Anna Karenina (Part Two – Chapter 16-20)
On the way home Levin asked all details of Kitty’s illness and the Shtcherbatskys’ plans, and though he would have been ashamed to admit it, he was pleased at what he heard. He was pleased that there was still hope, and still more pleased that she should be suffering who had made him suffer so much. But when Stepan Arkadyevitch began to speak of the causes of Kitty’s illness, and mentioned Vronsky’s name, Levin cut him short.
“I have no right whatever to know family matters, and, to tell the truth, no interest in them either.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch smiled hardly perceptibly, catching the instantaneous change he knew so well in Levin’s face, which had become as gloomy as it had been bright a minute before.
“Have you quite settled about the forest with Ryabinin?” asked Levin.
“Yes, it’s settled. The price is magnificent; thirty-eight thousand. Eight straight away, and the rest in six years. I’ve been bothering about it for ever so long. No one would give more.”
“Then you’ve as good as given away your forest for nothing,” said Levin gloomily.
“How do you mean for nothing?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with a good-humored smile, knowing that nothing would be right in Levin’s eyes now.
“Because the forest is worth at least a hundred and fifty roubles the acre,” answered Levin.
“Oh, these farmers!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch playfully. “Your tone of contempt for us poor townsfolk!… But when it comes to business, we do it better than anyone. I assure you I have reckoned it all out,” he said, “and the forest is fetching a very good price–so much so that I’m afraid of this fellow’s crying off, in fact. You know it’s not ‘timber,'” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, hoping by this distinction to convince Levin completely of the unfairness of his doubts. “And it won’t run to more than twenty-five yards of fagots per acre, and he’s giving me at the rate of seventy roubles the acre.”
Levin smiled contemptuously. “I know,” he thought, “that fashion not only in him, but in all city people, who, after being twice in ten years in the country, pick up two or three phrases and use them in season and out of season, firmly persuaded that they know all about it. ‘Timber, run to so many yards the acre.’ He says those words without understanding them himself.”
“I wouldn’t attempt to teach you what you write about in your office,” said he, “and if need arose, I should come to you to ask about it. But you’re so positive you know all the lore of the forest. It’s difficult. Have you counted the trees?”
“How count the trees?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, laughing, still trying to draw his friend out of his ill-temper. “Count the sands of the sea, number the stars. Some higher power might do it.”
“Oh, well, the higher power of Ryabinin can. Not a single merchant ever buys a forest without counting the trees, unless they get it given them for nothing, as you’re doing now. I know your forest. I go there every year shooting, and your forest’s worth a hundred and fifty roubles and acre paid down, while he’s giving you sixty by installments. So that in fact you’re making him a present of thirty thousand.”
“Come, don’t let your imagination run away with you,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch piteously. “Why was it none would give it, then?”
“Why, because he has an understanding with the merchants; he’s bought them off. I’ve had to do with all of them; I know them. They’re not merchants, you know: they’re speculators. He wouldn’t look at a bargain that gave him ten, fifteen per cent profit, but holds back to buy a rouble’s worth for twenty kopecks.”
“Well, enough of it! You’re out of temper.”
“Not the least,” said Levin gloomily, as they drove up to the house.
At the steps there stood a trap tightly covered with iron and leather, with a sleek horse tightly harnessed with broad collar-straps. In the trap sat the chubby, tightly belted clerk who served Ryabinin as coachman. Ryabinin himself was already in the house, and met the friends in the hall. Ryabinin was a tall, thinnish, middle-aged man, with mustache and a projecting clean-shaven chin, and prominent muddy-looking eyes. He was dressed in a long-skirted blue coat, with buttons below the waist at the back, and wore high boots wrinkled over the ankles and straight over the calf, with big galoshes drawn over them. He rubbed his face with his handkerchief, and wrapping round him his coat, which sat extremely well as it was, he greeted them with a smile, holding out his hand to Stepan Arkadyevitch, as though he wanted to catch something.
“So here you are,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, giving him his hand. “That’s capital.”
