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Chapter 21


The temporary stable, a wooden shed, had been put up close to the
race course, and there his mare was to have been taken the
previous day. He had not yet seen her there.

During the last few days he had not ridden her out for exercise
himself, but had put her in the charge of the trainer, and so now
he positively did not know in what condition his mare had arrived
yesterday and was today. He had scarcely got out of his carriage
when his groom, the so-called "stable boy," recognizing the
carriage some way off, called the trainer. A dry-looking
Englishman, in high boots and a short jacket, clean-shaven,
except for a tuft below his chin, came to meet him, walking with
the uncouth gait of jockey, turning his elbows out and swaying
from side to side.

"Well, how's Frou-Frou?" Vronsky asked in English.

"All right, sir," the Englishman's voice responded somewhere in
the inside of his throat. "Better not go in," he added, touching
his hat. "I've put a muzzle on her, and the mare's fidgety.
Better not go in, it'll excite the mare."

"No, I'm going in. I want to look at her."

"Come along, then," said the Englishman, frowning, and speaking
with his mouth shut, and with swinging elbows, he went on in
front with his disjointed gait.

They went into the little yard in front of the shed. A stable
boy, spruce and smart in his holiday attire, met them with a
broom in his hand, and followed them. In the shed there were
five horses in their separate stalls, and Vronsky knew that his
chief rival, Gladiator, a very tall chestnut horse, had been
brought there, and must be standing among them. Even more than
his mare, Vronsky longed to see Gladiator, whom he had never
seen. But he knew that by the etiquette of the race course it
was not merely impossible for him to see the horse, but improper
even to ask questions about him. Just as he was passing along
the passage, the boy opened the door into the second horse-box on
the left, and Vronsky caught a glimpse of a big chestnut horse
with white legs. He knew that this was Gladiator, but, with the
feeling of a man turning away from the sight of another man's
open letter, he turned round and went into Frou-Frou's stall.

"The horse is here belonging to Mak...Mak...I never can say the
name," said the Englishman, over his shoulder, pointing his big
finger and dirty nail towards Gladiator's stall.

"Mahotin? Yes, he's my most serious rival," said Vronsky.

"If you were riding him," said the Englishman, "I'd bet on you."

"Frou-Frou's more nervous; he's stronger," said Vronsky, smiling
at the compliment to his riding.

"In a steeplechase it all depends on riding and on pluck," said
the Englishman.

Of pluck--that is, energy and courage--Vronsky did not merely
feel that he had enough; what was of far more importance, he was
firmly convinced that no one in the world could have more of this
"pluck" than he had.

"Don't you think I want more thinning down?"

"Oh, no," answered the Englishman. "Please, don't speak loud.
The mare's fidgety," he added, nodding towards the horse-box,
before which they were standing, and from which came the sound of
restless stamping in the straw.

He opened the door, and Vronsky went into the horse-box, dimly
lighted by one little window. In the horse-box stood a dark bay
mare, with a muzzle on, picking at the fresh straw with her
hoofs. Looking round him in the twilight of the horse-box,
Vronsky unconsciously took in once more in a comprehensive glance
all the points of his favorite mare. Frou-Frou was a beast of
medium size, not altogether free from reproach, from a
breeder's point of view. She was small-boned all over; though
her chest was extremely prominent in front, it was narrow. Her
hind-quarters were a little drooping, and in her fore-legs, and
still more in her hind-legs, there was a noticeable curvature.
The muscles of both hind- and fore-legs were not very thick; but
across her shoulders the mare was exceptionally broad, a
peculiarity specially striking now that she was lean from
training. The bones of her legs below the knees looked no
thicker than a finger from in front, but were extraordinarily
thick seen from the side. She looked altogether, except across
the shoulders, as it were, pinched in at the sides and pressed
out in depth. But she had in the highest degree the quality that
makes all defects forgotten: that quality was blood, the blood
that tells, as the English expression has it. The muscles stood
up sharply under the network of sinews, covered with this
delicate, mobile skin, soft as satin, and they were hard a bone.
Her clean-cut head with prominent, bright, spirited eyes,
broadened out at the open nostrils, that showed the red blood in
the cartilage within. About all her figure, and especially her
head, there was a certain expression of energy, and, at the same
time, of softness. She was one of those creatures which seem
only not to speak because the mechanism of their mouth does not
allow them to.

To Vronsky, at any rate, it seemed that she understood all he
felt at that moment, looking at her.

Directly Vronsky went towards her, she drew in a deep breath,
and, turning back her prominent eye till the white looked
bloodshot, she started at the approaching figures from the
opposite side, shaking her muzzle, and shifting lightly from one
leg to the other.

