Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy

Chapter 20


"Here's Dolly for you, princess, you were so anxious to see her," said Anna, coming out with Darya Alexandrovna onto the stone terrace where Princess Varvara was sitting in the shade at an embroidery frame, working at a cover for Count Alexey Kirillovitch's easy- chair. "She says she doesn't want anything before dinner, but please order some lunch for her, and I'll go and look for Alexey and bring them all in."

Princess Varvara gave Dolly a cordial and rather patronizing reception, and began at once explaining to her that she was living with Anna because she had always cared more for her than her sister Katerina Pavlovna, the aunt that had brought Anna up, and that now, when every one had abandoned Anna, she thought it her duty to help her in this most difficult period of transition.

"Her husband will give her a divorce, and then I shall go back to my solitude; but now I can be of use, and I am doing my duty, However difficult it may be for me--not like some other people. And how sweet it is of you, how right of you to have come! They live like the best Of married couples; it's for God to judge them, not for us. And didn't Biryuzovsky and Madame Avenieva . . . and Sam Nikandrov, and Vassiliev and Madame Mamonova, and Liza Neptunova ...Did no one say anything about them? And it has ended by their being received by every one. And then, c'est un interieur si joli, si comme il faut. Tout-a-fait a l'anglaise. On se reunit le matin au breakfast, et pais on se separe. Every one does as he pleases till dinner-time. Dinner at seven o'clock. Stiva did very rightly to send you. He needs their support. You know that through his mother and brother he can do anything. And then they do so much good. He didn't tell you about his hospital? Ce sera admirable--everything from Paris."

Their conversation was interrupted by Anna, who had found the men of the party in the billiard-room, and returned with them to the terrace. There was still a long time before the dinner-hour, it was exquisite weather, and so several different methods of spending the next two hours were proposed. There were very many methods of passing the time at Vozdvizhenskoe, and these were all unlike those in use at Pokrovskoe.

"Une partie de lawn-tennis," Veslovsky proposed, with his handsome smile. "We'll be partners again, Anna Arkadyevna."

"No, it's too hot; better stroll about the garden and have a row in the boat, show Darya Alexandrovna the river-banks." Vronsky proposed.

"I agree to anything," said Sviazhsky.

"I imagine that what Dolly would like best would be a stroll-- wouldn't you? And then the boat, perhaps," said Anna.

So it was decided. Veslovsky and Tushkevitch went off to the bathing-place, promising to get the boat ready and to wait there for them.

They walked along the path in two couples, Anna with Sviazhsky, and Dolly with Vronsky. Dolly was a little embarrassed and anxious in the new surroundings in which she found herself. Abstractly, theoretically, she did not merely justify, she positively approved of Anna's conduct. As is indeed not unfrequent with women of unimpeachable virtue, weary of the monotony of respectable existence, at a distance she not only excused illicit love, she positively envied it. Besides, she loved Anna with all her heart. But seeing Anna in actual life among these strangers, with this fashionable tone that was so new to Darya Alexandrovna, she felt ill at ease. What she disliked particularly was seeing Princess Varvara ready to overlook everything for the sake of the comforts she enjoyed.

As a general principle, abstractly, Dolly approved of Anna's action; but to see the man for whose sake her action had been taken was disagreeable to her. Moreover, she had never liked Vronsky. She thought him very proud, and saw nothing in him of which he could be proud except his wealth. But against her own will, here in his own house, he overawed her more than ever, and she could not be at ease with him. She felt with him the same feeling she had had with the maid about her dressing-jacket. Just as with the maid she had felt not exactly ashamed, but embarrassed at her darns, so she felt with him not exactly ashamed, but embarrased at herself.

Dolly was ill at ease, and tried to fmd a subject of conversation. Even though she supposed that, through his pride, praise of his house and garden would be sure to be disagreeable to him, she did all the same tell him how much she liked his house.

"Yes, it's a very fine building, and in the good old-fashioned style," he said.

"I like so much the court in front of the steps. Was that always so?"

"Oh, no!" he said, and his face beamed with pleasure. "If you could only have seen that court last spring!"

And he began, at first rather diffidently, but more and more carried away by the subject as he went on, to draw her attention to the various details of the decoration of his house and garden. It was evident that, having devoted a great deal of trouble to improve and beautify his home, Vronsky felt a need to show off the improvements to a new person, and was genuinely delighted at Darya Alexandrovna's praise.

"If you would care to look at the hospital, and are not tired, indeed, it's not far. Shall we go?" he said, glancing into her face to convince himself that she was not bored. "are you coming, Anna?" he turned to her.