“I did not venture to disregard your excellency’s commands, though the road was extremely bad. I positively walked the whole way, but I am here at my time. Konstantin Dmitrievitch, my respects”; he turned to Levin, trying to seize his hand too. But Levin, scowling, made as though he did not notice his hand, and took out the snipe. “Your honors have been diverting yourselves with the chase? What kind of bird may it be, pray?” added Ryabinin, looking contemptuously at the snipe: “a great delicacy, I suppose.” And he shook his head disapprovingly, as though he had grave doubts whether this game were worth the candle.
“Would you like to go into my study?” Levin said in French to Stepan Arkadyevitch, scowling morosely. “Go into my study; you can talk there.”
“Quite so, where you please,” said Ryabinin with contemptuous dignity, as though wishing to make it felt that others might be in difficulties as to how to behave, but that he could never be in any difficulty about anything.
On entering the study Ryabinin looked about, as his habit was, as though seeking the holy picture, but when he had found it, he did not cross himself. He scanned the bookcases and bookshelves, and with the same dubious air with which he had regarded the snipe, he smiled contemptuously and hook his head disapprovingly, as though by no means willing to allow that this game were worth the candle.
“Well, have you brought the money?” asked Oblonsky. “Sit down.”
“Oh, don’t trouble about the money. I’ve come to see you to talk it over.”
“What is there to talk over? But do sit down.”
“I don’t mind if I do,” said Ryabinin, sitting down and leaning his elbows on the back of his chair in a position of the intensest discomfort to himself. “You must knock it down a bit, prince. It would be too bad. The money is ready conclusively to the last farthing. As to paying the money down, there’ll be no hitch there.”
Levin, who had meanwhile been putting his gun away in the cupboard, was just going out of the door, but catching the merchant’s words, he stopped.
“Why, you’ve got the forest for nothing as it is,” he said. “He came to me too late, or I’d have fixed the price for him.”
Ryabinin got up, and in silence, with a smile, he looked Levin down and up.
“Very close about money is Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” he said with a smile, turning to Stepan Arkadyevitch; “there’s positively no dealing with him. In was bargaining for some wheat of him, and a pretty price In offered too.”
“Why should I give you my goods for nothing? I didn’t pick it up on the ground, nor steal it either.”
“Mercy on us! nowadays there’s no chance at all of stealing. With the open courts and everything done in style, nowadays there’s no question of stealing. We are just talking things over like gentlemen. His excellency’s asking too much for the forest. I can’t make both ends meet over it. I must ask for a little concession.”
“But is the thing settled between you or not? If it’s settled, it’s useless haggling; but if it’s not,” said Levin, “I’ll buy the forest.”
The smile vanished at once from Ryabinin’s face. A hawklike, greedy, cruel expression was left upon it. With rapid, bony fingers he unbuttoned his coat, revealing a shirt, bronze waistcoat buttons, and a watch chain, and quickly pulled out a fat old pocketbook.
“Here you are, the forest is mine,” he said, crossing himself quickly, and holding out his hand. “Take the money; it’s my forest. That’s Ryabinin’s way of doing business; he doesn’t haggle over every half-penny,” he added, scowling and waving the pocketbook.
“I wouldn’t be in a hurry if I were you,” said Levin.
“Come, really,” said Oblonsky in surprise. “I’ve given my word, you know.”
Levin went out of the room, slamming the door. Ryabinin looked towards the door and shook his head with a smile.
“It’s all youthfulness–positively nothing but boyishness. Why, I’m buying it, upon my honor, simply, believe me, for the glory of it, that Ryabinin, and no one else, should have bought the copse of Oblonsky. And as to the profits, why, I must make what God gives. In God’s name. If you would kindly sign the title-deed…”
Within an hour the merchant, stroking his big overcoat neatly down, and hooding up his jacket, with the agreement in his pocket, seated himself in his tightly covered trap, and drove homewards.
“Ugh, these gentlefolks!” he said to the clerk. “They–they’re a nice lot!”
“That’s so,” responded the clerk, handing him the reins and buttoning the leather apron. “But I can congratulate you on the purchase, Mihail Ignatitch?”
