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Chapter 20


"Here's Dolly for you, princess, you were so anxious to see her,"
said Anna, coming out with Darya Alexandrovna onto the stone
terrace where Princess Varvara was sitting in the shade at an
embroidery frame, working at a cover for Count Alexey
Kirillovitch's easy chair. "She says she doesn't want anything
before dinner, but please order some lunch for her, and I'll go
and look for Alexey and bring them all in."

Princess Varvara gave Dolly a cordial and rather patronizing
reception, and began at once explaining to her that she was
living with Anna because she had always cared more for her than
her sister Katerina Pavlovna, the aunt that had brought Anna up,
and that now, when every onehad abandoned Anna, she thought it
her duty to help her in this most difficult period of transition.

"Her husband will give her a divorce, and then I shall go back to
my solitude; but now I can be of use, and I am doing my duty,
however difficult it may be for me--not like some other people.
And how sweet it is of you, how right of you to have come! They
live like the best of married couples; it's for God to judge
them, not for us. And didn't Biryuzovsky and Madame
Avenieva...and Sam Nikandrov, and Vassiliev and Madame Mamonova,
and Liza Neptunova... Did no one say anything about them? And
it has ended by their being received by everyone. And then,
c'est un interieur si joli, si comme il faut. Tout-a-fait a
l'anglaise. On se reunit le matin au breakfast, et puis on se
separe. Everyone does as he pleases till dinnertime. Dinner at
seven o'clock. Stiva did very rightly to send you. He needs
their support. You know that through his mother and brother he
can do anything. And then they do so much good. He didn't tell
you about his hospital? Ce sera admirable--everything from
Paris."

Their conversation was interrupted by Anna, who had found the men
of the party in the billiard room, and returned with them to the
terrace. There was still a long time before the dinner-hour, it
was exquisite weather, and so several different methods of
spending the next two hours were proposed. There were very many
methods of passing the time at Vozdvizhenskoe, and these were all
unlike those in use at Pokrovskoe.

"Une partie de lawn-tennis," Veslovsky proposed, with his
handsome smile. "We'll be partners again, Anna Arkadyevna."

"No, it's too hot; better stroll about the garden and have a row
in the boat, show Darya Alexandrovna the river banks." Vronsky
proposed.

"I agree to anything," said Sviazhsky.

"I imagine that what Dolly would like best would be a stroll--
wouldn't you? And then the boat, perhaps," said Anna.

So it was decided. Veslovsky and Tushkevitch went off to the
bathing place, promising to get the boat ready and to wait there
for them.

They walked along the path in two couples, Anna with Sviazhsky,
and Dolly with Vronsky. Dolly was a little embarrassed and
anxious in the new surroundings in which she found herself.
Abstractly, theoretically, she did not merely justify, she
positively approved of Anna's conduct. As is indeed not
unfrequent with women of unimpeachable virtue, weary of the
monotony of respectable existence, at a distance she not only
excused illicit love, she positively envied it. Besides, she
loved Anna with all her heart. But seeing Anna in actual life
among these strangers, with this fashionable tone that was so new
to Darya Alexandrovna, she felt ill at ease. What she disliked
particularly was seeing Princess Varvara ready to overlook
everything for the sake of the comforts she enjoyed.

As a general principle, abstractly, Dolly approved of Anna's
action; but to see the man for whose sake her action had been
taken was disagreeable to her. Moreover, she had never liked
Vronsky. She thought him very proud, and saw nothing in him of
which he could be proud except his wealth. But against her own
will, here in his own house, he overawed her more than ever, and
she could not be at ease with him. She felt with him the same
feeling she had had with the maid about her dressing jacket.
Just as with the maid she had felt not exactly ashamed, but
embarrassed at her darns, so she felt with him not exactly
ashamed, but embarrassed at herself.

Dolly was ill at ease, and tried to find a subject of
conversation. Even though she supposed that, through his pride,
praise of his house and garden would be sure to be disagreeable
to him, she did all the same tell him how much she liked his
house.

"Yes, it's a very fine building, and in the good old-fashioned
style," he said.

"I like so much the court in front of the steps. Was that
always so?"

"Oh, no!" he said, and his face beamed with pleasure. "If you
could only have seen that court last spring!"

And he began, at first rather diffidently, but more and more
carried away by the subject as he went on, to draw her attention
to the various details of the decoration of his house and garden.
It was evident that, having devoted a great deal of trouble to
improve and beautify his home, Vronsky felt a need to show off
the improvements to a new person, and was genuinely delighted at
Darya Alexandrovna's praise.

"If you would care to look at the hospital, and are not tired,
indeed, it's not far. Shall we go?" he said, glancing into her
face to convince himself that she was not bored. "Are you
coming, Anna?" he turned to her.

