Anna Karenina (Part Three – Chapter 16-20)

Anna Karenina

Leo Toistoy

Chapter 16

All the rooms of the summer villa were full of porters, gardeners, and footmen going to and fro carrying out things. Cupboards and chests were open; twice they had sent to the shop for cord; pieces of newspaper were tossing about on the floor. Two trunks, some bags and strapped-up rugs, had been carried down into the hall. The carriage and two hired cabs were waiting at the steps. Anna, forgetting her inward agitation in the work of packing, was standing at a table in her boudoir, packing her traveling bag, when Annushka called her attention to the rattle of some carriage driving up. Anna looked out of the window and saw Alexey Alexandrovitch’s courier on the steps, ringing at the front door bell.

“Run and find out what it is,” she said, and with a calm sense of being prepared for anything, she sat down in a low chair, folding her hands on her knees. A footman brought in a thick packet directed in Alexey Alexandrovitch’s hand.

“The courier had orders to wait for an answer,” he said.

“Very well,” she said, and as soon as he had left the room she tore open the letter with trembling fingers. A roll of unfolded notes done up in a wrapper fell out of it. She disengaged the letter and began reading it at the end. “Preparations shall be made for your arrival here…I attach particular significance to compliance…” she read. She ran on, then back, read it all through, and once more read the letter all through again from the beginning. When she had finished, she felt that she was cold all over, and that a fearful calamity, such as she had not expected, had burst upon her.

In the morning she had regretted that she had spoken to her husband, and wished for nothing so much as that those words could be unspoken. And here this letter regarded them as unspoken, and gave her what she had wanted. But now this letter seemed to her more awful than anything she had been able to conceive.

“He’s right!” she said; “of course, he’s always right; he’s a Christian, he’s generous! Yes, vile, base creature! And no one understands it except me, and no one ever will; and I can’t explain it. They say he’s so religious, so high-principled, so upright, so clever; but they don’t see what I’ve seen. They don’t know how he has crushed my life for eight years, crushed everything that was living in me–he has not once even thought that I’m a live woman who must have love. They don’t know how at every step he’s humiliated me, and been just as pleased with himself. Haven’t I striven, striven with all my strength, to find something to give meaning to my life? Haven’t I struggled to love him, to love my son when I could not love my husband? But the time came when I knew that I couldn’t cheat myself any longer, that I was alive, that I was not to blame, that God has made me so that I must love and live. And now what does he do? If he’d killed me, if he’d killed him, I could have borne anything, I could have forgiven anything; but, no, he…. How was it I didn’t guess what he would do? He’s doing just what’s characteristic of his mean character. He’ll keep himself in the right, while me, in my ruin, he’ll drive still lower to worse ruin yet…”

She recalled the words from the letter. “You can conjecture what awaits you and your son….” “That’s a threat to take away my child, and most likely by their stupid law he can. But I know very well why he says it. He doesn’t believe even in my love for my child, or he despises it (just as he always used to ridicule it). He despises that feeling in me, but he knows that I won’t abandon my child, that I can’t abandon my child, that there could be no life for me without my child, even with him whom I love; but that if I abandoned my child and ran away from him, I should be acting like the most infamous, basest of women. He knows that, and knows that I am incapable of doing that.”

She recalled another sentence in the letter. “Our life must go on as it has done in the past….” “That life was miserable enough in the old days; it has been awful of late. What will it be now? And he knows all that; he knows that I can’t repent that I breathe, that I love; he knows that it can lead to nothing but lying and deceit; but he wants to go on torturing me. I know him; I know that he’s at home and is happy in deceit, like a fish swimming in the water. No, I won’t give him that happiness. I’ll break through the spiderweb of lies in which he wants to catch me, come what may. Anything’s better than lying and deceit.

“But how? My God! my God! Was ever a woman so miserable as I am?…”

“No; I will break through it, I will break through it!” she cried, jumping up and keeping back her tears. And she went to the writing table to write him another letter. But at the bottom of her heart she felt that she was not strong enough to break through anything, that she was not strong enough to get out of her old position, however false and dishonorable it might be.