Stepan Arkadyevitch went upstairs with his pocket bulging with notes, which the merchant had paid him for three months in advance. The business of the forest was over, the money in his pocket; their shooting had been excellent, and Stepan Arkadyevitch was in the happiest frame of mind, and so he felt specially anxious to dissipate the ill-humor that had come upon Levin. He wanted to finish the day at supper as pleasantly as it had been begun.
Levin certainly was out of humor, and in spite off all his desire to be affectionate and cordial to his charming visitor, he could not control his mood. The intoxication of the news that Kitty was not married had gradually begun to work upon him.
Kitty was not married, but ill, and ill from love for a man who had slighted her. This slight, as it were, rebounded upon him. Vronsky had slighted her, and she had slighted him, Levin. Consequently Vronsky had the right to despise Levin, and therefore he was his enemy. But all this Levin did not think out. He vaguely felt that there was something in it insulting to him, and he was not angry now at what had disturbed him, but he fell foul of everything that presented itself. The stupid sale of the forest, the fraud practiced upon Oblonsky and concluded in his house, exasperated him.
“Well, finished?” he said, meeting Stepan Arkadyevitch upstairs. “Would you like supper?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say no to it. What an appetite I get in the country! Wonderful! Why didn’t you offer Ryabinin something?”
“Oh, damn him!”
“Still, how you do treat him!” said Oblonsky. “You didn’t even shake hands with him. Why not shake hands with him?”
“Because I don’t shake hands with a waiter, and a waiter’s a hundred times better than he is.”
“What a reactionist you are, really! What about the amalgamation of classes?” said Oblonsky.
“Anyone who likes amalgamating is welcome to it, but it sickens me.”
“You’re a regular reactionist, I see.”
“Really, I have never considered what I am. I am Konstantin Levin, and nothing else.”
“And Konstantin Levin very much out of temper,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling.
“Yes, I am out of temper, and do you know why? Because–excuse me–of your stupid sale…”
Stepan Arkadyevitch frowned good-humoredly, like one who feels himself teased and attacked for no fault of his own.
“Come, enough about it!” he said. “When did anybody ever sell anything without being told immediately after the sale, ‘It was worth much more’? But when one wants to sell, no one will give anything…. No, I see you’ve a grudge against that unlucky Ryabinin.”
“Maybe I have. And do you know why? You’ll say again that I’m a reactionist, or some other terrible word; but all the same it does annoy and anger me to see on all sides the impoverishing of the nobility to which I belong, and, in spite of the amalgamation of classes, I’m glad to belong. And their impoverishment is not due to extravagance–that would be nothing; living in good style –that’s the proper thing for noblemen; it’s only the nobles who know how to do it. Now the peasants about us buy land, and I don’t mind that. The gentleman does nothing, while the peasant works and supplants the idle man. That’s as it ought to be. And I’m very glad for the peasant. But I do mind seeing the process of impoverishment from a sort of–I don’t know what to call it– innocence. Here a Polish speculator bought for half its value a magnificent estate from a young lady who lives in Nice. And there a merchant will get three acres of land, worth ten roubles, as security for the loan of one rouble. Here, for no kind of reason, you’ve made that rascal a present of thirty thousand roubles.”
“Well, what should I have done? Counted every tree?”
“Of course, they must be counted. You didn’t count them, but Ryabinin did. Ryabinin’s children will have means of livelihood and education, while yours maybe will not!”
“Well, you must excuse me, but there’s something mean in this counting. We have our business and they have theirs, and they must make their profit. Anyway, the thing’s done, and there’s an end of it. And here come some poached eggs, my favorite dish. And Agafea Mihalovna will give us that marvelous herb-brandy…”
Stepan Arkadyevitch sat down at the table and began joking with Agafea Mihalovna, assuring her that it was long since he had tasted such a dinner and such a supper.
“Well, you do praise it, anyway,” said Agafea Mihalovna, “but Konstantin Dmitrievitch, give him what you will–a crust of bread–he’ll eat it and walk away.”
Though Levin tried to control himself, he was gloomy and silent. He wanted to put one question to Stepan Arkadyevitch, but he could not bring himself to the point, and could not find the words or the moment in which to put it. Stepan Arkadyevitch had gone down to his room, undressed, again washed, and attired in a nightshirt with goffered frills, he had got into bed, but Levin still lingered in his room, talking of various trifling matters, and not daring to ask what he wanted to know.
