Anna Karenina (Part One – Chapter 16-20)
Vronsky had never had a real home life. His mother had been in her youth a brilliant society woman, who had had during her married life, and still more afterwards, many love affairs notorious in the whole fashionable world. His father he scarcely remembered, and he had been educated in the Corps of Pages.
Leaving the school very young as a brilliant officer, he had at once got into the circle of wealthy Petersburg army men. Although he did go more or less into Petersburg society, his love affairs had always hitherto been outside it.
In Moscow he had for the first time felt, after his luxurious and coarse life at Petersburg, all the charm of intimacy with a sweet and innocent girl of his own rank, who cared for him. It never even entered his head that there could be any harm in his relations with Kitty. At balls he danced principally with her. He was a constant visitor at their house. He talked to her as people commonly do talk in society–all sorts of nonsense, but nonsense to which he could not help attaching a special meaning in her case. Although he said nothing to her that he could not have said before everybody, he felt that she was becoming more and more dependent upon him, and the more he felt this, the better he liked it, and the tenderer was his feeling for her. He did not know that his mode of behavior in relation to Kitty had a definite character, that it is courting young girls with no intention of marriage, and that such courting is one of the evil actions common among brilliant young men such as he was. It seemed to him that he was the first who had discovered this pleasure, and he was enjoying his discovery.
If he could have heard what her parents were saying that evening, if he could have put himself at the point ov view of the family and have heard that Kitty would be unhappy if he did not marry her, he would have been greatly astonished, and would not have believed it. He could not believe that what gave such great and delicate pleasure to him, and above all to her, could be wrong. Still less could he have believed that he ought to marry.
Marriage had never presented itself to him as a possibility. He not only disliked family life, but a family, and especially a husband was, in accordance with the views general in the bachelor world in which he lived, conceived as something alien, repellant, and, above all, ridiculous.
But though Vronsky had not the least suspicion what the parents were saying, he felt on coming away from the Shtcherbatskys’ that the secret spiritual bond which existed between him and Kitty had grown so much stronger that evening that some step must be taken. But what step could and ought to be taken he could not imagine.
“What is so exquisite,” he thought, as he returned from the Shtcherbatskys’, carrying away with him, as he always did, a delicious feeling of purity and freshness, arising partly from the fact that he had not been smoking for a whole evening, and with it a new feeling of tenderness at her love for him–“what is so exquisite is that not a word has been said by me or by her, but we understand each other so well in this unseen language of looks and tones, that this evening more clearly than ever she told me she loves me. And how secretly, simply, and most of all, how trustfully! I feel myself better, purer. I feel that I have a heart, and that there is a great deal of good in me. Those sweet, loving eyes! When she said: Indeed I do…’
“Well, what then? Oh, nothing. It’s good for me, and good for her.” And he began wondering where to finish the evening.
He passed in review of the places he might go to. “Club? a game of bezique, champagne with Ignatov? No, I’m not going. Chateau des Fleurs; there I shall find Oblonsky, songs, the cancan. No, I’m sick of it. That’s why I like the Shtcherbatskys’, that I’m growing better. I’ll go home.” He went straight to his room at Dussot’s Hotel, ordered supper, and then undressed, and as soon as his head touched the pillow, fell into a sound sleep.
Next day at eleven o’clock in the morning Vronsky drove to the station of the Petersburg railway to meet his mother, and the first person he came across on the great flight of steps was Oblonsky, who was expecting his sister by the same train.
“Ah! your excellency!” cried Oblonsky, “whom are you meeting?”
“My mother,” Vronsky responded, smiling, as everyone did who met Oblonsky. He shook hands with him, and together they ascended the steps. “She is to be here from Petersburg today.”
“I was looking out for you till two o’clock last night. Where did you go after the Shtcherbatskys’?”
“Home,” answered Vronsky. “I must own I felt so well content yesterday after the Shtcherbatskys’ that I didn’t care to go anywhere.”
“I know a gallant steed by tokens sure, And by his eyes I know a youth in love,”
declaimed Stepan Arkadyevitch, just as he had done before to Levin.
Vronsky smiled with a look that seemed to say that he did not deny it, but he promptly changed the subject.
“And whom are you meeting?” he asked.
“I? I’ve come to meet a pretty woman,” said Oblonsky.
“You don’t say so!”
“Honi soit qui mal y pense! My sister Anna.”