She sat down at the writing table, but instead of writing she clasped her hands on the table, and, laying her head on them, burst into tears, with sobs and heaving breast like a child crying. She was weeping that her dream of her position being made clear and definite had been annihilated forever. She knew beforehand that everything would go on in the old way, and far worse, indeed, than in the old way. She felt that the position in the world that she enjoyed, and that had seemed to her of so little consequence in the morning, that this position was precious to her, that she would not have the strength to exchange it for the shameful position of a woman who has abandoned husband and child to join her lover; that however much she might struggle, she could not be stronger than herself. She would never know freedom in love, but would remain forever a guilty wife, with the menace of detection hanging over her at every instant; deceiving her husband for the sake of a shameful connection with a man living apart and away from her, whose life she could never share. She knew that this was how it would be, and at the same time it was so awful that she could not even conceive what it would end in. And she cried without restraint, as children cry when they are punished.

The sound of the footman’s steps forced her to rouse herself, and hiding her face from him, she pretended to be writing.

“The courier asks if there’s an answer,” the footman announced.

“An answer? Yes,” said Anna. “Let him wait. I’ll ring.”

“What can I write?” she thought. “What can I decide upon alone? What do I know? What do I want? What is there I care for?” Again she felt that her soul was beginning to be split in two. She was terrified again at this feeling, and clutched at the first pretext for doing something which might divert her thoughts from herself. “I ought to see Alexey” (so she called Vronsky in her thoughts); “no one but he can tell me what I ought to do. I’ll go to Betsy’s, perhaps I shall see him there,” she said to herself, completely forgetting that when she had told him the day before that she was not going to Princess Tverskaya’s, he had said that in that case he should not go either. She went up to the table, wrote to her husband, “I have received your letter. –A.”; and, ringing the bell, gave it to the footman.

“We are not going,” she said to Annushka, as she came in.

“Not going at all?”

“No; don’t unpack till tomorrow, and let the carriage wait. I’m going to the princess’s.”

“Which dress am I to get ready?”

Chapter 17

The croquet party to which the Princess Tverskaya had invited Anna was to consist of two ladies and their adorers. These two ladies were the chief representatives of a select new Petersburg circle, nicknamed, in imitation of some imitation, les sept merveilles du monde. These ladies belonged to a circle which, though of the highest society, was utterly hostile to that in which Anna moved. Moreover, Stremov, one of the most influential people in Petersburg, and the elderly admirer of Liza Merkalova, was Alexey Alexandrovitch’s enemy in the political world. From all these considerations Anna had not meant to go, and the hints in Princess Tverskaya’s note referred to her refusal. But now Anna was eager to go, in the hope of seeing Vronsky.

Anna arrived at Princess Tverskaya’s earlier than the other guests.

At the same moment as she entered, Vronsky’s footman, with side- whiskers combed out like a Kammerjunker, went in too. He stopped at the door, and, taking off his cap, let her pass. Anna recognized him, and only then recalled that Vronsky had told her the day before that he would not come. Most likely he was sending a note to say so.

As she took off her outer garment in the hall, she heard the footman, pronouncing his “r’s” even like a Kammerjunker, say, “From the count for the princess,” and hand the note.

She longed to question him as to where his master was. She longed to turn back and send him a letter to come and see her, or to go herself to see him. But neither the first nor the second nor the third course was possible. Already she heard bells ringing to announce her arrival ahead of her, and Princess Tverskaya’s footman was standing at the open door waiting for her to go forward into the inner rooms.

“The princess is in the garden; they will inform her immediately. Would you be pleased to walk into the garden?” announced another footman in another room.

The position of uncertainty, of indecision, was still the same as at home–worse, in fact, since it was impossible to take any step, impossible to see Vronsky, and she had to remain here among outsiders, in company so uncongenial to her present mood. But she was wearing a dress that she knew suited her. She was not alone; all around was that luxurious setting of idleness that she was used to, and she felt less wretched than at home. She was not forced to think what she was to do. Everything would be done of itself. On meeting Betsy coming towards her in a white gown that struck her by its elegance, Anna smiled at her just as she always did. Princess Tverskaya was walking with Tushkevitch and a young lady, a relation, who, to the great joy of her parents in the provinces, was spending the summer with the fashionable princess.

