Anna karenina, p.179
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       Anna Karenina, p.179

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 22

  When Anna found Dolly at home before her, she looked intently in hereyes, as though questioning her about the talk she had had with Vronsky,but she made no inquiry in words.

  "I believe it's dinner time," she said. "We've not seen each other atall yet. I am reckoning on the evening. Now I want to go and dress. Iexpect you do too; we all got splashed at the buildings."

  Dolly went to her room and she felt amused. To change her dress wasimpossible, for she had already put on her best dress. But in order tosignify in some way her preparation for dinner, she asked the maid tobrush her dress, changed her cuffs and tie, and put some lace on herhead.

  "This is all I can do," she said with a smile to Anna, who came in toher in a third dress, again of extreme simplicity.

  "Yes, we are too formal here," she said, as it were apologizing for hermagnificence. "Alexey is delighted at your visit, as he rarely is atanything. He has completely lost his heart to you," she added. "You'renot tired?"

  There was no time for talking about anything before dinner. Going intothe drawing room they found Princess Varvara already there, and thegentlemen of the party in black frock-coats. The architect wore aswallow-tail coat. Vronsky presented the doctor and the steward to hisguest. The architect he had already introduced to her at the hospital.

  A stout butler, resplendent with a smoothly shaven round chin and astarched white cravat, announced that dinner was ready, and the ladiesgot up. Vronsky asked Sviazhsky to take in Anna Arkadyevna, and himselfoffered his arm to Dolly. Veslovsky was before Tushkevitch in offeringhis arm to Princess Varvara, so that Tushkevitch with the steward andthe doctor walked in alone.

  The dinner, the dining room, the service, the waiting at table, thewine, and the food, were not simply in keeping with the general tone ofmodern luxury throughout all the house, but seemed even more sumptuousand modern. Darya Alexandrovna watched this luxury which was novel toher, and as a good housekeeper used to managing a household--althoughshe never dreamed of adapting anything she saw to her own household, asit was all in a style of luxury far above her own manner of living--shecould not help scrutinizing every detail, and wondering how and by whomit was all done. Vassenka Veslovsky, her husband, and even Sviazhsky,and many other people she knew, would never have considered thisquestion, and would have readily believed what every well-bred hosttries to make his guests feel, that is, that all that is well-ordered inhis house has cost him, the host, no trouble whatever, but comes ofitself. Darya Alexandrovna was well aware that even porridge for thechildren's breakfast does not come of itself, and that therefore, whereso complicated and magnificent a style of luxury was maintained, someonemust give earnest attention to its organization. And from the glancewith which Alexey Kirillovitch scanned the table, from the way he noddedto the butler, and offered Darya Alexandrovna her choice between coldsoup and hot soup, she saw that it was all organized and maintained bythe care of the master of the house himself. It was evident that it allrested no more upon Anna than upon Veslovsky. She, Sviazhsky, theprincess, and Veslovsky, were equally guests, with light hearts enjoyingwhat had been arranged for them.

  Anna was the hostess only in conducting the conversation. Theconversation was a difficult one for the lady of the house at a smalltable with persons present, like the steward and the architect,belonging to a completely different world, struggling not to be overawedby an elegance to which they were unaccustomed, and unable to sustain alarge share in the general conversation. But this difficult conversationAnna directed with her usual tact and naturalness, and indeed she did sowith actual enjoyment, as Darya Alexandrovna observed. The conversationbegan about the row Tushkevitch and Veslovsky had taken alone togetherin the boat, and Tushkevitch began describing the last boat races inPetersburg at the Yacht Club. But Anna, seizing the first pause, at onceturned to the architect to draw him out of his silence.

  "Nikolay Ivanitch was struck," she said, meaning Sviazhsky, "at theprogress the new building had made since he was here last; but I amthere every day, and every day I wonder at the rate at which it grows."

  "It's first-rate working with his excellency," said the architect with asmile (he was respectful and composed, though with a sense of his owndignity). "It's a very different matter to have to do with the districtauthorities. Where one would have to write out sheaves of papers, here Icall upon the count, and in three words we settle the business."

  "The American way of doing business," said Sviazhsky, with a smile.

  "Yes, there they build in a rational fashion..."

  The conversation passed to the misuse of political power in the UnitedStates, but Anna quickly brought it round to another topic, so as todraw the steward into talk.

  "Have you ever seen a reaping machine?" she said, addressing DaryaAlexandrovna. "We had just ridden over to look at one when we met. It'sthe first time I ever saw one."

  "How do they work?" asked Dolly.

  "Exactly like little scissors. A plank and a lot of little scissors.Like this."

