Anna karenina, p.86
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       Anna Karenina, p.86

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 17

  The croquet party to which the Princess Tverskaya had invited Anna wasto consist of two ladies and their adorers. These two ladies were thechief representatives of a select new Petersburg circle, nicknamed, inimitation of some imitation, _les sept merveilles du monde_. Theseladies belonged to a circle which, though of the highest society, wasutterly hostile to that in which Anna moved. Moreover, Stremov, one ofthe most influential people in Petersburg, and the elderly admirer ofLiza Merkalova, was Alexey Alexandrovitch's enemy in the politicalworld. From all these considerations Anna had not meant to go, and thehints in Princess Tverskaya's note referred to her refusal. But now Annawas eager to go, in the hope of seeing Vronsky.

  Anna arrived at Princess Tverskaya's earlier than the other guests.

  At the same moment as she entered, Vronsky's footman, with side-whiskerscombed out like a _Kammerjunker_, went in too. He stopped at the door,and, taking off his cap, let her pass. Anna recognized him, and onlythen recalled that Vronsky had told her the day before that he would notcome. Most likely he was sending a note to say so.

  As she took off her outer garment in the hall, she heard the footman,pronouncing his "r's" even like a _Kammerjunker_, say, "From the countfor the princess," and hand the note.

  She longed to question him as to where his master was. She longed toturn back and send him a letter to come and see her, or to go herself tosee him. But neither the first nor the second nor the third course waspossible. Already she heard bells ringing to announce her arrival aheadof her, and Princess Tverskaya's footman was standing at the open doorwaiting for her to go forward into the inner rooms.

  "The princess is in the garden; they will inform her immediately. Wouldyou be pleased to walk into the garden?" announced another footman inanother room.

  The position of uncertainty, of indecision, was still the same as athome--worse, in fact, since it was impossible to take any step,impossible to see Vronsky, and she had to remain here among outsiders,in company so uncongenial to her present mood. But she was wearing adress that she knew suited her. She was not alone; all around was thatluxurious setting of idleness that she was used to, and she felt lesswretched than at home. She was not forced to think what she was to do.Everything would be done of itself. On meeting Betsy coming towards herin a white gown that struck her by its elegance, Anna smiled at her justas she always did. Princess Tverskaya was walking with Tushkevitch and ayoung lady, a relation, who, to the great joy of her parents in theprovinces, was spending the summer with the fashionable princess.

  There was probably something unusual about Anna, for Betsy noticed it atonce.

  "I slept badly," answered Anna, looking intently at the footman who cameto meet them, and, as she supposed, brought Vronsky's note.

  "How glad I am you've come!" said Betsy. "I'm tired, and was justlonging to have some tea before they come. You might go"--she turned toTushkevitch--"with Masha, and try the croquet ground over there wherethey've been cutting it. We shall have time to talk a little over tea;we'll have a cozy chat, eh?" she said in English to Anna, with a smile,pressing the hand with which she held a parasol.

  "Yes, especially as I can't stay very long with you. I'm forced to go onto old Madame Vrede. I've been promising to go for a century," saidAnna, to whom lying, alien as it was to her nature, had become notmerely simple and natural in society, but a positive source ofsatisfaction. Why she said this, which she had not thought of a secondbefore, she could not have explained. She had said it simply from thereflection that as Vronsky would not be here, she had better secure herown freedom, and try to see him somehow. But why she had spoken of oldMadame Vrede, whom she had to go and see, as she had to see many otherpeople, she could not have explained; and yet, as it afterwards turnedout, had she contrived the most cunning devices to meet Vronsky, shecould have thought of nothing better.

  "No. I'm not going to let you go for anything," answered Betsy, lookingintently into Anna's face. "Really, if I were not fond of you, I shouldfeel offended. One would think you were afraid my society wouldcompromise you. Tea in the little dining room, please," she said, halfclosing her eyes, as she always did when addressing the footman.

  Taking the note from him, she read it.

  "Alexey's playing us false," she said in French; "he writes that hecan't come," she added in a tone as simple and natural as though itcould never enter her head that Vronsky could mean anything more to Annathan a game of croquet. Anna knew that Betsy knew everything, but,hearing how she spoke of Vronsky before her, she almost felt persuadedfor a minute that she knew nothing.

  "Ah!" said Anna indifferently, as though not greatly interested in thematter, and she went on smiling: "How can you or your friends compromiseanyone?"

  This playing with words, this hiding of a secret, had a greatfascination for Anna, as, indeed, it has for all women. And it was notthe necessity of concealment, not the aim with which the concealment wascontrived, but the process of concealment itself which attracted her.

