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Chapter 31


Vronsky had not even tried to sleep all that night. He sat in
his armchair, looking straight before him or scanning the people
who got in and out. If he had indeed on previous occasions
struck and impressed people who did not know him by his air of
unhesitating composure, he seemed now more haughty and
self-possessed than ever. He looked at people as if they were
things. A nervous young man, a clerk in a law court, sitting
opposite him, hated him for that look. The young man asked him
for a light, and entered into conversation with him, and even
pushed against him, to make him feel that he was not a thing, but
a person. But Vronsky gazed at him exactly as he did at the
lamp, and the young man made a wry face, feeling that he was
losing his self-possession under the oppression of this refusal
to recognize him as a person.

Vronsky saw nothing and no one. He felt himself a king, not
because he believed that he had made an impression on Anna--he
did not yet believe that,--but because the impression she had
made on him gave him happiness and pride.

What would come if it all he did not know, he did not even think.
He felt that all his forces, hitherto dissipated, wasted, were
centered on one thing, and bent with fearful energy on one
blissful goal. And he was happy at it. He knew only that he had
told her the truth, that he had come where she was, that all the
happiness of his life, the only meaning in life for him, now lay
in seeing and hearing her. And when he got out of the carriage
at Bologova to get some seltzer water, and caught sight of Anna,
involuntarily his first word had told her just what he thought.
And he was glad he had told her it, that she knew it now and was
thinking of it. He did not sleep all night. When he was back in
the carriage, he kept unceasingly going over every position in
which he had seen her, every word she had uttered, and before his
fancy, making his heart faint with emotion, floated pictures of a
possible future.

When he got out of the train at Petersburg, he felt after his
sleepless night as keen and fresh as after a cold bath. He
paused near his compartment, waiting for her to get out. "Once
more," he said to himself, smiling unconsciously, "once more I
shall see her walk, her face; she will say something, turn her
head, glance, smile, maybe." But before he caught sight of her,
he saw her husband, whom the station-master was deferentially
escorting through the crowd. "Ah, yes! The husband." Only now
for the first time did Vronsky realize clearly the fact that
there was a person attached to her, a husband. He knew that she
had a husband, but had hardly believed in his existence, and only
now fully believed in him, with his head and shoulders, and his
legs clad in black trousers; especially when he saw this husband
calmly take her arm with a sense of property.

Seeing Alexey Alexandrovitch with his Petersburg face and
severely self-confident figure, in his round hat, with his rather
prominent spine, he believed in him, and was aware of a
disagreeable sensation, such as a man might feel tortured by
thirst, who, on reaching a spring, should find a dog, a sheep, or
a pig, who has drunk of it and muddied the water. Alexey
Alexandrovitch's manner of walking, with a swing of the hips and
flat feet, particularly annoyed Vronsky. He could recognize in
no one but himself an indubitable right to love her. But she was
still the same, and the sight of her affected him the same way,
physically reviving him, stirring him, and filling his soul with
rapture. He told his German valet, who ran up to him from the
second class, to take his things and go on, and he himself went
up to her. He saw the first meeting between the husband and
wife, and noted with a lover's insight the signs of slight
reserve with which she spoke to her husband. "No, she does not
love him and cannot love him," he decided to himself.

At the moment when he was approaching Anna Arkadyevna he noticed
too with joy that she was conscious of his being near, and looked
round, and seeing him, turned again to her husband.

"Have you passed a good night?" he asked, bowing to her and her
husband together, and leaving it up to Alexey Alexandrovitch to
accept the bow on his own account, and to recognize it or not, as
he might see fit.

"Thank you, very good," she answered.

Her face looked weary, and there was not that play of eagerness
in it, peeping out in her smile and her eyes; but for a single
instant, as she glanced at him, there was a flash of something in
her eyes, and although the flash died away at once, he was happy
for that moment. She glanced at her husband to find out whether
he knew Vronsky. Alexey Alexandrovitch looked at Vronsky with
displeasure, vaguely recalling who this was. Vronsky's composure
and self-confidence have struck, like a scythe against a stone,
upon the cold self-confidence of Alexey Alexandrovitch.

"Count Vronsky," said Anna.

"Ah! We are acquainted, I believe," said Alexey Alexandrovitch
indifferently, giving his hand.

"You set off with the mother and you return with the son," he
said, articulating each syllable, as though each were a separate
favor he was bestowing.

"You're back from leave, I suppose?" he said, and without waiting
for a reply, he turned to his wife in his jesting tone: "Well,
were a great many tears shed at Moscow at parting?"

By addressing his wife like this he gave Vronsky to understand
that he wished to be left alone, and, turning slightly towards
him, he touched his hat; but Vronsky turned to Anna Arkadyevna.

"I hope I may have the honor of calling on you," he said.

Alexey Alexandrovitch glanced with his weary eyes at Vronsky.

"Delighted," he said coldly. "On Mondays we're at home. Most
fortunate," he said to his wife, dismissing Vronsky altogether,
"that I should just have half an hour to meet you, so that I can
prove my devotion," he went on in the same jesting tone.

"You lay too much stress on your devotion for me to value it
much," she responded in the same jesting tone, involuntarily
listening to the sound of Vronsky's steps behind them. "But what
has it to do with me?" she said to herself, and she began asking
her husband how Seryozha had got on without her.

"Oh, capitally! Mariette says he has been very good, And...I
must disappoint you...but he has not missed you as your husband
has. But once more merci, my dear, for giving me a day. Our
dear Samovar will be delighted." (He used to call the Countess
Lidia Ivanovna, well known in society, a samovar, because she was
always bubbling over with excitement.) "She has been continually
asking after you. And, do you know, if I may venture to advise
you, you should go and see her today. You know how she takes
everything to heart. Just now, with all her own cares, she's
anxious about the Oblonskys being brought together."

The Countess Lidia Ivanovna was a friend of her husband's, and
the center of that one of the coteries of the Petersburg world
with which Anna was, through her husband, in the closest
relations.

"But you know I wrote to her?"

"Still she'll want to hear details. Go and see her, if you're
not too tired, my dear. Well, Kondraty will take you in the
carriage, while I go to my committee. I shall not be alone at
dinner again," Alexey Alexandrovitch went on, no longer in a
sarcastic tone. "You wouldn't believe how I've missed..." And
with a long pressure of her hand and a meaning smile, he put her
in her carriage.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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