“Ah! that’s Madame Karenina,” said Vronsky.
“You know her, no doubt?”
“I think I do. Or perhaps not…I really am not sure,” Vronsky answered heedlessly, with a vague recollection of something stiff and tedious evoked by the name Karenina.
“But Alexey Alexandrovitch, my celebrated brother-in-law, you surely must know. All the world knows him.”
“I know him by reputation and by sight. I know that he’s clever, learned, religious somewhat…. But you know that’s not…not in my line,” said Vronsky in English.
“Yes, he’s a very remarkable man; rather a conservative, but a splendid man,” observed Stepan Arkadyevitch, “a splendid man.”
“Oh, well, so much the better for him,” said Vronsky smiling. “Oh, you’ve come,” he said, addressing a tall old footman of his mother’s, standing at the door; “come here.”
Besides the charm Oblonsky had in general for everyone, Vronsky had felt of late specially drawn to him by the fact that in his imagination he was associated with Kitty.
“Well, what do you say? Shall we give a supper on Sunday for the diva?” he said to him with a smile, taking his arm.
“Of course. I’m collecting subscriptions. Oh, did yo make the acquaintance of my friend Levin?” asked Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Yes; but he left rather early.”
“He’s a capital fellow,” pursued Oblonsky. “Isn’t he?”
“I don’t know why it is,” responded Vronsky, “in all Moscow people–present company of course excepted,” he put in jestingly, “there’s something uncompromising. They are all on the defensive, lose their tempers, as though they all want to make one feel something…”
“Yes, that’s true, it is so,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, laughing good-humoredly.
“Will the train soon be in?” Vronsky asked a railway official.
“The train’s signaled,” answered the man.
The approach of the train was more and more evident by the preparatory bustle in the station, the rush of porters, the movement of policemen and attendants, and people meeting the train. Through the frosty vapor could be seen workmen in short sheepskins and soft felt boots crossing the rails of the curving line. The hiss of the boiler could be heard on the distant rails, and the rumble of something heavy.
“No,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, who felt a great inclination to tell Vronsky of Levin’s intentions in regard to Kitty. “No, you’ve not got a true impression of Levin. He’s a very nervous man, and is sometimes out of humor, it’s true, but then he is often very nice. He’s such a true, honest nature, and a heart of gold. But yesterday there were special reasons,” pursued Stepan Arkadyevitch, with a meaning smile, totally oblivious of the genuine sympathy he had felt the day before for his friend, and feeling the same sympathy now, only for Vronsky. “Yes, there were reasons why he could not help being either particularly happy or particularly unhappy.”
Vronsky stood still and asked directly: “How so? Do you mean he made your belle-soeur an offer yesterday?”
“Maybe,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “I fancied something of the sort yesterday. Yes, if he went away early, and was out of humor too, it must mean it…. He’s been so long in love, and I’m very sorry for him.”
“So that’s it! I should imagine, though, she might reckon on a better match,” said Vronsky, drawing himself up and walking about again, “though I don’t know him, of course,” he added. “Yes, that is a hateful position! That’s why most fellows prefer to have to do with Klaras. If you don’t succeed with them it only proves that you’ve not enough cash, but in this case one’s dignity’s at stake. But here’s the train.”
The engine had already whistled in the distance. A few instants later the platform was quivering, and with puffs of steam hanging low in the air from the frost, the engine rolled up, with the lever of the middle wheel rhythmically moving up and down, and the stooping figure of the engine-driver covered with frost. Behind the tender, setting the platform more and more slowly swaying, came the luggage van with a dog whining in it. At last the passenger carriages rolled in, oscillating before coming to a standstill.
A smart guard jumped out, giving a whistle, and after him one by one the impatient passengers began to get down: an officer of the guards, holding himself erect, and looking severely about him; a nimble little merchant with a satchel, smiling gaily; a peasant with a sack over his shoulder.
Vronsky, standing beside Oblonsky, watched the carriages and the passengers, totally oblivious of his mother. What he had just heard about Kitty excited and delighted him. Unconsciously he arched his chest, and his eyes flashed. He felt himself a conqueror.
“Countess Vronskaya is in that compartment,” said the smart guard, going up to Vronsky.
The guard’s words roused him, and forced him to think of his mother and his approaching meeting with her. He did not in his heart respect his mother, and without acknowledging it to himself, he did not love her, though in accordance with the ideas of the set in which he lived, and with his own education, he could not have conceived of any behavior to his mother not in the highest degree respectful and obedient, and the more externally obedient and respectful his behavior, the less in his heart he respected and loved her.
