THE COACHMAN pulled up his four horses and looked round to the right, to a field of rye, where some peasants were sitting on a cart. The counting-house clerk was just going to jump down, but on second thoughts he shouted peremptorily to the peasants instead, and beckoned to them to come up. The wind, that seemed to blow as they drove, dropped when the carriage stood still; gadflies settled on the steaming horses that angrily shook them off. The metallic clank of a whetstone against a scythe, that came to them from the cart, ceased. One of the peasants got up and came towards the carriage.
A curly-headed old man with a bit of bast tied round his hair, and his bent back dark with perspiration, came towards the carriage, quickening his steps, and took hold of the mudguard with his sunburnt hand.
Vozdvizhenskoe, the manor-house? the counts? he repeated; Go on to the end of this track. Then turn to the left. Straight along the avenue and youll come right upon it. But whom do you want? The count himself?
At home for sure, said the peasant, shifting from one bare foot to the other, and leaving a distinct print of five toes and a heel in the dust. Sure to be at home, he repeated, evidently eager to talk. Only yesterday visitors arrived. Theres a sight of visitors come. What do you want? He turned round and called to a lad, who was shouting something to him from the cart. Oh! They all rode by here not long since, to look at a reaping-machine. Theyll be home by now. And who will you be belonging to?
When the carriage stopped, the party on horseback were coming at a walking-pace. Anna was in front beside Veslovsky. Anna, quietly walking her horse, a sturdy English cob with cropped mane and short tail, her beautiful head with her black hair straying loose under her high hat, her full shoulders, her slender waist in her black riding-habit, and all the ease and grace of her deportment, impressed Dolly.
For the first minute it seemed to her unsuitable for Anna to be on horseback. The conception of riding on horseback for a lady was, in Darya Alexandrovnas mind, associated with ideas of youthful flirtation and frivolity, which, in her opinion, was unbecoming in Annas position. But when she had scrutinised her, seeing her closer, she was at once reconciled to her riding. In spite of her elegance, everything was so simple, quiet, and dignified in the attitude, the dress and the movements of Anna, that nothing could have been more natural.
Beside Anna, on a hot-looking grey cavalry-horse, was Vassenka Veslovsky in his Scotch cap with floating ribbons, his stout legs stretched out in front, obviously pleased with his own appearance. Darya Alexandrovna could not suppress a good-humoured smile as she recognised him. Behind rode Vronsky on a dark bay mare, obviously heated from galloping. He was holding her in, pulling at the reins.
Annas face suddenly beamed with a joyful smile at the instant when, in the little figure huddled in a corner of the old carriage she recognised Dolly. She uttered a cry, started in the saddle, and set her horse into a gallop. On reaching the carriage she jumped off without assistance, and holding up her riding-habit, she ran up to greet Dolly.
I thought it was you and dared not think it. How delightful! You cant fancy how glad I am! she said, at one moment pressing her face against Dolly and kissing her, and at the next holding her off and examining her with a smile.
Princess Varvara was her husbands aunt, and she had long known her, and did not respect her. She knew that Princess Varvara had passed her whole life toadying on her rich relations, but that she should now be sponging on Vronsky, a man who was nothing to her, mortified Dolly on account of her kinship with her husband. Anna noticed Dollys expression, and was disconcerted by it. She blushed, dropped her riding-habit, and stumbled over it.
Darya Alexandrovna went up to the char-à-banc and coldly greeted Princess Varvara. Sviazhsky too she knew. He inquired how his queer friend with the young wife was, and running his eyes over the ill-matched horses and the carriage with its patched mudguards, proposed to the ladies that they should get into the char-à-banc.
Darya Alexandrovnas eyes were fairly dazzled by the elegant carriage of a pattern she had never seen before, the splendid horses, and the elegant and gorgeous people surrounding her. But what struck her most of all was the change that had taken place in Anna, whom she knew so well and loved. Any other woman, a less close observer, not knowing Anna before, or not having thought as Darya Alexandrovna had been thinking on the road, would not have noticed anything special in Anna. But now Dolly was struck by that temporary beauty, which is only found in women during the moments of love, and which she saw now in Annas face. Everything in her face, the clearly marked dimples in her cheeks and chin, the line of her lips, the smile which, as it were, fluttered about her face, the brilliance of her eyes, the grace and rapidity of her movements, the fulness of the notes of her voice, even the manner in which, with a sort of angry friendliness, she answered Veslovsky when he asked permission to get on her cob, so as to teach it to gallop with the right leg foremostit was all peculiarly fascinating, and it seemed as if she were herself aware of it, and rejoicing in it.
When both the women were seated in the carriage, a sudden embarrassment came over both of them. Anna was disconcerted by the intent look of inquiry Dolly fixed upon her. Dolly was embarrassed because after Sviazhskys phrase about this vehicle, she could not help feeling ashamed of the dirty old carriage in which Anna was sitting with her. The coachman Philip and the counting-house clerk were experiencing the same sensation. The counting-house clerk, to conceal his confusion, busied himself settling the ladies, but Philip the coachman became sullen, and was bracing himself not to be over-awed in future by this external superiority. He smiled ironically, looking at the raven horse, and was already deciding in his own mind that this smart trotter in the char-à-banc was only good for promenage, and wouldnt do thirty miles straight off in the heat.