Anna karenina, p.18
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       Anna Karenina, p.18

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 18

  Vronsky followed the guard to the carriage, and at the door of thecompartment he stopped short to make room for a lady who was gettingout.

  With the insight of a man of the world, from one glance at this lady'sappearance Vronsky classified her as belonging to the best society. Hebegged pardon, and was getting into the carriage, but felt he mustglance at her once more; not that she was very beautiful, not on accountof the elegance and modest grace which were apparent in her wholefigure, but because in the expression of her charming face, as shepassed close by him, there was something peculiarly caressing and soft.As he looked round, she too turned her head. Her shining gray eyes, thatlooked dark from the thick lashes, rested with friendly attention on hisface, as though she were recognizing him, and then promptly turned awayto the passing crowd, as though seeking someone. In that brief lookVronsky had time to notice the suppressed eagerness which played overher face, and flitted between the brilliant eyes and the faint smilethat curved her red lips. It was as though her nature were so brimmingover with something that against her will it showed itself now in theflash of her eyes, and now in her smile. Deliberately she shrouded thelight in her eyes, but it shone against her will in the faintlyperceptible smile.

  Vronsky stepped into the carriage. His mother, a dried-up old lady withblack eyes and ringlets, screwed up her eyes, scanning her son, andsmiled slightly with her thin lips. Getting up from the seat and handingher maid a bag, she gave her little wrinkled hand to her son to kiss,and lifting his head from her hand, kissed him on the cheek.

  "You got my telegram? Quite well? Thank God."

  "You had a good journey?" said her son, sitting down beside her, andinvoluntarily listening to a woman's voice outside the door. He knew itwas the voice of the lady he had met at the door.

  "All the same I don't agree with you," said the lady's voice.

  "It's the Petersburg view, madame."

  "Not Petersburg, but simply feminine," she responded.

  "Well, well, allow me to kiss your hand."

  "Good-bye, Ivan Petrovitch. And could you see if my brother is here, andsend him to me?" said the lady in the doorway, and stepped back againinto the compartment.

  "Well, have you found your brother?" said Countess Vronskaya, addressingthe lady.

  Vronsky understood now that this was Madame Karenina.

  "Your brother is here," he said, standing up. "Excuse me, I did not knowyou, and, indeed, our acquaintance was so slight," said Vronsky, bowing,"that no doubt you do not remember me."

  "Oh, no," said she, "I should have known you because your mother and Ihave been talking, I think, of nothing but you all the way." As shespoke she let the eagerness that would insist on coming out show itselfin her smile. "And still no sign of my brother."

  "Do call him, Alexey," said the old countess. Vronsky stepped out ontothe platform and shouted:

  "Oblonsky! Here!"

  Madame Karenina, however, did not wait for her brother, but catchingsight of him she stepped out with her light, resolute step. And as soonas her brother had reached her, with a gesture that struck Vronsky byits decision and its grace, she flung her left arm around his neck, drewhim rapidly to her, and kissed him warmly. Vronsky gazed, never takinghis eyes from her, and smiled, he could not have said why. Butrecollecting that his mother was waiting for him, he went back againinto the carriage.

  "She's very sweet, isn't she?" said the countess of Madame Karenina."Her husband put her with me, and I was delighted to have her. We'vebeen talking all the way. And so you, I hear ... _vous filez le parfaitamour. Tant mieux, mon cher, tant mieux._"

  "I don't know what you are referring to, maman," he answered coldly."Come, maman, let us go."

  Madame Karenina entered the carriage again to say good-bye to thecountess.

  "Well, countess, you have met your son, and I my brother," she said."And all my gossip is exhausted. I should have nothing more to tellyou."

  "Oh, no," said the countess, taking her hand. "I could go all around theworld with you and never be dull. You are one of those delightful womenin whose company it's sweet to be silent as well as to talk. Now pleasedon't fret over your son; you can't expect never to be parted."

  Madame Karenina stood quite still, holding herself very erect, and hereyes were smiling.

  "Anna Arkadyevna," the countess said in explanation to her son, "has alittle son eight years old, I believe, and she has never been partedfrom him before, and she keeps fretting over leaving him."

  "Yes, the countess and I have been talking all the time, I of my son andshe of hers," said Madame Karenina, and again a smile lighted up herface, a caressing smile intended for him.

  "I am afraid that you must have been dreadfully bored," he said,promptly catching the ball of coquetry she had flung him. But apparentlyshe did not care to pursue the conversation in that strain, and sheturned to the old countess.

  "Thank you so much. The time has passed so quickly. Good-bye, countess."

  "Good-bye, my love," answered the countess. "Let me have a kiss of yourpretty face. I speak plainly, at my age, and I tell you simply that I'velost my heart to you."

