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Anna Karenina 179

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Anna Karenina

War And Peace

Petritsky. Then the colonel, who began to show signs of feebleness, sat down on a bench in the courtyard and began demonstrating to Yashvin the superiority of Russia over Poland, especially in cavalry attack, and there was a lull in the revelry for a moment. Serpuhovskoy went into the house to the bathroom to wash his hands and found Vronsky there; Vronsky was drenching his head with water. He had taken off his coat and put his sunburnt, hairy neck under the tap, and was rubbing it and his head with his hands. When he had finished, Vronsky sat down by Serpuhovskoy. They both sat down in the bathroom on a lounge, and a conversation began which was very interesting to both of them. "Ive always been hearing about you through my wife," said Serpuhovskoy. "Im glad youve been seeing her pretty often." "Shes friendly with Varya, and theyre the only women in Petersburg I care about seeing," answered Vronsky, smiling. He smiled because he foresaw the topic the conversation would turn on, and he was glad of it. "The only ones?" Serpuhovskoy queried, smiling. "Yes; and I heard news of you, but not only through your wife," said Vronsky, checking his hint by a stern expression of face. "I was greatly delighted to hear of your success, but not a bit surprised. I expected even more." Serpuhovskoy smiled. Such an opinion of him was obviously agreeable to him, and he did not think it necessary to conceal it. "Well, I on the contrary expected less--Ill own frankly. But Im glad, very glad. Im ambitious; thats my weakness, and I confess to it." "Perhaps you wouldnt confess to it if you hadnt been successful," said Vronsky. "I dont suppose so," said Serpuhovskoy, smiling again. "I wont say life wouldnt be worth living without it, but it would be dull. Of course I may be mistaken, but I fancy I have a certain capacity for the line Ive chosen, and that power of any sort in my hands, if it is to be, will be better than in the hands of a good many people I know," said Serpuhovskoy, with beaming consciousness of success; "and so the nearer I get to it, the better pleased I am." "Perhaps that is true for you, but not for everyone. I used to think so too, but here I live and think life worth living not only for that." "There its out! here it comes!" said Serpuhovskoy, laughing. "Ever since I heard about you, about your refusal, I began.... Of course, I approved of what you did. But there are ways of doing everything. And I think your action was good in itself, but you didnt do it quite in the way you ought to have done." "Whats done cant be undone, and you know I never go back on what Ive done. And besides, Im very well off." "Very well off--for the time. But youre not satisfied with that. I wouldnt say this to your brother. Hes a nice child, like our host here. There he goes!" he added, listening to the roar of "hurrah!"--"and hes happy, but that does not satisfy you." "I didnt say it did satisfy me." "Yes, but thats not the only thing. Such men as you are wanted." "By whom?" "By whom? By society, by Russia. Russia needs men; she needs a party, or else everything goes and will go to the dogs." "How do you mean? Bertenevs party against the Russian communists?" "No," said Serpuhovskoy, frowning with vexation at being suspected of such an absurdity. "_Tout ca est une blague_. Thats always been and always will be. There are no communists. But intriguing people have to invent a noxious, dangerous party. Its an old trick. No, whats wanted is a powerful party of independent men like you and me." "But why so?" Vronsky mentioned a few men who were in power. "Why arent they independent men?" "Simply because they have not, or have not had from birth, an independent fortune; theyve not had a name, theyve not been close to the sun and center as we have. They can be bought either by money or by favor. And they have to find a support for themselves in inventing a policy. And they bring forward some notion, some policy that they dont believe in, that does harm; and the whole policy is really only a means to a government house and so much income.

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