  Anna took a knife and fork in her beautiful white hands covered withrings, and began showing how the machine worked. It was clear that shesaw nothing would be understood from her explanation; but aware that hertalk was pleasant and her hands beautiful she went on explaining.

  "More like little penknives," Veslovsky said playfully, never taking hiseyes off her.

  Anna gave a just perceptible smile, but made no answer. "Isn't it true,Karl Fedoritch, that it's just like little scissors?" she said to thesteward.

  "_Oh, ja,_" answered the German. _"Es ist ein ganz einfaches Ding,"_ andhe began to explain the construction of the machine.

  "It's a pity it doesn't bind too. I saw one at the Vienna exhibition,which binds with a wire," said Sviazhsky. "They would be more profitablein use."

  _"Es kommt drauf an.... Der Preis vom Draht muss ausgerechnet werden."_And the German, roused from his taciturnity, turned to Vronsky. _"Daslaesst sich ausrechnen, Erlaucht."_ The German was just feeling in thepocket where were his pencil and the notebook he always wrote in, butrecollecting that he was at a dinner, and observing Vronsky's chillyglance, he checked himself. _"Zu compliziert, macht zu viel Klopot,"_ heconcluded.

  _"Wuenscht man Dochots, so hat man auch Klopots,"_ said VassenkaVeslovsky, mimicking the German. _"J'adore l'allemand,"_ he addressedAnna again with the same smile.

  _"Cessez,"_ she said with playful severity.

  "We expected to find you in the fields, Vassily Semyonitch," she said tothe doctor, a sickly-looking man; "have you been there?"

  "I went there, but I had taken flight," the doctor answered with gloomyjocoseness.

  "Then you've taken a good constitutional?"

  "Splendid!"

  "Well, and how was the old woman? I hope it's not typhus?"

  "Typhus it is not, but it's taking a bad turn."

  "What a pity!" said Anna, and having thus paid the dues of civility toher domestic circle, she turned to her own friends.

  "It would be a hard task, though, to construct a machine from yourdescription, Anna Arkadyevna," Sviazhsky said jestingly.

  "Oh, no, why so?" said Anna with a smile that betrayed that she knewthere was something charming in her disquisitions upon the machine thathad been noticed by Sviazhsky. This new trait of girlish coquettishnessmade an unpleasant impression on Dolly.

  "But Anna Arkadyevna's knowledge of architecture is marvelous," saidTushkevitch.

  "To be sure, I heard Anna Arkadyevna talking yesterday about plinths anddamp-courses," said Veslovsky. "Have I got it right?"

  "There's nothing marvelous about it, when one sees and hears so much ofit," said Anna. "But, I dare say, you don't even know what houses aremade of?"

  Darya Alexandrovna saw that Anna disliked the tone of raillery thatexisted between her and Veslovsky, but fell in with it against her will.

  Vronsky acted in this matter quite differently from Levin. He obviouslyattached no significance to Veslovsky's chattering; on the contrary, heencouraged his jests
.

  "Come now, tell us, Veslovsky, how are the stones held together?"

  "By cement, of course."

  "Bravo! And what is cement?"

  "Oh, some sort of paste ... no, putty," said Veslovsky, raising ageneral laugh.

  The company at dinner, with the exception of the doctor, the architect,and the steward, who remained plunged in gloomy silence, kept up aconversation that never paused, glancing off one subject, fastening onanother, and at times stinging one or the other to the quick. Once DaryaAlexandrovna felt wounded to the quick, and got so hot that shepositively flushed and wondered afterwards whether she had said anythingextreme or unpleasant. Sviazhsky began talking of Levin, describing hisstrange view that machinery is simply pernicious in its effects onRussian agriculture.

  "I have not the pleasure of knowing this M. Levin," Vronsky said,smiling, "but most likely he has never seen the machines he condemns; orif he has seen and tried any, it must have been after a queer fashion,some Russian imitation, not a machine from abroad. What sort of viewscan anyone have on such a subject?"

  "Turkish views, in general," Veslovsky said, turning to Anna with asmile.

  "I can't defend his opinions," Darya Alexandrovna said, firing up; "butI can say that he's a highly cultivated man, and if he were here hewould know very well how to answer you, though I am not capable of doingso."

  "I like him extremely, and we are great friends," Sviazhsky said,smiling good-naturedly. "_Mais pardon, il est un petit peu toque;_ hemaintains, for instance, that district councils and arbitration boardsare all of no use, and he is unwilling to take part in anything."

  "It's our Russian apathy," said Vronsky, pouring water from an iceddecanter into a delicate glass on a high stem; "we've no sense of theduties our privileges impose upon us, and so we refuse to recognizethese duties."

  "I know no man more strict in the performance of his duties," said DaryaAlexandrovna, irritated by Vronsky's tone of superiority.