"We will come, won't we?" she said, addressing Sviazhsky. "Mais il ne faut pas lapser le pauvre Veslovsky et Tushkevitch se morfondre la dans le bateau. We must send and tell them."

"Yes, this is a monument he is setting up here," said Anna, turning to Dolly with that sly smile of comprehension with which she had previously talked about the hospital.

"Oh, it's a work of real importance!" said Sviazhsky. But to show he was not trying to ingratiate himself with Vronsky, he promptly added some slightly critical remarks.

"I wonder, though, count," he said, "that while you do so much for the health of the peasants, you take so little interest in the schools."

"C'est devenu tellement common, les ecoles," said Vronsky. "You understand it's not on that account, but it just happens so, my interest has been diverted elsewhere. This way then to the hospital," he said to Darya Alexandrovna, pointing to a turning out of the avenue.

The ladies put up their parasols and turned into the side-path. After going down several turnings, and going through a little gate, Darya Alexandrovna saw standing on rising ground before her a large pretentious-looking red building, almost finished. The iron roof, which was not yet painted, shone with dazzling brightness in the sunshine. Beside the finished building another had been begun, surrounded by scaffolding. Workmen in aprons, standing on scaffolds, were laying bricks, pouring mortar out of vats, and smoothing it with trowels.

"How quickly work gets done with you!" said Sviazhsky. "When I was here last time the roof was not on."

"By the autumn it will all be ready. Inside almost everything is done," said Anna.

"And what's this new building?"

"That's the house for the doctor and the dispensary," answered Vronsky, seeing the architect in a short jacket coming towards him; and excusing himself to the ladies, he went to meet him.

Going round a hole where the workmen were slaking lime, he stood still with the architect and began talking rather warmly.

"The front is still too low," he said to Anna, who had asked what was the matter.

"I said the foundation ought to be raised," said Anna.

"Yes, of course it would have been much better, Anna Arkadyevna," said the architect, "but now it's too late."

"Yes, I take a great interest in it," Anna answered Sviazhsky, who was expressing his surprise at her knowledge of architecture. "This new building ought to have been in harmony with the hospital. It was an afterthought, and was begun without a plan."

Vronsky, having finished his talk with the architect, joined the ladies, and led them inside the hospital.

Although they were still at work on the cornices outside and were painting on the ground-floor, up-stairs almost all the rooms were finished. Going up the broad cast-iron staircase to the landing, they walked into the first large room. The walls were stuccoed to look like marble, the huge plate-glass windows were already in, only the parquet floor was not yet finished, and the carpenters, who were planing a block of it, left their work, taking off the bands that fastened their hair, to greet the gentry.

"This is the reception-room," said Vronsky. "Here there will be a desk, tables, and benches, and nothing more."

"This way; let us go in here. Don't go near the window," said Anna, trying the paint to see if it were dry. "Alexey, the paint's dry already," she added.

From the reception-room they went into the corridor. Here Vronsky showed them the mechanism for ventilation on a novel system. Then he showed them marble baths, and beds with extraordinary springs. Then he showed them the wards one after another, the store-room, the linen-room, then the heating-stove of a new pattern, then the trolleys, which would make no noise as they carried everything needed along the corridors, and many other things. Sviazhsky, as a connoisseur in the latest mechanical improvements, appreciated everything fully. Dolly simply wondered at all she had not seen before, and, anxious to understand it all, made minute inquiries about everything, which gave Vronsky great satisfaction.

"Yes, I imagine that this will be the solitary example of a properly fitted hospital in Russia," said Sviazhsky.

"And won't you have a lying-in ward?" asked Dolly. "That's so much needed in the country. I have often . . ."

In spite of his usual courtesy, Vronsky interrupted her.

"This is not a lying-in home, but a hospital for the sick, and is intended for all diseases, except infectious complaints," he said. "Ah! look at this," and he rolled up to Darya Alexandrovna an invalid-chair that had just been ordered for the convalescents. "Look." He sat down in the chair and began moving it. "The patient can't walk--still too weak, perhaps, or something wrong with his legs, but he must have air, and he moves, rolls himself along...." Darya Alexandrovna was interested by everything. She liked everything very much, but most of all she liked Vronsky himself with his natural, simple-hearted eagerness. "Yes, he's a very nice, good man," she thought several times, not hearing what he said, but looking at him and penetrating into his expression, while she mentally put herself in Anna's place. She liked him so much just now with his eager interest that she saw how Anna could be in love with him.