Anna karenina, p.174
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       Anna Karenina, p.174

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 17

  The coachman pulled up his four horses and looked round to the right, toa field of rye, where some peasants were sitting on a cart. The countinghouse clerk was just going to jump down, but on second thoughts heshouted peremptorily to the peasants instead, and beckoned to them tocome up. The wind, that seemed to blow as they drove, dropped when thecarriage stood still; gadflies settled on the steaming horses thatangrily shook them off. The metallic clank of a whetstone against ascythe, that came to them from the cart, ceased. One of the peasants gotup and came towards the carriage.

  "Well, you are slow!" the counting house clerk shouted angrily to thepeasant who was stepping slowly with his bare feet over the ruts of therough dry road. "Come along, do!"

  A curly-headed old man with a bit of bast tied round his hair, and hisbent back dark with perspiration, came towards the carriage, quickeninghis steps, and took hold of the mud-guard with his sunburnt hand.

  "Vozdvizhenskoe, the manor house? the count's?" he repeated; "go on tothe end of this track. Then turn to the left. Straight along the avenueand you'll come right upon it. But whom do you want? The count himself?"

  "Well, are they at home, my good man?" Darya Alexandrovna said vaguely,not knowing how to ask about Anna, even of this peasant.

  "At home for sure," said the peasant, shifting from one bare foot to theother, and leaving a distinct print of five toes and a heel in the dust."Sure to be at home," he repeated, evidently eager to talk. "Onlyyesterday visitors arrived. There's a sight of visitors come. What doyou want?" He turned round and called to a lad, who was shoutingsomething to him from the cart. "Oh! They all rode by here not longsince, to look at a reaping machine. They'll be home by now. And whowill you be belonging to?..."

  "We've come a long way," said the coachman, climbing onto the box. "Soit's not far?"

  "I tell you, it's just here. As soon as you get out..." he said, keepinghold all the while of the carriage.

  A healthy-looking, broad-shouldered young fellow came up too.

  "What, is it laborers they want for the harvest?" he asked.

  "I don't know, my boy."

  "So you keep to the left, and you'll come right on it," said thepeasant, unmistakably loth to let the travelers go, and eager toconverse.

  The coachman started the horses, but they were only just turning offwhen the peasant shouted: "Stop! Hi, friend! Stop!" called the twovoices. The coachman stopped.

  "They're coming! They're yonder!" shouted the peasant. "See what aturn-out!" he said, pointing to four persons on horseback, and two in a_char-a-banc_, coming along the road.

  They were Vronsky with a jockey, Veslovsky and Anna on horseback, andPrincess Varvara and Sviazhsky in the _char-a-banc_. They had gone outto look at the working of a new reaping machine.

  When the carriage stopped, the party on horseback were coming at awalking pace. Anna was in front beside Veslovsky. Anna, quietly walkingher horse, a sturdy English cob with cropped mane and short tail, herbeautiful head with her black hair straying loose under her high hat,her full shoulders, her slender waist in her black riding habit, and allthe ease and grace of her deportment, impressed Dolly.

  For the first minute it seemed to her unsuitable for Anna to be onhorseback. The conception of riding on horseback for a lady was, inDarya Alexandrovna's mind, associated with ideas of youthful flirtationand frivolity, which, in her opinion, was unbecoming in Anna's position.But when she had scrutinized her, seeing her closer, she was at oncereconciled to her riding. In spite of her elegance, everything was sosimple, quiet, and dignified in the attitude, the dress and themovements of Anna, that nothing could have been more natural.

  Beside Anna, on a hot-looking gray cavalry horse, was Vassenka Veslovskyin his Scotch cap with floating ribbons, his stout legs stretched out infront, obviously pleased with his own appearance. Darya Alexandrovnacould not suppress a good-humored smile as she recognized him. Behindrode Vronsky on a dark bay mare, obviously heated from galloping. He washolding her in, pulling at the reins.

  After him rode a little man in the dress of a jockey. Sviazhsky andPrincess Varvara in a new _char-a-banc_ with a big, raven-black trottinghorse, overtook the party on horseback.

  Anna's face suddenly beamed with a joyful smile at the instant when, inthe little figure huddled in a corner of the old carriage, sherecognized Dolly. She uttered a cry, started in the saddle, and set herhorse into a gallop. On reaching the carriage she jumped off withoutassistance, and holding up her riding habit, she ran up to greet Dolly.

