During the last few days he had not ridden her out for exercise himself, but had put her in the charge of the trainer, and so now he positively did not know in what condition his mare had arrived yesterday and was to-day. He had scarcely got out of his carriage when his groom, the so-called stable-boy, recognising the carriage some way off, called the trainer. A dry-looking Englishman, in high boots and a short jacket, clean shaven except for a tuft below his chin, came to meet him, walking with the uncouth gait of a jockey, turning his elbows out and swaying from side to side.
All right, sir, the Englishmans voice responded some-where in the inside of his throat. Better not go in, he added, touching his hat. Ive put a muzzle on her, and the mares fidgety. Better not go in, itll excite the mare.
They went into the little yard in front of the shed. A stable-boy, spruce and smart in his holiday attire, met them with a broom in his hand, and followed them. In the shed there were five horses in their separate stalls, and Vronsky knew that his chief rival, Gladiator, a very tall chestnut horse, had been brought there, and must be standing among them. Even more than his mare, Vronsky longed to see Gladiator, whom he had never seen. But he knew that by the etiquette of the racecourse it was not merely impossible for him to see the horse, but improper even to ask questions about him. Just as he was passing along the passage, the boy opened the door into the second horse-box on the left, and Vronsky caught a glimpse of a big chestnut horse with white legs. He knew that this was Gladiator, but, with the feeling of a man turning away from the sight of another mans open letter, he turned round and went into Frou-Frous stall.
Of pluckthat is, energy and courageVronsky did not merely feel that he had enough; what was of far more importance, he was firmly convinced that no one in the world could have more of this pluck than he had.
Oh no, answered the Englishman. Please, dont speak loud. The mares fidgety, he added, nodding towards the horse-box, before which they were standing, and from which came the sound of restless stamping in the straw.
He opened the door, and Vronsky went into the horse-box, dimly lighted by one little window. In the horse-box stood a dark bay mare, with a muzzle on, picking at the fresh straw with her hoofs. Looking round him in the twilight of the horse-box, Vronsky unconsciously took in once more in a comprehensive glance all the points of his favourite mare. Frou-Frou was a beast of medium size, not altogether free from reproach, from a breeders point of view. She was small-boned all over; though her chest was extremely prominent in front, it was narrow. Her hind-quarters were a little drooping, and in her fore-legs, and still more in her hind-legs, there was a noticeable curvature. The muscles of both hind and fore legs were not very thick; but across her shoulders the mare was exceptionally broad, a peculiarity specially striking now that she was lean from training. The bones of her leg below the knees looked no thicker than a finger from in front, but were extraordinarily thick seen from the side. She looked altogether, except across the shoulders, as it were pinched in at the sides and pressed out in depth. But she had in the highest degree the quality that makes all defects forgotten: that quality was blood, the blood that tells, as the English expression has it. The muscles stood up sharply under the network of sinews, covered with the delicate, mobile skin, as soft as satin, and they were hard as bone. Her clean-cut head, with prominent, bright, spirited eyes, broadened out at the open nostrils, that showed the red blood in the cartilage within. About all her figure, and especially her head, there was a certain expression of energy, and, at the same time, of softness. She was one of those creatures, which seem only not to speak because the mechanism of their mouth does not allow them to.
Directly Vronsky went towards her, she drew in a deep breath, and, turning back her prominent eye till the white looked bloodshot, she stared at the approaching figures from the opposite side, shaking her muzzle, and shifting lightly from one leg to the other.
But the nearer he came, the more excited she grew. Only when he stood by her head, she was suddenly quieter, while the muscles quivered under her soft, delicate coat. Vronsky patted her strong neck, straightened over her sharp withers a stray lock of her mane that had fallen on the other side, and moved his face near her dilated nostrils, transparent as a bats wing. She drew a loud breath and snorted out through her tense nostrils, started, pricked up her sharp ear, and put out her strong, black lip towards Vronsky, as though she would nip hold of his sleeve. But remembering the muzzle, she shook it and again began restlessly stamping one after the other her shapely legs.
Vronsky in amazement raised his head, and stared, as he knew how to stare, not into the Englishmans eyes, but at his forehead, astounded at the impertinence of his question. But realising that in asking this the Englishman had been looking at him not as an employer, but as a jockey, he answered
How often Im asked that question to-day! he said to himself, and he blushed, a thing which rarely happened to him. The Englishman looked gravely at him; and, as though he, too, knew where Vronsky was going, he added
What a pity! thought Vronsky, putting up the roof of the carriage. It was muddy before, now it will be a perfect swamp. As he sat in solitude in the closed carriage, he took out his mothers letter and his brothers note, and read them through.
Yes, it was the same thing over and over again. Every one, his mother, his brother, every one thought fit to interfere in the affairs of his heart. This interference aroused in him a feeling of angry hatreda feeling he had rarely known before. What business is it of theirs? Why does everybody feel called upon to concern himself about me? And why do they worry me so? Just because they see that this is something they cant understand. If it were a common, vulgar, worldly intrigue, they would have left me alone. They feel that this is something different, that this is not a mere pastime, that this woman is dearer to me than life. And this is incomprehensible, and thats why it annoys them. Whatever our destiny is or may be, we have made it ourselves, and we do not complain of it, he said, in the word we linking himself with Anna. No, they must needs teach us how to live. They havent an idea of what happiness is; they dont know that without our love, for us there is neither happiness nor unhappinessno life at all, he thought.
He felt that the love that bound him to Anna was not a momentary impulse, which would pass, as worldly intrigues do pass, leaving no other traces in the life of either but pleasant or unpleasant memories. He felt all the torture of his own and her position, all the difficulty there was for them, conspicuous as they were in the eye of all the world, in concealing their love, in lying and deceiving; and in lying, deceiving, feigning, and continually thinking of others, when the passion that united them was so intense that they were both oblivious of everything else but their love.
He vividly recalled all the constantly recurring instances of inevitable necessity for lying and deceit, which were so against his natural bent. He recalled particularly vividly the shame he had more than once detected in her at this necessity for lying and deceit. And he experienced the strange feeling that had sometimes come upon him since his secret love for Anna. This was a feeling of loathing for somethingwhether for Alexey Alexandrovitch, or for himself, or for the whole world, he could not have said. But he always drove away this strange feeling. Now, too, he shook it off and continued the thread of his thoughts.
And for the first time the idea clearly presented itself that it was essential to put an end to this false position, and the sooner the better. Throw up everything, she and I, and hide ourselves somewhere alone with our love, he said to himself.