“How wonderfully they make this soap,” he said gazing at a piece of soap he was handling, which Agafea Mihalovna had put ready for the visitor but Oblonsky had not used. “Only look; why, it’s a work of art.”
“Yes, everything’s brought to such a pitch of perfection nowadays,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, with a moist and blissful yawn. “The theater, for instance, and the entertainments… a–a–a!” he yawned. “The electric light everywhere…a–a–a!”
“Yes, the electric light,” said Levin. “Yes. Oh, and where’s Vronsky now?” he asked suddenly, laying down the soap.
“Vronsky?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, checking his yawn; “he’s in Petersburg. He left soon after you did, and he’s not once been in Moscow since. And do you know, Kostya, I’ll tell you the truth,” he went on, leaning his elbow on the table, and propping on his hand his handsome ruddy face, in which his moist, good-natured, sleepy eyes shone like stars. “It’s your own fault. You took fright at the sight of your rival. But, as I told you at the time, I couldn’t say which had the better chance. Why didn’t you fight it out? I told you at the time that….” He yawned inwardly, without opening his mouth.
“Does he know, or doesn’t he, that I did make an offer?” Levin wondered, gazing at him. “Yes, there’s something humbugging, diplomatic in his face,” and feeling he was blushing, he looked Stepan Arkadyevitch straight in the face without speaking.
“If there was anything on her side at the time, it was nothing but a superficial attraction,” pursued Oblonsky. “His being such a perfect aristocrat, don’t you know, and his future position in society, had an influence not with her, but with her mother.”
Levin scowled. The humiliation of his rejection stung him to the heart, as though it were a fresh wound he had only just received. But he was at home, and the walls of home are a support.
“Stay, stay,” he began, interrupting Oblonsky. “You talk of his being an aristocrat. But allow me to ask what it consists in, that aristocracy of Vronsky or of anybody else, beside which I can be looked down upon? You consider Vronsky an aristocrat, but I don’t. A man whose father crawled up from nothing at all by intrigue, and whose mother–God knows whom she wasn’t mixed up with…. No, excuse me, but I consider myself aristocratic, and people like me, who can point back in the past to three or four honorable generations of their family, of the highest degree of breeding (talent and intellect, of course that’s another matter), and have never curried favor with anyone, never depended on anyone for anything, like my father and my grandfather. And I know many such. You think it mean of me to count the trees in my forest, while you may Ryabinin a present of thirty thousand; but you get rents from your lands and I don’t know what, while I don’t and so I prize what’s come to me from my ancestors or been won by hard work…. We are aristocrats, and not those who can only exist by favor of the powerful of this world, and who can be bought for twopence halfpenny.”
“Well, but whom are you attacking? I agree with you,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, sincerely and genially; though he was aware that in the class of those who could be bought for twopence halfpenny Levin was reckoning him too. Levin’s warmth gave him genuine pleasure. “Whom are you attacking? Though a good deal is not true that you say about Vronsky, but I won’t talk about that. I tell you straight out, if I were you, I should go back with me to Moscow, and…”
“No; I don’t know whether you know it or not, but I don’t care. And I tell you–I did make an offer and was rejected, and Katerina Alexandrovna is nothing now to me but a painful and humiliating reminiscence.”
“What ever for? What nonsense!”
“But we won’t talk about it. Please forgive me, if I’ve been nasty,” said Levin. Now that he had opened his heart, he became as he had been in the morning. “You’re not angry with me, Stiva? Please don’t be angry,” he said, and smiling, he took his hand.
“Of course not; not a bit, and no reason to be. I’m glad we’ve spoken openly. And do you know, stand-shooting in the morning is unusually good–why not go? I couldn’t sleep the night anyway, but I might go straight from shooting to the station.”