Vronsky followed the guard to the carriage, and at the door of the compartment he stopped short to make room for a lady who was getting out.
With the insight of a man of the world, from one glance at this lady’s appearance Vronsky classified her as belonging to the best society. He begged pardon, and was getting into the carriage, but felt he must glance at her once more; not that she was very beautiful, not on account of the elegance and modest grace which were apparent in her whole figure, but because in the expression of her charming face, as she passed close by him, there was something peculiarly caressing and soft. As he looked round, she too turned her head. Her shining gray eyes, that looked dark from the thick lashes, rested with friendly attention on his face, as though she were recognizing him, and then promptly turned away to the passing crowd, as though seeking someone. In that brief look Vronsky had time to notice the suppressed eagerness which played over her face, and flitted between the brilliant eyes and the faint smile that curved her red lips. It was as though her nature were so brimming over with something that against her will it showed itself now in the flash of her eyes, and now in her smile. Deliberately she shrouded the light in her eyes, but it shone against her will in the faintly perceptible smile.
Vronsky stepped into the carriage. His mother, a dried-up old lady with black eyes and ringlets, screwed up her eyes, scanning her son, and smiled slightly with her thin lips. Getting up from the seat and handing her maid a bag, she gave her little wrinkled hand to her son to kiss, and lifting his head from her hand, kissed him on the cheek.
“You got my telegram? Quite well? Thank God.”
“You had a good journey?” said her son, sitting down beside her, and involuntarily listening to a woman’s voice outside the door. He knew it was the voice of the lady he had met at the door.
“All the same I don’t agree with you,” said the lady’s voice.
“It’s the Petersburg view, madame.”
“Not Petersburg, but simply feminine,” she responded.
“Well, well, allow me to kiss your hand.”
“Good-bye, Ivan Petrovitch. And could you see if my brother is here, and send him to me?” said the lady in the doorway, and stepped back again into the compartment.
“Well, have you found your brother?” said Countess Vronskaya, addressing the lady.
Vronsky understood now that this was Madame Karenina.
“Your brother is here,” he said, standing up. “Excuse me, I did not know you, and, indeed, our acquaintance was so slight,” said Vronsky, bowing, “that no doubt you do not remember me.”
“Oh, no,” said she, “I should have known you because your mother and I have been talking, I think, of nothing but you all the way.” As she spoke she let the eagerness that would insist on coming out show itself in her smile. “And still no sign of my brother.”
“Do call him, Alexey,” said the old countess. Vronsky stepped out onto the platform and shouted:
Madame Karenina, however, did not wait for her brother, but catching sight of him she stepped out with her light, resolute step. And as soon as her brother had reached her, with a gesture that struck Vronsky by its decision and its grace, she flung her left arm around his neck, drew him rapidly to her, and kissed him warmly. Vronsky gazed, never taking his eyes from her, and smiled, he could not have said why. But recollecting that his mother was waiting for him, he went back again into the carriage.
“She’s very sweet, isn’t she?” said the countess of Madame Karenina. “Her husband put her with me, and I was delighted to have her. We’ve been talking all the way. And so you, I hear…vous filez le parfait amour. Tant mieux, mon cher, tant mieux.”
“I don’t know what you are referring to, maman,” he answered coldly. “Come, maman, let us go.”
Madame Karenina entered the carriage again to say good-bye to the countess.
“Well, countess, you have met your son, and I my brother,” she said. “And all my gossip is exhausted. I should have nothing more to tell you.”
“Oh, no,” said the countess, taking her hand. “I could go all around the world with you and never be dull. You are one of those delightful women in whose company it’s sweet to be silent as well as to talk. Now please don’t fret over your son; you can’t expect never to be parted.”
Madame Karenina stood quite still, holding herself very erect, and her eyes were smiling.
“Anna Arkadyevna,” the countess said in explanation to her son, “has a little son eight years old, I believe, and she has never been parted from him before, and she keeps fretting over leaving him.”
“Yes, the countess and I have been talking all the time, I of my son and she of hers,” said Madame Karenina, and again a smile lighted up her face, a caressing smile intended for him.
“I am afraid that you must have been dreadfully bored,” he said, promptly catching the ball of coquetry she had flung him. But apparently she did not care to pursue the conversation in that strain, and she turned to the old countess.
