Anna karenina, p.209
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       Anna Karenina, p.209

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 20

  Stepan Arkadyevitch, as usual, did not waste his time in Petersburg. InPetersburg, besides business, his sister's divorce, and his covetedappointment, he wanted, as he always did, to freshen himself up, as hesaid, after the mustiness of Moscow.

  In spite of its _cafes chantants_ and its omnibuses, Moscow was yet astagnant bog. Stepan Arkadyevitch always felt it. After living for sometime in Moscow, especially in close relations with his family, he wasconscious of a depression of spirits. After being a long time in Moscowwithout a change, he reached a point when he positively began to beworrying himself over his wife's ill-humor and reproaches, over hischildren's health and education, and the petty details of his officialwork; even the fact of being in debt worried him. But he had only to goand stay a little while in Petersburg, in the circle there in which hemoved, where people lived--really lived--instead of vegetating as inMoscow, and all such ideas vanished and melted away at once, like waxbefore the fire. His wife?... Only that day he had been talking toPrince Tchetchensky. Prince Tchetchensky had a wife and family, grown-uppages in the corps, ... and he had another illegitimate family ofchildren also. Though the first family was very nice too, PrinceTchetchensky felt happier in his second family; and he used to take hiseldest son with him to his second family, and told Stepan Arkadyevitchthat he thought it good for his son, enlarging his ideas. What wouldhave been said to that in Moscow?

  His children? In Petersburg children did not prevent their parents fromenjoying life. The children were brought up in schools, and there was notrace of the wild idea that prevailed in Moscow, in Lvov's household,for instance, that all the luxuries of life were for the children, whilethe parents have nothing but work and anxiety. Here people understoodthat a man is in duty bound to live for himself, as every man of cultureshould live.

  His official duties? Official work here was not the stiff, hopelessdrudgery that it was in Moscow. Here there was some interest in officiallife. A chance meeting, a service rendered, a happy phrase, a knack offacetious mimicry, and a man's career might be made in a trice. So ithad been with Bryantsev, whom Stepan Arkadyevitch had met the previousday, and who was one of the highest functionaries in government now.There was some interest in official work like that.

  The Petersburg attitude on pecuniary matters had an especially soothingeffect on Stepan Arkadyevitch. Bartnyansky, who must spend at leastfifty thousand to judge by the style he lived in, had made aninteresting comment the day before on that subject.

  As they were talking before dinner, Stepan Arkadyevitch said toBartnyansky:

  "You're friendly, I fancy, with Mordvinsky; you might do me a favor: saya word to him, please, for me. There's an appointment I should like toget--secretary of the agency..."

  "Oh, I shan't remember all that, if you tell it to me.... But whatpossesses you to have to do with railways and Jews?... Take it as youwill, it's a low business."

  Stepan Arkadyevitch did not say to Bartnyansky that it was a "growingthing"--Bartnyansky would not have understood that.

  "I want the money, I've nothing to live on."

  "You're living, aren't you?"

  "Yes, but in debt."

  "Are you, though? Heavily?" said Bartnyansky sympathetically.

  "Very heavily: twenty thousand."

  Bartnyansky broke into good-humored laughter.

  "Oh, lucky fellow!" said he. "My debts mount up to a million and a half,and I've nothing, and still I can live, as you see!"

  And Stepan Arkadyevitch saw the correctness of this view not in wordsonly but in actual fact. Zhivahov owed three hundred thousand, andhadn't a farthing to bless himself with, and he lived, and in style too!Count Krivtsov was considered a hopeless case by everyone, and yet hekept two mistresses. Petrovsky had run through five millions, and stilllived in just the same style, and was even a manager in the financialdepartment with a salary of twenty thousand. But besides this,Petersburg had physically an agreeable effect on Stepan Arkadyevitch. Itmade him younger. In Moscow he sometimes found a gray hair in his head,dropped asleep after dinner, stretched, walked slowly upstairs,breathing heavily, was bored by the society of young women, and did notdance at balls. In Petersburg he always felt ten years younger.

