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Chapter 20


Stepan Arkadyevitch, as usual, did not waste his time in
Petersburg. In Petersburg, besides business, his sister's
divorce, and his coveted appointment, he wanted, as he always
did, to freshen himself up, as he said, after the mustiness of
Moscow.

In spite of its cafes chantants and its omnibuses, Moscow was yet
a stagnant bog. Stepan Arkadyevitch always felt it. After
living for some time in Moscow, especially in close relations
with his family, he was conscious of a depression of spirits.
After being a long time in Moscow without a change, he reached a
point when he positively began to be worrying himself over his
wife's ill-humor and reproaches, over his children's health and
education, and the petty details of his official work; even the
fact of being in debt worried him. But he had only to go and
stay a little while in Petersburg, in the circle there in which
he moved, where people lived--really lived--instead of vegetating
as in Moscow, and all such ideas vanished and melted away at
once, like wax before the fire. His wife?... Only that day he
had been talking to Prince Tchetchensky. Prince Tchetchensky had
a wife and family, grown-up pages in the corps,...and he had
another illegitimate family of children also. Though the first
family was very nice too, Prince Tchetchensky felt happier in his
second family; and he used to take his eldest son with him to
his second family, and told Stepan Arkadyevitch that he thought
it good for his son, enlarging his ideas. What would have been
said to that in Moscow?

His children? In Petersburg children did not prevent their
parents from enjoying life. The children were brought up in
schools, and there was no trace of the wild idea that prevailed
in Moscow, in Lvov's household, for instance, that all the
luxuries of life were for the children, while the parents have
nothing but work and anxiety. Here people understood that a man
is in duty bound to live for himself, as every man of culture
should live.

His official duties? Official work here was not the stiff,
hopeless drudgery that it was in Moscow. Here there was some
interest in official life. A chance meeting, a service rendered,
a happy phrase, a knack of facetious mimicry, and a man's career
might be made in a trice. So it had been with Bryantsev, whom
Stepan Arkadyevitch had met the previous day, and who was one of
the highest functionaries in government now. There was some
interest in official work like that.

The Petersburg attitude on pecuniary matters had an especially
soothing effect on Stepan Arkadyevitch. Bartnyansky, who must
spend at least fifty thousand to judge by the style he lived in,
had made an interesting comment the day before on that subject.

As they were talking before dinner, Stepan Arkadyevitch said to
Bartnyansky:

"You're friendly, I fancy, with Mordvinsky; you might do me a
favor: say a word to him, please, for me. There's an appointment
I should like to get--secretary of the agency..."

"Oh, I shan't remember all that, if you tell it to me.... But
what possesses you to have to do with railways and Jews?... Take
it as you will, it's a low business."

Stepan Arkadyevitch did not say to Bartnyansky that it was a
"growing thing"--Bartnyansky would not have understood that.

"I want the money, I've nothing to live on."

"You're living, aren't you?"

"Yes, but in debt."

"Are you, though? Heavily?" said Bartnyansky sympathetically.

"Very heavily: twenty thousand."

Bartnyansky broke into good-humored laughter.

"Oh, lucky fellow!" said he. "My debts mount up to a million and
a half, and I've nothing, and still I can live, as you see!"

And Stepan Arkadyevitch saw the correctness of this view not in
words only but in actual fact. Zhivahov owed three hundred
thousand, and hadn't a farthing to bless himself with, and he
lived, and in style too! Count Krivtsov was considered a
hopeless case by everyone, and yet he kept two mistresses.
Petrovsky had run through five millions, and still lived in just
the same style, and was even a manager in the financial
department with a salary of twenty thousand. But besides this,
Petersburg had physically an agreeable effect on Stepan
Arkadyevitch. It made him younger. In Moscow he sometimes found
a gray hair in his head, dropped asleep after dinner, stretched,
walked slowly upstairs, breathing heavily, was bored by the
society of young women, and did not dance at balls. In
Petersburg he always felt ten years younger.