Although all Vronsky’s inner life was absorbed in his passion, his external life unalterably and inevitably followed along the old accustomed lines of his social and regimental ties and interests. The interests of his regiment took an important place in Vronsky’s life, both because he was fond of the regiment, and because the regiment was fond of him. They were not only fond of Vronsky in his regiment, they respected him too, and were proud of him; proud that this man, with his immense wealth, his brilliant education and abilities, and the path open before him to every kind of success, distinction, and ambition, had disregarded all that, and of all the interests of life had the interests of his regiment and his comrades nearest to his heart. Vronsky was aware of his comrades’ view of him, and in addition to his liking for the life, he felt bound to keep up that reputation.
It need not be said that he did not speak of his love to any of his comrades, nor did he betray his secret even in the wildest drinking bouts (though indeed he was never so drunk as to lose all control of himself). And he shut up any of his thoughtless comrades who attempted to allude to his connection. But in spite of that, his love was known to all the town; everyone guessed with more or less confidence at his relations with Madame Karenina. The majority of the younger men envied him for just what was the most irksome factor in his love–the exalted position of Karenin, and the consequent publicity of their connection in society.
The greater number of the young women, who envied Anna and had long been weary of hearing her called virtuous, rejoiced at the fulfillment of their predictions, and were only waiting for a decisive turn in public opinion to fall upon her with all the weight of their scorn. They were already making ready their handfuls of mud to fling at her when the right moment arrived. The greater number of the middle-aged people and certain great personages were displeased at the prospect of the impending scandal in society.
Vronsky’s mother, on hearing of his connection, was at first pleased at it, because nothing to her mind gave such a finishing touch to a brilliant young man as a liaison in the highest society; she was pleased, too, that Madame Karenina, who had so taken her fancy, and had talked so much of her son, was, after all, just like all other pretty and well-bred women,–at least according to the Countess Vronskaya’s ideas. But she had heard of late that her son had refused a position offered him of great importance to his career, simply in order to remain in the regiment, where he could be constantly seeing Madame Karenina. She learned that great personages were displeased with him on this account, and she changed her opinion. She was vexed, too, that from all she could learn of this connection it was not that brilliant, graceful, worldly liaison which she would have welcomed, but a sort of Wertherish, desperate passion, so she was told, which might well lead him into imprudence. She had not seen him since his abrupt departure from Moscow, and she sent her elder son to bid him come to see her.
This elder son, too, was displeased with his younger brother. He did not distinguish what sort of love his might be, big or little, passionate or passionless, lasting or passing (he kept a ballet girl himself, though he was the father of a family, so he was lenient in these matters), but he knew that this love affair was viewed with displeasure by those whom it was necessary to please, and therefore he did not approve of his brother’s conduct.
Besides the service and society, Vronsky had another great interest–horses; he was passionately fond of horses.
That year races and a steeplechase had been arranged for the officers. Vronsky had put his name down, bought a thoroughbred English mare, and in spite of his love affair, he was looking forward to the races with intense, though reserved, excitement…
These two passions did not interfere with one another. On the contrary, he needed occupation and distraction quite apart from his love, so as to recruit and rest himself from the violent emotions that agitated him.
On the day of the races at Krasnoe Selo, Vronsky had come earlier than usual to eat beefsteak in the common messroom of the regiment. He had no need to be strict with himself, as he had very quickly been brought down to the required light weight; but still he had to avoid gaining flesh, and so he eschewed farinaceous and sweet dishes. He sat with his coat unbuttoned over a white waistcoat, resting both elbows on the table, and while waiting for the steak he had ordered he looked at a French novel that lay open on his plate. He was only looking at the book to avoid conversation 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 just returned from aborad, he did not know whether she would be able to meet him today or not, and he did not know how to find out. He had had his last interview with her at his cousin Betsy’s summer villa. He visited the Karenins’ summer villa as rarely as possible. Now he wanted to go there, and he pondered the question how to do it.
“Of course In shall say Betsy has sent me to ask whether she’s coming to the races. Of course, I’ll go,” he decided, lifting his head from the book. And as he vividly pictured the happiness of seeing her, his face lighted up.
“Send to my house, and tell them to have out the carriage and three horses as quick as they can,” he said to the servant, who handed him the steak 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, of talk and laughter. Two officers appeared at the entrance-door: one, a young fellow, with a feeble, delicate face, who had lately joined the regiment 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 though he 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 chair round for the young officer.
