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Chapter 25


Vronsky and Anna spent the whole summer and part of the winter
in the country, living in just the same condition, and still
taking no steps to obtain a divorce. It was an understood thing
between them that they should not go away anywhere; but both
felt, the longer they lived alone, especially in the autumn,
without guests in the house, that they could not stand this
existence, and that they would have to alter it.

Their life was apparently such that nothing better could be
desired. They had the fullest abundance of everything; they had
a child, and both had occupation. Anna devoted just as much care
to her appearance when they had no visitors, and she did a great
deal of reading, both of novels and of what serious literature
was in fashion. She ordered all the books that were praised in
the foreign papers and reviews she received, and read them with
that concentrated attention which is only given to what is read
in seclusion. Moreover, every subject that was of interest to
Vronsky, she studied in books and special journals, so that he
often went straight to her with questions relating to agriculture
or architecture, sometimes even with questions relating to
horse-breeding or sport. He was amazed at her knowledge, her
memory, and at first was disposed to doubt it, to ask for
confirmation of her facts; and she would find what he asked for
in some book, and show it to him.

The building of the hospital, too, interested her. She did not
merely assist, but planned and suggested a great deal herself.
But her chief thought was still of herself--how far she was dear
to Vronsky, how far she could make up to him for all he had given
up. Vronsky appreciated this desire not only to please, but to
serve him, which had become the sole aim of her existence, but at
the same time he wearied of the loving snares in which she tried
to hold him fast. As time went on, and he saw himself more and
more often held fast in these snares, he had an ever growing
desire, not so much to escape from them, as to try whether they
hindered his freedom. Had it not been for this growing desire to
be free, not to have scenes every time he wanted to go to the
town to a meeting or a race, Vronsky would have been perfectly
satisfied with his life. The role he had taken up, the role of a
wealthy landowner, one of that class which ought to be the very
heart of the Russian aristocracy, was entirely to his taste; and
now, after spending six months in that character, he derived even
greater satisfaction from it. And his management of his estate,
which occupied and absorbed him more and more, was most
successful. In spite of the immense sums cost him by the
hospital, by machinery, by cows ordered from Switzerland, and
many other things, he was convinced that he was not wasting, but
increasing his substance. In all matters affecting income, the
sales of timber, wheat, and wool, the letting of lands, Vronsky
was hard as a rock, and knew well how to keep up prices. In all
operations on a large scale on this and his other estates, he
kept to the simplest methods involving no risk, and in trifling
details he was careful and exacting to an extreme degree. In
spite of all the cunning and ingenuity of the German steward, who
would try to tempt him into purchases by making his original
estimate always far larger than really required, and then
representing to Vronsky that he might get the thing cheaper, and
so make a profit, Vronsky did not give in. He listened to his
steward, cross-examined him, and only agreed to his suggestions
when the implement to be ordered or constructed was the very
newest, not yet known in Russia, and likely to excite wonder.
Apart from such exceptions, he resolved upon an increased outlay
only where there was a surplus, and in making such an outlay he
went into the minutest details, and insisted on getting the very
best for his money; so that by the method on which he managed his
affairs, it was clear that he was not wasting, but increasing his
substance.

In October there were the provincial elections in the Kashinsky
province, where were the estates of Vronsky, Sviazhsky,
Koznishev, Oblonsky, and a small part of Levin's land.

These elections were attracting public attention from several
circumstances connected with them, and also from the people
taking part in them. There had been a great deal of talk about
them, and great preparations were being made for them. Persons
who never attended the elections were coming from Moscow, from
Petersburg, and from abroad to attend these. Vronsky had long
before promised Sviazhsky to go to them. Before the elections
Sviazhsky, who often visited Vozdvizhenskoe, drove over to fetch
Vronsky. On the day before there had been almost a quarrel
between Vronsky and Anna over this proposed expedition. It was
the very dullest autumn weather, which is so dreary in the
country, and so, preparing himself for a struggle, Vronsky, with
a hard and cold expression, informed Anna of his departure as he
had never spoken to her before. But, to his surprise, Anna
accepted the information with great composure, and merely asked
when he would be back. He looked intently at her, at a loss to
explain this composure. She smiled at his look. He knew that
way she had of withdrawing into herself, and knew that it only
happened when she had determined upon something without letting
him know her plans. He was afraid of this; but he was so anxious
to avoid a scene that he kept up appearances, and half sincerely
believed in what he longed to believe in--her reasonableness.

"I hope you won't be dull?"

"I hope not," said Anna. "I got a box of books yesterday from
Gautier's. No, I shan't be dull."

"She's trying to take that tone, and so much the better," he
thought, "or else it would be the same thing over and over
again."

And he set off for the elections without appealing to her for a
candid explanation. It was the first time since the beginning of
their intimacy that he had parted from her without a full
explanation. From one point of view this troubled him, but on
the other side he felt that it was better so. "At first there
will be, as this time, something undefined kept back, and then
she will get used to it. I any case I can give up anything for
her, but not my masculine independence," he thought.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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