“Oh, it’s a work of real importance!” said Sviazhsky. But to show he was not trying to ingratiate himself with Vronsky, he promptly added some slightly critical remarks.
“I wonder, though, count,” he said, “that while you do so much for the health of the peasants, you take so little interest in the schools.”
“C’est devenu tellement commun les ecoles,” said Vronsky. “You understand it’s not on that account, but it just happens so, my interest has been diverted elsewhere. This way then to the hospital,” he said to Darya Alexandrovna, pointing to a turning out of the avenue.
The ladies put up their parasols and turned into the side path. After going down several turnings, and going through a little gate, Darya Alexandrovna saw standing on rising ground before her a large pretentious-looking red building, almost finished. The iron roof, which was not yet painted, shone with dazzling brightness in the sunshine. Beside the finished building another had been begun, surrounded by scaffolding. Workmen in aprons, standing on scaffolds, were laying bricks, pouring mortar out of vats, and smoothing it with trowels.
“How quickly work gets done with you!” said Sviazhsky. “When I was here last time the roof was not on.”
“By the autumn it will all be ready. Inside almost everything is done,” said Anna.
“And what’s this new building?”
“That’s the house for the doctor and the dispensary,” answered Vronsky, seeing the architect in a short jacket coming towards him; and excusing himself to the ladies, he went to meet him.
Going round a hole where the workmen were slaking lime, he stood still with the architect and began talking rather warmly.
“The front is still too low,” he said to Anna, who had asked what was the matter.
“I said the foundation ought to be raised,” said Anna.
“Yes, of course it would have been much better, Anna Arkadyevna,” said the architect, “but now it’s too late.”
“Yes, I take a great interest in it,” Anna answered Sviazhsky, who was expressing his surprise at her knowledge of architecture. “This new building ought to have been in harmony with the hospital. It was an afterthought, and was begun without a plan.”
Vronsky, having finished his talk with the architect, joined the ladies, and led them inside the hospital.
Although they were still at work on the cornices outside and were painting on the ground floor, upstairs almost all the rooms were finished. Going up the broad cast-iron staircase to the landing, they walked into the first large room. The walls were stuccoed to look like marble, the huge plate-glass windows were already in, only the parquet floor was not yet finished, and the carpenters, who were planing a block of it, left their work, taking off the bands that fastened their hair, to greet the gentry.
“This is the reception room,” said Vronsky. “Here there will be a desk, tables, and benches, and nothing more.”