  His experience in Petersburg was exactly what had been described to himon the previous day by Prince Pyotr Oblonsky, a man of sixty, who hadjust come back from abroad:

  "We don't know the way to live here," said Pyotr Oblonsky. "I spent thesummer in Baden, and you wouldn't believe it, I felt quite a young man.At a glimpse of a pretty woman, my thoughts.... One dines and drinks aglass of wine, and feels strong and ready for anything. I came home toRussia--had to see my wife, and, what's more, go to my country place;and there, you'd hardly believe it, in a fortnight I'd got into adressing gown and given up dressing for dinner. Needn't say I had nothoughts left for pretty women. I became quite an old gentleman. Therewas nothing left for me but to think of my eternal salvation. I went offto Paris--I was as right as could be at once."

  Stepan Arkadyevitch felt exactly the difference that Pyotr Oblonskydescribed. In Moscow he degenerated so much that if he had had to bethere for long together, he might in good earnest have come toconsidering his salvation; in Petersburg he felt himself a man of theworld again.

  Between Princess Betsy Tverskaya and Stepan Arkadyevitch there had longexisted rather curious relations. Stepan Arkadyevitch always flirtedwith her in jest, and used to say to her, also in jest, the mostunseemly things, knowing that nothing delighted her so much. The dayafter his conversation with Karenin, Stepan Arkadyevitch went to seeher, and felt so youthful that in this jesting flirtation and nonsensehe recklessly went so far that he did not know how to extricate himself,as unluckily he was so far from being attracted by her that he thoughther positively disagreeable. What made it hard to change theconversation was the fact that he was very attractive to her. So that hewas considerably relieved at the arrival of Princess Myakaya, which cutshort their _tete-a-tete_.

  "Ah, so you're here!" said she when she saw him. "Well, and what news ofyour poor sister? You needn't look at me like that," she added. "Eversince they've all turned against her, all those who're a thousand timesworse than she, I've thought she did a very fine thing. I can't forgiveVronsky for not letting me know when she was in Petersburg. I'd havegone to see her and gone about with her everywhere. Please give her mylove. Come, tell me about her."

  "Yes, her position is very difficult; she..." began Stepan Arkadyevitch,in the simplicity of his heart accepting as sterling coin PrincessMyakaya's words "tell me about her." Princess Myakaya interrupted himimmediately, as she always did, and began talking herself.

  "She's done what they all do, except me--only they hide it. But shewouldn't be deceitful, and she did a fine thing. And she did betterstill in throwing up that crazy brother-in-law of yours. You must excuseme. Everybody used to say he was so clever, so very clever; I was theonly one that said he was a fool. Now that he's so thick with LidiaIvanovna and Landau, they all say he's crazy, and I should prefer not toagree with everybody, but this time I can't help it."

  "Oh, do please explain," said Stepan Arkadyevitch; "what does it mean?Yesterday I was seeing him on my sister's behalf, and I asked him togive me a final answer. He gave me no answer, and said he would think itover. But this morning, instead of an answer, I received an invitationfrom Countess Lidia Ivanovna for this evening."

  "Ah, so that's it, that's it!" said Princess Myakaya gleefully, "they'regoing to ask Landau what he's to say."

  "Ask Landau? What for? Who or what's Landau?"

  "What! you don't know Jules Landau, _le fameux Jules Landau, leclairvoyant_? He's crazy too, but on him your sister's fate depends. Seewhat comes of living in the provinces--you know nothing about anything.Landau, do you see, was a _commis_ in a shop in Paris, and he went to adoctor's; and in the doctor's waiting room he fell asleep, and in hissleep he began giving advice to all the patients. And wonderful adviceit was! Then the wife of Yury Meledinsky--you know, the inva
lid?--heardof this Landau, and had him to see her husband. And he cured herhusband, though I can't say that I see he did him much good, for he'sjust as feeble a creature as ever he was, but they believed in him, andtook him along with them and brought him to Russia. Here there's been ageneral rush to him, and he's begun doctoring everyone. He curedCountess Bezzubova, and she took such a fancy to him that she adoptedhim."

  "Adopted him?"

  "Yes, as her son. He's not Landau any more now, but Count Bezzubov.That's neither here nor there, though; but Lidia--I'm very fond of her,but she has a screw loose somewhere--has lost her heart to this Landaunow, and nothing is settled now in her house or Alexey Alexandrovitch'swithout him, and so your sister's fate is now in the hands of Landau,_alias_ Count Bezzubov."

 
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