"There, you see how fidgety she is," said the Englishman.

"There, darling! There!" said Vronsky, going up to the mare and
speaking soothingly to her.

But the nearer he came, the more excited she grew. Only when he
stood by her head, she was suddenly quieter, while the muscles
quivered under her soft, delicate coat. Vronsky patted her
strong neck, straightened over her sharp withers a stray lock of
her mane that had fallen on the other side, and moved his face
near her dilated nostrils, transparent as a bat's wing. She drew
a loud breath and snorted out through her tense nostrils,
started, pricked up her sharp ear, and put out her strong, black
lip towards Vronsky, as though she would nip hold of his sleeve.
But remembering the muzzle, she shook it and again began
restlessly stamping one after the other her shapely legs.

"Quiet, darling, quiet!" he said, patting her again over her
hind-quarters; and with a glad sense that his mare was in the
best possible condition, he went out of the horse-box.

The mare's excitement had infected Vronsky. He felt that his
heart was throbbing, and that he, too, like the mare, longed to
move, to bite; it was both dreadful and delicious.

"Well, I rely on you, then," he said to the Englishman;
"half-past six on the ground."

"All right," said the Englishman. "Oh, where are you going, my
lord?" he asked suddenly, using the title "my lord," which he had
scarcely ever used before.

Vronsky in amazement raised his head, and stared, as he knew how
to stare, not into the Englishman's eyes, but at his forehead,
astounded at the impertinence of his question. But realizing
that in asking this the Englishman had been looking at him not as
an employer, but as a jockey, he answered:

"I've got to go to Bryansky's; I shall be home within an hour."

"How often I'm asked that question today!" he said to himself,
and he blushed, a thing which rarely happened to him. The
Englishman looked gravely at him; and, as though he, too, knew
where Vronsky was going, he added:

"The great thing's to keep quiet before a race," said he; "don't
get out of temper or upset about anything."

"All right," answered Vronsky, smiling; and jumping into his
carriage, he told the man to drive to Peterhof.

Before he had driven many paces away, the dark clouds that had
been threatening rain all day broke, and there was a heavy
downpour of rain.

"What a pity!" thought Vronsky, putting up the roof of the
carriage. "It was muddy before, now it will be a perfect swamp."
As he sat in solitude in the closed carriage, he took out his
mother's letter and his brother's note, and read them through.

Yes, it was the same thing over and over again. Everyone, his
mother, his brother, everyone thought fit to interfere in the
affairs of his heart. This interference aroused in him a feeling
of angry hatred--a feeling he had rarely known before. "What
business is it of theirs? Why does everybody feel called upon to
concern himself about me? And why do they worry me so? Just
because they see that this is something they can't understand.
If it were a common, vulgar, worldly intrigue, they would have
left me alone. They feel that this is something different, that
this is not a mere pastime, that this woman is dearer to me than
life. And this is incomprehensible, and that's why it annoys
them. Whatever our destiny is or may be, we have made it
ourselves, and we do not complain of it," he said, in the word we
linking himself with Anna. "No, they must needs teach us how to
live. They haven't an idea of what happiness is; they don't know
that without our love, for us there is neither happiness nor
unhappiness--no life at all," he thought.

He was angry with all of them for their interference just because
he felt in his soul that they, all these people, were right. He
felt that the love that bound him to Anna was not a momentary
impulse, which would pass, as worldly intrigues do pass, leaving
no other traces in the life of either but pleasant or unpleasant
memories. He felt all the torture of his own and her position,
all the difficulty there was for them, conspicuous as they were
in the eye of all the world, in concealing their love, in lying
and deceiving; and in lying, deceiving, feigning, and continually
thinking of others, when the passion that united them was so
intense that they were both oblivious of everything else but
their love.

He vividly recalled all the constantly recurring instances of
inevitable necessity for lying and deceit, which were so against
his natural bent. He recalled particularly vividly the shame he
had more than once detected in her at this necessity for lying
and deceit. And he experienced the strange feeling that had
sometimes come upon him since his secret love for Anna. This was
a feeling of loathing for something--whether for Alexey
Alexandrovitch, or for himself, or for the whole world, he could
not have said. But he always drove away this strange feeling.
Now, too, he shook it off and continued the thread of his
thoughts.

"Yes, she was unhappy before, but proud and at peace; and now she
cannot be at peace and feel secure in her dignity, though she
does not show it. Yes, we must put an end to it," he decided.

And for the first time the idea clearly presented itself that it
was essential to put an end to this false position, and the
sooner the better. "Throw up everything, she and I, and hide
ourselves somewhere alone with our love," he said to himself.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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