Anna Karenina (Part Two – Chapter 26-30)
The external relations of Alexey Alexandrovitch and his wife had remained unchanged. The sole difference lay in the fact that he was more busily occupied than ever. As in former years, at the beginning of the spring he had gone to a foreign watering-place for the sake of his health, deranged by the winter’s work that every year grew heavier. And just as always he returned in July and at once fell to work as usual with increased energy. As usual, too, his wife had moved for the summer to a villa out of town, while he remained in Petersburg. From the date of their conversation after the party at Princess Tverskaya’s he had never spoken again to Anna of his suspicions and his jealousies, and that habitual tone of his bantering mimicry was the most convenient tone possible for his present attitude to his wife. He was a little colder to his wife. He simply seemed to be slightly displeased with her for that first midnight conversation, which she had repelled. In his attitude to her there was a shade of vexation, but nothing more. “You would not be open with me,” he seemed to say, mentally addressing her; “so much the worse for you. Now you may beg as you please, but I won’t be open with you. So much the worse for you!” he said mentally, like a man who, after vainly attempting to extinguish a fire, should fly in a rage with his vain efforts and say, “Oh, very well then! you shall burn for this!” This man, so subtle and astute in official life, did not realize all the senselessness of such an attitude to his wife. He did not realize it, because it was too terrible to him to realize his actual position, and he shut down and locked and sealed up in his heart that secret place where lay hid his feelings towards his family, that is, his wife and son. He who had been such a careful father, had from the end of that winter become peculiarly frigid to his son, and adopted to him just the same bantering tone he used with his wife. “Aha, young man!” was the greeting with which he met him.
Alexey Alexandrovitch asserted and believed that he had never in any previous year had so much official business as that year. But he was not aware that he sought work for himself that year, that this was one of the means for keeping shut that secret place where lay hid his feelings towards his wife and son and his thoughts about them, which became more terrible the longer they lay there. If anyone had had the right to ask Alexey Alexandrovitch what he thought of his wife’s behavior, the mild and peaceable Alexey Alexandrovitch would have made no answer, but he would have been greatly angered with any man who should question him on that subject. For this reason there positively came into Alexey Alexandrovitch’s face a look of haughtiness and severity whenever anyone inquired after his wife’s health. Alexey Alexandrovitch did not want to think at all about his wife’s behavior, and he actually succeeded in not thinking about it at all.
Alexey Alexandrovitch’s permanent summer villa was in Peterhof, and the Countess Lidia Ivanovna used as a rule to spend the summer there, close to Anna, and constantly seeing her. That year Countess Lidia Ivanovna declined to settle in Peterhof, was not once at Anna Arkadyevna’s, and in conversation with Alexey Alexandrovitch hinted at the unsuitability of Anna’s close intimacy with Betsy and Vronsky. Alexey Alexandrovitch sternly cut her short, roundly declaring his wife to be above suspicion, and from that time began to avoid Countess Lidia Ivanovna. He did not want to see, and did not see, that many people in society cast dubious glances on his wife, he did not want to understand, and did not understand, why his wife had so particularly insisted on staying at Tsarskoe, where Betsy was staying, and not far from the camp of Vronsky’s regiment. He did not allow himself to think about it, and he did not think about it; but all the same though he never admitted it to himself, and had no proofs, not even suspicious evidence, in the bottom of his heart he knew beyond all doubt that he was a deceived husband, and he was profoundly miserable about it.
How often during those eight years of happy life with his wife Alexey Alexandrovitch had looked at other men’s faithless wives and other deceived husbands and asked himself: “How can people descend to that? how is it they don’t put an end to such a hideous position?” But now, when the misfortune had come upon himself, he was so far from thinking of putting an end to the position that he would not recognize it at all, would not recognize it just because it was too awful, too unnatural.
Since his return from abroad Alexey Alexandrovitch had twice been at their country villa. Once he dined there, another time he spent the evening there with a party of friends, but he had not once stayed the night there, as it had been his habit to do in previous years.
