Anna Karenina (Part One – Chapter 31-34)

Anna Karenina

Leo Toistoy

Chapter 31

Vronsky had not even tried to sleep all that night. He sat in his armchair, looking straight before him or scanning the people who got in and out. If he had indeed on previous occasions struck and impressed people who did not know him by his air of unhesitating composure, he seemed now more haughty and self-possessed than ever. He looked at people as if they were things. A nervous young man, a clerk in a law court, sitting opposite him, hated him for that look. The young man asked him for a light, and entered into conversation with him, and even pushed against him, to make him feel that he was not a thing, but a person. But Vronsky gazed at him exactly as he did at the lamp, and the young man made a wry face, feeling that he was losing his self-possession under the oppression of this refusal to recognize him as a person.

Vronsky saw nothing and no one. He felt himself a king, not because he believed that he had made an impression on Anna–he did not yet believe that,–but because the impression she had made on him gave him happiness and pride.

What would come if it all he did not know, he did not even think. He felt that all his forces, hitherto dissipated, wasted, were centered on one thing, and bent with fearful energy on one blissful goal. And he was happy at it. He knew only that he had told her the truth, that he had come where she was, that all the happiness of his life, the only meaning in life for him, now lay in seeing and hearing her. And when he got out of the carriage at Bologova to get some seltzer water, and caught sight of Anna, involuntarily his first word had told her just what he thought. And he was glad he had told her it, that she knew it now and was thinking of it. He did not sleep all night. When he was back in the carriage, he kept unceasingly going over every position in which he had seen her, every word she had uttered, and before his fancy, making his heart faint with emotion, floated pictures of a possible future.

When he got out of the train at Petersburg, he felt after his sleepless night as keen and fresh as after a cold bath. He paused near his compartment, waiting for her to get out. “Once more,” he said to himself, smiling unconsciously, “once more I shall see her walk, her face; she will say something, turn her head, glance, smile, maybe.” But before he caught sight of her, he saw her husband, whom the station-master was deferentially escorting through the crowd. “Ah, yes! The husband.” Only now for the first time did Vronsky realize clearly the fact that there was a person attached to her, a husband. He knew that she had a husband, but had hardly believed in his existence, and only now fully believed in him, with his head and shoulders, and his legs clad in black trousers; especially when he saw this husband calmly take her arm with a sense of property.

Seeing Alexey Alexandrovitch with his Petersburg face and severely self-confident figure, in his round hat, with his rather prominent spine, he believed in him, and was aware of a disagreeable sensation, such as a man might feel tortured by thirst, who, on reaching a spring, should find a dog, a sheep, or a pig, who has drunk of it and muddied the water. Alexey Alexandrovitch’s manner of walking, with a swing of the hips and flat feet, particularly annoyed Vronsky. He could recognize in no one but himself an indubitable right to love her. But she was still the same, and the sight of her affected him the same way, physically reviving him, stirring him, and filling his soul with rapture. He told his German valet, who ran up to him from the second class, to take his things and go on, and he himself went up to her. He saw the first meeting between the husband and wife, and noted with a lover’s insight the signs of slight reserve with which she spoke to her husband. “No, she does not love him and cannot love him,” he decided to himself.

At the moment when he was approaching Anna Arkadyevna he noticed too with joy that she was conscious of his being near, and looked round, and seeing him, turned again to her husband.

“Have you passed a good night?” he asked, bowing to her and her husband together, and leaving it up to Alexey Alexandrovitch to accept the bow on his own account, and to recognize it or not, as he might see fit.

“Thank you, very good,” she answered.

Her face looked weary, and there was not that play of eagerness in it, peeping out in her smile and her eyes; but for a single instant, as she glanced at him, there was a flash of something in her eyes, and although the flash died away at once, he was happy for that moment. She glanced at her husband to find out whether he knew Vronsky. Alexey Alexandrovitch looked at Vronsky with displeasure, vaguely recalling who this was. Vronsky’s composure and self-confidence have struck, like a scythe against a stone, upon the cold self-confidence of Alexey Alexandrovitch.

“Count Vronsky,” said Anna.