“What?” said Vronsky angrily, making a wry face of disgust, and showing his even teeth.
“You’re not afraid of getting fat?”
“Waiter, sherry!” said Vronsky, without replying, and moving the book to the other side of him, he went on reading.
The plump officer took up the list of wines and turned to the young officer.
“You choose what we’re to drink,” he said, handing him the card, and looking at him.
“Rhine wine, please,” said the young officer, stealing a timid glance at Vronsky, and trying to pull his scarcely visible mustache. Seeing that Vronsky 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-built Captain Yashvin. Nodding with an air of lofty contempt to the two officers, he went up to Vronsky.
“Ah! here he is!” he cried, bringing his big hand down heavily on his epaulet. Vronsky looked round angrily, but his face lighted up immediately with his characteristic expression of genial and manly serenity.
“That’s it, Alexey,” said the captain, in his loud baritone. “You must just eat a mouthful, now, and drink only one tiny glass.”
“Oh, I’m not hungry.”
“There go the inseparables,” Yashvin dropped, glancing sarcastically at the two officers who were at that instant leaving the room. And he bent his long legs, swatched in tight riding breeches, and sat down in the chair, too low for him, so that his knees were cramped up in a sharp angle.
“Why didn’t you turn up at the Red Theater yesterday? Numerova wasn’t at all bad. Where were you?”
“In was late at the Tverskoys’,” said Vronsky.
“Ah!” responded Yashvin.
Yashvin, a gambler and a rake, a man not merely without moral principles, but of immoral principles, Yashvin was Vronsky’s greatest friend in the regiment. Vronsky liked him both for his exceptional physical strength, which he showed for the most part by being able to drink like a fish, and do without sleep without being in the slightest degree affected by it; and for his great strength of character, which he showed in his relations with his comrades and superior officers, commanding both fear and respect, and also at cards, when he would play for tens of thousands and however much he might have drunk, always with such skill and decision that he was reckoned the best player in the English Club. Vronsky respected and liked Yashvin particularly because he felt Yashvin liked him, not for his name and his money, but for himself. And of all men he was the only one with whom Vronsky would have liked to speak of his love. He felt that Yashvin, in spite of his apparent contempt for every sort of feeling, was the only man who could, so he fancied, comprehend the intense passion which now filled his whole life. Moreover, he felt certain that Yashvin, as it was, took no delight in gossip and scandal, and interpreted his feeling rightly, that is to say, 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 he knew all about it, and that he put the right interpretation on it, and he was glad to see that in his eyes.
“Ah! yes,” he said, to the announcement that Vronsky had been at the Tverskoys’; 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 only thing Vronsky could think of just now.
“Come along, I’ve finished,” said Vronsky, and getting up he went to the door. 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 along directly. Hi, wine!” he shouted, in his rich voice, that always rang out so 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.
Vronsky was staying in a roomy, clean, Finnish hut, divided into two by a partition. Petritsky lived with him in camp too. Petritsky was asleep when Vronsky and Yashvin came into the hut.
“Get up, don’t go on sleeping,” said Yashvin, going behind the partition and giving Petritsky, who was lying with ruffled hair and with his nose in the pillow, a prod on the shoulder.
Petritsky jumped up suddenly onto his knees and looked round.
“Your brother’s been here,” he said to Vronsky. “He waked me up, damn him, and said he’d look in again.” And pulling up the rug he flung himself back on the pillow. “Oh, do shut up, Yashvin!” he said, getting furious with Yashvin, who was pulling the rug off him. “Shut up!” He turned over and opened his eyes. “You’d better tell me what to drink; such a nasty taste in my mouth, that…”
“Brandy’s better than anything,” boomed Yashvin. “Tereshtchenko! brandy for your master and cucumbers,” he shouted, obviously taking pleasure in the sound of his own voice.
