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PART FOUR - Chapter 1


The Karenins, husband and wife, continued living in the same
house, met every day, but were complete strangers to one another.
Alexey Alexandrovitch made it a rule to see his wife every day,
so that the servants might have no grounds for suppositions, but
avoided dining at home. Vronsky was never at Alexey
Alexandrovitch's house, but Anna saw him away from home, and her
husband was aware of it.

The position was one of misery for all three; and not one of them
would have been equal to enduring this position for a single day,
if it had not been for the expectation that it would change, that
it was merely a temporary painful ordeal which would pass over.
Alexey Alexandrovitch hoped that this passion would pass, as
everything does pass, that everyone would forget about it, and
his name would remain unsullied. Anna, on whom the position
depended, and for whom it was more miserable than for anyone,
endured it because she not merely hoped, but firmly believed,
that it would all very soon be settled and come right. She had
not the least idea what would settle the position, but she firmly
believed that something would very soon turn up now. Vronsky,
against his own will or wishes, followed her lead, hoped too that
something, apart from his own action, would be sure to solve all
difficulties.

In the middle of the winter Vronsky spent a very tiresome week.
A foreign prince, who had come on a visit to Petersburg, was put
under his charge, and he had to show him the sights worth seeing.
Vronsky was of distinguished appearance; he possessed, moreover,
the art of behaving with respectful dignity, and was used to
having to do with such grand personages--that was how he came to
be put in charge of the prince. But he felt his duties very
irksome. The prince was anxious to miss nothing of which he
would be asked at home, had he seen that in Russia? And on his
own account he was anxious to enjoy to the utmost all Russian
forms of amusement. Vronsky was obliged to be his guide in
satisfying both these inclinations. The mornings they spent
driving to look at places of interest; the evenings they passed
enjoying the national entertainments. The prince rejoiced in
health exceptional even among princes. By gymnastics and careful
attention to his health he had brought himself to such a point
that in spite of his excess in pleasure he looked as fresh as a
big glossy green Dutch cucumber. The prince had traveled a great
deal, and considered one of the chief advantages of modern
facilities of communication was the accessibility of the
pleasures of all nations.

He had been in Spain, and there had indulged in serenades and had
made friends with a Spanish girl who played the mandolin. In
Switzerland he had killed chamois. In England he had galloped in
a red coat over hedges and killed two hundred pheasants for a
bet. In Turkey he had got into a harem; in India he had hunted
on an elephant, and now in Russia he wished to taste all the
specially Russian forms of pleasure.

Vronsky, who was, as it were, chief master of the ceremonies to
him, was at great pains to arrange all the Russian amusements
suggested by various persons to the prince. They had race
horses, and Russian pancakes and bear hunts and three-horse
sledges, and gypsies and drinking feasts, with the Russian
accompaniment of broken crockery. And the prince with surprising
ease fell in with the Russian spirit, smashed trays full of
crockery, sat with a gypsy girl on his knee, and seemed to be
asking--what more, and does the whole Russian spirit consist in
just this?

In reality, of all the Russian entertainments the prince liked
best French actresses and ballet dancers and white-seal
champagne. Vronsky was used to princes, but, either because he
had himself changed of late, or that he was in too close
proximity to the prince, that week seemed fearfully wearisome to
him. The whole of that week he experienced a sensation such as a
man might have set in charge of a dangerous madman, afraid of the
madman, and at the same time, from being with him, fearing for
his own reason. Vronsky was continually conscious of the
necessity of never for a second relaxing the tone of stern
official respectfulness, that he might not himself be insulted.
The prince's manner of treating the very people who, to Vronsky's
surprise, were ready to descend to any depths to provide him with
Russian amusements, was contemptuous. His criticisms of Russian
women, whom he wished to study, more than once made Vronsky
crimson with indignation. The chief reason why the prince was so
particularly disagreeable to Vronsky was that he could not help
seeing himself in him. And what he saw in this mirror did not
gratify his self-esteem. He was a very stupid and very
self-satisfied and very healthy and very well-washed man, and
nothing else. He was a gentleman--that was true, and Vronsky
could not deny it. He was equable and not cringing with his
superiors, was free and ingratiating in his behavior with his
equals, and was contemptuously indulgent with his inferiors.
Vronsky was himself the same, and regarded it as a great merit to
be so. But for this prince he was an inferior, and his
contemptuous and indulgent attitude to him revolted him.

"Brainless beef! can I be like that?" he thought.

Be that as it might, when, on the seventh day, he parted from the

prince, who was starting for Moscow, and received his thanks, he
was happy to be rid of his uncomfortable position and the
unpleasant reflection of himself. He said good-bye to him at the
station on their return from a bear hunt, at which they had had a
display of Russian prowess kept up all night.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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