The day of the races had been a very busy day for Alexey Alexandrovitch; but when mentally sketching out the day in the morning, he made up his mind to go to their country house to see his wife immediately after dinner, and from there to the races, which all the Court were to witness, and at which he was bound to be present. He was going to see his wife, because he had determined to see her once a week to keep up appearances. And besides, on that day, as it was the fifteenth, he had to give his wife some money for her expenses, according to their usual arrangement.
With his habitual control over his thoughts, though he thought all this about his wife, he did not let his thoughts stray further in regard to her.
That morning was a very full one for Alexey Alexandrovitch. The evening before, Countess Lidia Ivanovna had sent him a pamphlet by a celebrated traveler in China, who was staying in Petersburg, and with it she enclosed a note begging him to see the traveler himself, as he was an extremely interesting person from various points of view, and likely to be useful. Alexey Alexandrovitch had not had time to read the pamphlet through in the evening, and finished it in the morning. Then people began arriving with petitions, and there came the reports, interviews, appointments, dismissals, apportionment of rewards, pensions, grants, notes, the workaday round, as Alexey Alexandrovitch called it, that always took up so much time. Then there was private business of his own, a visit from the doctor and the steward who managed his property. The steward did not take up much time. He simply gave Alexey Alexandrovitch the money he needed together with a brief statement of the position of his affairs, which was not altogether satisfactory, as it had happened that during that year, owing to increased expenses, more had been paid out than usual, and there was a deficit. But the doctor, a celebrated Petersburg doctor, who was an intimate acquaintance of Alexey Alexandrovitch, took up a great deal of time. Alexey Alexandrovitch had not expected him that day, and was surprised at his visit, and still more so when the doctor questioned him very carefully about his health, listened to his breathing, and tapped at his liver. Alexey Alexandrovitch did not know that his friend Lidia Ivanovna, noticing that he was not as well as usual that year, had begged the doctor to go and examine him. “Do this for my sake,” the Countess Lidia Ivanovna had said to him.
“I will do it for the sake of Russia, countess,” replied the doctor.
“A priceless man!” said the Countess Lidia Ivanovna.
The doctor was extremely dissatisfied with Alexey Alexandrovitch. He found the liver considerably enlarged, and the digestive powers weakened, while the course of mineral waters had been quite without effect. He prescribed more physical exercise as far as possible, and as far as possible less mental strain, and above all no worry–in other words, just what was as much out of Alexey Alexandrovitch’s power as abstaining from breathing. Then he withdrew, leaving in Alexey Alexandrovitch an unpleasant sense that something was wrong with him, and that there was no chance of curing it.
As he was coming away, the doctor chanced to meet on the staircase an acquaintance of his, Sludin, who was secretary of Alexey Alexandrovitch’s department. They had been comrades at the university, and though they rarely met, they thought highly of each other and were excellent friends, and so there was no one to whom the doctor would have given his opinion of a patient so freely as to Sludin.
“How glad I am you’ve been seeing him!” said Sludin. “He’s not well, and I fancy…. Well, what do you think of him?”
“I’ll tell you,” said the doctor, beckoning over Sludin’s head to his coachman to bring the carriage round. “It’s just this,” said the doctor, taking a finger of his kid glove in his white hands and pulling it, “if you don’t strain the strings, and then try to break them, you’ll find it a difficult job; but strain a string to its very utmost, and the mere weight of one finger on the strained string will snap it. And with his close assiduity, his conscientious devotion to his work, he’s strained to the utmost; and there’s some outside burden weighing on him, and not a light one,” concluded the doctor, raising his eyebrows significantly. “Will you be at the races?” he added, as he sank into his seat in the carriage.
“Yes, yes, to be sure; it does waste a lot of time,” the doctor responded vaguely to some reply of Sludin’s he had not caught.
Directly after the doctor, who had taken up so much time, came the celebrated traveler, and Alexey Alexandrovitch, by means of the pamphlet he had only just finished reading and his previous acquaintance with the subject, impressed the traveler by the depth of his knowledge of the subject and the breadth and enlightenment of his view of it.
At the same time as the traveler there was announced a provincial marshal of nobility on a visit to Petersburg, with whom Alexey Alexandrovitch had to have some conversation. After his departure, he had to finish the daily routine of business with his secretary, and then he still had to drive round to call on a certain great personage on a matter of grave and serious import. Alexey Alexandrovitch only just managed to be back by five o’clock, his dinner-hour, and after dining with his secretary, he invited him to drive with him to his country villa and to the races.