  "For my part," pursued Vronsky, who was evidently for some reason orother keenly affected by this conversation, "such as I am, I am, on thecontrary, extremely grateful for the honor they have done me, thanks toNikolay Ivanitch" (he indicated Sviazhsky), "in electing me a justice ofthe peace. I consider that for me the duty of being present at thesession, of judging some peasants' quarrel about a horse, is asimportant as anything I can do. And I shall regard it as an honor ifthey elect me for the district council. It's only in that way I can payfor the advantages I enjoy as a landowner. Unluckily they don'tunderstand the weight that the big landowners ought to have in thestate."

  It was strange to Darya Alexandrovna to hear how serenely confident hewas of being right at his own table. She thought how Levin, who believedthe opposite, was just as positive in his opinions at his own table. Butshe loved Levin, and so she was on his side.

  "So we can reckon upon you, count, for the coming elections?" saidSviazhsky. "But you must come a little beforehand, so as to be on thespot by the eighth. If you would do me the honor to stop with me."

  "I rather agree with your beau-frere," said Anna, "though not quite onthe same ground as he," she added with a smile. "I'm afraid that we havetoo many of these public duties in these latter days. Just as in olddays there were so many government functionaries that one had to call ina functionary for every single thing, so now everyone's doing some sortof public duty. Alexey has been here now six months, and he's a member,I do believe, of five or six different public bodies. _Du train que celava,_ the whole time will be wasted on it. And I'm afraid that with sucha multiplicity of these bodies, they'll end in being a mere form. Howmany are you a member of, Nikolay Ivanitch?" she turned toSviazhsky--"over twenty, I fancy."

  Anna spoke lightly, but irritation could be discerned in her tone. DaryaAlexandrovna, watching Anna and Vronsky attentively, detected itinstantly. She noticed, too, that as she spoke Vronsky's face hadimmediately taken a serious and obstinate expression. Noticing this, andthat Princess Varvara at once made haste to change the conversation bytalking of Petersburg acquaintances, and remembering what Vronsky hadwithout apparent connection said in the garden of his work in thecountry, Dolly surmised that this question of public activity wasconnected with some deep private disagreement between Anna and Vronsky.

  The dinner, the wine, the decoration of the table were all very good;but it was all like what Darya Alexandrovna had seen at formal dinnersand balls which of late years had become quite unfamiliar to her; it allhad the same impersonal and constrained character, and so on an ordinaryday and in a little circle of friends it made a disagreeable impressionon her.

  After dinner they sat on the terrace, then they proceeded to play lawntennis. The players, divided into two parties, stood on opposite sidesof a tightly drawn net with gilt poles on the carefully leveled androlled croquet-ground. Darya Alexandrovna made an attempt to play, butit was a long time before she could understand the game, and by the timeshe did understand it, she was so tired that she sat down with PrincessVarvara and simply looked on at the players. Her partner, Tushkevitch,gave up playing too, but the others kept the game up for a long time.Sviazhsky and Vronsky both played very well and seriously. They kept asharp lookout on the balls served to them, and without haste or gettingin each other's way, they ran adroitly up to them, waited for therebound, and neatly and accurately returned them over the net. Veslovskyplayed worse than the others. He was too eager, but he kept the playerslively with his high spirits. His laughter and outcries never paused.Like the other men of the party, with the ladies' permission, he tookoff his coat, and his solid, comely figure in his white shirt-sleeves,with his red perspiring face and his impulsive movements, made a picturethat imprinted itself vividly on the memory.

  When Darya Alexandrovna lay in bed that night, as soon as she closed hereyes, she saw Vassenka Veslovsky flying about the croquet ground.

  During the game Darya Alexandrovna was not enjoying herself. She did notlike the light tone of raillery that was kept up all the time betweenVassenka Veslovsky and Anna, and the unnaturalness altogether ofgrown-up people, all alone without children, playing at a child's game.But to avoid breaking up the party and to get through the time somehow,after a rest she joined the game again, and pretended to be enjoying it.All that day it seemed to her as though she were acting in a theaterwith actors cleverer than she, and that her bad acting was spoiling thewhole performance. She had come with the intention of staying two days,if all went well. But in the evening, during the game, she made up hermind that she would go home next day. The maternal cares and worries,which she had so hated on the way, now, after a day spent without them,struck her in quite another light, and tempted her back to them.

  When, after evening tea and a row by night in the boat, DaryaAlexandrovna went alone to her room, took off her dress, and beganarranging her thin hair for the night, she had a great sense of relief.

  It was positively disagreeable to her to think that Anna was coming tosee her immediately. She longed to be alone with her own thoughts.

 
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