eBooks Cube
 
Chapter 6


Alexey Alexandrovitch had gained a brilliant victory at the
sitting of the Commission of the 17th of August, but in the
sequel this victory cut the ground from under his feet. The new
commission for the inquiry into the condition of the native
tribes in all its branches had been formed and despatched to its
destination with an unusual speed and energy inspired by Alexey
Alexandrovitch. Within three months a report was presented. The
condition of the native tribes was investigated in its political,
administrative, economic, ethnographic, material, and religious
aspects. To all these questions there were answers admirably
stated, and answers admitting no shade of doubt, since they were
not a product of human thought, always liable to error, but were
all the product of official activity. The answers were all based
on official data furnished by governors and heads of churches,
and founded on the reports of district magistrates and
ecclesiastical superintendents, founded in their turn on the
reports of parochial overseers and parish priests; and so all of
these answers were unhesitating and certain. All such questions
as, for instance, of the cause of failure of crops, of the
adherence of certain tribes to their ancient beliefs, etc.--
questions which, but for the convenient intervention of the
official machine, are not, and cannot be solved for ages--
received full, unhesitating solution. And this solution was in
favor of Alexey Alexandrovitch's contention. But Stremov, who
had felt stung to the quick at the last sitting, had, on the
reception of the commission's report, resorted to tactics which
Alexey Alexandrovitch had not anticipated. Stremov, carrying
with him several members, went over to Alexey Alexandrovitch's
side, and not contenting himself with warmly defending the
measure proposed by Karenin, proposed other more extreme measures
in the same direction. These measures, still further exaggerated
in opposition to what was Alexey Alexandrovitch's fundamental
idea, were passed by the commission, and then the aim of
Stremov's tactics became apparent. Carried to an extreme, the
measures seemed at once to be so absurd that the highest
authorities, and public opinion, and intellectual ladies, and the
newspapers, all at the same time fell foul of them, expressing
their indignation both with the measures and their nominal
father, Alexey Alexandrovitch. Stremov drew back, affecting to
have blindly followed Karenin, and to be astounded and distressed
at what had been done. This meant the defeat of Alexey
Alexandrovitch. But in spite of failing health, in spite of his
domestic griefs, he did not give in. There was a split in the
commission. Some members, with Stremov at their head, justified
their mistake on the ground that they had put faith in the
commission of revision, instituted by Alexey Alexandrovitch, and
maintained that the report of the commission was rubbish, and
simply so much waste paper. Alexey Alexandrovitch, with a
following of those who saw the danger of so revolutionary an
attitude to official documents, persisted in upholding the
statements obtained by the revising commission. In consequence
of this, in the higher spheres, and even in society, all was
chaos, and although everyone was interested, no one could tell
whether the native tribes really were becoming impoverished and
ruined, or whether they were in a flourishing condition. The
position of Alexey Alexandrovitch, owing to this, and partly
owing to the contempt lavished on him for his wife's infidelity,
became very precarious. And in this position he took an
important resolution. To the astonishment of the commission, he
announced that he should ask permission to go himself to
investigate the question on the spot. And having obtained
permission, Alexey Alexandrovitch prepared to set off to these
remote provinces.

Alexey Alexandrovitch's departure made a great sensation, the
more so as just before he started he officially returned the
posting-fares allowed him for twelve horses, to drive to his
destination.

"I think it very noble," Betsy said about this to the Princess
Myakaya. "Why take money for posting-horses when everyone knows
that there are railways everywhere now?"

But Princess Myakaya did not agree, and the Princess Tverskaya's
opinion annoyed her indeed.

"It's all very well for you to talk," said she, "when you have I
don't know how many millions; but I am very glad when my husband
goes on a revising tour in the summer. It's very good for him
and pleasant traveling about, and it's a settled arrangement for
me to keep a carriage and coachman on the money."

On his way to the remote provinces Alexey Alexandrovitch stopped
for three days at Moscow.

The day after his arrival he was driving back from calling on the
governor-general. At the crossroads by Gazetoy Place, where
there are always crowds of carriages and sledges, Alexey
Alexandrovitch suddenly heard his name called out in such a loud
and cheerful voice that he could not help looking round. At the
corner of the pavement, in a short, stylish overcoat and a
low-crowned fashionable hat, jauntily askew, with a smile that
showed a gleam of white teeth and red lips, stood Stepan
Arkadyevitch, radiant, young, and beaming. He called him
vigorously and urgently, and insisted on his stopping. He had
one arm on the window of a carriage that was stopping at the
corner, and out of the window were thrust the heads of a lady in
a velvet hat, and two children. Stepan Arkadyevitch was smiling
and beckoning to his brother-in-law. The lady smiled a kindly
smile too, and she too waved her hand to Alexey Alexandrovitch.
It was Dolly with her children.

Alexey Alexandrovitch did not want to see anyone in Moscow, and
least of all his wife's brother. He raised his hat and would
have driven on, but Stepan Arkadyevitch told his coachman to
stop, and ran across the snow to him.

"Well, what a shame not to have let us know! Been here long? I
was at Dussot's yesterday and saw 'Karenin' on the visitors'
list, but it never entered my head that it was you," said Stepan
Arkadyevitch, sticking his head in at the window of the carriage,
"or I should have looked you up. I am glad to see you!" he
said, knocking one foot against the other to shake the snow off.
"What a shame of you not to let us know!" he repeated.

"I had no time; I am very busy," Alexey Alexandrovitch responded
dryly.

"Come to my wife, she does so want to see you."

Alexey Alexandrovitch unfolded the rug in which his frozen feet
were wrapped, and getting out of his carriage made his way over
the snow to Darya Alexandrovna.

"Why, Alexey Alexandrovitch, what are you cutting us like this
for?" said Dolly, smiling.

"I was very busy. Delighted to see you!" he said in a tone
clearly indicating that he was annoyed by it. "How are you?"

"Tell me, how is my darling Anna?"

Alexey Alexandrovitch mumbled something and would have gone on.
But Stepan Arkadyevitch stopped him.

"I tell you what we'll do tomorrow. Dolly, ask him to dinner.
We'll ask Koznishev and Pestsov, so as to entertain him with our
Moscow celebrities."

"Yes, please, do come," said Dolly; "we will expect you at five,
or six o'clock, if you like. How is my darling Anna? How
long..."

"She is quite well," Alexey Alexandrovitch mumbled, frowning.
"Delighted!" and he moved away towards his carriage.

"You will come?" Dolly called after him.

Alexey Alexandrovitch said something which Dolly could not catch
in the noise of the moving carriages.

"I shall come round tomorrow!" Stepan Arkadyevitch shouted to
him.

Alexey Alexandrovitch got into his carriage, and buried himself
in it so as neither to see nor be seen.

"Queer fish!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch to his wife, and glancing
at his watch, he made a motion of his hand before his face,
indicating a caress to his wife and children, and walked jauntily
along the pavement.

"Stiva! Stiva!" Dolly called, reddening.

He turned round.

"I must get coats, you know, for Grisha and Tanya. Give me the
money."

"Never mind; you tell them I'll pay the bill!" and he vanished,
nodding genially to an acquaintance who drove by.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
Nabou.com: the big site