Though he did not acknowledge it to himself, Alexey Alexandrovitch always tried nowadays to secure the presence of a third person in his interviews with his wife.
Anna was upstairs, standing before the looking glass, and, with Annushka’s assistance, pinning the last ribbon on her gown when she heard carriage wheels crunching the gravel at the entrance.
“It’s too early for Betsy,” she thought, and glancing out of the window she caught sight of the carriage and the black hat of Alexey Alexandrovitch, and the ears that she knew so well sticking up each side of it. “How unlucky! Can he be going to stay the night?” she wondered, and the thought of all that might come of such a chance struck her as so awful and terrible that, without dwelling on it for a moment, she went down to meet him with a bright and radiant face; and conscious of the presence of that spirit of falsehood and deceit in herself that she had come to know of late, she abandoned herself to that spirit and began talking, hardly knowing what she was saying.
“Ah, how nice of you!” she said, giving her husband her hand, and greeting Sludin, who was like one of the family, with a smile. “You’re staying the night, I hope?” was the first word the spirit of falsehood prompted her to utter; “and now we’ll go together. Only it’s a pity I’ve promised Betsy. She’s coming for me.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch knit his brows at Betsy’s name.
“Oh, I’m not going to separate the inseparables,” he said in his usual bantering tone. “I’m going with Mihail Vassilievitch. I’m ordered exercise by the doctors too. I’ll walk, and fancy myself at the springs again.”
“There’s no hurry,” said Anna. “Would you like tea?”
“Bring in tea, and tell Seryozha that Alexey Alexandrovitch is here. Well, tell me, how have you been? Mihail Vassilievitch, you’ve not been to see me before. Look how lovely it is out on the terrace,” she said, turning first to one and then to the other.
She spoke very simply and naturally, but too much and too fast. She was the more aware of this from noticing in the inquisitive look Mihail Vassilievitch turned on her that he was, as it were, keeping watch on her.
Mihail Vassilievitch promptly went out on the terrace.
She sat down beside her husband.
“You don’t look quite well,” she said.
“Yes,” he said; “the doctor’s been with me today and wasted an hour of my time. I feel that some one of our friends must have sent him: my health’s so precious, it seems.”
“No; what did he say?”
she questioned him about his health and what he had been doing, and tried to persuade him to take a rest and come out to her.
All this she said brightly, rapidly, and with a peculiar brilliance in her eyes. But Alexey Alexandrovitch did not now attach any special significance to this tone of hers. He heard only her words and gave them only the direct sense they bore. And he answered simply, though jestingly. There was nothing remarkable in all this conversation, but never after could Anna recall this brief scene without an agonizing pang of shame.
Seryozha came in preceded by his governess. If Alexey Alexandrovitch had allowed himself to observe he would have noticed the timid and bewildered eyes with which Seryozha glanced first at his father and then at his mother. But he would not see anything, and he did not see it.
“Ah, the young man! He’s grown. Really, he’s getting quite a man. How are you, young man?”
And he gave his hand to the scared child. Seryozha had been shy of his father before, and now, ever since Alexey Alexandrovitch had taken to calling him young man, and since that insoluble question had occurred to him whether Vronsky were a friend or a foe, he avoided his father. He looked round towards his mother as though seeking shelter. It was only with his mother that he was at ease. Meanwhile, Alexey Alexandrovitch was holding his son by the shoulder while he was speaking to the governess, and Seryozha was so miserably uncomfortable that Anna saw he was on the point of tears.
Anna, who had flushed a little the instant her son came in, noticing that Seryozha was uncomfortable, got up hurriedly, took Alexey Alexandrovitch’s hand from her son’s shoulder, and kissing the boy, led him out onto the terrace, and quickly came back.
“It’s time to start, though,” said she, glancing at her watch. “How is it Betsy doesn’t come?…”
“Yes,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, and getting up, he folded his hands and cracked his fingers. “I’ve come to bring you some money, too, for nightingales, we know, can’t live on fairy tales,” he said. “You want it, I expect?”