  Stereotyped as the phrase was, Madame Karenina obviously believed it andwas delighted by it. She flushed, bent down slightly, and put her cheekto the countess's lips, drew herself up again, and with the same smilefluttering between her lips and her eyes, she gave her hand to Vronsky.He pressed the little hand she gave him, and was delighted, as though atsomething special, by the energetic squeeze with which she freely andvigorously shook his hand. She went out with the rapid step which boreher rather fully-developed figure with such strange lightness.

  "Very charming," said the countess.

  That was just what her son was thinking. His eyes followed her till hergraceful figure was out of sight, and then the smile remained on hisface. He saw out of the window how she went up to her brother, put herarm in his, and began telling him something eagerly, obviously somethingthat had nothing to do with him, Vronsky, and at that he felt annoyed.

  "Well, maman, are you perfectly well?" he repeated, turning to hismother.

  "Everything has been delightful. Alexander has been very good, and Mariehas grown very pretty. She's very interesting."

  And she began telling him again of what interested her most--thechristening of her grandson, for which she had been staying inPetersburg, and the special favor shown her elder son by the Tsar.

  "Here's Lavrenty," said Vronsky, looking out of the window; "now we cango, if you like."

  The old butler who had traveled with the countess, came to the carriageto announce that everything was ready, and the countess got up to go.

  "Come; there's not such a crowd now," said Vronsky.

  The maid took a handbag and the lap dog, the butler and a porter theother baggage. Vronsky gave his mother his arm; but just as they weregetting out of the carriage several men ran suddenly by withpanic-stricken faces. The station-master, too, ran by in hisextraordinary colored cap. Obviously something unusual had happened. Thecrowd who had left the train were running back again.

  "What?... What?... Where?... Flung himself!... Crushed!..." was heardamong the crowd. Stepan Arkadyevitch, with his sister on his arm, turnedback. They too looked scared, and stopped at the carriage door to avoidthe crowd.

  The ladies got in, while Vronsky and Stepan Arkadyevitch followed thecrowd to find out details of the disaster.

  A guard, either drunk or too much muffled up in the bitter frost, hadnot heard the train moving back, and had been crushed.

  Before Vronsky and Oblonsky came back the ladies heard the facts fromthe butler.

  Oblonsky and Vronsky had both seen the mutilated corpse. Oblonsky wasevidently upset. He frowned and seemed ready to cry.

  "Ah, how awful! Ah, Anna, if you had seen it! Ah, how awful!" he said.

  Vronsky did not speak; his handsome face was serious, but perfectlycomposed.

  "Oh, if you had seen it, countess," said Stepan Arkadyevitch
. "And hiswife was there.... It was awful to see her!.... She flung herself on thebody. They say he was the only support of an immense family. How awful!"

  "Couldn't one do anything for her?" said Madame Karenina in an agitatedwhisper.

  Vronsky glanced at her, and immediately got out of the carriage.

  "I'll be back directly, maman," he remarked, turning round in thedoorway.

  When he came back a few minutes later, Stepan Arkadyevitch was alreadyin conversation with the countess about the new singer, while thecountess was impatiently looking towards the door, waiting for her son.

  "Now let us be off," said Vronsky, coming in. They went out together.Vronsky was in front with his mother. Behind walked Madame Karenina withher brother. Just as they were going out of the station thestation-master overtook Vronsky.

  "You gave my assistant two hundred roubles. Would you kindly explain forwhose benefit you intend them?"

  "For the widow," said Vronsky, shrugging his shoulders. "I should havethought there was no need to ask."

  "You gave that?" cried Oblonsky, behind, and, pressing his sister'shand, he added: "Very nice, very nice! Isn't he a splendid fellow?Good-bye, countess."

  And he and his sister stood still, looking for her maid.

  When they went out the Vronsky's carriage had already driven away.People coming in were still talking of what happened.

  "What a horrible death!" said a gentleman, passing by. "They say he wascut in two pieces."

  "On the contrary, I think it's the easiest--instantaneous," observedanother.

  "How is it they don't take proper precautions?" said a third.

  Madame Karenina seated herself in the carriage, and Stepan Arkadyevitchsaw with surprise that her lips were quivering, and she was withdifficulty restraining her tears.

  "What is it, Anna?" he asked, when they had driven a few hundred yards.

  "It's an omen of evil," she said.

  "What nonsense!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch. "You've come, that's thechief thing. You can't conceive how I'm resting my hopes on you."

  "Have you known Vronsky long?" she asked.

  "Yes. You know we're hoping he will marry Kitty."

  "Yes?" said Anna softly. "Come now, let us talk of you," she added,tossing her head, as though she would physically shake off somethingsuperfluous oppressing her. "Let us talk of your affairs. I got yourletter, and here I am."

  "Yes, all my hopes are in you," said Stepan Arkadyevitch.

  "Well, tell me all about it."

  And Stepan Arkadyevitch began to tell his story.

  On reaching home Oblonsky helped his sister out, sighed, pressed herhand, and set off to his office.

 
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