  "I thought it was you and dared not think it. How delightful! You can'tfancy how glad I am!" she said, at one moment pressing her face againstDolly and kissing her, and at the next holding her off and examining herwith a smile.

  "Here's a delightful surprise, Alexey!" she said, looking round atVronsky, who had dismounted, and was walking towards them.

  Vronsky, taking off his tall gray hat, went up to Dolly.

  "You wouldn't believe how glad we are to see you," he said, givingpeculiar significance to the words, and showing his strong white teethin a smile.

  Vassenka Veslovsky, without getting off his horse, took off his cap andgreeted the visitor by gleefully waving the ribbons over his head.

  "That's Princess Varvara," Anna said in reply to a glance of inquiryfrom Dolly as the _char-a-banc_ drove up.

  "Ah!" said Darya Alexandrovna, and unconsciously her face betrayed herdissatisfaction.

  Princess Varvara was her husband's aunt, and she had long known her, anddid not respect her. She knew that Princess Varvara had passed her wholelife toadying on her rich relations, but that she should now be spongingon Vronsky, a man who was nothing to her, mortified Dolly on account ofher kinship with her husband. Anna noticed Dolly's expression, and wasdisconcerted by it. She blushed, dropped her riding habit, and stumbledover it.

  Darya Alexandrovna went up to the _char-a-banc_ and coldly greetedPrincess Varvara. Sviazhsky too she knew. He inquired how his queerfriend with the young wife was, and running his eyes over theill-matched horses and the carriage with its patched mud-guards,proposed to the ladies that they should get into the _char-a-banc_.

  "And I'll get into this vehicle," he said. "The horse is quiet, and theprincess drives capitally."

  "No, stay as you were," said Anna, coming up, "and we'll go in thecarriage," and taking Dolly's arm, she drew her away.

  Darya Alexandrovna's eyes were fairly dazzled by the elegant carriage ofa pattern she had never seen before, the splendid horses, and theelegant and gorgeous people surrounding her. But what struck her most ofall was the change that had taken place in Anna, whom she knew so welland loved. Any other woman, a less close observer, not knowing Annabefore, or not having thought as Darya Alexandrovna had been thinking onthe road, would not have noticed anything special in Anna. But now Dollywas struck by that temporary beauty, which is only found in women duringthe moments of love, and which she saw now in Anna's face. Everything inher face, the clearly marked dimples in her cheeks and chin, the line ofher lips, the smile which, as it were, fluttered about her face, thebrilliance of her eyes, the grace and rapidity of her movements, thefulness of the notes of her voice, even the manner in which, with a sortof angry friendliness, she answered Veslovsky when he asked permissionto get on her cob, so as to teach it to gallop with the right legforemost--it was all peculiarly fascinating, and it seemed as if shewere herself aware of it, and rejoicing in it.

  When both the women were seated in the carriage, a sudden embarrassmentcame over both of them. Anna was disconcerted by the intent look ofinquiry Dolly fixed upon her. Dolly was embarrassed because afterSviazhsky's phrase about "this vehicle," she could not help feelingashamed of the dirty old carriage in which Anna was sitting with her.The coachman Philip and the counting house clerk were experiencing thesame sensation. The counting house clerk, to conceal his confusion,busied himself settling the ladies, but Philip the coachman becamesullen, and was bracing himself not to be overawed in future by thisexternal superior
ity. He smiled ironically, looking at the raven horse,and was already deciding in his own mind that this smart trotter in the_char-a-banc_ was only good for _promenade_, and wouldn't do thirtymiles straight off in the heat.

  The peasants had all got up from the cart and were inquisitively andmirthfully staring at the meeting of the friends, making their commentson it.

  "They're pleased, too; haven't seen each other for a long while," saidthe curly-headed old man with the bast round his hair.

  "I say, Uncle Gerasim, if we could take that raven horse now, to cartthe corn, that 'ud be quick work!"

  "Look-ee! Is that a woman in breeches?" said one of them, pointing toVassenka Veslovsky sitting in a side saddle.

  "Nay, a man! See how smartly he's going it!"

  "Eh, lads! seems we're not going to sleep, then?"

  "What chance of sleep today!" said the old man, with a sidelong look atthe sun. "Midday's past, look-ee! Get your hooks, and come along!"

 

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