There was probably something unusual about Anna, for Betsy noticed it at once.

“I slept badly,” answered Anna, looking intently at the footman who came to meet them, and, as she supposed, brought Vronsky’s note.

“How glad I am you’ve come!” said Betsy. “I’m tired, and was just longing to have some tea before they come. You might go”– she turned to Tushkevitch–“with Masha, and try the croquet ground over there where they’ve been cutting it. We shall have time to talk a little over tea; we’ll have a cozy chat, eh?” she said in English to Anna, with a smile, pressing the hand with which she held a parasol.

“Yes, especially as I can’t stay very long with you. I’m forced to go on to old Madame Vrede. I’ve been promising to go for a century,” said Anna, to whom lying, alien as it was to her nature, had become not merely simple and natural in society, but a positive source of satisfaction. Why she said this, which she had not thought of a second before, she could not have explained. She had said it simply from the reflection that as Vronsky would not be here, she had better secure her own freedom, and try to see him somehow. But why she had spoken of old Madame Vrede, whom she had to go and see, as she had to see many other people, she could not have explained; and yet, as it afterwards turned out, had she contrived the most cunning devices to meet Vronsky, she could have thought of nothing better.

“No. I’m not going to let you go for anything,” answered Betsy, looking intently into Anna’s face. “Really, if I were not fond of you, I should feel offended. One would think you were afraid my society would compromise you. Tea in the little dining room, please,” she said, half closing her eyes, as she always did when addressing the footman.

Taking the note from him, she read it.

“Alexey’s playing us false,” she said in French; “he writes that he can’t come,” she added in a tone as simple and natural as though it could never enter her head that Vronsky could mean anything more to Anna than a game of croquet. Anna knew that Betsy knew everything, but, hearing how she spoke of Vronsky before her, she almost felt persuaded for a minute that she knew nothing.

“Ah!” said Anna indifferently, as though not greatly interested in the matter, and she went on smiling: “How can you or your friends compromise anyone?”

This playing with words, this hiding of a secret, had a great fascination for Anna, as, indeed, it has for all women. And it was not the necessity of concealment, not the aim with which the concealment was contrived, but the process of concealment itself which attracted her.

“I can’t be more Catholic than the Pope,” she said. “Stremov and Liza Merkalova, why, they’re the cream of the cream of society. Besides, they’re received everywhere, and I”–she laid special stress on the I–“have never been strict and intolerant. It’s simply that I haven’t the time.”

“No; you don’t care, perhaps, to meet Stremov? Let him and Alexey Alexandrovitch tilt at each other in the committee– that’s no affair of ours. But in the world, he’s the most amiable man I know, and a devoted croquet player. You shall see. And, in spite of his absurd position as Liza’s lovesick swain at his age, you ought to see how he carries off the absurd position. He’s very nice. Sappho Shtoltz you don’t know? Oh, that’s a new type, quite new.”

Betsy said all this, and, at the same time, from her good-humored, shrewd glance, Anna felt that she partly guessed her plight, and was hatching something for her benefit. They were in the little boudoir.

“I must write to Alexey though,” and Betsy sat down to the table, scribbled a few lines, and put the note in an envelope.

“I’m telling him to come to dinner. I’ve one lady extra to dinner with me, and no man to take her in. Look what I’ve said, will that persuade him? Excuse me, I must leave you for a minute. Would you seal it up, please, and send it off?” she said from the door; “I have to give some directions.”

Without a moment’s thought, Anna sat down to the table with Betsy’s letter, and, without reading it, wrote below: “It’s essential for me to see you. Come to the Vrede garden. I shall be there at six o’clock.” She sealed it up, and, Betsy coming back, in her presence handed the note to be taken.

At tea, which was brought them on a little tea-table in the cool little drawing room, the cozy chat promised by Princess Tverskaya before the arrival of her visitors really did come off between the two women. They criticized the people they were expecting, and the conversation fell upon Liza Merkalova.

“She’s very sweet, and I always liked her,” said Anna.

“You ought to like her. She raves about you. Yesterday she came up to me after the races and was in despair at not finding you. She says you’re a real heroine of romance, and that if she were a man she would do all sorts of mad things for your sake. Stremov says she does that as it is.”

