Anna Karenina (Part 4 – Chapter 16-20)

Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy

Chapter 16

The princess sat in her armchair, silent and smiling; the prince sat down beside her. Kitty stood by her father’s chair, still holding his hand. All were silent.

The princess was the first to put everything into words, and to translate all thoughts and feelings into practical questions. And all equally felt this strange and painful for the first minute.

“When is it to be? We must have the benediction and announcement. And when’s the wedding to be? What do you think, Alexander?”

“Here he is,” said the old prince, pointing to Levin–“he’s the principal person in the matter.”

“When?” said Levin blushing. “Tomorrow; If you ask me, I should say, the benediction today and the wedding tomorrow.”

“Come, mon cher, that’s nonsense!”

“Well, in a week.”

“He’s quite mad.”

“No, why so?”

“Well, upon my word!” said the mother, smiling, delighted at this haste. “How about the trousseau?”

“Will there really be a trousseau and all that?” Levin thought with horror. “But can the trousseau and the benediction and all that–can it spoil my happiness? Nothing can spoil it!” He glanced at Kitty, and noticed that she was not in the least, not in the very least, disturbed by the idea of the trousseau. “Then it must be all right,” he thought.

“Oh, I know nothing about it; I only said what I should like,” he said apologetically.

“We’ll talk it over, then. The benediction and announcement can take place now. That’s very well.”

The princess went up to her husband, kissed him, and would have gone away, but he kept her, embraced her, and tenderly as a young lover, kissed her several times, smiling. The old people were obviously muddled for a moment, and did not quite know whether it was they who were in love again or their daughter. When the prince and the princess had gone, Levin went up to his betrothed and took her hand. He was self-possessed now and could speak, and he had a great deal he wanted to tell her. But he said not at all what he had to say.

“How I knew it would be so! I never hoped for it; and yet in my heart I was always sure,” he said. “I believe that it was ordained.”

“And I!” she said. “Even when….” She stopped and went on again, looking at him resolutely with her truthful eyes, “Even when I thrust from me my happiness. I always loved you alone, but I was carried away. I ought to tell you…. Can you forgive that?”

“Perhaps it was for the best. You will have to forgive me so much. I ought to tell you…”

This was one of the things he had meant to speak about. He had resolved from the first to tell her two things–that he was not chaste as she was, and that he was not a believer. It was agonizing, but he considered he ought to tell her both these facts.

“No, not now, later!” he said.

“Very well, later, but you must certainly tell me. I’m not afraid of anything. I want to know everything. Now it is settled.”

He added
“Settled that you’ll take me whatever I may be–you won’t give me up? Yes?”
“Yes, yes.”

Their conversation was interrupted by Mademoiselle Linon, who with an affected but tender smile came to congratulate her favorite pupil. Before she had gone, the servants came in with their congratulations. Then relations arrived, and there began that state of blissful absurdity from which Levin did not emerge till the day after his wedding. Levin was in a continual state of awkwardness and discomfort, but the intensity of his happiness went on all the while increasing. He felt continually that a great deal was being expected of him–what, he did not know; and he did everything he was told, and it all gave him happiness. He had thought his engagement would have nothing about it like others, that the ordinary conditions of engaged couples would spoil his special happiness; but it ended in his doing exactly as other people did, and his happiness being only increased thereby and becoming more and more special, more and more unlike anything that had ever happened.

“Now we shall have sweetmeats to eat,” said Mademoiselle Linon– and Levin drove off to buy sweetmeats.

“Well, I’m very glad,” said Sviazhsky. “I advise you to get the bouquets from Fomin’s.”

“Oh, are they wanted?” And he drove to Fomin’s.

His brother offered to lend him money, as he would have so many expenses, presents to give….

“Oh, are presents wanted?” And he galloped to Foulde’s.

And at the confectioner’s, and at Fomin’s, and at Foulde’s he saw that he was expected; that they were pleased to see him, and prided themselves on his happiness, just as every one whom he had to do with during those days. What was extraordinary was that everyone not only liked him, but even people previously unsympathetic, cold, and callous, were enthusiastic over him, gave way to him in everything, treated his feeling with tenderness and delicacy, and shared his conviction that he was the happiest man in the world because his betrothed was beyond perfection. Kitty too felt the same thing. When Countess Nordston ventured to hint that she had hoped for something better, Kitty was so angry and proved so conclusively that nothing in the world could be better than Levin, that Countess Nordston had to admit it, and in Kitty’s presence never met Levin without a smile of ecstatic admiration.