“Ah! We are acquainted, I believe,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch indifferently, giving his hand.

“You set off with the mother and you return with the son,” he said, articulating each syllable, as though each were a separate favor he was bestowing.

“You’re back from leave, I suppose?” he said, and without waiting for a reply, he turned to his wife in his jesting tone: “Well, were a great many tears shed at Moscow at parting?”

By addressing his wife like this he gave Vronsky to understand that he wished to be left alone, and, turning slightly towards him, he touched his hat; but Vronsky turned to Anna Arkadyevna.

“I hope I may have the honor of calling on you,” he said.

Alexey Alexandrovitch glanced with his weary eyes at Vronsky.

“Delighted,” he said coldly. “On Mondays we’re at home. Most fortunate,” he said to his wife, dismissing Vronsky altogether, “that I should just have half an hour to meet you, so that I can prove my devotion,” he went on in the same jesting tone.

“You lay too much stress on your devotion for me to value it much,” she responded in the same jesting tone, involuntarily listening to the sound of Vronsky’s steps behind them. “But what has it to do with me?” she said to herself, and she began asking her husband how Seryozha had got on without her.

“Oh, capitally! Mariette says he has been very good, And…I must disappoint you…but he has not missed you as your husband has. But once more merci, my dear, for giving me a day. Our dear Samovar will be delighted.” (He used to call the Countess Lidia Ivanovna, well known in society, a samovar, because she was always bubbling over with excitement.) “She has been continually asking after you. And, do you know, if I may venture to advise you, you should go and see her today. You know how she takes everything to heart. Just now, with all her own cares, she’s anxious about the Oblonskys being brought together.”

The Countess Lidia Ivanovna was a friend of her husband’s, and the center of that one of the coteries of the Petersburg world with which Anna was, through her husband, in the closest relations.

“But you know I wrote to her?”

“Still she’ll want to hear details. Go and see her, if you’re not too tired, my dear. Well, Kondraty will take you in the carriage, while I go to my committee. I shall not be alone at dinner again,” Alexey Alexandrovitch went on, no longer in a sarcastic tone. “You wouldn’t believe how I’ve missed…” And with a long pressure of her hand and a meaning smile, he put her in her carriage.

Chapter 32

The first person to meet Anna at home was her son. He dashed down the stairs to her, in spite of the governess’s call, and with desperate joy shrieked: “Mother! mother!” Running up to her, he hung on her neck.

“I told you it was mother!” he shouted to the governess. “I knew!”

And her son, like her husband, aroused in Anna a feeling akin to disappointment. She had imagined him better than he was in reality. She had to let herself drop down to the reality to enjoy him as he really was. But even as he was, he was charming, with his fair curls, his blue eyes, and his plump, graceful little legs in tightly pulled-up stockings. Anna experienced almost physical pleasure in the sensation of his nearness, and his caresses, and moral soothing, when she met his simple, confiding, and loving glance, and heard his naive questions. Anna took out the presents Dolly’s children had sent him, and told her son what sort of little girl was Tanya at Moscow, and how Tanya could read, and even taught the other children.

“Why, am I not so nice as she?” asked Seryozha.

To me you’re nicer than anyone in the world.”

“I know that,” said Seryozha, smiling.

Anna had not had time to drink her coffee when the Countess Lidia Ivanovna was announced. The Countess Lidia Ivanovna was a tall, stout woman, with an unhealthily sallow face and splendid, pensive black eyes. Anna liked her, but today she seemed to be seeing her for the first time with all her defects.

“Well, my dear, so you took the olive branch?” inquired Countess Lidia Ivanovna, as soon as she came into the room.

“Yes, it’s all over, but it was all much less serious than we had supposed,” answered Anna. “My belle-soeur is in general too hasty.”

But Countess Lidia Ivanovna, though she was interested in everything that did not concern her, had a habit of never listening to what interested her; she interrupted Anna:

“Yes, there’s plenty of sorrow and evil in the world. I am so worried today.”

“Oh, why?” asked Anna, trying to suppress a smile.