“But do tell me, please, I never could make it out,” said Anna, after being silent for some time, speaking in a tone that showed she was not asking an idle question, but that what she was asking was of more importance to her than it should have been; “do tell me, please, what are her relations with Prince Kaluzhsky, Mishka, as he’s called? I’ve met them so little. What does it mean?”

Betsy smiled with her eyes, and looked intently at Anna.

“It’s a new manner,” she said. “They’ve all adopted that manner. They’ve flung their caps over the windmills. But there are ways and ways of flinging them.”

“Yes, but what are her relations precisely with Kaluzhsky?”

Betsy broke into unexpectedly mirthful and irrepressible laughter, a thing which rarely happened with her.

“You’re encroaching on Princess Myakaya’s special domain now. That’s the question of an enfant terrible,” and Betsy obviously tried to restrain herself, but could not, and went off into peals of that infectious laughter that people laugh who do not laugh often. “You’d better ask them,” she brought out, between tears of laughter.

“No; you laugh,” said Anna, laughing too in spite of herself, “but I never could understand it. I can’t understand the husband’s role in it.”

“The husband? Liza Merkalova’s husband carries her shawl, and is always ready to be of use. But anything more than that in reality, no one cares to inquire. You know in decent society one doesn’t talk or think even of certain details of the toilet. That’s how it is with this.”

“Will you be at Madame Rolandak’s fete?” asked Anna, to change the conversation.

“I don’t think so,” answered Betsy, and, without looking at her friend, she began filling the little transparent cups with fragrant tea. Putting a cup before Anna, she took out a cigarette, and, fitting it into a silver holder, she lighted it.

“It’s like this, you see: I’m in a fortunate position,” she began, quite serious now, as she took up her cup. “I understand you, and I understand Liza. Liza now is one of those naive natures that, like children, don’t know what’s good and what’s bad. Anyway, she didn’t comprehend it when she was very young. And now she’s aware that the lack of comprehension suits her. Now, perhaps, she doesn’t know on purpose,” said Betsy, with a subtle smile. “But, anyway, it suits her. The very same thing, don’t you see, may be looked at tragically, and turned into a misery, or it may be looked at simply and even humorously. Possibly you are inclined to look at things too tragically.”

“How I should like to know other people just as I know myself!” said Anna, seriously and dreamily. “Am I worse than other people, or better? I think I’m worse.”

“Enfant terrible, enfant terrible!” repeated Betsy. “But here they are.”

Chapter 18

They heard the sound of steps and a man’s voice, then a woman’s voice and laughter, and immediately thereafter there walked in the expected guests: Sappho Shtoltz, and a young man beaming with excess of health, the so-called Vaska. It was evident that ample supplies of beefsteak, truffles, and Burgundy never failed to reach him at the fitting hour. Vaska bowed to the two ladies, and glanced at them, but only for one second. He walked after Sappho into the drawing-room, and followed her about as though he were chained to her, keeping his sparkling eyes fixed on her as though he wanted to eat her. Sappho Shtoltz was a blonde beauty with black eyes. She walked with smart little steps in high-heeled shoes, and shook hands with the ladies vigorously like a man.

Anna had never met this new star of fashion, and was struck by her beauty, the exaggerated extreme to which her dress was carried, and the boldness of her manners. On her head there was such a superstructure of soft, golden hair–her own and false mixed–that her head was equal in size to the elegantly rounded bust, of which so much was exposed in front. The impulsive abruptness of her movements was such that at every step the lines of her knees and the upper part of her legs were distinctly marked under her dress, and the question involuntarily rose to the mind where in the undulating, piled-up mountain of material at the back the real body of the woman, so small and slender, so naked in front, and so hidden behind and below, really came to an end.

Betsy made haste to introduce her to Anna.

“Only fancy, we all but ran over two soldiers,” she began telling them at once, using her eyes, smiling and twitching away her tail, which she flung back at one stroke all on one side. “I drove here with Vaska…. Ah, to be sure, you don’t know each other.” And mentioning his surname she introduced the young man, and reddening a little, broke into a ringing laugh at her mistake–that is at her having called him Vaska to a stranger. Vaska bowed once more to Anna, but he said nothing to her. He addressed Sappho: “You’ve lost your bet. We got here first. Pay up,” said he, smiling.