"We will come, won't we?" she said, addressing Sviazhsky. "Mais
il ne faut pas laisser le pauvre Veslovsky et Tushkevitch se
morfondre la dans le bateau. We must send and tell them."

"Yes, this is a monument he is setting up here," said Anna,
turning to Dolly with that sly smile of comprehension with which
she had previously talked about the hospital.

"Oh, it's a work of real importance!" said Sviazhsky. But to
show he was not trying to ingratiate himself with Vronsky, he
promptly added some slightly critical remarks.

"I wonder, though, count," he said, "that while you do so much
for the health of the peasants, you take so little interest in
the schools."

"C'est devenu tellement commun les ecoles," said Vronsky. "You
understand it's not on that account, but it just happens so, my
interest has been diverted elsewhere. This way then to the
hospital," he said to Darya Alexandrovna, pointing to a turning
out of the avenue.

The ladies put up their parasols and turned into the side path.
After going down several turnings, and going through a little
gate, Darya Alexandrovna saw standing on rising ground before her
a large pretentious-looking red building, almost finished. The
iron roof, which was not yet painted, shone with dazzling
brightness in the sunshine. Beside the finished building another
had been begun, surrounded by scaffolding. Workmen in aprons,
standing on scaffolds, were laying bricks, pouring mortar out of
vats, and smoothing it with trowels.

"How quickly work gets done with you!" said Sviazhsky. "When I
was here last time the roof was not on."

"By the autumn it will all be ready. Iside almost everything is
done," said Anna.

"And what's this new building?"

"That's the house for the doctor and the dispensary," answered
Vronsky, seeing the architect in a short jacket coming towards
him; and excusing himself to the ladies, he went to meet him.

Going round a hole where the workmen were slaking lime, he stood
still with the architect and began talking rather warmly.

"The front is still too low," he said to Anna, who had asked what
was the matter.

"I said the foundation ought to be raised," said Anna.

"Yes, of course it would have been much better, Anna Arkadyevna,"
said the architect, "but now it's too late."

"Yes, I take a great interest in it," Anna answered Sviazhsky,
who was expressing his surprise at her knowledge of architecture.
"This new building ought to have been in harmony with the
hospital. It was an afterthought, and was begun without a plan."

Vronsky, having finished his talk with the architect, joined the
ladies, and led them inside the hospital.

Although they were still at work on the cornices outside and were
painting on the ground floor, upstairs almost all the rooms were
finished. Going up the broad cast-iron staircase to the landing,
they walked into the first large room. The walls were stuccoed
to look like marble, the huge plate-glass windows were already
in, only the parquet floor was not yet finished, and the
carpenters, who were planing a block of it, left their work,
taking off the bands that fastened their hair, to greet the
gentry.

"This is the reception room," said Vronsky. "Here there will be
a desk, tables, and benches, and nothing more."

"This way; let us go in here. Don't go near the window," said
Anna, trying the paint to see if it were dry. "Alexey, the
paint's dry already," she added.

From the reception room they went into the corridor. Here
Vronsky showed them the mechanism for ventilation on a novel
system. Then he showed them marble baths, and beds with
extraordinary springs. Then he showed them the wards one after
another, the storeroom, the linen room, then the heating stove
of a new pattern, then the trolleys, which would make no noise as
they carried everything needed along the corridors, and many
other things. Sviazhsky, as a connoisseur in the latest
mechanical improvements, appreciated everything fully. Dolly
simply wondered at all she had not seen before, and, anxious to
understand it all, made minute inquiries about everything, which
gave Vronsky great satisfaction.

"Yes, I imagine that this will be the solitary example of a
properly fitted hospital in Russia," said Sviazhsky.

"And won't you have a lying-in ward?" asked Dolly. "That's so
much needed in the country. I have often..."

In spite of his usual courtesy, Vronsky interrupted her.

"This is not a lying-in home, but a hospital for the sick, and is
intended for all diseases, except infectious complaints," he
said. "Ah! look at this," and he rolled up to Darya Alexandrovna
an invalid chair that had just been ordered for the
convalescents. "Look." He sat down in the chair and began
moving it. "The patient can't walk--still too weak, perhaps, or
something wrong with his legs, but he must have air, and he
moves, rolls himself along...."

Darya Alexandrovna was interested by everything. She liked
everything very much, but most of all she liked Vronsky himself
with his natural, simple-hearted eagerness. "Yes, he's a very
nice, good man," she thought several times, not hearing what he
said, but looking at him and penetrating into his expression,
while she mentally put herself in Anna's place. She liked him so
much just now with his eager interest that she saw how Anna could
be in love with him.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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