IN the slanting evening shadows cast by the baggage piled up on the platform, Vronsky in his long overcoat and slouch hat, with his hands in his pockets, strode up and down, like a wild beast in a cage, turning sharply after twenty paces. Sergey Ivanovitch fancied, as he approached him, that Vronsky saw him but was pretending not to see. This did not affect Sergey Ivanovitch in the slightest. He was above all personal considerations with Vronsky.
I quite understand, and I merely meant to offer you my services, said Sergey Ivanovitch, scanning Vronskys face, full of unmistakable suffering. Wouldnt it be of use to you to have a letter to Ristitchto Milan?
Oh no! Vronsky said, seeming to understand him with difficulty. If you dont mind, lets walk on. Its so stuffy among the carriages. A letter? No, thank you; to meet death one needs no letters of introduction. Nor for the Turks he said, with a smile that was merely of the lips. His eyes still kept their look of angry suffering.
Yes; but you might find it easier to get into relations, which are after all essential, with any one prepared to see you. But thats as you like. I was very glad to hear of your intention. There have been so many attacks made on the volunteers, and a man like you raises them in public estimation.
My use as a man, said Vronsky, is that lifes worth nothing to me. And that Ive enough bodily energy to cut my way into their ranks, and to trample on them or fallI know that. Im glad theres something to give my life for, for its not simply useless but loathsome to me. Any ones welcome to it. And his jaw twitched impatiently from the incessant gnawing toothache, that prevented him from even speaking with a natural expression.
You will become another man, I predict, said Sergey Ivanovitch, feeling touched. To deliver ones brother-men from bondage is an aim worth death and life. God grant you success outwardlyand inwardly peace, he added, and he held out his hand. Vronsky warmly pressed his out-stretched hand.
He could hardly speak for the throbbing ache in his strong teeth, that were like rows of ivory in his mouth. He was silent, and his eyes rested on the wheels of the tender, slowly and smoothly rolling along the rails.
And all at once a different pain, not an ache, but an inner trouble, that set his whole being in anguish, made him for an instant forget his toothache. As he glanced at the tender and the rails, under the influence of the conversation with a friend he had not met since his misfortune, he suddenly recalled herthat is, what was left of her when he had run like one distraught into the cloak-room of the railway stationon the table, shamelessly sprawling out among strangers, the blood-stained body so lately full of life; the head unhurt dropping back with its weight of hair, and the curling tresses about the temples, and the exquisite face, with red, half-opened mouth, the strange, fixed expression, piteous on the lips and awful in the still open eyes, that seemed to utter that fearful phrasethat he would be sorry for itthat she had said when they were quarrelling.
And he tried to think of her as she was when he met her the first time, at a railway-station too, mysterious, exquisite, loving, seeking and giving happiness, and not cruelly revengeful as he remembered her on that last moment. He tried to recall his best moments with her, but those moments were poisoned for ever. He could only think of her as triumphant, successful in her menace of a wholly useless remorse never to be effaced. He lost all consciousness of toothache, and his face worked with sobs.