“No, I don’t…yes, I do,” she said, not looking at him, and crimsoning to the roots of her hair. “But you’ll come back here after the races, I suppose?”
“Oh, yes!” answered Alexey Alexandrovitch. “And here’s the glory of Peterhof, Princess Tverskaya,” he added, looking out of the window at the elegant English carriage with the tiny seats placed extremely high. “What elegance! Charming! Well, let us be starting too, then.”
Princess Tverskaya did not get out of her carriage, but her groom, in high boots, a cape, and block hat, darted out at the entrance.
“I’m going; good-bye!” said Anna, and kissing her son, she went up to Alexey Alexandrovitch and held out her hand to him. “It was ever so nice of you to come.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch kissed her hand.
“Well, au revoir, then! You’ll come back for some tea; that’s delightful!” she said, and went out, gay and radiant. But as soon as she no longer saw him, she was aware of the spot on her hand that his lips had touched, and she shuddered with repulsion.
When Alexey Alexandrovitch reached the race-course, Anna was already sitting in the pavilion beside Betsy, in that pavilion where all the highest society had gathered. She caught sight of her husband in the distance. Two men, her husband and her lover, were the two centers of her existence, and unaided by her external senses she was aware of their nearness. She was aware of her husband approaching a long way off, and she could not help following him in the surging crowd in the midst of which he was moving. She watched his progress towards the pavilion, saw him now responding condescendingly to an ingratiating bow, now exchanging friendly, nonchalant greetings with his equals, now assiduously trying to catch the eye of some great one of this world, and taking off his big round hat that squeezed the tips of his ears. All these ways of his she knew, and all were hateful to her. “Nothing but ambition, nothing but the desire to get on, that’s all there is in his soul,” she thought; “as for these lofty ideals, love of culture, religion, they are only so many tools for getting on.”
From his glances towards the ladies’ pavilion (he was staring straight at her, but did not distinguish his wife in the sea of muslin, ribbons, feathers, parasols and flowers) she saw that he was looking for her, but she purposely avoided noticing him.
“Alexey Alexandrovitch!” Princess Betsy called to him; “I’m sure you don’t see your wife: here she is.”
He smiled his chilly smile.
“There’s so much splendor here that one’s eyes are dazzled,” he said, and he went into the pavilion. He smiled to his wife as a man should smile on meeting his wife after only just parting from her, and greeted the princess and other acquaintances, giving to each what was due–that is to say, jesting with the ladies and dealing out friendly greetings among the men. Below, near the pavilion, was standing an adjutant-general of whom Alexey Alexandrovitch had a high opinion, noted for his intelligence and culture. Alexey Alexandrovitch entered into conversation with him.
There was an interval between the races, and so nothing hindered conversation. The adjutant-general expressed his disapproval of races. Alexey Alexandrovitch replied defending them. Anna heard his high, measured tones, not losing one word, and every word struck her as false, and stabbed her ears with pain.
When the three-mile steeplechase was beginning, she bent forward and gazed with fixed eyes at Vronsky as he went up to his horse and mounted, and at the same time she heard that loathsome, never-ceasing voice of her husband. She was in an agony of terror for Vronsky, but a still greater agony was the never-ceasing, as it seemed to her, stream of her husband’s shrill voice with its familiar intonations.
“I’m a wicked woman, a lost woman,” she thought; “but I don’t like lying, I can’t endure falsehood, while as for HIM (her husband) it’s the breath of his life–falsehood. He knows all about it, he sees it all; what does he care if he can talk so calmly? If he were to kill me, if he were to kill Vronsky, I might respect him. No, all he wants is falsehood and propriety,” Anna said to herself, not considering exactly what it was she wanted of her husband, and how she would have liked to see him behave. She did not understand either that Alexey Alexandrovitch’s peculiar loquacity that day, so exasperating to her, was merely the expression of his inward distress and uneasiness. As a child that has been hurt skips about, putting all his muscles into movement to drown the pain, in the same way Alexey Alexandrovitch needed mental exercise to drown the thoughts of his wife that in her presence and in Vronsky’s, and with the continual iteration of his name, would force themselves on his attention. And it was as natural for him to talk well and cleverly, as it is natural for a child to skip about. He was saying:
“Danger in the races of officers, of cavalry men, is an essential element in the race. If England can point to the most brilliant feats of cavalry in military history, it is simply owing to the fact that she has historically developed this force both in beasts and in men. Sport has, in my opinion, a great value, and as is always the case, we see nothing but what is most superficial.”
