eBooks Cube
 
Chapter 17


The coachman pulled up his four horses and looked round to the
right, to a field of rye, where some peasants were sitting on a
cart. The counting house clerk was just going to jump down, but
on second thoughts he shouted peremptorily to the peasants
instead, and beckoned to them to come up. The wind, that seemed
to blow as they drove, dropped when the carriage stood still;
gadflies settled on the steaming horses that angrily shook them
off. The metallic clank of a whetstone against a scythe, that
came to them from the cart, ceased. One of the peasants got up
and came towards the carriage.

"Well, you are slow!" the counting house clerk shouted angrily to
the peasant who was stepping slowly with his bare feet over the
ruts of the rough dry road. "Come along, do!"

A curly-headed old man with a bit of bast tied round his hair,
and his bent back dark with perspiration, came towards the
carriage, quickening his steps, and took hold of the mud-guard
with his sunburnt hand.

"Vozdvizhenskoe, the manor house? the count's?" he repeated; "go
on to the end of this track. Then turn to the left. Straight
along the avenue and you'll come right upon it. But whom do you
want? The count himself?"

"Well, are they at home, my good man?" Darya Alexandrovna said
vaguely, not knowing how to ask about Anna, even of this peasant.

"At home for sure," said the peasant, shifting from one bare foot
to the other, and leaving a distinct print of five toes and a
heel in the dust. "Sure to be at home," he repeated, evidently
eager to talk. "Only yesterday visitors arrived. There's a
sight of visitors come. What do you want?" He turned round and
called to a lad, who was shouting something to him from the cart.
"Oh! They all rode by here not long since, to look at a reaping
machine. They'll be home by now. And who will you be belonging
to?..."

"We've come a long way," said the coachman, climbing onto the
box. "So it's not far?"

"I tell you, it's just here. As soon as you get out..." he said,
keeping hold all the while of the carriage.

A healthy-looking, broad-shouldered young fellow came up too.

"What, is it laborers they want for the harvest?" he asked.

"I don't know, my boy."

"So you keep to the left, and you'll come right on it," said the
peasant, unmistakably loth to let the travelers go, and eager to
converse.

The coachman started the horses, but they were only just turning
off when the peasant shouted: "Stop! Hi, friend! Stop!" called
the two voices. The coachman stopped.

"They're coming! They're yonder!" shouted the peasant. "See
what a turn-out!" he said, pointing to four persons on horseback,
and two in a char-a-banc, coming along the road.

They were Vronsky with a jockey, Veslovsky and Anna on horseback,
and Princess Varvara and Sviazhsky in the char-a-banc. They had
gone out to look at the working of a new reaping machine.

When the carriage stopped, the party on horseback were coming at
a walking pace. Anna was in front beside Veslovsky. Anna,
quietly walking her horse, a sturdy English cob with cropped mane
and short tail, her beautiful head with her black hair straying
loose under her high hat, her full shoulders, her slender waist
in her black riding habit, and all the ease and grace of her
deportment, impressed Dolly.

For the first minute it seemed to her unsuitable for Anna to be
on horseback. The conception of riding on horseback for a lady
was, in Darya Alexandrovna's mind, associated with ideas of
youthful flirtation and frivolity, which, in her opinion, was
unbecoming in Anna's position. But when she had scrutinized her,
seeing her closer, she was at once reconciled to her riding. In
spite of her elegance, everything was so simple, quiet, and
dignified in the attitude, the dress and the movements of Anna,
that nothing could have been more natural.

Beside Anna, on a hot-looking gray cavalry horse, was Vassenka
Veslovsky in his Scotch cap with floating ribbons, his stout
legs stretched out in front, obviously pleased with his own
appearance. Darya Alexandrovna could not suppress a good-humored
smile as she recognized him. Behind rode Vronsky on a dark bay
mare, obviously heated from galloping. He was holding her in,
pulling at the reins.

After him rode a little man in the dress of a jockey. Sviazhsky
and Princess Varvara in a new char-a-banc with a big, raven-black
trotting horse, overtook the party on horseback.

Anna's face suddenly beamed with a joyful smile at the instant
when, in the little figure huddled in a corner of the old
carriage, she recognized Dolly. She uttered a cry, started in
the saddle, and set her horse into a gallop. On reaching the
carriage she jumped off without assistance, and holding up her
riding habit, she ran up to greet Dolly.

