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Anna Karenina 180


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Anna Karenina

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_Cela nest pas plus fin que ca_, when you get a peep at their cards. I may be inferior to them, stupider perhaps, though I dont see why I should be inferior to them. But you and I have one important advantage over them for certain, in being more difficult to buy. And such men are more needed than ever." Vronsky listened attentively, but he was not so much interested by the meaning of the words as by the attitude of Serpuhovskoy who was already contemplating a struggle with the existing powers, and already had his likes and dislikes in that higher world, while his own interest in the governing world did not go beyond the interests of his regiment. Vronsky felt, too, how powerful Serpuhovskoy might become through his unmistakable faculty for thinking things out and for taking things in, through his intelligence and gift of words, so rarely met with in the world in which he moved. And, ashamed as he was of the feeling, he felt envious. "Still I havent the one thing of most importance for that," he answered; "I havent the desire for power. I had it once, but its gone." "Excuse me, thats not true," said Serpuhovskoy, smiling. "Yes, it is true, it is true...now!" Vronsky added, to be truthful. "Yes, its true now, thats another thing; but that _now_ wont last forever." "Perhaps," answered Vronsky. "You say _perhaps_," Serpuhovskoy went on, as though guessing his thoughts, "but I say _for certain_. And thats what I wanted to see you for. Your action was just what it should have been. I see that, but you ought not to keep it up. I only ask you to give me carte blanche. Im not going to offer you my protection...though, indeed, why shouldnt I protect you?-- youve protected me often enough! I should hope our friendship rises above all that sort of thing. Yes," he said, smiling to him as tenderly as a woman, "give me _carte blanche_, retire from the regiment, and Ill draw you upwards imperceptibly." "But you must understand that I want nothing," said Vronsky, "except that all should be as it is." Serpuhovskoy got up and stood facing him. "You say that all should be as it is. I understand what that means. But listen: were the same age, youve known a greater number of women perhaps than I have." Serpohovskoys smile and gestures told Vronsky that he mustnt be afraid, that he would be tender and careful in touching the sore place. "But Im married, and believe me, in getting to know thoroughly ones wife, if one loves her, as someone has said, one gets to know all women better than if one knew thousands of them." "Were coming directly!" Vronsky shouted to an officer, who looked into the room and called them to the colonel. Vronsky was longing now to hear to the end and know what Serpuhovskey would say to him. "And heres my opinion for you. Women are the chief stumbling block in a mans career. Its hard to love a woman and do anything. Theres only one way of having love conveniently without its being a hindrance--thats marriage. How, how am I to tell you what I mean?" said Serpuhovskoy, who liked similes. "Wait a minute, wait a minute! Yes, just as you can only carry a _fardeau_ and do something with your hands, when the fardeau is tied on your back, and thats marriage. And thats what I felt when I was married. My hands were suddenly set free. But to drag that _fardeau_ about with you without marriage, your hands will always be so full that you can do nothing. Look at Mazankov, at Krupov. Theyve ruined their careers for the sake of women." "What women!" said Vronsky, recalling the Frenchwoman and the actress with whom the two men he had mentioned were connected. "The firmer the womans footing in society, the worse it is. Thats much the same as--not merely carrying the _fardeau_ in your arms--but tearing it away from someone else." "You have never loved," Vronsky said softly, looking straight before him and thinking of Anna. "Perhaps. But you remember what Ive said to you. And another thing, women are all more materialistic than men. We make something immense out of love, but they are always _terre-a-terre_." "Directly, directly!" he cried to a footman who came in. But the footman had not come to call them again, as

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