“I’m beginning to be weary of fruitlessly championing the truth, and sometimes I’m quite unhinged by it. The Society of the Little Sisters” (this was a religiously-patriotic, philanthropic institution) “was going splendidly, but with these gentlemen it’s impossible to do anything,” added Countess Lidia Ivanovna in a tone of ironical submission to destiny. “They pounce on the idea, and distort it, and then work it out so pettily and unworthily. Two or three people, your husband among them, understand all the importance of the thing, but the others simply drag it down. Yesterday Pravdin wrote to me…”

Pravdin was a well-known Panslavist abroad, and Countess Lidia Ivanovna described the purport of his letter.

Then the countess told her of more disagreements and intrigues against the work of the unification of the churches, and departed in haste, as she had that day to be at the meeting of some society and also at the Slavonic committee.

“It was all the same before, of course; but why was it I didn’t notice it before?” Anna asked herself. “Or has she been very much irritated today? It’s really ludicrous; her object is doing good; she a Christian, yet she’s always angry; and she always has enemies, and always enemies in the name of Christianity and doing good.”

After Countess Lidia Ivanovna another friend came, the wife of a chief secretary, who told her all the news of the town. At three o’clock she too went away, promising to come to dinner. Alexey Alexandrovitch was at the ministry. Anna, left alone, spent the time till dinner in assisting at her son’s dinner (he dined apart from his parents) and in putting her things in order, and in reading and answering the notes and letters which had accumulated on her table.

The feeling of causeless shame, which she had felt on the journey, and her excitement, too, had completely vanished. In the habitual conditions of her life she felt again resolute and irreproachable.

She recalled with wonder her state of mind on the previous day. “What was it? Nothing. Vronsky said something silly, which it was easy to put a stop to, and I answered as I ought to have done. To speak of it to my husband would be unnecessary and out of the question. To speak of it would be to attach importance to what has no importance.” She remembered how she had told her husband of what was almost a declaration made her at Petersburg by a young man, one of her husband’s subordinates, and how Alexey Alexandrovitch had answered that every woman living in the world was exposed to such incidents, but that he had the fullest confidence in her tact, and could never lower her and himself by jealousy. “So then there’s no reason to speak of it? And indeed, thank God, there’s nothing to speak of,” she told herself.

Chapter 33

Alexey Alexandrovitch came back from the meeting of the ministers at four o’clock, but as often happened, he had not time no come in to her. He went into his study to see the people waiting for him with petitions, and to sign some papers brought him by his chief secretary. At dinner time (there were always a few people dining with the Karenins) there arrived an old lady, a cousin of Alexey Alexandrovitch, the chief secretary of the department and his wife, and a young man who had been recommended to Alexey Alexandrovitch for the service. Anna went into the drawing room to receive these guests. Precisely at five o’clock, before the bronze Peter the First clock had struck the fifth stroke, Alexey Alexandrovitch came in, wearing a white tie and evening coat with two stars, as he had to go out directly after dinner. Every minute of Alexey Alexandrovitch’s life was portioned out and occupied. And to make time to get through all that lay before him every day, he adhered to the strictest punctuality. “Unhasting and unresting,” was his motto. He came into the dining hall, greeted everyone, and hurriedly sat down, smiling to his wife.

“Yes, my solitude is over. You wouldn’t believe how uncomfortable” (he laid stress on the word uncomfortable) “it is to dine alone.”

