eBooks Cube
Chapter 7

Vronsky and Anna had been traveling for three months together in
Europe. They had visited Venice, Rome, and Naples, and had just
arrived at a small Italian town where they meant to stay some
time. A handsome head waiter, with thick pomaded hair parted
from the neck upwards, an evening coat, a broad white cambric
shirt front, and a bunch of trinkets hanging above his rounded
stomach, stood with his hands in the full curve of his pockets,
looking contemptuously from under his eyelids while he gave some
frigid reply to a gentleman who had stopped him. Catching the
sound of footsteps coming from the other side of the entry
towards the staircase, the head waiter turned round, and seeing
the Russian count, who had taken their best rooms, he took his
hands out of his pockets deferentially, and with a bow informed
him that a courier had been, and that the business about the
palazzo had been arranged. The steward was prepared to sign the

"Ah! I'm glad to hear it," said Vronsky. "Is madame at home or

"Madame has been out for a walk but has returned now," answered
the waiter.

Vronsky took off his soft, wide-brimmed hat and passed his
handkerchief over his heated brow and hair, which had grown half
over his ears, and was brushed back covering the bald patch on
his head. And glancing casually at the gentleman, who still
stood there gazing intently at him, he would have gone on.

"This gentleman is a Russian, and was inquiring after you," said
the head waiter.

With mingled feelings of annoyance at never being able to get
away from acquaintances anywhere, and longing to find some sort
of diversion from the monotony of his life, Vronsky looked once
more at the gentleman, who had retreated and stood still again,
and at the same moment a light came into the eyes of both.



It really was Golenishtchev, a comrade of Vronsky's in the Corps
of Pages. In the corps Golenishtchev had belonged to the liberal
party; he left the corps without entering the army, and had never
taken office under the government. Vronsky and he had gone
completely different ways on leaving the corps, and had only met
once since.

At that meeting Vronsky perceived that Golenishtchev had taken up
a sort of lofty, intellectually liberal line, and was
consequently disposed to look down upon Vronsky's interests and
calling in life. Hence Vronsky had met him with the chilling and
haughty manner he so well knew how to assume, the meaning of
which was: "You may like or dislike my way of life, that's a
matter of the most perfect indifference to me; you will have to
treat me with respect if you want to know me." Golenishtchev had
been contemptuously indifferent to the tone taken by Vronsky.
This second meeting might have been expected, one would have
supposed, to estrange them still more. But now they beamed and
exclaimed with delight on recognizing one another. Vronsky would
never have expected to be so pleased to see Golenishtchev, but
probably he was not himself aware how bored he was. He forgot
the disagreeable impression of their last meeting, and with a
face of frank delight held out his hand to his old comrade. The
same expression of delight replaced the look of uneasiness on
Golenishtchev's face.

"How glad I am to meet you!" said Vronsky, showing his strong
white teeth in a friendly smile.

"I heard the name Vronsky, but I didn't know which one. I'm
very, very glad!"

"Let's go in. Come, tell me what you're doing."

"I've been living here for two years. I'm working."

"Ah!" said Vronsky, with sympathy; "let's go in." And with the
habit common with Russians, instead of saying in Russian what he
wanted to keep from the servants, he began to speak in French.

"Do you know Madame Karenina? We are traveling together. I am
going to see her now," he said in French, carefully scrutinizing
Golenishtchev's face.

"Ah! I did not know" (though he did know), Golenishtchev answered
carelessly. "Have you been here long?" he added.

"Four days," Vronsky answered, once more scrutinizing his
friend's face intently.

"Yes, he's a decent fellow, and will look at the thing properly,"
Vronsky said to himself, catching the significance of
Golenishtchev's face and the change of subject. "I can introduce
him to Anna, he looks at it properly."

During those three months that Vronsky had spent abroad with
Anna, he had always on meeting new people asked himself how the
new person would look at his relations with Anna, and for the
most part, in men, he had met with the "proper" way of looking at
it. But if he had been asked, and those who looked at it
"properly" had been asked, exactly how they did look at it, both
he and they would have been greatly puzzled to answer.

In reality, those who in Vronsky's opinion had the "proper" view
had no sort of view at all, but behaved in general as well-bred
persons do behave in regard to all the complex and insoluble
problems with which life is encompassed on all sides; they
behaved with propriety, avoiding allusions and unpleasant
questions. They assumed an air of fully comprehending the import
and force of the situation, of accepting and even approving of
it, but of considering it superfluous and uncalled for to put all
this into words.

Vronsky at once divined that Golenishtchev was of this class, and
therefore was doubly pleased to see him. And in fact,
Golenishtchev's manner to Madame Karenina, when he was taken to
call on her, was all that Vronsky could have desired. Obviously
without the slightest effort he steered clear of all subjects
which might lead to embarrassment.