“It’s not superficial,” said Princess Tverskaya. “One of the officers, they say, has broken two ribs.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled his smile, which uncovered his teeth, but revealed nothing more.
“We’ll admit, princess, that that’s not superficial,” he said, “but internal. But that’s not the point,” and he turned again to the general with whom he was talking seriously; “we mustn’t forget that those who are taking part in the race are military men, who have chosen that career, and one must allow that every calling has its disagreeable side. It forms an integral part of the duties of an officer. Low sports, such as prizefighting or Spanish bull-fights, are a sign of barbarity. But specialized trials of skill are a sign of development.”
“No, I shan’t come another time; it’s too upsetting,” said Princess Betsy. “Isn’t it, Anna?”
“It is upsetting, but one can’t tear oneself away,” said another lady. “If I’d been a Roman woman I should never have missed a single circus.”
Anna said nothing, and keeping her opera glass up, gazed always at the same spot.
At that moment a tall general walked through the pavilion. Breaking off what he was saying, Alexey Alexandrovitch got up hurriedly, though with dignity, and bowed low to the general.
“You’re not racing?” the officer asked, chaffing him.
“My race is a harder one,” Alexey Alexandrovitch responded deferentially.
And though the answer meant nothing, the general looked as though he had heard a witty remark from a witty man, and fully relished la pointe de la sauce.
“There are two aspects,” Alexey Alexandrovitch resumed: “those who take part and those who look on; and love for such spectacles is an unmistakable proof of a low degree of development in the spectator, I admit, but…”
“Princess, bets!” sounded Stepan Arkadyevitch’s voice from below. addressing Betsy. “Who’s your favorite?”
“Anna and I are for Kuzovlev,” replied Betsy.
“I’m for Vronsky. A pair of gloves?”
“But it is a pretty sight, isn’t it?”
Alexey Alexandrovitch paused while there was talking about him, but he began again directly.
“I admit that manly sports do not…” he was continuing.
But at that moment the racers started, and all conversation ceased. Alexey Alexandrovitch too was silent, and everyone stood up and turned towards the stream. Alexey Alexandrovitch took no interest in the race, and so he did not watch the racers, but fell listlessly to scanning the spectators with his weary eyes. His eyes rested upon Anna.
Her face was white and set. She was obviously seeing nothing and no one but one man. Her hand had convulsively clutched her fan, and she held her breath. He looked at her and hastily turned away, scrutinizing other faces.
“But here’s this lady too, and others very much moved as well; it’s very natural,” Alexey Alexandrovitch told himself. He tried not to look at her, but unconsciously his eyes were drawn to her. He examined that face again, trying not to read what was so plainly written on it, and against his own will, with horror read on it what he did not want to know.
The first fall–Kuzovlev’s, at the stream–agitated everyone, but Alexey Alexandrovitch saw distinctly on Anna’s pale, triumphant face that the man she was watching had not fallen. When, after Mahotin and Vronsky had cleared the worst barrier, the next officer had been thrown straight on his head at it and fatally injured, and a shudder of horror passed over the whole public, Alexey Alexandrovitch saw that Anna did not even notice it, and had some difficulty in realizing what they were talking of about her. But more and more often, and with greater persistence, he watched her. Anna, wholly engrossed as she was with the race, became aware of her husband’s cold eyes fixed upon her from one side.
She glanced round for an instant, looked inquiringly at him, and with a slight frown turned away again.
“Ah, I don’t care!” she seemed to say to him, and she did not once glance at him again.
The race was an unlucky one, and of the seventeen officers who rode in it more than half were thrown and hurt. Towards the end of the race everyone was in a state of agitation, which was intensified by the fact that the Tsar was displeased.