At dinner he talked a little to his wife about Moscow matters, and, with a sarcastic smile, asked her after Stepan Arkadyevitch; but the conversation was for the most part general, dealing with Petersburg official and public news. After dinner he spent half an hour with his guests, and again, with a smile, pressed his wife’s hand, withdrew, and drove off to the council. Anna did not go out that evening either to the Princess Betsy Tverskaya, who, hearing of her return, had invited her, nor to the theater, where she had a box for that evening. She did not go out principally because the dress she had reckoned upon was not ready. Altogether, Anna, on turning, after the departure of her guests, to the consideration of her attire, was very much annoyed. She was generally a mistress of the art of dressing well without great expense, and before leaving Moscow she had given her dressmaker three dresses to transform. The dresses had to be altered so that they could not be recognized, and they ought to have been ready three days before. It appeared that two dresses had not been done at all, while the other one had not been altered as Anna had intended. The dressmaker came to explain, declaring that it would be better as she had done it, and Anna was so furious that she felt ashamed when she thought of it afterwards. To regain her serenity completely she went into the nursery, and spent the whole evening with her son, put him to bed herself, signed him with the cross, and tucked him up. She was glad she had not gone out anywhere, and had spent the evening so well. She felt so light-hearted and serene, she saw so clearly that all that had seemed to her so important on her railway journey was only one of the common trivial incidents of fashionable life, and that she had no reason to feel ashamed before anyone else or before herself. Anna sat down at the hearth with an English novel and waited for her husband. Exactly at half-past nine she heard his ring, and he came into the room.

“Here you are at last!” she observed, holding out her hand to him.

He kissed her hand and sat down beside her.

“Altogether then, I see your visit was a success,” he said to her.

“Oh, yes,” she said, and she began telling him about everything from the beginning: her journey with Countess Vronskaya, her arrival, the accident at the station. Then she described the pity she had felt, first for her brother, and afterwards for Dolly.

“I imagine one cannot exonerate such a man from blame, though he is your brother,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch severely.

Anna smiled. She knew that he said that simply to show that family considerations could not prevent him from expressing his genuine opinion. She knew that characteristic in her husband, and liked it.

“I am glad it has all ended so satisfactorily, And that you are back again,” he went on. “Come, what do they say about the new act I have got passed in the council?”

Anna had heard nothing of this act, And she felt conscience-stricken at having been able so readily to forget what was to him of such importance.

“Here, on the other hand, it has made a great sensation,” he said, with a complacent smile.

She saw that Alexey Alexandrovitch wanted to tell her something pleasant to him about it, and she brought him by questions to telling it. With the same complacent smile he told her of the ovations he had received in consequence of the act the had passed.

“I was very, very glad. It shows that at last a reasonable and steady view of the matter is becoming prevalent among us.”

Having drunk his second cup of tea with cream, and bread, Alexey Alexandrovitch got up, and was going towards his study.

“And you’ve not been anywhere this evening? You’ve been dull, I expect?” he said.

“Oh, no!” she answered, getting up after him and accompanying him across the room to his study. “What are you reading now?” she asked.

“Just now I’m reading Duc de Likke, Poesie des Enfers,” he answered. “A very remarkable book.”

Anna smiled, as people smile at the weaknesses of those they love, and, putting her hand under his, she escorted him to the door of the study. She knew his habit, that had grown into a necessity, of reading in the evening. She knew, too, that in spite of his official duties, which swallowed up almost the whole of his time, he considered it his duty to keep up with everything of note that appeared in the intellectual world. She knew, too, that he was really interested in books dealing with politics, philosophy, and theology, that art was utterly foreign to his nature; but, in spite of this, or rather, in consequence of it, Alexey Alexandrovitch never passed over anything in the world of art, but made it his duty to read everything. She knew that in politics, in philosophy, in theology, Alexey Alexandrovitch often had doubts, and made investigations; but on questions of art and poetry, and, above all, of music, of which he was totally devoid of understanding, he had the most distinct and decided opinions. He was fond of talking about Shakespeare, Raphael, Beethoven, of the significance of new schools of poetry and music, all of which were classified by him with very conspicuous consistency.

“Well, God be with you,” she said at the door of the study, where a shaded candle and a decanter of water were already put by his armchair. “And I’ll write to Moscow.”

He pressed her hand, and again kissed it.

“All the same he’s a good man; truthful, good-hearted, and remarkable in his own line,” Anna said to herself going back to her room, as though she were defending him to someone who had attacked him and said that one could not love him. “But why is it his ears stick out so strangely? Or has he had his hair cut?”

Precisely at twelve o’clock, when Anna was still sitting at her writing table, finishing a letter to Dolly, she heard the sound of measured steps in slippers, and Alexey Alexandrovitch, freshly washed and combed, with a book under his arm, came in to her.