“Thank you so much. The time has passed so quickly. Good-bye, countess.”
“Good-bye, my love,” answered the countess. “Let me have a kiss of your pretty face. I speak plainly, at my age, and I tell you simply that I’ve lost my heart to you.”
Stereotyped as the phrase was, Madame Karenina obviously believed it and was delighted by it. She flushed, bent down slightly, and put her cheek to the countess’s lips, drew herself up again, and with the same smile fluttering between her lips and her eyes, she gave her hand to Vronsky. He pressed the little hand she gave him, and was delighted, as though at something special, by the energetic squeeze with which she freely and vigorously shook his hand. She went out with the rapid step which bore her rather fully-developed figure with such strange lightness.
“Very charming,” said the countess.
That was just what her son was thinking. His eyes followed her till her graceful figure was out of sight, and then the smile remained on his face. He saw out of the window how she went up to her brother, put her arm in his, and began telling him something eagerly, obviously something that had nothing to do with him, Vronsky, and at that he felt annoyed.
“Well, maman, are you perfectly well?” he repeated, turning to his mother.
“Everything has been delightful. Alexander has been very good, and Marie has grown very pretty. She’s very interesting.”
And she began telling him again of what interested her most–the christening of her grandson, for which she had been staying in Petersburg, and the special favor shown her elder son by the Tsar.
“Here’s Lavrenty,” said Vronsky, looking out of the window; “now we can go, if you like.”
The old butler who had traveled with the countess, came to the carriage to announce that everything was ready, and the countess got up to go.
“Come; there’s not such a crowd now,” said Vronsky.
The maid took a handbag and the lap dog, the butler and a porter the other baggage. Vronsky gave his mother his arm; but just as they were getting out of the carriage several men ran suddenly by with panic-stricken faces. The station-master, too, ran by in his extraordinary colored cap. Obviously something unusual had happened. The crowd who had left the train were running back again.
“What?… What?… Where?… Flung himself!… Crushed!…” was heard among the crowd. Stepan Arkadyevitch, with his sister on his arm, turned back. They too looked scared, and stopped at the carriage door to avoid the crowd.
The ladies go in, while Vronsky and Stepan Arkadyevitch followed the crowd to find out details of the disaster.
A guard, either dunk or too much muffled up in the bitter frost, had not heard the train moving back, and had been crushed.
Before Vronsky and Oblonsky came back the ladies heard the facts from the butler.
Oblonsky and Vronsky had both seen the mutilated corpse. Oblonsky was evidently upset. He frowned and seemed ready to cry.
“Ah, how awful! Ah, Anna, if you had seen it! Ah, how awful!” he said.
Vronsky did not speak; his handsome face was serious, but perfectly composed.
“Oh, if you had seen it, countess,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “And his wife was there…. It was awful to see her!…. She flung herself on the body. They say he was the only support of an immense family. How awful!”
“Couldn’t one do anything for her?” said Madame Karenina in an agitated whisper.
Vronsky glanced at her, and immediately got out of the carriage.
“I’ll be back directly, maman,” he remarked, turning round in the doorway.
When he came back a few minutes later, Stepan Arkadyevitch was already in conversation with the countess about the new singer, while the countess was impatiently looking towards the door, waiting for her son.
“Now let us be off,” said Vronsky, coming in. They went out together. Vronsky was in front with his mother. Behind walked Madame Karenina with her brother. Just as they were going out of the station the station-master overtook Vronsky.
“You gave my assistant two hundred roubles. Would you kindly explain for whose benefit you intend them?”
“For the widow,” said Vronsky, shrugging his shoulders. “I should have thought there was no need to ask.”
“You gave that?” cried Oblonsky, behind, and, pressing his sister’s hand, he added: “Very nice, very nice! Isn’t he a splendid fellow? Good-bye, countess.”
And he and his sister stood still, looking for her maid.
When they went out the Vronsky’s carriage had already driven away. People coming in were still talking of what happened.
“What a horrible death!” said a gentleman, passing by. “They say he was cut in two pieces.”
“On the contrary, I think it’s the easiest–instantaneous,” observed another.
“How is it they don’t take proper precautions?” said a third.
Madame Karenina seated herself in the carriage, and Stepan Arkadyevitch saw with surprise that her lips were quivering, and she was with difficulty restraining her tears.