Everyone was loudly expressing disapprobation, everyone was repeating a phrase some one had uttered–“The lions and gladiators will be the next thing,” and everyone was feeling horrified; so that when Vronsky fell to the ground, and Anna moaned aloud, there was nothing very out of the way in it. But afterwards a change came over Anna’s face which really was beyond decorum. She utterly lost her head. She began fluttering like a caged bird, at one moment would have got up and moved away, at the next turned to Betsy.
“Let us go, let us go!” she said.
But Betsy did not hear her. She was bending down, talking to a general who had come up to her.
Alexey Alexandrovitch went up to Anna and courteously offered her his arm.
“Let us go, if you like,” he said in French, but Anna was listening to the general and did not notice her husband.
“He’s broken his leg too, so they say,” the general was saying. “This is beyond everything.”
Without answering her husband, Anna lifted her opera glass and gazed towards the place where Vronsky had fallen; but it was so far off, and there was such a crowd of people about it, that she could make out nothing. She laid down the opera glass, and would have moved away, but at that moment an officer galloped up and made some announcement to the Tsar. Anna craned forward, listening.
“Stiva! Stiva!” she cried to her brother.
But her brother did not hear her. Again she would have moved away.
“Once more I offer you my arm if you want to be going,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, reaching towards her hand.
She drew back from him with aversion, and without looking in his face answered:
“No, no, let me be, I’ll stay.”
She saw now that from the place of Vronsky’s accident an officer was running across the course towards the pavilion. Betsy waved her handkerchief to him. The officer brought the news that the rider was not killed, but the horse had broken its back.
On hearing this Anna sat down hurriedly, and hid her face in her fan. Alexey Alexandrovitch saw that she was weeping, and could not control her tears, nor even the sobs that were shaking her bosom. Alexey Alexandrovitch stood so as to screen her, giving her time to recover herself.
“For the third time I offer you my arm,” he said to her after a little time, turning to her. Anna gazed at him and did not know what to say. Princess Betsy came to her rescue.
“No, Alexey Alexandrovitch; I brought Anna and I promised to take her home,” put in Betsy.
“Excuse me, princess,” he said, smiling courteously but looking her very firmly in the face, “but I see that Anna’s not very well, and I wish her to come home with me.”
Anna looked about her in a frightened way, got up submissively, and laid her hand on her husband’s arm.
“I’ll send to him and find out, and let you know,” Betsy whispered to her.
As they left the pavilion, Alexey Alexandrovitch, as always, talked to those he met, and Anna had, as always, to talk and answer; but she was utterly beside herself, and moved hanging on her husband’s arm as though in a dream.
“Is he killed or not? Is it true? Will he come or not? Shall I see him today?” she was thinking.
She took her seat in her husband’s carriage in silence, and in silence drove out of the crowd of carriages. I spite of all he had seen, Alexey Alexandrovitch still did not allow himself to consider his wife’s real condition. He merely saw the outward symptoms. He saw that she was behaving unbecomingly, and considered it his duty to tell her so. But it was very difficult for him not to say more, to tell her nothing but that. He opened his mouth to tell her she had behaved unbecomingly, but he could not help saying something utterly different.
“What an inclination we all have, though, for these cruel spectacles,” he said. “I observe…”
“Eh? I don’t understand,” said Anna contemptuously.
He was offended, and at once began to say what he had meant to say.
“I am obliged to tell you,” he began.
“So now we are to have it out,” she thought, and she felt frightened.
“I am obliged to tell you that your behavior has been unbecoming today,” he said to her in French.
“In what way has my behavior been unbecoming?” she said aloud, turning her head swiftly and looking him straight in the face, not with the bright expression that seemed covering something, but with a look of determination, under which she concealed with difficulty the dismay she was feeling.
“Mind,” he said, pointing to the open window opposite the coachman.
He got up and pulled up the window.
“What did you consider unbecoming?” she repeated.
“The despair you were unable to conceal at the accident to one of the riders.”
He waited for her to answer, but she was silent, looking straight before her.
“I have already begged you so to conduct yourself in society that even malicious tongues can find nothing to say against you. There was a time when I spoke of your inward attitude, but I am not speaking of that now. Now I speak only of your external attitude. You have behaved improperly, and I would wish it not to occur again.”