The confession he had promised was the one painful incident of this time. He consulted the old prince, and with his sanction gave Kitty his diary, in which there was written the confession that tortured him. He had written this diary at the time with a view to his future wife. Two things caused him anguish: his lack of purity and his lack of faith. His confession of unbelief passed unnoticed. She was religious, had never doubted the truths of religion, but his external unbelief did not affect her in the least. Through love she knew all his soul, and in his soul she saw what she wanted, and that such a state of soul should be called unbelieving was to her a matter of no account. The other confession set her weeping bitterly.

Levin, not without an inner struggle, handed her his diary. He knew that between him and her there could not be, and should not be, secrets, and so he had decided that so it must be. But he had not realized what an effect it would have on her, he had not put himself in her place. It was only when the same evening he came to their house before the theater, went into her room and saw her tear-stained, pitiful, sweet face, miserable with suffering he had caused and nothing could undo, he felt the abyss that separated his shameful past from her dovelike purity, and was appalled at what he had done.

“Take them, take these dreadful books!” she said, pushing away the notebooks lying before her on the table. “Why did you give them me? No, it was better anyway,” she added, touched by his despairing face. “But it’s awful, awful!”

His head sank, and he was silent. He could say nothing.

“You can’t forgive me,” he whispered.

“Yes, I forgive you; but it’s terrible!”

But his happiness was so immense that this confession did not shatter it, it only added another shade to it. She forgave him; but from that time more than ever he considered himself unworthy of her, morally bowed down lower than ever before her, and prized more highly than ever his undeserved happiness.

Chapter 17

Unconsciously going over in his memory the conversations that had taken place during and after dinner, Alexey Alexandrovitch returned to his solitary room. Darya Alexandrovna’s words about forgiveness had aroused in him nothing but annoyance. The applicability or non-applicability of the Christian precept to his own case was too difficult a question to be discussed lightly, and this question had long ago been answered by Alexey Alexandrovitch in the negative. Of all that had been said, what stuck most in his memory was the phrase of stupid, good-natured Turovtsin–“ACTED LIKE A MAN, HE DID! CALLED HIM OUT AND SHOT HIM!” Everyone had apparently shared this feeling, though from politeness they had not expressed it.

“But the matter is settled, it’s useless thinking about it,” Alexey Alexandrovitch told himself. And thinking of nothing but the journey before him, and the revision work he had to do, he went into his room and asked the porter who escorted him where his man was. The porter said that the man had only just gone out. Alexey Alexandrovitch ordered tea to be sent him, sat down to the table, and taking the guidebook, began considering the route of his journey.

“Two telegrams,” said his manservant, coming into the room. “I beg your pardon, your excellency; I’d only just that minute gone out.”

Alexey Alexandrovitch took the telegrams and opened them. The first telegram was the announcement of Stremov’s appointment to the very post Karenin had coveted. Alexey Alexandrovitch flung the telegram down, and flushing a little, got up and began to pace up and down the room. “Quos vult perdere dementat,” he said, meaning by quos the persons responsible for this appointment. He was not so much annoyed that he had not received the post, that he had been conspicuously passed over; but it was incomprehensible, amazing to him that they did not see that the wordy phrase-monger Stremov was the last man fit for it. How could they fail to see how they were ruining themselves, lowering their prestige by this appointment?

“Something else in the same line,” he said to himself bitterly, opening the second telegram. The telegram was from his wife. Her name, written in blue pencil, “Anna,” was the first thing that caught his eye. “I am dying; I beg, I implore you to come. I shall die easier with your forgiveness,” he read. He smiled contemptuously, and flung down the telegram. That this was a trick and a fraud, of that, he thought for the first minute, there could be no doubt.

“There is no deceit she would stick at. She was near her confinement. Perhaps it is the confinement. But what can be their aim? To legitimize the child, to compromise me, and prevent a divorce,” he thought. “But something was said in it: I am dying….” He read the telegram again, and suddenly the plain meaning of what was said in it struck him.

“And if it is true?” he said to himself. “If it is true that in the moment of agony and nearness to death she is genuinely penitent, and I, taking it for a trick, refuse to go? That would not only be cruel, and everyone would blame me, but it would be stupid on my part.”

“Piotr, call a coach; I am going to Petersburg,” he said to his servant.

Alexey Alexandrovitch decided that he would go to Petersburg and see his wife. If her illness was a trick, he would say nothing and go away again. If she was really in danger, and wished to see him before her death, he would forgive her if he found her alive, and pay her the last duties if he came too late.

All the way he thought no more of what he ought to do.

