Anna karenina, p.38
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       Anna Karenina, p.38

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 4

  The highest Petersburg society is essentially one: in it everyone knowseveryone else, everyone even visits everyone else. But this great sethas its subdivisions. Anna Arkadyevna Karenina had friends and closeties in three different circles of this highest society. One circle washer husband's government official set, consisting of his colleagues andsubordinates, brought together in the most various and capriciousmanner, and belonging to different social strata. Anna found itdifficult now to recall the feeling of almost awe-stricken reverencewhich she had at first entertained for these persons. Now she knew allof them as people know one another in a country town; she knew theirhabits and weaknesses, and where the shoe pinched each one of them. Sheknew their relations with one another and with the head authorities,knew who was for whom, and how each one maintained his position, andwhere they agreed and disagreed. But the circle of political, masculineinterests had never interested her, in spite of countess LidiaIvanovna's influence, and she avoided it.

  Another little set with which Anna was in close relations was the one bymeans of which Alexey Alexandrovitch had made his career. The center ofthis circle was the Countess Lidia Ivanovna. It was a set made up ofelderly, ugly, benevolent, and godly women, and clever, learned, andambitious men. One of the clever people belonging to the set had calledit "the conscience of Petersburg society." Alexey Alexandrovitch had thehighest esteem for this circle, and Anna with her special gift forgetting on with everyone, had in the early days of her life inPetersburg made friends in this circle also. Now, since her return fromMoscow, she had come to feel this set insufferable. It seemed to herthat both she and all of them were insincere, and she felt so bored andill at ease in that world that she went to see the Countess LidiaIvanovna as little as possible.

  The third circle with which Anna had ties was preeminently thefashionable world--the world of balls, of dinners, of sumptuous dresses,the world that hung on to the court with one hand, so as to avoidsinking to the level of the demi-monde. For the demi-monde the membersof that fashionable world believed that they despised, though theirtastes were not merely similar, but in fact identical. Her connectionwith this circle was kept up through Princess Betsy Tverskaya, hercousin's wife, who had an income of a hundred and twenty thousandroubles, and who had taken a great fancy to Anna ever since she firstcame out, showed her much attention, and drew her into her set, makingfun of Countess Lidia Ivanovna's coterie.

  "When I'm old and ugly I'll be the same," Betsy used to say; "but for apretty young woman like you it's early days for that house of charity."

  Anna had at first avoided as far as she could Princess Tverskaya'sworld, because it necessitated an expenditure beyond her means, andbesides in her heart she preferred the first circle. But since her visitto Moscow she had done quite the contrary. She avoided herserious-minded friends, and went out into the fashionable world. Thereshe met Vronsky, and experienced an agitating joy at those meetings. Shemet Vronsky specially often at Betsy's for Betsy was a Vronsky by birthand his cousin. Vronsky was everywhere where he had any chance ofmeeting Anna, and speaking to her, when he could, of his love. She gavehim no encouragement, but every time she met him there surged up in herheart that same feeling of quickened life that had come upon her thatday in the railway carriage when she saw him for the first time. She wasconscious herself that her delight sparkled in her eyes and curved herlips into a smile, and she could not quench the expression of thisdelight.

  At first Anna sincerely believed that she was displeased with him fordaring to pursue her. Soon after her return from Moscow, on arriving ata _soiree_ where she had expected to meet him, and not finding himthere, she realized distinctly from the rush of disappointment that shehad been deceiving herself, and that this pursuit was not merely notdistasteful to her, but that it made the whole interest of her life.

  A celebrated singer was singing for the second time, and all thefashionable world was in the theater. Vronsky, seeing his cousin fromhis stall in the front row, did not wait till the entr'acte, but went toher box.

  "Why didn't you come to dinner?" she said to him. "I marvel at thesecond sight of lovers," she added with a smile, so that no one but hecould hear; "_she wasn't there_. But come after the opera."

  Vronsky looked inquiringly at her. She nodded. He thanked her by asmile, and sat down beside her.

  "But how I remember your jeers!" continued Princess Betsy, who took apeculiar pleasure in following up this passion to a successful issue."What's become of all that? You're caught, my dear boy."

  "That's my one desire, to be caught," answered Vronsky, with his serene,good-humored smile. "If I complain of anything it's only that I'm notcaught enough, to tell the truth. I begin to lose hope."

  "Why, whatever hope can you have?" said Betsy, offended on behalf of herfriend. "_Entendons nous...._" But in her eyes there were gleams oflight that betrayed that she understood perfectly and precisely as hedid what hope he might have.

  "None whatever," said Vronsky, laughing and showing his even rows ofteeth. "Excuse me," he added, taking an opera glass out of her hand, andproceeding to scrutinize, over her bare shoulder, the row of boxesfacing them. "I'm afraid I'm becoming ridiculous."

  He was very well aware that he ran no risk of being ridiculous in theeyes of Betsy or any other fashionable people. He was very well awarethat in their eyes the position of an unsuccessful lover of a girl, orof any woman free to marry, might be ridiculous. But the position of aman pursuing a married woman, and, regardless of everything, staking hislife on drawing her into adultery, has something fine and grand aboutit, and can never be ridiculous; and so it was with a proud and gaysmile under his mustaches that he lowered the opera glass and looked athis cousin.

  "But why was it you didn't come to dinner?" she said, admiring him.

  "I must tell you about that. I was busily employed, and doing what, doyou suppose? I'll give you a hundred guesses, a thousand ... you'd neverguess. I've been reconciling a husband with a man who'd insulted hiswife. Yes, really!"

  "Well, did you succeed?"

  "Almost."

  "You really must tell me about it," she said, getting up. "Come to me inthe next _entr'acte._"

  "I can't; I'm going to the French theater."

  "From Nilsson?" Betsy queried in horror, though she could not herselfhave distinguished Nilsson's voice from any chorus girl's.

  "Can't help it. I've an appointment there, all to do with my mission ofpeace."

  "'Blessed are the peacemakers; theirs is the kingdom of heaven,'" saidBetsy, vaguely recollecting she had heard some similar saying fromsomeone. "Very well, then, sit down, and tell me what it's all about."

  And she sat down again.

 
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