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Chapter 28


When Alexey Alexandrovitch reached the race-course, Anna was
already sitting in the pavilion beside Betsy, in that pavilion
where all the highest society had gathered. She caught sight of
her husband in the distance. Two men, her husband and her lover,
were the two centers of her existence, and unaided by her
external senses she was aware of their nearness. She was aware
of her husband approaching a long way off, and she could not help
following him in the surging crowd in the midst of which he was
moving. She watched his progress towards the pavilion, saw him
now responding condescendingly to an ingratiating bow, now
exchanging friendly, nonchalant greetings with his equals, now
assiduously trying to catch the eye of some great one of this
world, and taking off his big round hat that squeezed the tips of
his ears. All these ways of his she knew, and all were hateful
to her. "Nothing but ambition, nothing but the desire to get on,
that's all there is in his soul," she thought; "as for these
lofty ideals, love of culture, religion, they are only so many
tools for getting on."

From his glances towards the ladies' pavilion (he was staring
straight at her, but did not distinguish his wife in the sea of
muslin, ribbons, feathers, parasols and flowers) she saw that he
was looking for her, but she purposely avoided noticing him.

"Alexey Alexandrovitch!" Princess Betsy called to him; "I'm sure
you don't see your wife: here she is."

He smiled his chilly smile.

"There's so much splendor here that one's eyes are dazzled," he
said, and he went into the pavilion. He smiled to his wife as a
man should smile on meeting his wife after only just parting from
her, and greeted the princess and other acquaintances, giving to
each what was due--that is to say, jesting with the ladies and
dealing out friendly greetings among the men. Below, near the
pavilion, was standing an adjutant-general of whom Alexey
Alexandrovitch had a high opinion, noted for his intelligence and
culture. Alexey Alexandrovitch entered into conversation with
him.

There was an interval between the races, and so nothing hindered
conversation. The adjutant-general expressed his disapproval of
races. Alexey Alexandrovitch replied defending them. Anna heard
his high, measured tones, not losing one word, and every word
struck her as false, and stabbed her ears with pain.

When the three-mile steeplechase was beginning, she bent forward
and gazed with fixed eyes at Vronsky as he went up to his horse
and mounted, and at the same time she heard that loathsome,
never-ceasing voice of her husband. She was in an agony of
terror for Vronsky, but a still greater agony was the
never-ceasing, as it seemed to her, stream of her husband's
shrill voice with its familiar intonations.

"I'm a wicked woman, a lost woman," she thought; "but I don't
like lying, I can't endure falsehood, while as for HIM (her
husband) it's the breath of his life--falsehood. He knows all
about it, he sees it all; what does he care if he can talk so
calmly? If he were to kill me, if he were to kill Vronsky, I
might respect him. No, all he wants is falsehood and propriety,"
Anna said to herself, not considering exactly what it was she
wanted of her husband, and how she would have liked to see him
behave. She did not understand either that Alexey
Alexandrovitch's peculiar loquacity that day, so exasperating to
her, was merely the expression of his inward distress and
uneasiness. As a child that has been hurt skips about, putting
all his muscles into movement to drown the pain, in the same way
Alexey Alexandrovitch needed mental exercise to drown the
thoughts of his wife that in her presence and in Vronsky's, and
with the continual iteration of his name, would force themselves
on his attention. And it was as natural for him to talk well and
cleverly, as it is natural for a child to skip about. He was
saying:

"Danger in the races of officers, of cavalry men, is an essential
element in the race. If England can point to the most brilliant
feats of cavalry in military history, it is simply owing to the
fact that she has historically developed this force both in
beasts and in men. Sport has, in my opinion, a great value, and
as is always the case, we see nothing but what is most
superficial."

"It's not superficial," said Princess Tverskaya. "One of the
officers, they say, has broken two ribs."

Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled his smile, which uncovered his
teeth, but revealed nothing more.

"We'll admit, princess, that that's not superficial," he said,
"but internal. But that's not the point," and he turned again to
the general with whom he was talking seriously; "we mustn't
forget that those who are taking part in the race are military
men, who have chosen that career, and one must allow that every
calling has its disagreeable side. It forms an integral part of
the duties of an officer. Low sports, such as prizefighting or
Spanish bull-fights, are a sign of barbarity. But specialized
trials of skill are a sign of development."

"No, I shan't come another time; it's too upsetting," said
Princess Betsy. "Isn't it, Anna?"

"It is upsetting, but one can't tear oneself away," said another
lady. "If I'd been a Roman woman I should never have missed a
single circus."

Anna said nothing, and keeping her opera glass up, gazed always
at the same spot.

At that moment a tall general walked through the pavilion.
Breaking off what he was saying, Alexey Alexandrovitch got up
hurriedly, though with dignity, and bowed low to the general.

"You're not racing?" the officer asked, chaffing him.

"My race is a harder one," Alexey Alexandrovitch responded
deferentially.

And though the answer meant nothing, the general looked as though
he had heard a witty remark from a witty man, and fully relished
la pointe de la sauce.

"There are two aspects," Alexey Alexandrovitch resumed: "those
who take part and those who look on; and love for such spectacles
is an unmistakable proof of a low degree of development in the
spectator, I admit, but..."

"Princess, bets!" sounded Stepan Arkadyevitch's voice from
below. addressing Betsy. "Who's your favorite?"

"Anna and I are for Kuzovlev," replied Betsy.

"I'm for Vronsky. A pair of gloves?"

"Done!"

"But it is a pretty sight, isn't it?"

Alexey Alexandrovitch paused while there was talking about him,
but he began again directly.

"I admit that manly sports do not..." he was continuing.

But at that moment the racers started, and all conversation
ceased. Alexey Alexandrovitch too was silent, and everyone stood
up and turned towards the stream. Alexey Alexandrovitch took no
interest in the race, and so he did not watch the racers, but
fell listlessly to scanning the spectators with his weary eyes.
His eyes rested upon Anna.

Her face was white and set. She was obviously seeing nothing and
no one but one man. Her hand had convulsively clutched her fan,
and she held her breath. He looked at her and hastily turned
away, scrutinizing other faces.

"But here's this lady too, and others very much moved as well;
it's very natural," Alexey Alexandrovitch told himself. He tried
not to look at her, but unconsciously his eyes were drawn to her.
He examined that face again, trying not to read what was so
plainly written on it, and against his own will, with horror read
on it what he did not want to know.

The first fall--Kuzovlev's, at the stream--agitated everyone,
but Alexey Alexandrovitch saw distinctly on Anna's pale,
triumphant face that the man she was watching had not fallen.
When, after Mahotin and Vronsky had cleared the worst barrier,
the next officer had been thrown straight on his head at it and
fatally injured, and a shudder of horror passed over the whole
public, Alexey Alexandrovitch saw that Anna did not even notice
it, and had some difficulty in realizing what they were talking
of about her. But more and more often, and with greater
persistence, he watched her. Anna, wholly engrossed as she was
with the race, became aware of her husband's cold eyes fixed
upon her from one side.

She glanced round for an instant, looked inquiringly at him, and
with a slight frown turned away again.

"Ah, I don't care!" she seemed to say to him, and she did not
once glance at him again.

The race was an unlucky one, and of the seventeen officers who
rode in it more than half were thrown and hurt. Towards the end
of the race everyone was in a state of agitation, which was
intensified by the fact that the Tsar was displeased.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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