Sappho laughed still more festively.

“Not just now,” said she.

“Oh, all right, I’ll have it later.”

“Very well, very well. Oh, yes.” She turned suddenly to Princess Betsy: “I am a nice person…I positively forgot it… I’ve brought you a visitor. And here he comes.” The unexpected young visitor, whom Sappho had invited, and whom she had forgotten, was, however, a personage of such consequence that, in spite of his youth, both the ladies rose on his entrance.

He was a new admirer of Sappho’s. He now dogged her footsteps, like Vaska.

Soon after Prince Kaluzhsky arrived, and Liza Merkalova with Stremov. Liza Merkalova was a thin brunette, with an Oriental, languid type of face, and–as everyone used to say–exquisite enigmatic eyes. The tone of her dark dress (Anna immediately observed and appreciated the fact) was in perfect harmony with her style of beauty. Liza was as soft and enervated as Sappho was smart and abrupt.

But to Anna’s taste Liza was far more attractive. Betsy had said to Anna that she had adopted the pose of an innocent child, but when Anna saw her, she felt that this was not the truth. She really was both innocent and corrupt, but a sweet and passive woman. It is true that her tone was the same as Sappho’s; that like Sappho, she had two men, one young and one old, tacked onto her, and devouring her with their eyes. But there was something in her higher than what surrounded her. There was in her the glow of the real diamond among glass imitations. This glow shone out in her exquisite, truly enigmatic eyes. The weary, and at the same time passionate, glance of those eyes, encircled by dark rings, impressed one by its perfect sincerity. Everyone looking into those eyes fancied he knew her wholly, and knowing her, could not but love her. At the sight of Anna, her whole face lighted up at once with a smile of delight.

“Ah, how glad I am to see you!” she said, going up to her. “Yesterday at the races all I wanted was to get to you, but you’d gone away. I did so want to see you, yesterday especially.

Wasn’t it awful?” she said, looking at Anna with eyes that seemed to lay bare all her soul.

“Yes; I had no idea it would be so thrilling,” said Anna, blushing.

The company got up at this moment to go into the garden.

“I’m not going,” said Liza, smiling and settling herself close to Anna. “You won’t go either, will you? Who wants to play croquet?”

“Oh, I like it,” said Anna.

“There, how do you manage never to be bored by things? It’s delightful to look at you. You’re alive, but I’m bored.”

“How can you be bored? Why, you live in the liveliest set in Petersburg,” said Anna.

“Possibly the people who are not of our set are even more bored; but we–I certainly–are not happy, but awfully, awfully bored.”

Sappho smoking a cigarette went off into the garden with the two young men. Betsy and Stremov remained at the tea-table.

“What, bored!” said Betsy. “Sappho says they did enjoy themselves tremendously at your house last night.”

“Ah, how dreary it all was!” said Liza Merkalova. “We all drove back to my place after the races. And always the same people, always the same. Always the same thing. We lounged about on sofas all the evening. What is there to enjoy in that? No; do tell me how you manage never to be bored?” she said, addressing Anna again. “One has but to look at you and one sees, here’s a woman who may be happy or unhappy, but isn’t bored. Tell me how you do it?”

“I do nothing,” answered Anna, blushing at these searching questions.

“That’s the best way,” Stremov put it. Stremov was a man of fifty, partly gray, but still vigorous-looking, very ugly, but with a characteristic and intelligent face. Liza Merkalova was his wife’s niece, and he spent all his leisure hours with her. On meeting Anna Karenina, as he was Alexey Alexandrovitch’s enemy in the government, he tried, like a shrewd man and a man of the world, to be particularly cordial with her, the wife of his enemy.

“‘Nothing,'” he put in with a subtle smile, “that’s the very best way. I told you long ago,” he said, turning to Liza Merkalova, “that if you don’t want to be bored, you mustn’t think you’re going to be bored. It’s just as you mustn’t be afraid of not being able to fall asleep, if you’re afraid of sleeplessness. That’s just what Anna Arkadyevna has just said.”

