Anna karenina, p.53
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       Anna Karenina, p.53

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 19

  On the day of the races at Krasnoe Selo, Vronsky had come earlier thanusual to eat beefsteak in the common messroom of the regiment. He had noneed to be strict with himself, as he had very quickly been brought downto the required light weight; but still he had to avoid gaining flesh,and so he eschewed farinaceous and sweet dishes. He sat with his coatunbuttoned over a white waistcoat, resting both elbows on the table, andwhile waiting for the steak he had ordered he looked at a French novelthat lay open on his plate. He was only looking at the book to avoidconversation with the officers coming in and out; he was thinking.

  He was thinking of Anna's promise to see him that day after the races.But he had not seen her for three days, and as her husband had justreturned from abroad, he did not know whether she would be able to meethim today or not, and he did not know how to find out. He had had hislast interview with her at his cousin Betsy's summer villa. He visitedthe Karenins' summer villa as rarely as possible. Now he wanted to gothere, and he pondered the question how to do it.

  "Of course I shall say Betsy has sent me to ask whether she's coming tothe races. Of course, I'll go," he decided, lifting his head from thebook. And as he vividly pictured the happiness of seeing her, his facelighted up.

  "Send to my house, and tell them to have out the carriage and threehorses as quick as they can," he said to the servant, who handed him thesteak on a hot silver dish, and moving the dish up he began eating.

  From the billiard room next door came the sound of balls knocking, oftalk and laughter. Two officers appeared at the entrance-door: one, ayoung fellow, with a feeble, delicate face, who had lately joined theregiment from the Corps of Pages; the other, a plump, elderly officer,with a bracelet on his wrist, and little eyes, lost in fat.

  Vronsky glanced at them, frowned, and looking down at his book as thoughhe had not noticed them, he proceeded to eat and read at the same time.

  "What? Fortifying yourself for your work?" said the plump officer,sitting down beside him.

  "As you see," responded Vronsky, knitting his brows, wiping his mouth,and not looking at the officer.

  "So you're not afraid of getting fat?" said the latter, turning a chairround for the young officer.

  "What?" said Vronsky angrily, making a wry face of disgust, and showinghis even teeth.

  "You're not afraid of getting fat?"

  "Waiter, sherry!" said Vronsky, without replying, and moving the book tothe other side of him, he went on reading.

  The plump officer took up the list of wines and turned to the youngofficer.

  "You choose what we're to drink," he said, handing him the card, andlooking at him.

  "Rhine wine, please," said the young officer, stealing a timid glance atVronsky, and trying to pull his scarcely visible mustache. Seeing thatVronsky did not turn round, the young officer got up.

  "Let's go into the billiard room," he said.

  The plump officer rose submissively, and they moved towards the door.

  At that moment there walked into the room the tall and well-builtCaptain Yashvin. Nodding with an air of lofty contempt to the twoofficers, he went up to Vronsky.

  "Ah! here he is!" he cried, bringing his big hand down heavily on hisepaulet. Vronsky looked round angrily, but his face lighted upimmediately with his characteristic expression of genial and manlyserenity.

  "That's it, Alexey," said the captain, in his loud baritone. "You mustjust eat a mouthful, now, and drink only one tiny glass."

  "Oh, I'm not hungry."

  "There go the inseparables," Yashvin dropped, glancing sarcastically atthe two officers who were at that instant leaving the room. And he benthis long legs, swathed in tight riding breeches, and sat down in thechair, too low for him, so that his knees were cramped up in a sharpangle.

  "Why didn't you turn up at the Red Theater yesterday? Numerova wasn't atall bad. Where were you?"

  "I was late at the Tverskoys'," said Vronsky.

  "Ah!" responded Yashvin.

  Yashvin, a gambler and a rake, a man not merely without moralprinciples, but of immoral principles, Yashvin was Vronsky's greatestfriend in the regiment. Vronsky liked him both for his exceptionalphysical strength, which he showed for the most part by being able todrink like a fish, and do without sleep without being in the slightestdegree affected by it; and for his great strength of character, which heshowed in his relations with his comrades and superior officers,commanding both fear and respect, and also at cards, when he would playfor tens of thousands and however much he might have drunk, always withsuch skill and decision that he was reckoned the best player in theEnglish Club. Vronsky respected and liked Yashvin particularly becausehe felt Yashvin liked him, not for his name and his money, but forhimself. And of all men he was the only one with whom Vronsky would haveliked to speak of his love. He felt that Yashvin, in spite of hisapparent contempt for every sort of feeling, was the only man who could,so he fancied, comprehend the intense passion which now filled his wholelife. Moreover, he felt certain that Yashvin, as it was, took no delightin gossip and scandal, and interpreted his feeling rightly, that is tosay, knew and believed that this passion was not a jest, not a pastime,but something more serious and important.

  Vronsky had never spoken to him of his passion, but he was aware that heknew all about it, and that he put the right interpretation on it, andhe was glad to see that in his eyes.

  "Ah! yes," he said, to the announcement that Vronsky had been at theTverskoys'; and his black eyes shining, he plucked at his left mustache,and began twisting it into his mouth, a bad habit he had.

  "Well, and what did you do yesterday? Win anything?" asked Vronsky.

  "Eight thousand. But three don't count; he won't pay up."

  "Oh, then you can afford to lose over me," said Vronsky, laughing.(Yashvin had bet heavily on Vronsky in the races.)

  "No chance of my losing. Mahotin's the only one that's risky."

  And the conversation passed to forecasts of the coming race, the onlything Vronsky could think of just now.

  "Come along, I've finished," said Vronsky, and getting up he went to thedoor. Yashvin got up too, stretching his long legs and his long back.

  "It's too early for me to dine, but I must have a drink. I'll come alongdirectly. Hi, wine!" he shouted, in his rich voice, that always rang outso loudly at drill, and set the windows shaking now.

  "No, all right," he shouted again immediately after. "You're going home,so I'll go with you."

  And he walked out with Vronsky.

 
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