She did not hear half of what he was saying; she felt panic-stricken before him, and was thinking whether it was true that Vronsky was not killed. Was it of him they were speaking when they said the rider was unhurt, but the horse had broken its back? She merely smiled with a pretense of irony when he finished, and made no reply, because she had not heard what he said. Alexey Alexandrovitch had begun to speak boldly, but as he realized plainly what he was speaking of, the dismay she was feeling infected him too. He saw the smile, and a strange misapprehension came over him.
“She is smiling at my suspicions. Yes, she will tell me directly what she told me before; that there is no foundation for my suspicions, that it’s absurd.”
At that moment, when the revelation of everything was hanging over him, there was nothing he expected so much as that she would answer mockingly as before that his suspicions were absurd and utterly groundless. So terrible to him was that he knew that now he was ready to believe anything. But the expression of her face, scared and gloomy, did not now promise even deception.
“Possibly I was mistaken,” said he. “If so, I beg your pardon.”
“No, you were not mistaken,” she said deliberately, looking desperately into his cold face. “You were not mistaken. I was, and I could not help being in despair. I hear you, but I am thinking of him. I love him, I am his mistress; I can’t bear you; I’m afraid of you, and I hate you…. You can do what you like to me.”
And dropping back into the corner of the carriage, she broke into sobs, hiding her face in her hands. Alexey Alexandrovitch did not stir, and kept looking straight before him. But his whole face suddenly bore the solemn rigidity of the dead, and his expression did not change during the whole time of the drive home. On reaching the house he turned his head to her, still with the same expression.
“Very well! But I expect a strict observance of the external forms of propriety till such time”–his voice shook–“as I may take measures to secure my honor and communicate them to you.”
He got out first and helped her to get out. Before the servants he pressed her hand, took his seat in the carriage, and drove back to Petersburg. Immediately afterwards a footman came from Princess Betsy and brought Anna a note.
“I sent to Alexey to find out how he is, and he writes me he is quite well and unhurt, but in despair.”
“So he will be here,” she thought. “What a good thing I told him all!”
She glanced at her watch. She had still three hours to wait, and the memories of their last meeting set her blood in flame.
“My God, how light it is! It’s dreadful, but I do love to see his face, and I do love this fantastic light…. My husband! Oh! yes…. Well, thank God! everything’s over with him.”
In the little German watering-place to which the Shtcherbatskys had betaken themselves, as in all places indeed where people are gathered together, the usual process, as it were, of the crystallization of society went on, assigning to each member of that society a definite and unalterable place. Just as the particle of water in frost, definitely and unalterably, takes the special form of the crystal of snow, so each new person that arrived at the springs was at once placed in his special place.
Fuerst Shtcherbatsky, sammt Gemahlin und Tochter, by the apartments they took, and from their name and from the friends they made, were immediately crystallized into a definite place marked out for them.
There was visiting the watering-place that year a real German Fuerstin, in consequence of which the crystallizing process went on more vigorously than ever. Princess Shtcherbatskaya wished, above everything, to present her daughter to this German princess, and the day after their arrival she duly performed this rite. Kitty made a low and graceful curtsey in the very simple, that is to say, very elegant frock that had been ordered her from Paris. The German princess said, “I hope the roses will soon come back to this pretty little face,” and for the Shtcherbatskys certain definite lines of existence were at once laid down from which there was no departing. The Shtcherbatskys made the acquaintance too of the family of an English Lady Somebody, and of a German countess and her son, wounded in the last war, and of a learned Swede, and of M. Canut and his sister. But yet inevitably the Shtcherbatskys were thrown most into the society of a Moscow lady, Marya Yevgenyevna Rtishtcheva and her daughter, whom Kitty disliked, because she had fallen ill, like herself, over a love affair, and a Moscow colonel, whom Kitty had known from childhood, and always seen in uniform and epaulets, and who now, with his little eyes and his open neck and flowered cravat, was uncommonly ridiculous and tedious, because there was no getting rid of him. When all this was so firmly established, Kitty began to be very much bored, especially as the prince went away to Carlsbad and she was left alone with her mother. She took no interest in the people she knew, feeling that nothing fresh would come of them. Her chief mental interest in the watering-place consisted in watching and making theories about the people she did not know. It was characteristic of Kitty that she always imagined everything in people in the most favorable light possible, especially so in those she did not know. And now as she made surmises as to who people were, what were their relations to one another, and what they were like, Kitty endowed them with the most marvelous and noble characters, and found confirmation of her idea in her observations.