His experience in Petersburg was exactly what had been described
to him on the previous day by Prince Pyotr Oblonsky, a man of
sixty, who had just come back from abroad:

"We don't know the way to live here," said Pyotr Oblonsky. "I
spent the summer in Baden, and you wouldn't believe it, I felt
quite a young man. At a glimpse of a pretty woman, my
thoughts.... One dines and drinks a glass of wine, and feels
strong and ready for anything. I came home to Russia--had to see
my wife, and, what's more, go to my country place; and there,
you'd hardly believe it, in a fortnight I'd got into a dressing
gown and given up dressing for dinner. Needn't say I had no
thoughts left for pretty women. I became quite an old gentleman.
There was nothing left for me but to think of my eternal
salvation. I went off to Paris--I was as right as could be at
once."

Stepan Arkadyevitch felt exactly the difference that Pyotr
Oblonsky described. In Moscow he degenerated so much that if he
had had to be there for long together, he might in good earnest
have come to considering his salvation; in Petersburg he felt
himself a man of the world again.

Between Princess Betsy Tverskaya and Stepan Arkadyevitch there
had long existed rather curious relations. Stepan Arkadyevitch
always flirted with her in jest, and used to say to her, also in
jest, the most unseemly things, knowing that nothing delighted
her so much. The day after his conversation with Karenin, Stepan
Arkadyevitch went to see her, and felt so youthful that in this
jesting flirtation and nonsense he recklessly went so far that he
did not know how to extricate himself, as unluckily he was so far
from being attracted by her that he thought her positively
disagreeable. What made it hard to change the conversation was
the fact that he was very attractive to her. So that he was
considerably relieved at the arrival of Princess Myakaya, which
cut short their tete-a-tete.

"Ah, so you're here!" said she when she saw him. "Well, and what
news of your poor sister? You needn't look at me like that," she
added. "Ever since they've all turned against her, all those
who're a thousand times worse than she, I've thought she did a
very fine thing. I can't forgive Vronsky for not letting me know
when she was in Petersburg. I'd have gone to see her and gone
about with her everywhere. Please give her my love. Come, tell
me about her."

"Yes, her position is very difficult; she..." began Stepan
Arkadyevitch, in the simplicity of his heart accepting as
sterling coin Princess Myakaya's words "tell me about her."
Princess Myakaya interrupted him immediately, as she always did,
and began talking herself.

"She's done what they all do, except me--only they hide it. But
she wouldn't be deceitful, and she did a fine thing. And she did
better still in throwing up that crazy brother-in-law of yours.
You must excuse me. Everybody used to say he was so clever, so
very clever; I was the only one that said he was a fool. Now
that he's so thick with Lidia Ivanovna and Landau, they all say
he's crazy, and I should prefer not to agree with everybody, but
this time I can't help it."

"Oh, do please explain," said Stepan Arkadyevitch; "what does it
mean? Yesterday I was seeing him on my sister's behalf, and I
asked him to give me a final answer. He gave me no answer, and
said he would think it over. But this morning, instead of an
answer, I received an invitation from Countess Lidia Ivanovna
for this evening."

"Ah, so that's it, that's it!" said Princess Myakaya gleefully,
"they're going to ask Landau what he's to say."

"Ask Landau? What for? Who or what's Landau?"

"What! you don't know Jules Landau, le fameux Jules Landau, le
clairvoyant? He's crazy too, but on him your sister's fate
depends. See what comes of living in the provinces--you know
nothing about anything. Landau, do you see, was a commis in a
shop in Paris, and he went to a doctor's; and in the doctor's
waiting room he fell asleep, and in his sleep he began giving
advice to all the patients. And wonderful advice it was! Then
the wife of Yury Meledinsky--you know, the invalid?--heard of
this Landau, and had him to see her husband. And he cured her
husband, though I can't say that I see he did him much good, for
he's just as feeble a creature as ever he was, but they believed
in him, and took him along with them and brought him to Russia.
Here there's been a general rush to him, and he's begun doctoring
everyone. He cured Countess Bezzubova, and she took such a fancy
to him that she adopted him."

"Adopted him?"

"Yes, as her son. He's not Landau any more now, but Count
Bezzubov. That's neither here nor there, though; but Lidia--I'm
very fond of her, but she has a screw loose somewhere--has lost
her heart to this Landau now, and nothing is settled now in her
house or Alexey Alexandrovitch's without him, and so your
sister's fate is now in the hands of Landau, alias Count
Bezzubov."



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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