“What is it, Anna?” he asked, when they had driven a few hundred yards.
“It’s an omen of evil,” she said.
“What nonsense!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “You’ve come, that’s the chief thing. You can’t conceive how I’m resting my hopes on you.”
“Have you known Vronsky long?” she asked.
“Yes. You know we’re hoping he will marry Kitty.”
“Yes?” said Anna softly. “Come now, let us talk of you,” she added, tossing her head, as though she would physically shake off something superfluous oppressing her. “Let us talk of your affairs. I got your letter, and here I am.”
“Yes, all my hopes are in you,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Well, tell me all about it.”
And Stepan Arkadyevitch began to tell his story.
On reaching home Oblonsky helped his sister out, sighed, pressed her hand, and set off to his office.
When Anna went into the room, Dolly was sitting in the little drawing-room with a white-headed fat little boy, already like his father, giving him a lesson in French reading. As the boy read, he kept twisting and trying to tear off a button that was nearly off his jacket. His mother had several times taken his hand from it, but the fat little hand went back to the button again. His mother pulled the button off and put it in her pocket.
“Keep your hands still, Grisha,” she said, and she took up her work, a coverlet she had long been making. She always set to work on it at depressed moments, and now she knitted at it nervously, twitching her fingers and counting the stitches. Though she had sent word the day before to her husband that it was nothing to her whether his sister came or not, she had made everything ready for her arrival, and was expecting her sister-in-law with emotion.
Dolly was crushed by her sorrow, utterly swallowed up by it. Still she did not forget that Anna, her sister-in-law, was the wife of one of the most important personages in Petersburg, and was a Petersburg grande dame. And, thanks to this circumstance, she did not carry out her threat to her husband–that is to say, she remembered that her sister-in-law was coming. “And, after all, Anna is in no wise to blame,” thought Dolly. “I know nothing of her except the very best, and I have seen nothing but kindness and affection from her towards myself.” It was true that as far as she could recall her impressions at Petersburg at the Karenins’, she did not like their household itself; there was something artificial in the whole framework of their family life. “But why should I not receive her? If only she doesn’t take it into her head to console me!” thought Dolly. “All consolation and counsel and Christian forgiveness, all that I have thought over a thousand times, and it’s all no use.”
All these days Dolly had been alone with her children. She did not want to talk of her sorrow, but with that sorrow in her heart she could not talk of outside matters. She knew that in one way or another she would tell Anna everything, and she was alternately glad at the thought of speaking freely, and angry at the necessity of speaking of her humiliation with her, his sister, and of hearing her ready-made phrases of good advice and comfort. She had been on the lookout for her, glancing at her watch every minute, and, as so often happens, let slip just that minute when her visitor arrived, so that she did not hear the bell.
Catching a sound of skirts and light steps at the door, she looked round, and her care-worn face unconsciously expressed not gladness, but wonder. She got up and embraced her sister-in-law.
“What, here already!” she said as she kissed her.
“Dolly, how glad I am to see you!”
“I am glad, too,” said Dolly, faintly smiling, and trying by the expression of Anna’s face to find out whether she knew. “Most likely she knows,” she thought, noticing the sympathy in Anna’s face. “Well, come along, I’ll take you to your room,” she went on, trying to defer as long as possible the moment of confidences.
“Is this Grisha? Heavens, how he’s grown!” said Anna; and kissing him, never taking her eyes off Dolly, she stood still and flushed a little. “No, please, let us stay here.”
She took off her kerchief and her hat, and catching it in a lock of her black hair, which was a mass of curls, she tossed her head and shook her hair down.
“You are radiant with health and happiness!” said Dolly, almost with envy.
“I?…. Yes,” said Anna. “Merciful heavens, Tanya! You’re the same age as my Seryozha,” she added, addressing the little girl as she ran in. She took her in her arms and kissed her. “Delightful child, delightful! Show me them all.”
She mentioned them, not only remembering the names, but the years, months, characters, illnesses of all the children, and Dolly could not but appreciate that.
“Very well, we will go to them,” she said. “It’s a pity Vassya’s asleep.”
After seeing the children, They sat down, alone now, in the drawing room, to coffee. Anna took the tray, and then pushed it away from her.
“Dolly,” she said, “he has told me.”
Dolly looked coldly at Anna; she was waiting now for phrases of conventional sympathy, but Anna said nothing of the sort.
