“Oh, no!” Vronsky said, seeming to understand him with difficulty. “If you don’t mind, let’s walk on. It’s so stuffy among the carriages. A letter? No, thank you; to meet death one needs no letters of introduction. Nor for the Turks...” he said, with a smile that was merely of the lips. His eyes still kept their look of angry suffering.
“Yes; but you might find it easier to get into relations, which are after all essential, with anyone prepared to see you. But that’s as you like. I was very glad to hear of your intention. There have been so many attacks made on the volunteers, and a man like you raises them in public estimation.”
“My use as a man,” said Vronsky, “is that life’s worth nothing to me. And that I’ve enough bodily energy to cut my way into their ranks, and to trample on them or fall—I know that. I’m glad there’s something to give my life for, for it’s not simply useless but loathsome to me. Anyone’s welcome to it.” And his jaw twitched impatiently from the incessant gnawing toothache, that prevented him from even speaking with a natural expression.
“You will become another man, I predict,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, feeling touched. “To deliver one’s brother-men from bondage is an aim worth death and life. God grant you success outwardly—and inwardly peace,” he added, and he held out his hand. Vronsky warmly pressed his outstretched hand.
“Yes, as a weapon I may be of some use. But as a man, I’m a wreck,” he jerked out.
He could hardly speak for the throbbing ache in his strong teeth, that were like rows of ivory in his mouth. He was silent, and his eyes rested on the wheels of the tender, slowly and smoothly rolling along the rails.
And all at once a different pain, not an ache, but an inner trouble, that set his whole being in anguish, made him for an instant forget his toothache. As he glanced at the tender and the rails, under the influence of the conversation with a friend he had not met since his misfortune, he suddenly recalled her—that is, what was left of her when he had run like one distraught into the cloak room of the railway station—on the table, shamelessly sprawling out among strangers, the bloodstained body so lately full of life; the head unhurt dropping back with its weight of hair, and the curling tresses about the temples, and the exquisite face, with red, half-opened mouth, the strange, fixed expression, piteous on the lips and awful in the still open eyes, that seemed to utter that fearful phrase—that he would be sorry for it—that she had said when they were quarreling.
And he tried to think of her as she was when he met her the first time, at a railway station too, mysterious, exquisite, loving, seeking and giving happiness, and not cruelly revengeful as he remembered her on that last moment. He tried to recall his best moments with her, but those moments were poisoned forever. He could only think of her as triumphant, successful in her menace of a wholly useless remorse never to be effaced. He lost all consciousness of toothache, and his face worked with sobs.