  "I can't be more Catholic than the Pope," she said. "Stremov and LizaMerkalova, why, they're the cream of the cream of society. Besides,they're received everywhere, and _I_"--she laid special stress on theI--"have never been strict and intolerant. It's simply that I haven'tthe time."

  "No; you don't care, perhaps, to meet Stremov? Let him and AlexeyAlexandrovitch tilt at each other in the committee--that's no affair ofours. But in the world, he's the most amiable man I know, and a devotedcroquet player. You shall see. And, in spite of his absurd position asLiza's lovesick swain at his age, you ought to see how he carries offthe absurd position. He's very nice. Sappho Shtoltz you don't know? Oh,that's a new type, quite new."

  Betsy said all this, and, at the same time, from her good-humored,shrewd glance, Anna felt that she partly guessed her plight, and washatching something for her benefit. They were in the little boudoir.

  "I must write to Alexey though," and Betsy sat down to the table,scribbled a few lines, and put the note in an envelope.

  "I'm telling him to come to dinner. I've one lady extra to dinner withme, and no man to take her in. Look what I've said, will that persuadehim? Excuse me, I must leave you for a minute. Would you seal it up,please, and send it off?" she said from the door; "I have to give somedirections."

  Without a moment's thought, Anna sat down to the table with Betsy'sletter, and, without reading it, wrote below: "It's essential for me tosee you. Come to the Vrede garden. I shall be there at six o'clock." Shesealed it up, and, Betsy coming back, in her presence handed the note tobe taken.

  At tea, which was brought them on a little tea-table in the cool littledrawing room, the cozy chat promised by Princess Tverskaya before thearrival of her visitors really did come off between the two women. Theycriticized the people they were expecting, and the conversation fellupon Liza Merkalova.

  "She's very sweet, and I always liked her," said Anna.

  "You ought to like her. She raves about you. Yesterday she came up to meafter the races and was in despair at not finding you. She says you're areal heroine of romance, and that if she were a man she would do allsorts of mad things for your sake. Stremov says she does that as it is."

  "But do tell me, please, I never could make it out," said Anna, afterbeing silent for some time, speaking in a tone that showed she was notasking an idle question, but that what she was asking was of moreimportance to her than it should have been; "do tell me, please, whatare her relations with Prince Kaluzhsky, Mishka, as he's called? I'vemet them so little. What does it mean?"

  Betsy smiled with her eyes, and looked intently at Anna.

  "It's a new manner," she said. "They've all adopted that manner. They'veflung their caps over the windmills. But there are ways and ways offlinging them."

  "Yes, but what are her relations precisely with Kaluzhsky?"

  Betsy broke into unexpectedly mirthful and irrepressible laughter, athing which rarely happened with her.

  "You're encroaching on Princess Myakaya's special domain now.
That's thequestion of an _enfant terrible_," and Betsy obviously tried to restrainherself, but could not, and went off into peals of that infectiouslaughter that people laugh who do not laugh often. "You'd better askthem," she brought out, between tears of laughter.

  "No; you laugh," said Anna, laughing too in spite of herself, "but Inever could understand it. I can't understand the husband's role in it."

  "The husband? Liza Merkalova's husband carries her shawl, and is alwaysready to be of use. But anything more than that in reality, no one caresto inquire. You know in decent society one doesn't talk or think even ofcertain details of the toilet. That's how it is with this."

  "Will you be at Madame Rolandak's fete?" asked Anna, to change theconversation.

  "I don't think so," answered Betsy, and, without looking at her friend,she began filling the little transparent cups with fragrant tea. Puttinga cup before Anna, she took out a cigarette, and, fitting it into asilver holder, she lighted it.

  "It's like this, you see: I'm in a fortunate position," she began, quiteserious now, as she took up her cup. "I understand you, and I understandLiza. Liza now is one of those naive natures that, like children, don'tknow what's good and what's bad. Anyway, she didn't comprehend it whenshe was very young. And now she's aware that the lack of comprehensionsuits her. Now, perhaps, she doesn't know on purpose," said Betsy, witha subtle smile. "But, anyway, it suits her. The very same thing, don'tyou see, may be looked at tragically, and turned into a misery, or itmay be looked at simply and even humorously. Possibly you are inclinedto look at things too tragically."

  "How I should like to know other people just as I know myself!" saidAnna, seriously and dreamily. "Am I worse than other people, or better?I think I'm worse."

  "_Enfant terrible, enfant terrible!_" repeated Betsy. "But here theyare."

 
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