Anna karenina, p.225
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       Anna Karenina, p.225

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 5

  In the slanting evening shadows cast by the baggage piled up on theplatform, Vronsky in his long overcoat and slouch hat, with his hands inhis pockets, strode up and down, like a wild beast in a cage, turningsharply after twenty paces. Sergey Ivanovitch fancied, as he approachedhim, that Vronsky saw him but was pretending not to see. This did notaffect Sergey Ivanovitch in the slightest. He was above all personalconsiderations with Vronsky.

  At that moment Sergey Ivanovitch looked upon Vronsky as a man taking animportant part in a great cause, and Koznishev thought it his duty toencourage him and express his approval. He went up to him.

  Vronsky stood still, looked intently at him, recognized him, and going afew steps forward to meet him, shook hands with him very warmly.

  "Possibly you didn't wish to see me," said Sergey Ivanovitch, "butcouldn't I be of use to you?"

  "There's no one I should less dislike seeing than you," said Vronsky."Excuse me; and there's nothing in life for me to like."

  "I quite understand, and I merely meant to offer you my services," saidSergey Ivanovitch, scanning Vronsky's face, full of unmistakablesuffering. "Wouldn't it be of use to you to have a letter toRistitch--to Milan?"

  "Oh, no!" Vronsky said, seeming to understand him with difficulty. "Ifyou don't mind, let's walk on. It's so stuffy among the carriages. Aletter? No, thank you; to meet death one needs no letters ofintroduction. Nor for the Turks..." he said, with a smile that wasmerely of the lips. His eyes still kept their look of angry suffering.

  "Yes; but you might find it easier to get into relations, which areafter all essential, with anyone prepared to see you. But that's as youlike. I was very glad to hear of your intention. There have been so manyattacks made on the volunteers, and a man like you raises them in publicestimation."

  "My use as a man," said Vronsky, "is that life's worth nothing to me.And that I've enough bodily energy to cut my way into their ranks, andto trample on them or fall--I know that. I'm glad there's something togive my life for, for it's not simply useless but loathsome to me.Anyone's welcome to it." And his jaw twitched impatiently from theincessant gnawing toothache, that prevented him from even speaking witha natural expression.

  "You will become another man, I predict," said Sergey Ivanovitch,feeling touched. "To deliver one's brother-men from bondage is an aimworth death and life. God grant you success outwardly--and inwardlypeace," he added, and he held out his hand. Vronsky warmly pressed hisoutstretched hand.

  "Yes, as a weapon I may be of some use. But as a man, I'm a wreck," hejerked out.

  He could hardly speak for the throbbing ache in his strong teeth, thatwere like rows of ivory in his mouth. He was silent, and his eyes restedon the wheels of the tender, slowly and smoothly rolling along therails.

  And all at once a different pain, not an ache, but an inner trouble,that set his whole being in anguish, made him for an instant forget histoothache. As he glanced at the tender and the rails, under theinfluence of the conversation with a friend he had not met since hismisfortune, he suddenly recalled _her_--that is, what was left of herwhen he had run like one distraught into the cloak room of the railwaystation--on the table, shamelessly sprawling out among strangers, thebloodstained body so lately full of life; the head unhurt dropping backwith its weight of hair, and the curling tresses about the temples, andthe exquisite face, with red, half-opened mouth, the strange, fixedexpression, piteous on the lips and awful in the still open eyes, thatseemed to utter that fearful phrase--that he would be sorry for it--thatshe had said when they were quarreling.

  And he tried to think of her as she was when he met her the first time,at a railway station too, mysterious, exquisite, loving, seeking andgiving happiness, and not cruelly revengeful as he remembered her onthat last moment. He tried to recall his best moments with her, butthose moments were poisoned forever. He could only think of her astriumphant, successful in her menace of a wholly useless remorse neverto be effaced. He lost all consciousness of toothache, and his faceworked with sobs.

  Passing twice up and down beside the baggage in silence and regaininghis self-possession, he addressed Sergey Ivanovitch calmly:

  "You have had no telegrams since yesterday's? Yes, driven back for athird time, but a decisive engagement expected for tomorrow."

  And after talking a little more of King Milan's proclamation, and theimmense effect it might have, they parted, going to their carriages onhearing the second bell.

 

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