“I should be very glad if I had said it, for it’s not only clever but true,” said Anna, smiling.

“No, do tell me why it is one can’t go to sleep, and one can’t help being bored?”

“To sleep well one ought to work, and to enjoy oneself one ought to work too.”

“What am I to work for when my work is no use to anybody? And I can’t and won’t knowingly make a pretense about it.”

“You’re incorrigible,” said Stremov, not looking at her, and he spoke again to Anna. As he rarely met Anna, he could say nothing but commonplaces to her, but he said those commonplaces as to when she was returning to Petersburg, and how fond Countess Lidia Ivanovna was of her, with an expression which suggested that he longed with his whole soul to please her and show his regard for her and even more than that.

Tushkevitch came in, announcing that the party were awaiting the other players to begin croquet.

“No, don’t go away, please don’t,” pleaded Liza Merkalova, hearing that Anna was going. Stremov joined in her entreaties.

“It’s too violent a transition,” he said, “to go from such company to old Madame Vrede. And besides, you will only give her a chance for talking scandal, while here you arouse none but such different feelings of the highest and most opposite kind,” he said to her.

Anna pondered for an instant in uncertainty. This shrewd man’s flattering words, the naive, childlike affection shown her by Liza Merkalova, and all the social atmosphere she was used to,– it was all so easy, and what was in store for her was so difficult, that she was for a minute in uncertainty whether to remain, whether to put off a little longer the painful moment of explanation. But remembering what was in store for her alone at home, if she did not come to some decision, remembering that gesture–terrible even in memory–when she had clutched her hair in both hands–she said good-bye and went away.

Chapter 19

In spite of Vronsky’s apparently frivolous life in society, he was a man who hated irregularity. In early youth in the Corps of Pages, he had experienced the humiliation of a refusal, when he had tried, being in difficulties, to borrow money, and since then he had never once put himself in the same position again.

In order to keep his affairs in some sort of order, he used about five times a year (more or less frequently, according to circumstances) to shut himself up alone and put all his affairs into definite shape. This he used to call his day of reckoning or faire la lessive.

On waking up the day after the races, Vronsky put on a white linen coat, and without shaving or taking his bath, he distributed about the table moneys, bills, and letters, and set to work. Petritsky, who knew he was ill-tempered on such occasions, on waking up and seeing his comrade at the writing-table, quietly dressed and went out without getting in his way.

Every man who knows to the minutest details all the complexity of the conditions surrounding him, cannot help imagining that the complexity of these conditions, and the difficulty of making them clear, is something exceptional and personal, peculiar to himself, and never supposes that others are surrounded by just as complicated an array of personal affairs as he is. So indeed it seemed to Vronsky. And not with out inward pride, and not without reason, he thought that any other man would long ago have been in difficulties, would have been forced to some dishonorable course, if he had found himself in such a difficult position. But Vronsky felt that now especially it was essential for him to clear up and define his position if he were to avoid getting into difficulties.