He had never met Anna before, and was struck by her beauty, and
still more by the frankness with which she accepted her position.
She blushed when Vronsky brought in Golenishtchev, and he was
extremely charmed by this childish blush overspreading her candid
and handsome face. But what he liked particularly was the way in
which at once, as though on purpose that there might be no
misunderstanding with an outsider, she called Vronsky simply
Alexey, and said they were moving into a house they had just
taken, what was here called a palazzo. Golenishtchev liked this
direct and simple attitude to her own position. Looking at
Anna's manner of simple-hearted, spirited gaiety, and knowing
Alexey Alexandrovitch and Vronsky, Golenishtchev fancied that he
understood her perfectly. He fancied that he understood what she
was utterly unable to understand: how it was that, having made
her husband wretched, having abandoned him and her son and lost
her good name, she yet felt full of spirits, gaiety, and

"It's in the guide-book," said Golenishtchev, referring to the
palazzo Vronsky had taken. "There's a first-rate Tintoretto
there. One of his latest period."

"I tell you what: it's a lovely day, let's go and have another
look at it," said Vronsky, addressing Anna.

"I shall be very glad to; I'll go and put on my hat. Would you
say it's hot?" she said, stopping short in the doorway and
looking inquiringly at Vronsky. And again a vivid flush
overspread her face.

Vronsky saw from her eyes that she did not know on what terms he
cared to be with Golenishtchev, and so was afraid of not behaving
as he would wish.

He looked a long, tender look at her.

"No, not very," he said.

And it seemed to her that she understood everything, most of all,
that he was pleased with her; and smiling to him, she walked with
her rapid step out at the door.

The friends glanced at one another, and a look of hesitation came
into both faces, as though Golenishtchev, unmistakably admiring
her, would have liked to say something about her, and could not
find the right thing to say, while Vronsky desired and dreaded
his doing so.

"Well then," Vronsky began to start a conversation of some sort;
"so you're settled here? You're still at the same work, then?"
he went on, recalling that he had been told Golenishtchev was
writing something.

"Yes, I'm writing the second part of the Two Elements," said
Golenishtchev, coloring with pleasure at the question--"that is,
to be exact, I am not writing it yet; I am preparing, collecting
materials. It will be of far wider scope, and will touch on
almost all questions. We in Russia refuse to see that we are the
heirs of Byzantium," and he launched into a long and heated
explanation of his views.

Vronsky at the first moment felt embarrassed at not even knowing
of the first part of the Two Elements, of which the author spoke
as something well known. But as Golenishtchev began to lay down
his opinions and Vronsky was able to follow them even without
knowing the Two Elements, he listened to him with some interest,
for Golenishtchev spoke well. But Vronsky was startled and
annoyed by the nervous irascibility with which Golenishtchev
talked of the subject that engrossed him. As he went on talking,
his eyes glittered more and more angrily; he was more and more
hurried in his replies to imaginary opponents, and his face grew
more and more excited and worried. Remembering Golenishtchev, a
thin, lively, good-natured and well-bred boy, always at the head
of the class, Vronsky could not make out the reason of his
irritability, and he did not like it. What he particularly
disliked was that Golenishtchev, a man belonging to a good set,
should put himself on a level with some scribbling fellows, with
whom he was irritated and angry. Was it worth it? Vronsky
disliked it, yet he felt that Golenishtchev was unhappy, and was
sorry for him. Unhappiness, almost mental derangement, was
visible on his mobile, rather handsome face, while without even
noticing Anna's coming in, he went on hurriedly and hotly
expressing his views.

When Anna came in in her hat and cape, and her lovely hand
rapidly swinging her parasol, and stood beside him, it was with a
feeling of relief that Vronsky broke away from the plaintive eyes
of Golenishtchev which fastened persistently upon him, and with a
fresh rush of love looked at his charming companion, full of life
and happiness. Golenishtchev recovered himself with an effort,
and at first was dejected and gloomy, but Anna, disposed to feel
friendly with everyone as she was at that time, soon revived his
spirits by her direct and lively manner. After trying various
subjects of conversation, she got him upon painting, of which he
talked very well, and she listened to him attentively. They
walked to the house they had taken, and looked over it.

"I am very glad of one thing," said Anna to Golenishtchev when
they were on their way back: "Alexey will have a capital atelier.
You must certainly take that room," she said to Vronsky in
Russian, using the affectionately familiar form as though she saw
that Golenishtchev would become intimate with them in their
isolation, and that there was no need of reserve before him.

"Do you paint?" said Golenishtchev, turning round quickly to

"Yes, I used to study long ago, and now I have begun to do a
little," said Vronsky, reddening.

"He has great talent," said Anna with a delighted smile. "I'm no
judge, of course. But good judges have said the same."

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