Anna karenina, p.55
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       Anna Karenina, p.55

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 21

  The temporary stable, a wooden shed, had been put up close to the racecourse, and there his mare was to have been taken the previous day. Hehad not yet seen her there.

  During the last few days he had not ridden her out for exercise himself,but had put her in the charge of the trainer, and so now he positivelydid not know in what condition his mare had arrived yesterday and wastoday. He had scarcely got out of his carriage when his groom, theso-called "stable boy," recognizing the carriage some way off, calledthe trainer. A dry-looking Englishman, in high boots and a short jacket,clean-shaven, except for a tuft below his chin, came to meet him,walking with the uncouth gait of jockey, turning his elbows out andswaying from side to side.

  "Well, how's Frou-Frou?" Vronsky asked in English.

  "All right, sir," the Englishman's voice responded somewhere in theinside of his throat. "Better not go in," he added, touching his hat."I've put a muzzle on her, and the mare's fidgety. Better not go in,it'll excite the mare."

  "No, I'm going in. I want to look at her."

  "Come along, then," said the Englishman, frowning, and speaking with hismouth shut, and, with swinging elbows, he went on in front with hisdisjointed gait.

  They went into the little yard in front of the shed. A stable boy,spruce and smart in his holiday attire, met them with a broom in hishand, and followed them. In the shed there were five horses in theirseparate stalls, and Vronsky knew that his chief rival, Gladiator, avery tall chestnut horse, had been brought there, and must be standingamong them. Even more than his mare, Vronsky longed to see Gladiator,whom he had never seen. But he knew that by the etiquette of the racecourse it was not merely impossible for him to see the horse, butimproper even to ask questions about him. Just as he was passing alongthe passage, the boy opened the door into the second horse-box on theleft, and Vronsky caught a glimpse of a big chestnut horse with whitelegs. He knew that this was Gladiator, but, with the feeling of a manturning away from the sight of another man's open letter, he turnedround and went into Frou-Frou's stall.

  "The horse is here belonging to Mak... Mak... I never can say the name,"said the Englishman, over his shoulder, pointing his big finger anddirty nail towards Gladiator's stall.

  "Mahotin? Yes, he's my most serious rival," said Vronsky.

  "If you were riding him," said the Englishman, "I'd bet on you."

  "Frou-Frou's more nervous; he's stronger," said Vronsky, smiling at thecompliment to his riding.

  "In a steeplechase it all depends on riding and on pluck," said theEnglishman.

  Of pluck--that is, energy and courage--Vronsky did not merely feel thathe had enough; what was of far more importance, he was firmly convincedthat no one in the world could have more of this "pluck" than he had.

  "Don't you think I want more thinning down?"

  "Oh, no," answered the Englishman. "Please, don't speak loud. The mare'sfidgety," he added, nodding towards the horse-box, before which theywere standing, and from which came the sound of restless stamping in thestraw.

  He opened the door, and Vronsky went into the horse-box, dimly lightedby one little window. In the horse-box stood a dark bay mare, with amuzzle on, picking at the fresh straw with her hoofs. Looking round himin the twilight of the horse-box, Vronsky unconsciously took in oncemore in a comprehensive glance all the points of his favorite mare.Frou-Frou was a beast of medium size, not altogether free from reproach,from a breeder's point of view. She was small-boned all over; though herchest was extremely prominent in front, it was narrow. Her hind-quarterswere a little drooping, and in her fore-legs, and still more in herhind-legs, there was a noticeable curvature. The muscles of both hind-and fore-legs were not very thick; but across her shoulders the mare wasexceptionally broad, a peculiarity specially striking now that she waslean from training. The bones of her legs below the knees looked nothicker than a finger from in front, but were extraordinarily thick seenfrom the side. She looked altogether, except across the shoulders, as itwere, pinched in at the sides and pressed out in depth. But she had inthe highest degree the quality that makes all defects forgotten: thatquality was _blood_, the blood _that tells_, as the English expressionhas it. The muscles stood up sharply under the network of sinews,covered with the delicate, mobile skin, soft as satin, and they werehard as bone. Her clean-cut head, with prominent, bright, spirited eyes,broadened out at the open nostrils, that showed the red blood in thecartilage within. About all her figure, and especially her head, therewas a certain expression of energy, and, at the same time, of softness.She was one of those creatures which seem only not to speak because themechanism of their mouth does not allow them to.

  To Vronsky, at any rate, it seemed that she understood all he felt atthat moment, looking at her.

  Directly Vronsky went towards her, she drew in a deep breath, and,turning back her prominent eye till the white looked bloodshot, shestarted at the approaching figures from the opposite side, shaking hermuzzle, and shifting lightly from one leg to the other.

