Vronsky is one of the sons of Count Kirill Ivanovitch Vronsky, and one of the finest specimens of the gilded youth of Petersburg. I made his acquaintance in Tver when I was there on official business, and he came there for the levy of recruits. Fearfully rich, handsome, great connections, an aide-de-camp, and with all that a very nice, good-natured fellow. But hes more than simply a good- natured fellow, as Ive found out herehes a cultivated man too, and very intelligent; hes a man wholl make his mark.
You wait a bit, wait a bit, said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling and touching his hand. Ive told you what I know, and I repeat that in this delicate and tender matter, as far as one can conjecture, I believe the chances are in your favour.
One word more: in any case I advise you to settle the question soon. To-night I dont advise you to speak, said Stepan Arkadyevitch. Go round to-morrow morning, make an offer in due form, and God bless you.
Now his whole soul was full of remorse that he had begun this conversation with Stepan Arkadyevitch. A feeling such as his was profaned by talk of the rivalry of some Petersburg officer, of the suppositions and the counsels of Stepan Arkadyevitch.
Ill come some day, he said. But women, my boy, theyre the pivot everything turns upon. Things are in a bad way with me, very bad. And its all through women. Tell me frankly now, he pursued, picking up a cigar and keeping one hand on his glass; give me your advice.
Yes; but joking apart, resumed Stepan Arkadyevitch, you must understand that the woman is a sweet, gentle, loving creature, poor and lonely, and has sacrificed everything. Now, when the things done, dont you see, can one possibly cast her off? Even supposing one parts from her, so as not to break up ones family life, still, can one help feeling for her, setting her on her feet, softening her lot?
Well, you must excuse me there. You know to me all women are divided into two classes at least no truer to say: there are women and there are Ive never seen exquisite fallen beings, and I never shall see them, but such creatures as that painted Frenchwoman at the counter with the ringlets are vermin to my mind, and all fallen women are the same.
Ah, drop that! Christ would never have said those words if He had known how they would be abused. Of all the Gospel those words are the only ones remembered. However, Im not saying so much what I think, as what I feel. I have a loathing for fallen women. Youre afraid of spiders, and I of these vermin. Most likely youve not made a study of spiders and dont know their character; and so it is with me.
Its very well for you to talk like that; its very much like that gentleman in Dickens who used to fling all difficult questions over his right shoulder. But to deny the facts is no answer. Whats to be doneyou tell me that, whats to be done? Your wife gets older, while youre full of life. Before youve time to look round, you feel that you cant love your wife with love, however much you may esteem her. And then all at once love turns up, and youre done for, done for! Stepan Arkadyevitch said with weary despair.
O moralist! But you must understand, there are two women: one insists only on her rights, and those rights are your love, which you cant give her; and the other sacrifices everything for you and asks for nothing. What are you to do? How are you to act? Theres a fearful tragedy in it.
If you care for my profession of faith as regards that, Ill tell you that I dont believe there was any tragedy about it. And this is why. To my mind, love both the sorts of love, which you remember Plato defines in his Banquet, serve as the test of men. Some men only understand one sort, and some only the other. And those who only know the nonplatonic love have no need to talk of tragedy. In such love there can be no sort of tragedy. Im much obliged for the gratification, my humble respectsthats all the tragedy. And in platonic love there can be no tragedy, because in that love all is clear and pure, because
Its this, dont you see, said Stepan Arkadyevitch, youre very much all of a piece. Thats your strong point and your failing. You have a character thats all of a piece, and you want the whole of life to be of a piece toobut thats not how it is. You despise public official work because you want the reality to be invariably corresponding all the while with the aimand thats not how it is. You want a mans work, too, always to have a defined aim, and love and family life always to be undividedand thats not how it is. All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.
And suddenly both of them felt that though they were friends, though they had been dining and drinking together, which should have drawn them closer, yet each was thinking only of his own affairs, and they had nothing to do with one another. Oblonsky had more than once experienced this extreme sense of aloofness, instead of intimacy, coming on after dinner, and he knew what to do in such cases.
Bill! he called, and he went into the next room, where he promptly came across an aide-de-camp of his acquaintance and dropped into a conversation with him about an actress and her protector. And at once in the conversation with the aide-de-camp Oblonsky had a sense of relaxation and relief after the conversation with Levin, which always put him to too great a mental and spiritual strain.
When the Tatar appeared with a bill for twenty-six roubles and odd kopecks, beside a tip for himself, Levin, who would another time have been horrified, like any one from the country, at his share of fourteen roubles, did not notice it, paid, and set off homewards, to dress and go to the Shtcherbatskys there to decide his fate.