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Chapter 17


Next day at eleven o'clock in the morning Vronsky drove to the
station of the Petersburg railway to meet his mother, and the
first person he came across on the great flight of steps was
Oblonsky, who was expecting his sister by the same train.

"Ah! your excellency!" cried Oblonsky, "whom are you meeting?"

"My mother," Vronsky responded, smiling, as everyone did who met
Oblonsky. He shook hands with him, and together they ascended
the steps. "She is to be here from Petersburg today."

"I was looking out for you till two o'clock last night. Where
did you go after the Shtcherbatskys'?"

"Home," answered Vronsky. "I must own I felt so well content
yesterday after the Shtcherbatskys' that I didn't care to go
anywhere."

"I know a gallant steed by tokens sure,
And by his eyes I know a youth in love,"

declaimed Stepan Arkadyevitch, just as he had done before to
Levin.

Vronsky smiled with a look that seemed to say that he did not
deny it, but he promptly changed the subject.

"And whom are you meeting?" he asked.

"I? I've come to meet a pretty woman," said Oblonsky.

"You don't say so!"

"Honi soit qui mal y pense! My sister Anna."

"Ah! that's Madame Karenina," said Vronsky.

"You know her, no doubt?"

"I think I do. Or perhaps not...I really am not sure," Vronsky
answered heedlessly, with a vague recollection of something stiff
and tedious evoked by the name Karenina.

"But Alexey Alexandrovitch, my celebrated brother-in-law, you
surely must know. All the world knows him."

"I know him by reputation and by sight. I know that he's clever,
learned, religious somewhat.... But you know that's not...not
in my line," said Vronsky in English.

"Yes, he's a very remarkable man; rather a conservative, but a
splendid man," observed Stepan Arkadyevitch, "a splendid man."

"Oh, well, so much the better for him," said Vronsky smiling.
"Oh, you've come," he said, addressing a tall old footman of his
mother's, standing at the door; "come here."

Besides the charm Oblonsky had in general for everyone, Vronsky
had felt of late specially drawn to him by the fact that in his
imagination he was associated with Kitty.

"Well, what do you say? Shall we give a supper on Sunday for the
diva?" he said to him with a smile, taking his arm.

"Of course. I'm collecting subscriptions. Oh, did yo make the
acquaintance of my friend Levin?" asked Stepan Arkadyevitch.

"Yes; but he left rather early."

"He's a capital fellow," pursued Oblonsky. "Isn't he?"

"I don't know why it is," responded Vronsky, "in all Moscow
people--present company of course excepted," he put in
jestingly, "there's something uncompromising. They are all on
the defensive, lose their tempers, as though they all want to
make one feel something..."

"Yes, that's true, it is so," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, laughing
good-humoredly.

"Will the train soon be in?" Vronsky asked a railway official.

"The train's signaled," answered the man.

The approach of the train was more and more evident by the
preparatory bustle in the station, the rush of porters, the
movement of policemen and attendants, and people meeting the
train. Through the frosty vapor could be seen workmen in short
sheepskins and soft felt boots crossing the rails of the curving
line. The hiss of the boiler could be heard on the distant
rails, and the rumble of something heavy.

"No," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, who felt a great inclination to
tell Vronsky of Levin's intentions in regard to Kitty. "No,
you've not got a true impression of Levin. He's a very nervous
man, and is sometimes out of humor, it's true, but then he is
often very nice. He's such a true, honest nature, and a heart of
gold. But yesterday there were special reasons," pursued Stepan
Arkadyevitch, with a meaning smile, totally oblivious of the
genuine sympathy he had felt the day before for his friend, and
feeling the same sympathy now, only for Vronsky. "Yes, there
were reasons why he could not help being either particularly
happy or particularly unhappy."

Vronsky stood still and asked directly: "How so? Do you mean he
made your belle-soeur an offer yesterday?"

"Maybe," said Stepan Arkadyevitch. "I fancied something of the
sort yesterday. Yes, if he went away early, and was out of humor
too, it must mean it.... He's been so long in love, and I'm very
sorry for him."

"So that's it! I should imagine, though, she might reckon on a
better match," said Vronsky, drawing himself up and walking about
again, "though I don't know him, of course," he added. "Yes,
that is a hateful position! That's why most fellows prefer to
have to do with Klaras. If you don't succeed with them it only
proves that you've not enough cash, but in this case one's
dignity's at stake. But here's the train."

The engine had already whistled in the distance. A few instants
later the platform was quivering, and with puffs of steam hanging
low in the air from the frost, the engine rolled up, with the
lever of the middle wheel rhythmically moving up and down, and
the stooping figure of the engine-driver covered with frost.
Behind the tender, setting the platform more and more slowly
swaying, came the luggage van with a dog whining in it. At last
the passenger carriages rolled in, oscillating before coming to a
standstill.

A smart guard jumped out, giving a whistle, and after him one by
one the impatient passengers began to get down: an officer of
the guards, holding himself erect, and looking severely about
him; a nimble little merchant with a satchel, smiling gaily; a
peasant with a sack over his shoulder.

Vronsky, standing beside Oblonsky, watched the carriages and the
passengers, totally oblivious of his mother. What he had just
heard about Kitty excited and delighted him. Unconsciously he
arched his chest, and his eyes flashed. He felt himself a
conqueror.

"Countess Vronskaya is in that compartment," said the smart
guard, going up to Vronsky.

The guard's words roused him, and forced him to think of his
mother and his approaching meeting with her. He did not in his
heart respect his mother, and without acknowledging it to
himself, he did not love her, though in accordance with the
ideas of the set in which he lived, and with his own education,
he could not have conceived of any behavior to his mother not in
the highest degree respectful and obedient, and the more
externally obedient and respectful his behavior, the less in his
heart he respected and loved her.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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