"I thought it was you and dared not think it. How delightful!
You can't fancy how glad I am!" she said, at one moment pressing
her face against Dolly and kissing her, and at the next holding
her off and examining her with a smile.

"Here's a delightful surprise, Alexey!" she said, looking round
at Vronsky, who had dismounted, and was walking towards them.

Vronsky, taking off his tall gray hat, went up to Dolly.

"You wouldn't believe how glad we are to see you," he said,
giving peculiar significance to the words, and showing his strong
white teeth in a smile.

Vassenka Veslovsky, without getting off his horse, took off his
cap and greeted the visitor by gleefully waving the ribbons over
his head.

"That's Princess Varvara," Anna said in reply to a glance of
inquiry from Dolly as the char-a-banc drove up.

"Ah!" said Darya Alexandrovna, and unconsciously her face
betrayed her dissatisfaction.

Princess Varvara was her husband's aunt, and she had long known
her, and did not respect her. She knew that Princess Varvara had
passed her whole life toadying on her rich relations, but that
she should now be sponging on Vronsky, a man who was nothing to
her, mortified Dolly on account of her kinship with her husband.
Anna noticed Dolly's expression, and was disconcerted by it. She
blushed, dropped her riding habit, and stumbled over it.

Darya Alexandrovna went up to the char-a-banc and coldly greeted
Princess Varvara. Sviazhsky too she knew. He inquired how his
queer friend with the young wife was, and running his eyes over
the ill-matched horses and the carriage with its patched
mud-guards, proposed to the ladies that they should get into the
char-a-banc.

"And I'll get into this vehicle," he said. "The horse is quiet,
and the princess drives capitally."

"No, stay as you were," said Anna, coming up, "and we'll go in
the carriage," and taking Dolly's arm, she drew her away.

Darya Alexandrovna's eyes were fairly dazzled by the elegant
carriage of a pattern she had never seen before, the splendid
horses, and the elegant and gorgeous people surrounding her. But
what struck her most of all was the change that had taken place
in Anna, whom she knew so well and loved. Any other woman, a
less close observer, not knowing Anna before, or not having
thought as Darya Alexandrovna had been thinking on the road,
would not have noticed anything special in Anna. But now Dolly
was struck by that temporary beauty, which is only found in
women during the moments of love, and which she saw now in Anna's
face. Everything in her face, the clearly marked dimples in her
cheeks and chin, the line of her lips, the smile which, as it
were, fluttered about her face, the brilliance of her eyes, the
grace and rapidity of her move meets, the fulness of the notes of
her voice, even the manner in which, with a sort of angry
friendliness, she answered Veslovsky when he asked permission to
get on her cob, so as to teach it to gallop with the right leg
foremost--it was all peculiarly fascinating, and it seemed as if
she were herself aware of it, and rejoicing in it.

When both the women were seated in the carriage, a sudden
embarrassment came over both of them. Anna was disconcerted by
the intent look of inquiry Dolly fixed upon her. Dolly was
embarrassed because after Sviazhsky's phrase about "this
vehicle," she could not help feeling ashamed of the dirty old
carriage in which Anna was sitting with her. The coachman Philip
and the counting house clerk were experiencing the same
sensation. The counting house clerk, to conceal his confusion,
busied himself settling the ladies, but Philip the coachman
became sullen, and was bracing himself not to be overawed in
future by this external superiority. He smiled ironically,
looking at the raven horse, and was already deciding in his own
mind that this smart trotter in the char-a-banc was only good for
promenage, and wouldn't do thirty miles straight off in the heat.

The peasants had all got up from the cart and were inquisitively
and mirthfully staring at the meeting of the friends, making
their comments on it.

"They're pleased, too; haven't seen each other for a long while,"
said the curly-headed old man with the bast round his hair.

"I say, Uncle Gerasim, if we could take that raven horse now, to
cart the corn, that 'ud be quick work!"

"Look-ee! Is that a woman in breeches?" said one of them,
pointing to Vassenka Veslovsky sitting in a side saddle.

"Nay, a man! See how smartly he's going it!"

"Eh, lads! seems we're not going to sleep, then?"

"What chance of sleep today!" said the old man, with a sidelong
look at the sun. "Midday's past, look-ee! Get your hooks, and
come along!"



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