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Chapter 31


The newly elected marshal and many of the successful party dined
that day with Vronsky.

Vronsky had come to the elections partly because he was bored in
the country and wanted to show Anna his right to independence,
and also to repay Sviazhsky by his support at the election for
all the trouble he had taken for Vronsky at the district council
election, but chiefly in order strictly to perform all those
duties of a nobleman and landowner which he had taken upon
himself. But he had not in the least expected that the election
would so interest him, so keenly excite him, and that he would be
so good at this kind of thing. He was quite a new man in the
circle of the nobility of the province, but his success was
unmistakable, and he was not wrong in supposing that he had
already obtained a certain influence. This influence was due to
his wealth and reputation, the capital house in the town lent him
by his old friend Shirkov, who had a post in the department of
finances and was director of a nourishing bank in Kashin; the
excellent cook Vronsky had brought from the country, and his
friendship with the governor, who was a schoolfellow of
Vronsky's--a schoolfellow he had patronized and protected indeed.
But what contributed more than all to his success was his direct,
equable manner with everyone, which very quickly made the
majority of the noblemen reverse the current opinion of his
supposed haughtiness. He was himself conscious that, except that
whimsical gentleman married to Kitty Shtcherbatskaya, who had a
propos de bottes poured out a stream of irrelevant absurdities
with such spiteful fury, every nobleman with whom he had made
acquaintance had become his adherent. He saw clearly, and other
people recognized it, too, that he had done a great deal to
secure the success of Nevyedovsky. And now at his own table,
celebrating Nevyedovsky's election, he was experiencing an
agreeable sense of triumph over the success of his candidate.
The election itself had so fascinated him that, if he could
succeed in getting married during the next three years, he began
to think of standing himself--much as after winning a race ridden
by a jockey, he had longed to ride a race himself.

Today he was celebrating the success of his jockey. Vronsky sat
at the head of the table, on his right hand sat the young
governor, a general of high rank. To all the rest he was the
chief man in the province, who had solemnly opened the elections
with his speech, and aroused a feeling of respect and even of awe
in many people, as Vronsky saw; to Vronsky he was little Katka
Maslov--that had been his nickname in the Pages' Corps--whom he
felt to be shy and tried to mettre a son aise. On the left hand
sat Nevyedovsky with his youthful, stubborn, and malignant face.
With him Vronsky was simple and deferential.

Sviazhsky took his failure very light-heartedly. It was indeed
no failure in his eyes, as he said himself, turning, glass in
hand, to Nevyedovsky; they could not have found a better
representative of the new movement, which the nobility ought to
follow. And so every honest person, as he said, was on the side
of today's success and was rejoicing over it.

Stepan Arkadyevitch was glad, too, that he was having a good
time, and that everyone was pleased. The episode of the
elections served as a good occasion for a capital dinner.
Sviazhsky comically imitated the tearful discourse of the
marshal, and observed, addressing Nevyedovsky, that his
excellency would have to select another more complicated method
of auditing the accounts than tears. Another nobleman jocosely
described how footmen in stockings had been ordered for the
marshal's ball, and how now they would have to be sent back
unless the new marshal would give a ball with footmen in
stockings.

Continually during dinner they said of Nevyedovsky: "our
marshal," and "your excellency."

This was said with the same pleasure with which a bride is called
"Madame" and her husband's name. Nevyedovsky affected to be not
merely indifferent but scornful of this appellation, but it was
obvious that he was highly delighted, and had to keep a curb on
himself not to betray the triumph which was unsuitable to their
new liberal tone.

After dinner several telegrams were sent to people interested in
the result of the election. And Stepan Arkadyevitch, who was in
high good humor, sent Darya Alexandrovna a telegram: "Nevyedovsky
elected by twenty votes. Congratulations. Tell people." He
dictated it aloud, saying: "We must let them share our
rejoicing." Darya Alexandrovna, getting the message, simply
sighed over the rouble wasted on it, and understood that it was
an after-dinner affair. She knew Stiva had a weakness after
dining for faire jouer le telegraphe.

Everything, together with the excellent dinner and the wine, not
from Russian merchants, but imported direct from abroad, was
extremely dignified, simple, and enjoyable. The party--some
twenty--had been selected by Sviazhsky from among the more active
new liberals, all of the same way of thinking, who were at the
same time clever and well bred. They drank, also half in jest,
to the health of the new marshal of the province, of the
governor, of the bank director, and of "our amiable host."

Vronsky was satisfied. He had never expected to find so pleasant
a tone in the provinces.

Towards the end of dinner it was still more lively. The governor
asked Vronsky to come to a concert for the benefit of the
Servians which his wife, who was anxious to make his
acquaintance, had been getting up.

"There'll be a ball, and you'll see the belle of the province.
Worth seeing, really."

"Not in my line," Vronsky answered. He liked that English
phrase. But he smiled, and promised to come.

Before they rose from the table, when all of them were smoking,
Vronsky's valet went up to him with a letter on a tray.

"From Vozdvizhenskoe by special messenger," he said with a
significant expression.

"Astonishing! how like he is to the deputy prosecutor
Sventitsky," said one of the guests in French of the valet, while
Vronsky, frowning, read the letter.

The letter was from Anna. Before he read the letter, he knew its
contents. Expecting the elections to be over in five days, he
had promised to be back on Friday. Today was Saturday, and he
knew that the letter contained reproaches for not being back at
the time fixed. The letter he had sent the previous evening had
probably not reached her yet.

The letter was what he had expected, but the form of it was
unexpected, and particularly disagreeable to him. "Annie is very
ill, the doctor says it may be inflammation. I am losing my
head all alone. Princess Varvara is no help, but a hindrance. I
expected you the day before yesterday, and yesterday, and now I
am sending to find out where you are and what you are doing. I
wanted to come myself, but thought better of it, knowing you
would dislike it. Send some answer, that I may know what to
do."

The child ill, yet she had thought of coming herself. Their
daughter ill, and this hostile tone.

The innocent festivities over the election, and this gloomy,
burdensome love to which he had to return struck Vronsky by their
contrast. But he had to go, and by the first train that night he
set off home.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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