“Dolly, dear,” she said, “I don’t want to speak for him to you, nor to try to comfort you; that’s impossible. But, darling, I’m simply sorry, sorry from my heart for you!”
Under the thick lashes of her shining eyes tears suddenly glittered. She moved nearer to her sister-in-law and took her hand in her vigorous little hand. Dolly did not shrink away, but her face did not lose its frigid expression. She said:
“To comfort me’s impossible. Everything’s lost after what has happened, everything’s over!”
And directly she had said this, her face suddenly softened. Anna lifted the wasted, thin hand of Dolly, kissed it and said:
“But, Dolly, what’s to be done, what’s to be done? How is it best to act in this awful position–that’s what you must think of.”
“All’s over, and there’s nothing more,” said Dolly. “And the worst of all is, you see, that I can’t cast him off: there are the children, I am tied. And I can’t live with him! it’s a torture to me to see him.”
“Dolly, darling, he has spoken to me, but I want to hear it from you: tell me about it.”
Dolly looked at her inquiringly.
Sympathy and love unfeigned were visible on Anna’s face.
“Very well,” she said all at once. “But I will tell you it from the beginning. You know how I was married. With the education mamma gave us I was more than innocent, I was stupid. I knew nothing. I know they say men tell their wives of their former lives, but Stiva”–she corrected herself–“Stepan Arkadyevitch told me nothing. You’ll hardly believe it, but till now I imagined that I was the only woman he had known. So I lived eight years. You must understand that I was so far from suspecting infidelity, I regarded it as impossible, and then– try to imagine it–with such ideas, to find out suddenly all the horror, all the loathsomeness…. You must try and understand me. To be fully convinced of one’s happiness, and all at once…” continued Dolly, holding back her sobs, “to get a letter…his letter to his mistress, my governess. No, it’s too awful!” She hastily pulled out her handkerchief and hid her face in it. “I can understand being carried away by feeling,” she went on after a brief silence, “but deliberately, slyly deceiving me…and with whom?… To go on being my husband together with her…it’s awful! You can’t understand…”
“Oh, yes, I understand! I understand! Dolly, dearest, I do understand,” said Anna, pressing her hand.
“And do you imagine he realizes all the awfulness of my position?” Dolly resumed. “Not the slightest! He’s happy and contented.”
“Oh, no!” Anna interposed quickly. “He’s to be pitied, he’s weighed down by remorse…”
“Is he capable of remorse?” Dolly interrupted, gazing intently into her sister-in-law’s face.
“Yes. I know him. I could not look at him without feeling sorry for him. We both know him. He’s good-hearted, but he’s proud, and now he’s so humiliated. What touched me most…” (and here Anna guessed what would touch Dolly most) “he’s tortured by two things: that he’s ashamed for the children’s sake, and that, loving you–yes, yes, loving you beyond everything on earth,” she hurriedly interrupted Dolly, who would have answered– “he has hurt you, pierced you to the heart. ‘No, no, she cannot forgive me,’ he keeps saying.”
Dolly looked dreamily away beyond her sister-in-law as she listened to her words.
“Yes, I can see that his position is awful; it’s worse for the guilty than the innocent,” she said, “if he feels that all the misery comes from his fault. But how am I to forgive him, how am I to be his wife again after her? For me to live with him now would be torture, just because I love my past love for him…”
And sobs cut short her words. But as though of set design, each time she was softened she began to speak again of what exasperated her.
“She’s young, you see, she’s pretty,” she went on. “Do you know, Anna, my youth and my beauty are gone, taken by whom? By him and his children. I have worked for him, and all I had has gone in his service, and now of course any fresh, vulgar creature has more charm for him. No doubt they talked of me together, or, worse still, they were silent. Do you understand?”
Again her eyes glowed with hatred.
“And after that he will tell me…. What! can I believe him? Never! No, everything is over, everything that once made my comfort, the reward of my work, and my sufferings…. Would you believe it, I was teaching Grisha just now: once this was a joy to me, now it is a torture. What have I to strive and toil for? Why are the children here? What’s so awful is that all at once my heart’s turned, and instead of love and tenderness, I have nothing but hatred for him; yes, hatred. I could kill him.”
“Darling Dolly, I understand, but don’t torture yourself. You are so distressed, so overwrought, that you look at many things mistakenly.”
Dolly grew calmer, and for two minutes both were silent.
