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Chapter 5


In the slanting evening shadows cast by the baggage piled up on
the platform, Vronsky in his long overcoat and slouch hat, with
his hands in his pockets, strode up and down, like a wild beast
in a cage, turning sharply after twenty paces. Sergey Ivanovitch
fancied, as he approached him, that Vronsky saw him but was
pretending not to see. This did not affect Sergey Ivanovitch in
the slightest. He was above all personal considerations with
Vronsky.

At that moment Sergey Ivanovitch looked upon Vronsky as a man
taking an important part in a great cause, and Koznishev thought
it his duty to encourage him and express his approval. He went
up to him.

Vronsky stood still, looked intently at him, recognized him, and
going a few steps forward to meet him, shook hands with him very
warmly.

"Possibly you didn't wish to see me," said Sergey Ivanovitch,
"but couldn't I be of use to you?"

"There's no one I should less dislike seeing than you," said
Vronsky. "Excuse me; and there's nothing in life for me to
like."

"I quite understand, and I merely meant to offer you my
services," said Sergey Ivanovitch, scanning Vronsky's face, full
of unmistakable suffering. "Wouldn't it be of use to you to have
a letter to Ristitch--to Milan?"

"Oh, no!" Vronsky said, seeming to understand him with
difficulty. "If you don't mind, let's walk on. It's so stuffy
among the carriages. A letter? No, thank you; to meet death one
needs no letters of introduction. Nor for the Turks..." he said,
with a smile that was merely of the lips. His eyes still kept
their look of angry suffering.

"Yes; but you might find it easier to get into relations, which
are after all essential, with anyone prepared to see you. But
that's as you like. I was very glad to hear of your intention.
There have been so many attacks made on the volunteers, and a man
like you raises them in public estimation."

"My use as a man," said Vronsky, "is that life's worth nothing to
me. And that I've enough bodily energy to cut my way into their
ranks, and to trample on them or fall--I know that. I'm glad
there's something to give my life for, for it's not simply
useless but loathsome to me. Anyone's welcome to it." And his
jaw twitched impatiently from the incessant gnawing toothache,
that prevented him from even speaking with a natural expression.

"You will become another man, I predict," said Sergey
Ivanovitch, feeling touched. "To deliver one's brother-men from
bondage is an aim worth death and life. God grant you success
outwardly--and inwardly peace," he added, and he held out his
hand. Vronsky warmly pressed his outstretched hand.

"Yes, as a weapon I may be of some use. But as a man, I'm a
wreck," he jerked out.

He could hardly speak for the throbbing ache in his strong teeth,
that were like rows of ivory in his mouth. He was silent, and
his eyes rested on the wheels of the tender, slowly and smoothly
rolling along the rails.

And all at once a different pain, not an ache, but an inner
trouble, that set his whole being in anguish, made him for an
instant forget his toothache. As he glanced at the tender and
the rails, under the influence of the conversation with a friend
he had not met since his misfortune, he suddenly recalled
HER--that is, what was left of her when he had run like one
distraught into the cloak room of the railway station--on the
table, shamelessly sprawling out among strangers, the
bloodstained body so lately full of life; the head unhurt
dropping back with its weight of hair, and the curling tresses
about the temples, and the exquisite face, with red, half-opened
mouth, the strange, fixed expression, piteous on the lips and
awful in the still open eyes, that seemed to utter that fearful
phrase--that he would be sorry for it--that she had said when
they were quarreling.

And he tried to think of her as she was when he met her the first
time, at a railway station too, mysterious, exquisite, loving,
seeking and giving happiness, and not cruelly revengeful as he
remembered her on that last moment. He tried to recall his best
moments with her, but those moments were poisoned forever. He
could only think of her as triumphant, successful in her menace
of a wholly useless remorse never to be effaced. He lost all
consciousness of toothache, and his face worked with sobs.

Passing twice up and down beside the baggage in silence and
regaining his self-possession, he addressed Sergey Ivanovitch
calmly:

"You have had no telegrams since yesterday's? Yes, driven back
for a third time, but a decisive engagement expected for
tomorrow."

And after talking a little more of King Milan's proclamation, and
the immense effect it might have, they parted, going to their
carriages on hearing the second bell.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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