understand that you willdie tomorrow, if not today, and nothing will be left, then everything isso unimportant! And I consider my idea very important, but it turns outreally to be as unimportant too, even if it were carried out, as doingfor that bear. So one goes on living, amusing oneself with hunting, withwork--anything so as not to think of death!"

  Stepan Arkadyevitch smiled a subtle affectionate smile as he listened toLevin.

  "Well, of course! Here you've come round to my point. Do you rememberyou attacked me for seeking enjoyment in life? Don't be so severe, Omoralist!"

  "No; all the same, what's fine in life is..." Levin hesitated--"oh, Idon't know. All I know is that we shall soon be dead."

  "Why so soon?"

  "And do you know, there's less charm in life, when one thinks of death,but there's more peace."

  "On the contrary, the finish is always the best. But I must be going,"said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting up for the tenth time.

  "Oh, no, stay a bit!" said Levin, keeping him. "Now, when shall we seeeach other again? I'm going tomorrow."

  "I'm a nice person! Why, that's just what I came for! You simply mustcome to dinner with us today. Your brother's coming, and Karenin, mybrother-in-law."

  "You don't mean to say he's here?" said Levin, and he wanted to inquireabout Kitty. He had heard at the beginning of the winter that she was atPetersburg with her sister, the wife of the diplomat, and he did notknow whether she had come back or not; but he changed his mind and didnot ask. "Whether she's coming or not, I don't care," he said tohimself.

  "So you'll come?"

  "Of course."

  "At five o'clock, then, and not evening dres
s."

  And Stepan Arkadyevitch got up and went down below to the new head ofhis department. Instinct had not misled Stepan Arkadyevitch. Theterrible new head turned out to be an extremely amenable person, andStepan Arkadyevitch lunched with him and stayed on, so that it was fouro'clock before he got to Alexey Alexandrovitch.

 
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