“What’s to be done? Think for me, Anna, help me. I have thought over everything, and I see nothing.”
Anna could think of nothing, but her heart responded instantly to each word, to each change of expression of her sister-in-law.
“One thing I would say,” began Anna. “I am his sister, I know his character, that faculty of forgetting everything, everything” (she waved her hand before her forehead), “that faculty for being completely carried away, but for completely repenting too. He cannot believe it, he cannot comprehend now how he can have acted as he did.”
“No; he understands, he understood!” Dolly broke in. “But I…you are forgetting me…does it make it easier for me?”
“Wait a minute. When he told me, I will own I did not realize all the awfulness of your position. I saw nothing but him, and that the family was broken up. I felt sorry for him, but after talking to you, I see it, as a woman, quite differently. I see your agony, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am for you! But, Dolly, darling, I fully realize your sufferings, only there is one thing I don’t know; I don’t know…I don’t know how much love there is still in your heart for him. That you know–whether there is enough for you to be able to forgive him. If there is, forgive him!”
“No,” Dolly was beginning, but Anna cut her short, kissing her hand once more.
“I know more of the world than you do,” she said. “I know how met like Stiva look at it. You speak of his talking of you with her. That never happened. Such men are unfaithful, but their home and wife are sacred to them. Somehow or other these women are still looked on with contempt by them, and do not touch on their feeling for their family. They draw a sort of line that can’t be crossed between them and their families. I don’t understand it, but it is so.”
“Yes, but he has kissed her…”
“Dolly, hush, darling. I saw Stiva when he was in love with you. I remember the time when he came to me and cried, talking of you, and all the poetry and loftiness of his feeling for you, and I know that the longer he has lived with you the loftier you have been in his eyes. You know we have sometimes laughed at him for putting in at every word: ‘Dolly’s a marvelous woman.’ You have always been a divinity for him, and you are that still, and this has not been an infidelity of the heart…”
“But if it is repeated?”
“It cannot be, as I understand it…”
“Yes, but could you forgive it?”
“I don’t know, I can’t judge…. Yes, I can,” said Anna, thinking a moment; and grasping the position in her thought and weighing it in her inner balance, she added: “Yes, I can, I can, I can. Yes, I could forgive it. I could not be the same, no; but I could forgive it, and forgive it as though it had never been, never been at all…”
“Oh, of course,” Dolly interposed quickly, as though saying what she had more than once thought, “else it would not be forgiveness. If one forgives, it must be completely, completely. Come, let us go; I’ll take you to your room,” she said, getting up, and on the way she embraced Anna. “My dear, how glad I am you came. It has made things better, ever so much better.”
The whole of that day Anna spent at home, that’s to say at the Oblonskys’, and received no one, though some of her acquaintances had already heard of her arrival, and came to call; the same day. Anna spent the whole morning with Dolly and the children. She merely sent a brief note to her brother to tell him that he must not fail to dine at home. “Come, God is merciful,” she wrote.
Oblonsky did dine at home: the conversation was general, and his wife, speaking to him, addressed him as “Stiva,” as she had not done before. In the relations of the husband and wife the same estrangement still remained, but there was no talk now of separation, and Stepan Arkadyevitch saw the possibility of explanation and reconciliation.
Immediately after dinner Kitty came in. She knew Anna Arkadyevna, but only very slightly, and she came now to her sister’s with some trepidation, at the prospect of meeting this fashionable Petersburg lady, whom everyone spoke so highly of. But she made a favorable impression on Anna Arkadyevna–she saw that at once. Anna was unmistakably admiring her loveliness and her youth: before Kitty knew where she was she found herself not merely under Anna’s sway, but in love with her, as young girls do fall in love with older and married women. Anna was not like a fashionable lady, nor the mother of a boy of eight years old. In the elasticity of her movements, the freshness and the unflagging eagerness which persisted in her face, and broke out in her smile and her glance, she would rather have passed for a girl of twenty, had it not been for a serious and at times mournful look in her eyes, which struck and attracted Kitty. Kitty felt that Anna was perfectly simple and was concealing nothing, but that she had another higher world of interests inaccessible to her, complex and poetic.
After dinner, when Dolly went away to her own room, Anna rose quickly and went up to her brother, who was just lighting a cigar.
“Stiva,” she said to him, winking gaily, crossing him and glancing towards the door, “go, and God help you.”
He threw down the cigar, understanding her, and departed through the doorway.