“Brandy, do you think? Eh?” queried Petritsky, blinking and rubbing his eyes. “And you’ll drink something? All right then, we’ll have a drink together! Vronsky, have a drink?” said Petritsky, getting up and wrapping the tiger-skin rug round him. He went to the door of the partition wall, raised his hands, and hummed in French, “There was a king in Thule.” “Vronsky, will you have a drink?”
“Go along,” said Vronsky, putting on the coat his valet handed to him.
“Where are you off to?” asked Yashvin. “Oh, here are your three horses,” he added, seeing the carriage drive up.
“To the stables, and I’ve got to see Bryansky, too, about the horses,” said Vronsky.
Vronsky had as a fact promised to call at Bryansky’s, some eight miles from Peterhof, and to bring him some money owing for some horses; and he hoped to have time to get that in too. But his comrades were at once aware that he was not only going there.
Petritsky, still humming, winked and made a pout with his lips, as though he would say: “Oh, yes, we know your Bryansky.”
“Mind you’re not late!” was Yashvin’s only comment; and to change the conversation: “How’s my roan? is he doing all right?” he inquired, looking out of the window at the middle one of the three horses, which he had sold Vronsky.
“Stop!” cried Petritsky to Vronsky as he was just going out. “Your brother left a letter and a note for you. Wait a bit; where are they?”
“Well, where are they?”
“Where are they? That’s just the question!” said Petritsky solemnly, moving his forefinger upwards from his nose.
“Come, tell me; this is silly!” said Vronsky smiling.
“I have not lighted the fire. Here somewhere about.”
“Come, enough fooling! Where is the letter?”
“No, I’ve forgotten really. Or was it a dream? Wait a bit, wait a bit! But what’s the use of getting in a rage. If you’d drunk four bottles yesterday as I did you’d forget where you were lying. Wait a bit, I’ll remember!”
Petritsky went behind the partition and lay down on his bed.
“Wait a bit! This was how I was lying, and this was how he was standing. Yes–yes–yes…. Here it is!”–and Petritsky pulled a letter out from under the mattress, where he had hidden it.
Vronsky took the letter and his brother’s note. It was the letter he was expecting–from his mother, reproaching him for not having been to see her–and the note was from his brother to say that he must have a little talk with him. Vronsky knew that it was all about the same thing. “What business is it of theirs!” thought Vronsky, and crumpling up the letters he thrust them between the buttons of his coat so as to read them carefully on the road. In the porch of the hut he was met by two officers; one of his regiment and one of another.
Vronsky’s quarters were always a meeting place for all the officers.
“Where are you off to?”
“I must go to Peterhof.”
“Has the mare come from Tsarskoe?”
“Yes, but I’ve not seen her yet.”
“They say Mahotin’s Gladiator’s lame.”
“Nonsense! But however are you going to race in this mud?” said the other.
“Here are my saviors!” cried Petritsky, seeing them come in. Before him stood the orderly with a tray of brandy and salted cucumbers. “Here’s Yashvin ordering me a drink a pick-me-up.”
“Well, you did give it to us yesterday,” said one of those who had come in; “you didn’t let us get a wink of sleep all night.”
“Oh, didn’t we make a pretty finish!” said Petritsky. “Volkov climbed onto the roof and began telling us how sad he was. I said: ‘Let’s have music, the funeral march!’ He fairly dropped asleep on the roof over the funeral march.”
“Drink it up; you positively must drink the brandy, and then seltzer water and a lot of lemon,” said Yashvin, standing over Petritsky like a mother making a child take medicine, “and then a little champagne–just a small bottle.”
“Come, there’s some sense in that. Stop a bit, Vronsky. We’ll all have a drink.”
“No; good-bye all of you. I’m not going to drink today.”
“Why, are you gaining weight? All right, then we must have it alone. Give us the seltzer water and lemon.”
“Vronsky!” shouted someone when he was already outside.
“You’d better get your hair cut, it’ll weigh you down, especially at the top.”
Vronsky was in fact beginning, prematurely, to get a little bald. He laughed gaily, showing his even teeth, and puling his cap over the thin place, went out and got into his carriage.
“To the stables!” he said, and was just pulling out the letters to read them through, but he thought better of it, and put off reading them so as not to distract his attention before looking at the mare. “Later!”