What Vronsky attacked first as being the easiest was his pecuniary position. Writing out on note paper in his minute hand all that he owed, he added up the amount and found that his debts amounted to seventeen thousand and some odd hundreds, which he left out for the sake of clearness. Reckoning up his money and his bank book, he found that he had left one thousand eight hundred roubles, and nothing coming in before the New Year. Reckoning over again his list of debts, Vronsky copied it, dividing it into three classes. In the first class he put the debts which he would have to pay at once, or for which he must in any case have the money ready so that on demand for payment there could not be a moment’s delay in paying. Such debts amounted to about four thousand: one thousand five hundred for a horse, and two thousand five hundred as surety for a young comrade, Venovsky, who had lost that sum to a cardsharper in Vronsky’s presence. Vronsky had wanted to pay the money at the time (he had that amount then), but Venovsky and Yashvin had insisted that they would pay and not Vronsky, who had not played. That was so far well, but Vronsky knew that in this dirty business, though his only share in it was undertaking by word of mouth to be surety for Venovsky, it was absolutely necessary for him to have the two thousand five hundred roubles so as to be able to fling it at the swindler, and have no more words with him. And so for this first and most important division he must have four thousand roubles. The second class–eight thousand roubles–consisted of less important debts. These were principally accounts owing in connection with his race horses, to the purveyor of oats and hay, the English saddler, and so on. He would have to pay some two thousand roubles on these debts too, in order to be quite free from anxiety. The last class of debts–to shops, to hotels, to his tailor–were such as need not be considered. So that he needed at least six thousand roubles for current expenses, and he only had one thousand eight hundred. For a man with one hundred thousand roubles of revenue, which was what everyone fixed as Vronsky’s income, such debts, one would suppose, could hardly be embarrassing; but the fact was that he was far from having one hundred thousand. His father’s immense property, which alone yielded a yearly income of two hundred thousand, was left undivided between the brothers. At the time when the elder brother, with a mass of debts, married Princess Varya Tchirkova, the daughter of a Decembrist without any fortune whatever, Alexey had given up to his elder brother almost the whole income from his father’s estate, reserving for himself only twenty-five thousand a year from it. Alexey had said at the time to his brother that that sum would be sufficient for him until he married, which he probably never would do. And his brother, who was in command of one of the most expensive regiments, and was only just married, could not decline the gift. His mother, who had her own separate property, had allowed Alexey every year twenty thousand in addition to the twenty-five thousand he had reserved, and Alexey had spent it all. Of late his mother, incensed with him on account of his love affair and his leaving Moscow, had given up sending him the money. And in consequence of this, Vronsky, who had been in the habit of living on the scale of forty-five thousand a year, having only received twenty thousand that year, found himself now in difficulties. To get out of these difficulties, he could not apply to his mother for money. Her last letter, which he had received the day before, had particularly exasperated him by the hints in it that she was quite ready to help him to succeed in the world and in the army, but not to lead a life which was a scandal to all good society. His mother’s attempt to buy him stung him to the quick and made him feel colder than ever to her. But he could not draw back from the generous word when it was once uttered, even though he felt now, vaguely foreseeing certain eventualities in his intrigue with Madame Karenina, that this generous word had been spoken thoughtlessly, and that even though he were not married he might need all the hundred thousand of income. But it was impossible to draw back. He had only to recall his brother’s wife, to remember how that sweet, delightful Varya sought, at every convenient opportunity, to remind him that she remembered his generosity and appreciated it, to grasp the impossibility of taking back his gift. It was as impossible as beating a woman, stealing, or lying. One thing only could and ought to be done, and Vronsky determined upon it without an instant’s hesitation: to borrow money from a money-lender, ten thousand roubles, a proceeding which presented no difficulty, to cut down his expenses generally, and to sell his race horses. Resolving on this, he promptly wrote a note to Rolandak, who had more than once sent to him with offers to buy horses from him. Then he sent for the Englishman and the money-lender, and divided what money he had according to the accounts he intended to pay. Having finished this business, he wrote a cold and cutting answer to his mother. Then he took out of his notebook three notes of Anna’s, read them again, burned them, and remembering their conversation on the previous day, he sank into meditation.

Chapter 20

Vronsky’s life was particularly happy in that he had a code of principles, which defined with unfailing certitude what he ought and what he ought not to do. This code of principles covered only a very small circle of contingencies, but then the principles were never doubtful, and Vronsky, as he never went outside that circle, had never had a moment’s hesitation about doing what he ought to do. These principles laid down as invariable rules: that one must pay a cardsharper, but need not pay a tailor; that one must never tell a lie to a man, but one may to a woman; that one must never cheat anyone, but one may a husband; that one must never pardon an insult, but one may give one and so on. These principles were possibly not reasonable and not good, but they were of unfailing certainty, and so long as he adhered to them, Vronsky felt that his heart was at peace and he could hold his head up. Only quite lately in regard to his relations with Anna, Vronsky had begun to feel that his code of principles did not fully cover all possible contingencies, and to foresee in the future difficulties and perplexities for which he could find no guiding clue.

