The temporary stable, a wooden booth, had been put up close to the racecourse, and there his mare was to have been taken the previous day. He had not yet seen her there. 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 absolutely did not know in what condition his mare had arrived yesterday or was in today. He had scarcely got out of his carriage when his stableboy (groom), recognizing 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.
"Well, how's Frou-Frou?" Vronsky asked in English.
"All right, sir," the Englishman's voice responded somewhere far down in his throat. "Better not go in," he added, touching his hat. "I've put a muzzle on her, and the mare's fidgety. Better not go in, it'll excite the mare."
"No, I'm going in. I want to look at her."
"Come along, then," said the Englishman, frowning, and speaking with his mouth shut, and, with swinging elbows, he went on in front with his disjointed gait.
They went into the little yard in front of the shed. The stableboy on duty, 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, Makhotin's 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 Vronsky 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 horsebox 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 man's open letter, he turned round and went into Frou-Frou's stall.
"The stall belonging to Ma-k... Mak... I never can say the name- is here," said the Englishman over his shoulder, pointing his dirty-nailed thumb toward Gladiator's stall.
"Makhotin? Yes, he's my most serious rival," said Vronsky.
"If you were riding him," said the Englishman, "I'd bet on you.
"Frou-Frou's more nervous, while the other is more powerful," said Vronsky, smiling at the compliment to his riding.
"In a steeplechase it all depends on riding and on pluck," said the Englishman.
Of pluck- that is, energy and courage- Vronsky 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.
"Don't you think I want more sweating down?"
"Oh, no," answered the Englishman. "Please, don't speak loud. The mare's fidgety," he added, nodding toward 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, shifting her feet on the fresh straw. 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 favorite mare. Frou-Frou was an animal of medium size, not altogether free from reproach, from a breeder's point of view. She was small-boned all over; though her chest was extremely prominent in front, it was narrow. Her hindquarters were a little drooping, and in her forelegs, and still more in her hind legs, there was a noticeable curvature. The muscles of both hind legs and forelegs 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 legs 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, apparently 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, 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 devoid of speech only because the mechanism of their mouths does not allow of it.
To Vronsky, at any rate, it seemed that she understood all he felt at that moment as he looked at her.
Directly Vronsky went toward her, she drew in a deep breath, and, turning back her prominent eye tin the white looked bloodshot, she started at the approaching figures from the opposite side, shaking her muzzle, and shifting lightly from one leg to the other.
"There, you see how fidgety she is," said the Englishman.
"Whoa, darling! Whoa!" said Vronsky, going up to the mare and speaking soothingly to her.
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 bat's 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 toward Vronsky, as though she would nip hold of his sleeve. But remembering the muzzle, she shook it and again began restlessly stamping her shapely legs one after the other.
"Calm down, darling, calm down!" he said, patting her again over her hindquarters; and, with a glad sense that his mare was in the best possible condition, he went out of the horse box.
The mare's excitement had infected Vronsky. He felt that his heart was throbbing, and that he, too, like the mare, longed to move, to bite; it was both fearful and delicious.
"Well, I rely on you, then," he said to the Englishman, "half-past six on the ground."
"All right," said the Englishman. "Oh, where are you going, my lord?" he asked suddenly, using the title my lord, which he scarcely ever used.
Vronsky in amazement raised his head, and stared, as he knew how to stare, not into the Englishman's eyes, but at his forehead, astounded at the impertinence of his question. But realizing that in asking this the Englishman had been looking at him not as an employer, but as a jockey, he answered:
"I've got to go to Briansky's; I shall be home within an hour."
"How often I'm asked that question today!" 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:
"The great thing is to keep quiet before a race," said he; "don't get out of temper, or upset about anything."
"All right," answered Vronsky, smiling; and, jumping into his carriage, he told the man to drive to Peterhof.
Before he had driven many paces away, the dark clouds that had been threatening rain all day broke, and there was a heavy downpour of rain.
"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 mother's letter and his brother's note, and read them through.
Yes, it was the same thing over and over again. Everyone- his mother, his brother- everyone thought fit to interfere in the affairs of his heart. This interference aroused in him a feeling of angry hatred- a 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 can't 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 that's 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 haven't an idea of what happiness is; they don't know that without our love there is for us neither happiness nor unhappiness- no life at all," he thought.
He was angry with all of them for their interference just because he felt in his soul that they, all these people, were right. 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 save pleasant or unpleasant memories. He felt all the torture of his own position and hers, all the difficulty in store 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 save 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 relations with Anna. This was a feeling of loathing for something- whether for Alexei Alexandrovich, 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.
"Yes, she was unhappy before, but proud and at peace; and now she cannot be at peace and feel secure in her dignity, though she does not show it. Yes, we must put an end to it," he decided.
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. "Abandon everything must we- she and I- and hide ourselves somewhere alone with our love," he said to himself.