Of these people the one that attracted her most was a Russian girl who had come to the watering-place with an invalid Russian lady, Madame Stahl, as everyone called her. Madame Stahl belonged to the highest society, but she was so ill that she could not walk, and only on exceptionally fine days made her appearance at the springs in an invalid carriage. But it was not so much from ill-health as from pride–so Princess Shtcherbatskaya interpreted it–that Madame Stahl had not made the acquaintance of anyone among the Russians there. The Russian girl looked after Madame Stahl, and besides that, she was, as Kitty observed, on friendly terms with all the invalids who were seriously ill, and there were many of them at the springs, and looked after them in the most natural way. This Russian girl was not, as Kitty gathered, related to Madame Stahl, nor was she a paid attendant. Madame Stahl called her Varenka, and other people called her “Mademoiselle Varenka.” Apart from the interest Kitty took in this girl’s relations with Madame Stahl and with other unknown persons, Kitty, as often happened, felt an inexplicable attraction to Mademoiselle Varenka, and was aware when their eyes met that she too liked her.
Of Mademoiselle Varenka one would not say that she had passed her first youth, but she was, as it were, a creature without youth; she might have been taken for nineteen or for thirty. If her features were criticized separately, she was handsome rather than plain, in spite of the sickly hue of her face. She would have been a good figure, too, if it had not been for her extreme thinness and the size of her head, which was too large for her medium height. But she was not likely to be attractive to men. She was like a fine flower, already past its bloom and without fragrance, though the petals were still unwithered. Moreover, she would have been unattractive to men also from the lack of just what Kitty had too much of–of the suppressed fire of vitality, and the consciousness of her own attractiveness.
She always seemed absorbed in work about which there could be no doubt, and so it seemed she could not take interest in anything outside it. It was just this contrast with her own position that was for Kitty the great attraction of Mademoiselle Varenka. Kitty felt that in her, in her manner of life, she would find an example of what she was now so painfully seeking: interest in life, a dignity in life–apart from the worldly relations of girls with men, which so revolted Kitty, and appeared to her now as a shameful hawking about of goods in search of a purchaser. The more attentively Kitty watched her unknown friend, the more convinced she was this girl was the perfect creature she fancied her, and the more eagerly she wished to make her acquaintance.
The two girls used to meet several times a day, and every time they met, Kitty’s eyes said: “Who are you? What are you? Are you really the exquisite creature I imagine you to be? But for goodness’ sake don’t suppose,” her eyes added, “that I would force my acquaintance on you, I simply admire you and like you.” “I like you too, and you’re very, very sweet. And I should like you better still, if I had time,” answered the eyes of the unknown girl. Kitty saw indeed, that she was always busy. Either she was taking the children of a Russian family home from the springs, or fetching a shawl for a sick lady, and wrapping her up in it, or trying to interest an irritable invalid, or selecting and buying cakes for tea for someone.
Soon after the arrival of the Shtcherbatskys there appeared in the morning crowd at the springs two persons who attracted universal and unfavorable attention. These were a tall man with a stooping figure, and huge hands, in an old coat too short for him, with black, simple, and yet terrible eyes, and a pockmarked, kind-looking woman, very badly and tastelessly dressed. Recognizing these persons as Russians, Kitty had already in her imagination begun constructing a delightful and touching romance about them. But the princess, having ascertained from the visitors’ list that this was Nikolay Levin and Marya Nikolaevna, explained to Kitty what a bad man this Levin was, and all her fancies about these two people vanished. Not so much from what her mother told her, as from the fact that it was Konstantin’s brother, this pair suddenly seemed to Kitty intensely unpleasant. This Levin, with his continual twitching of his head, aroused in her now an irrepressible feeling of disgust.
It seemed to her that his big, terrible eyes, which persistently pursued her, expressed a feeling of hatred and contempt, and she tried to avoid meeting him.