  "There, you see how fidgety she is," said the Englishman.

  "There, darling! There!" said Vronsky, going up to the mare and speakingsoothingly to her.

  But the nearer he came, the more excited she grew. Only when he stood byher head, she was suddenly quieter, while the muscles quivered under hersoft, delicate coat. Vronsky patted her strong neck, straightened overher sharp withers a stray lock of her mane that had fallen on the otherside, and moved his face near her dilated nostrils, transparent as abat's wing. She drew a loud breath and snorted out through her tensenostrils, started, pricked up her sharp ear, and put out her strong,black lip towards Vronsky, as though she would nip hold of his sleeve.But remembering the muzzle, she shook it and again began restlesslystamping one after the other her shapely legs.

  "Quiet, darling, quiet!" he said, patting her again over herhind-quarters; and with a glad sense that his mare was in the bestpossible condition, he went out of the horse-box.

  The mare's excitement had infected Vronsky. He felt that his heart wasthrobbing, and that he, too, like the mare, longed to move, to bite; itwas both dreadful and delicious.

  "Well, I rely on you, then," he said to the Englishman; "half-past sixon the ground."

  "All right," said the Englishman. "Oh, where are you going, my lord?" heasked suddenly, using the title "my lord," which he had scarcely everused before.

  Vronsky in amazement raised his head, and stared, as he knew how tostare, not into the Englishman's eyes, but at his forehead, astounded atthe impertinence of his question. But realizing that in asking this theEnglishman had been looking at him not as an employer, but as a jockey,he answered:

  "I've got to go to Bryansky's; I shall be home within an hour."

  "How often I'm asked that question today!" he said to himself, and heblushed, a thing which rarely happened to him. The Englishman lookedgravely at him; and, as though he, too, knew where Vronsky was going, headded:

  "The great thing's to keep quiet before a race," said he; "don't get outof temper or upset about anything."

  "All right," answered Vronsky, smiling; and jumping into his carriage,he told the man to drive to Peterhof.

  Before he had driven many paces away, the dark clouds that had beenthreatening rain all day broke, and there was a heavy downpour of rain.

  "What a pity!" thought Vronsky, putting up the roof of the carriage. "Itwas muddy before, now it will be a perfect swamp." As he sat in solitudein the closed carriage, he took out his mother's letter and hisbrother's note, and read them through.

  Yes, it was the same thing over and over again. Everyone, his mother,his brother, everyone thought fit to interfere in the affairs of hisheart. This interference aroused in him a feeling of angry hatred--afeeling he had rarely known before. "What business is it of theirs? Whydoes everybody feel called upon to concern himself about me? And why dothey worry me so? Just because they see that this is something theycan't understand. If it were a common, vulgar, worldly intrigue, theywould have left me al
one. They feel that this is something different,that this is not a mere pastime, that this woman is dearer to me thanlife. And this is incomprehensible, and that's why it annoys them.Whatever our destiny is or may be, we have made it ourselves, and we donot complain of it," he said, in the word _we_ linking himself withAnna. "No, they must needs teach us how to live. They haven't an idea ofwhat happiness is; they don't know that without our love, for us thereis neither happiness nor unhappiness--no life at all," he thought.

  He was angry with all of them for their interference just because hefelt in his soul that they, all these people, were right. He felt thatthe love that bound him to Anna was not a momentary impulse, which wouldpass, as worldly intrigues do pass, leaving no other traces in the lifeof either but pleasant or unpleasant memories. He felt all the tortureof his own and her position, all the difficulty there was for them,conspicuous as they were in the eye of all the world, in concealingtheir love, in lying and deceiving; and in lying, deceiving, feigning,and continually thinking of others, when the passion that united themwas so intense that they were both oblivious of everything else buttheir love.

  He vividly recalled all the constantly recurring instances of inevitablenecessity for lying and deceit, which were so against his natural bent.He recalled particularly vividly the shame he had more than oncedetected in her at this necessity for lying and deceit. And heexperienced the strange feeling that had sometimes come upon him sincehis secret love for Anna. This was a feeling of loathing forsomething--whether for Alexey Alexandrovitch, or for himself, or for thewhole world, he could not have said. But he always drove away thisstrange feeling. Now, too, he shook it off and continued the thread ofhis thoughts.

  "Yes, she was unhappy before, but proud and at peace; and now she cannotbe at peace and feel secure in her dignity, though she does not show it.Yes, we must put an end to it," he decided.

  And for the first time the idea clearly presented itself that it wasessential to put an end to this false position, and the sooner thebetter. "Throw up everything, she and I, and hide ourselves somewherealone with our love," he said to himself.

 
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