His present relation to Anna and to her husband was to his mind clear and simple. It was clearly and precisely defined in the code of principles by which he was guided.

she was an honorable woman who had bestowed her love upon him, and he loved her, and therefore she was in his eyes a woman who had a right to the same, or even more, respect than a lawful wife. He would have had his hand chopped off before he would have allowed himself by a word, by a hint, to humiliate her, or even to fall short of the fullest respect a woman could look for.

His attitude to society, too, was clear. Everyone might know, might suspect it, but no one might dare to speak of it. If any did so, he was ready to force all who might speak to be silent and to respect the nonexistent honor of the woman he loved.

His attitude to the husband was the clearest of all. From the moment that Anna loved Vronsky, he had regarded his own right over her as the one thing unassailable. Her husband was simply a superfluous and tiresome person. No doubt he was in a pitiable position, but how could that be helped? The one thing the husband had a right to was to demand satisfaction with a weapon in his hand, and Vronsky was prepared for this at any minute.

But of late new inner relations had arisen between him and her, which frightened Vronsky by their indefiniteness. Only the day before she had told him that she was with child. And he felt that this fact and what she expected of him called for something not fully defined in that code of principles by which he had hitherto steered his course in life. And he had been indeed caught unawares, and at the first moment when she spoke to him of her position, his heart had prompted him to beg her to leave her husband. He had said that, but now thinking things over he saw clearly that it would be better to manage to avoid that; and at the same time, as he told himself so, he was afraid whether it was not wrong.

“If I told her to leave her husband, that must mean uniting her life with mine; am I prepared for that? How can I take her away now, when I have no money? Supposing I could arrange…. But how can I take her away while I’m in the service? If I say that I ought to be prepared to do it, that is, I ought to have the money and to retire from the army.”

And he grew thoughtful. The question whether to retire from the service or not brought him to the other and perhaps the chief though hidden interest of his life, of which none knew but he.

Ambition was the old dream of his youth and childhood, a dream which he did not confess even to himself, though it was so strong that now this passion was even doing battle with his love. His first steps in the world and in the service had been successful, but two years before he had made a great mistake. Anxious to show his independence and to advance, he had refused a post that had been offered him, hoping that this refusal would heighten his value; but it turned out that he had been too bold, and he was passed over. And having, whether he liked or not, taken up for himself the position of an independent man, he carried it off with great tact and good sense, behaving as though he bore no grudge against anyone, did not regard himself as injured in any way, and cared for nothing but to be left alone since he was enjoying himself. In reality he had ceased to enjoy himself as long ago as the year before, when he went away to Moscow. He felt that this independent attitude of a man who might have done anything, but cared to do nothing was already beginning to pall, that many people were beginning to fancy that he was not really capable of anything but being a straightforward, good-natured fellow. His connection with Madame Karenina, by creating so much sensation and attracting general attention, had given him a fresh distinction which soothed his gnawing worm of ambition for a while, but a week before that worm had been roused up again with fresh force. The friend of his childhood, a man of the same set, of the same coterie, his comrade in the Corps of Pages, Serpuhovskoy, who had left school with him and had been his rival in class, in gymnastics, in their scrapes and their dreams of glory, had come back a few days before from Central Asia, where he had gained two steps up in rank, and an order rarely bestowed upon generals so young.

As soon as he arrived in Petersburg, people began to talk about him as a newly risen star of the first magnitude. A schoolfellow of Vronsky’s and of the same age, he was a general and was expecting a command, which might have influence on the course of political events; while Vronsky, independent and brilliant and beloved by a charming woman though he was, was simply a cavalry captain who was readily allowed to be as independent as ever he liked. “Of course I don’t envy Serpuhovskoy and never could envy him; but his advancement shows me that one has only to watch one’s opportunity, and the career of a man like me may be very rapidly made. Three years ago he was in just the same position as I am. If I retire, I burn my ships. If I remain in the army, I lose nothing. She said herself she did not wish to change her position. And with her love I cannot feel envious of Serpuhovskoy.” And slowly twirling his mustaches, he got up from the table and walked about the room. His eyes shone particularly brightly, and he felt in that confident, calm, and happy frame of mind which always came after he had thoroughly faced his position. Everything was straight and clear, just as after former days of reckoning. He shaved, took a cold bath, dressed and went out.

 

 

 

 

 

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