When Stepan Arkadyevitch had disappeared, she went back to the sofa where she had been sitting, surrounded by the children. Either because the children saw that their mother was fond of this aunt, or that they felt a special charm in her themselves, the two elder ones, and the younger following their lead, as children so often do, had clung about their new aunt since before dinner, and would not leave her side. And it had become a sort of game among them to sit a close as possible to their aunt, to touch her, hold her little hand, kiss it, play with her ring, or even touch the flounce of her skirt.
“Come, come, as we were sitting before,” said Anna Arkadyevna, sitting down in her place.
And again Grisha poked his little face under her arm, and nestled with his head on her gown, beaming with pride and happiness.
“And when is your next ball?” she asked Kitty.
“Next week, and a splendid ball. One of those balls where one always enjoys oneself.”
“Why, are there balls where one always enjoys oneself?” Anna said, with tender irony.
“It’s strange, but there are. At the Bobrishtchevs’ one always enjoys oneself, and at the Nikitins’ too, while at the Mezhkovs’ it’s always dull. Haven’t you noticed it?”
“No, my dear, for me there are no balls now where one enjoys oneself,” said Anna, and Kitty detected in her eyes that mysterious world which was not open to her. “For me there are some less dull and tiresome.”
“How can YOU be dull at a ball?”
“Why should not I be dull at a ball?” inquired Anna.
Kitty perceived that Anna knew what answer would follow.
“Because you always look nicer than anyone.”
Anna had the faculty of blushing. She blushed a little, and said:
“In the first place it’s never so; and secondly, if it were, what difference would it make to me?”
“Are you coming to this ball?” asked Kitty.
“I imagine it won’t be possible to avoid going. Here, take it,” she said to Tanya, who was bulling the loosely-fitting ring off her white, slender-tipped finger.
“I shall be so glad if you go. I should so like to see you at a ball.”
“Anyway, if I do go, I shall comfort myself with the thought that it’s a pleasure to you…Grisha, don’t pull my hair. It’s untidy enough without that,” she said, putting up a straying lock, which Grisha had been playing with.
“I imagine you at the ball in lilac.”
“And why in lilac precisely?” asked Anna, smiling. “Now, children, run along, run along. Do you hear? Miss Hoole is calling you to tea,” she said, tearing the children form her, and sending them off to the dining room.
“I know why you press me to come to the ball. You expect a great deal of this ball, and you want everyone to be there to take part in it.”
“How do you know? Yes.”
“Oh! what a happy time you are at,” pursued Anna. “I remember, and I know that blue haze like the mist on the mountains in Switzerland. That mist which covers everything in that blissful time when childhood is just ending, and out of that vast circle, happy and gay, there is a path growing narrower and narrower, and it is delightful and alarming to enter the ballroom, bright and splendid as it is…. Who has not been through it?”
Kitty smiled without speaking. “But how did she go through it? How I should like to know all her love story!” thought Kitty, recalling the unromantic appearance of Alexey Alexandrovitch, her husband.
“I know something. Stiva told me, and I congratulate you. I liked him so much,” Anna continued. “I met Vronsky at the railway station.”
“Oh, was he there?” asked Kitty, blushing. “What was it Stiva told you?”
“Stiva gossiped about it all. And I should be so glad…I traveled yesterday with Vronsky’s mother,” she went on; “and his mother talked without a pause of him, he’s her favorite. I know mothers are partial, but…”
“What did his mother tell you?”
“Oh, a great deal! And I know that he’s her favorite; still one can see how chivalrous he is…. Well, for instance, she told me that he had wanted to give up all his property to his brother, that he had done something extraordinary when he was quite a child, saved a woman out of the water. He’s a hero, in fact,” said Anna, smiling and recollecting the two hundred roubles he had given at the station.
But she did not tell Kitty about the two hundred roubles. For some reason it was disagreeable to her to think of it. She felt that there was something that had to do with her in it, and something that ought not to have been.
“She pressed me very much to go and see her,” Anna went on; “and I shall be glad to go to see her tomorrow. Stiva is staying a long while in Dolly’s room, thank God,” Anna added, changing the subject, and getting up, Kitty fancied, displeased with something.
“No, I’m first! No, I!” screamed the children, who had finished tea, running up to their Aunt Anna.
“All together,” said Anna, and she ran laughing to meet them, and embraced and swung round all the throng of swarming children, shrieking with delight.