“It’s time, it’s time,” said he, with a meaning smile, And he went into their bedroom.

“And what right had he to look at him like that?” thought Anna, recalling Vronsky’s glance at Alexey Alexandrovitch.

Undressing, she went into the bedroom; but her face had none of the eagerness which, during her stay in Moscow, had fairly flashed from her eyes and her smile; on the contrary, now the fire seemed quenched in her, hidden somewhere far away.

Chapter 34

When Vronsky went to Moscow from Petersburg, he had left his large set of rooms in Morskaia to his friend and favorite comrade Petritsky.

Petritsky was a young lieutenant, not particularly well-connected, and not merely not wealthy, but always hopelessly in debt. Towards evening he was always drunk, and he had often been locked up after all sorts of ludicrous and disgraceful scandals, but he was a favorite both of his comrades and his superior officers. On arriving at twelve o’clock from the station at his flat, Vronsky saw, at the outer door, a hired carriage familiar to him. While still outside his own door, as he rang, he heard masculine laughter, the lisp of a feminine voice, and Petritsky’s voice. “If that’s one of the villains, don’t let him in!” Vronsky told the servant not to announce him, and slipped quietly into the first room. Baroness Shilton, a friend of Petritsky’s, with a rosy little face and flaxen hair, resplendent in a lilac satin gown, and filling the whole room, like a canary, with her Parisian chatter, sat at the round table making coffee. Petritsky, in his overcoat, and the cavalry captain Kamerovsky, in full uniform, probably just come from duty, were sitting each side of her.

“Bravo! Vronsky!” shouted Petritsky, jumping up, scraping his chair. “Our host himself! Baroness, some coffee for him out of the new coffee pot. Why, we didn’t expect you! Hope you’re satisfied with the ornament of your study,” he said, indicating the baroness. “You know each other, of course?”

“I should think so,” said Vronsky, with a bright smile, pressing the baroness’s little hand. “What next! I’m an old friend.”

“You’re home after a journey,” said the baroness, “so I’m flying. Oh, I’ll be off this minute, if I’m in the way.”

“You’re home, wherever you are, baroness,” said Vronsky. “How do you do, Kamerovsky?” he added, coldly shaking hands with Kamerovsky.

“There, you never know how to say such pretty things,” said the baroness, turning to Petritsky.

“No; what’s that for? After dinner I say things quite as good.”

“After dinner there’s no credit in them? Well, then, I’ll make you some coffee, so go and wash and get ready,” said the baroness, sitting down again, and anxiously turning the screw in the new coffee pot. “Pierre, give me the coffee,” she said, addressing Petritsky, whom she called as a contraction of his surname, making no secret of her relations with him. “I’ll put it in.”

“You’ll spoil it!”

“No, I won’t spoil it! Well, and your wife?” said the baroness suddenly, interrupting Vronsky’s conversation with his comrade. “We’ve been marrying you here. Have you brought your wife?”

“No, baroness. I was born a Bohemian, and a Bohemian I shall die.”

“So much the better, so much the better. Shake hands on it.”

And the baroness, detaining Vronsky, began telling him, with many jokes, about her last new plans of life, asking his advice.

“He persists in refusing to give me a divorce! Well, what am I to do?” (HE was her husband.) “Now I want to begin a suit against him. What do you advise? Kamerovsky, look after the coffee; it’s boiling over. You see, I’m engrossed with business! I want a lawsuit, because I must have my property. Do you understand the folly of it, that on the pretext of my being unfaithful to him,” she said contemptuously, “he wants to get the benefit of my fortune.”

Vronsky heard with pleasure this light-hearted prattle of a pretty woman, agreed with her, gave her half-joking counsel, and altogether dropped at once into the tone habitual to him in talking to such women. In his Petersburg world all people were divided into utterly opposed classes. One, the lower class, vulgar, stupid, and, above all, ridiculous people, who believe that one husband ought to live with the one wife whom he has lawfully married; that a girl should be innocent, a woman modest, and a man manly, self-controlled, and strong; that one ought to bring up one’s children, earn one’s bread, and pay one’s debts; and various similar absurdities. This was the class of old-fashioned and ridiculous people. But there was another class of people, the real people. To this class they all belonged, and in it the great thing was to be elegant, generous, plucky, gay, to abandon oneself without a blush to every passion, and to laugh at everything else.

For the first moment only, Vronsky was startled after the impression of a quite different world that he had brought with him from Moscow. But immediately as though slipping his feet into old slippers, he dropped back into the light-hearted, pleasant world he had always lived in.

The coffee was never really made, but spluttered over every one, and boiled away, doing just what was required of it–that is, providing much cause for much noise and laughter, and spoiling a costly rug and the baroness’s gown.

“Well now, good-bye, or you’ll never get washed, and I shall have on my conscience the worst sin a gentleman can commit. So you would advise a knife to his throat?”

“To be sure, and manage that your hand may not be far from his lips. He’ll kiss your hand, and all will end satisfactorily,” answered Vronsky.

“So at the Francais!” and, with a rustle of her skirts, she vanished.

Kamerovsky got up too, and Vronsky, not waiting for him to go, shook hands and went off to his dressing room.

While he was washing, Petritsky described to him in brief outlines his position, as far as it had changed since Vronsky had left Petersburg. No money at all. His father said he wouldn’t give him any and pay his debts. His tailor was trying to get him locked up, and another fellow, too, was threatening to get him locked up. The colonel of the regiment had announced that if these scandals did not cease he would have to leave. As for the baroness, he was sick to death of her, especially since she’d taken to offering continually to lend him money. But he had found a girl–he’d show her to Vronsky–a marvel, exquisite, in the strict Oriental style, “genre of the slave Rebecca, don’t you know.” He’d had a row, too, with Berkoshov, and was going to send seconds to him, but of course it would come to nothing. Altogether everything was supremely amusing and jolly. And, not letting his comrade enter into further details of his position, Petritsky proceeded to tell him all the interesting news. As he listened to Petritsky’s familiar stories in the familiar setting of the rooms he had spent the last three years in, Vronsky felt a delightful sense of coming back to the careless Petersburg life that he was used to.

“Impossible!” he cried, letting down the pedal of the washing basin in which he had been sousing his healthy red neck. “Impossible!” he cried, at the news that Laura had flung over Fertinghof and had made up to Mileev. “And is he as stupid and pleased as ever? Well, and how’s Buzulukov?”

“Oh, there is a tale about Buzulukov–simply lovely!” cried Petritsky. “You know his weakness for balls, and he never misses a single court ball. He went to a big ball in a new helmet. Have you seen the new helmets? Very nice, lighter. Well, so he’s standing…. No, I say, do listen.”

“I am listening,” answered Vronsky, rubbing himself with a rough towel.

“Up comes the Grand Duchess with some ambassador or other, and, as ill-luck would have it, she begins talking to him about the new helmets. The Grand Duchess positively wanted to show the new helmet to the ambassador. They see our friend standing there.” (Petritsky mimicked how he was standing with the helmet.) “The Grand Duchess asked him to give her the helmet; he doesn’t give it to her. What do you think of that? Well, every one’s winking at him, nodding, frowning–give it to her, do! He doesn’t give it to her. He’s mute as a fish. Only picture it!… Well, the…what’s his name, whatever he was…tries to take the helmet from him…he won’t give it up!… He pulls it from him, and hands it to the Grand Duchess. ‘Here, your Highness,’ says he, ‘is the new helmet.’ She turned the helmet the other side up, And–just picture it!–plop went a pear and sweetmeats out of it, two pounds of sweetmeats!…He’d been storing them up, the darling!”

Vronsky burst into roars of laughter. And long afterwards, when he was talking of other things, he broke out into his healthy laugh, showing his strong, close rows of teeth, when he thought of the helmet.

Having heard all the news, Vronsky, with the assistance of his valet, got into his uniform, and went off to report himself. He intended, when he had done that, to drive to his brother’s and to Betsy’s and to pay several visits with a view to beginning to go into that society where he might meet Madame Karenina. As he always did in Petersburg, he left home not meaning to return till late at night.

 

 

 

 

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