With a sense of weariness and uncleanness from the night spent in the train, in the early fog of Petersburg Alexey Alexandrovitch drove through the deserted Nevsky and stared straight before him, not thinking of what was awaiting him. He could not think about it, because in picturing what would happen, he could not drive away the reflection that her death would at once remove all the difficulty of his position. Bakers, closed shops, night-cabmen, porters sweeping the pavements flashed past his eyes, and he watched it all, trying to smother the thought of what was awaiting him, and what he dared not hope for, and yet was hoping for. He drove up to the steps. A sledge and a carriage with the coachman asleep stood at the entrance. As he went into the entry, Alexey Alexandrovitch, as it were, got out his resolution from the remotest corner of his brain, and mastered it thoroughly. Its meaning ran: “If it’s a trick, then calm contempt and departure. If truth, do what is proper.”

The porter opened the door before Alexey Alexandrovitch rang. The porter, Kapitonitch, looked queer in an old coat, without a tie, and in slippers.

“How is your mistress?”

“A successful confinement yesterday.”

Alexey Alexandrovitch stopped short and turned white. He felt distinctly now how intensely he had longed for her death.

“And how is she?”

Korney in his morning apron ran downstairs.

“Very ill,” he answered. “There was a consultation yesterday, and the doctor’s here now.”

“Take my things,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, and feeling some relief at the news that there was still hope of her death, he went into the hall

On the hatstand there was a military overcoat. Alexey Alexandrovitch noticed it and asked:

“Who is here?”

“The doctor, the midwife and Count Vronsky.”

Alexey Alexandrovitch went into the inner rooms.

I the drawing room there was no one; at the sound of his steps there came out of her boudoir the midwife in a cap with lilac ribbons.

She went up to Alexey Alexandrovitch, and with the familiarity given by the approach of death took him by the arm and drew him towards the bedroom.

“Thank God you’ve come! She keeps on about you and nothing but you,” she said.

“Make haste with the ice!” the doctor’s peremptory voice said from the bedroom.

Alexey Alexandrovitch went into her boudoir.

At the table, sitting sideways in a low chair, was Vronsky, his face hidden in his hands, weeping. He jumped up at the doctor’s voice, took his hands from his face, and saw Alexey Alexandrovitch. Seeing the husband, he was so overwhelmed that he sat down again, drawing his head down to his shoulders, as if he wanted to disappear; but he made an effort over himself, got up and said:

“She is dying. The doctors say there is no hope. I am entirely in your power, only let me be here…though I am at your disposal. I…”

Alexey Alexandrovitch, seeing Vronsky’s tears, felt a rush of that nervous emotion always produced in him by the sight of other people’s suffering, and turning away his face, he moved hurriedly to the door, without hearing the rest of his words. From the bedroom came the sound of Anna’s voice saying something. Her voice was lively, eager, with exceedingly distinct intonations. Alexey Alexandrovitch went into the bedroom, and went up to the bed. She was lying turned with her face towards him. Her cheeks were flushed crimson, her eyes glittered, her little white hands thrust out from the sleeves of her dressing gown were playing with the quilt, twisting it about. It seemed as though she were not only well and blooming, but in the happiest frame of mind. She was talking rapidly, musically, and with exceptionally correct articulation and expressive intonation.

“For Alexey–I am speaking of Alexey Alexandrovitch (what a strange and awful thing that both are Alexey, isn’t it?)–Alexey would not refuse me. I should forget, he would forgive…. But why doesn’t he come? He’s so good he doesn’t know himself how good he is. Ah, my God, what agony! Give me some water, quick! Oh, that will be bad for her, my little girl! Oh, very well then, give her to a nurse. Yes, I agree, it’s better in fact. He’ll be coming; it will hurt him to see her. Give her to the nurse.”

“Anna Arkadyevna, he has come. Here he is!” said the midwife, trying to attract her attention to Alexey Alexandrovitch.

“Oh, what nonsense!” Anna went on, not seeing her husband. “No, give her to me; give me my little one! He has not come yet. You say he won’t forgive me, because you don’t know him. No one knows him. I’m the only one, and it was hard for me even. His eyes I ought to know–Seryozha has just the same eyes–and I can’t bear to see them because of it. Has Seryozha had his dinner? I know everyone will forget him. He would not forget. Seryozha must be moved into the corner room, and Mariette must be asked to sleep with him.”

All of a sudden she shrank back, was silent; and in terror, as though expecting a blow, as though to defend herself, she raised her hands to her face. She had seen her husband.

“No, no!” she began. “I am not afraid of him; I am afraid of death. Alexey, come here. I am in a hurry, because I’ve no time, I’ve not long left to live; the fever will begin directly and I shall understand nothing more. Now I understand, I understand it all, I see it all!”

Alexey Alexandrovitch’s wrinkled face wore an expression of agony; he took her by the hand and tried to say something, but he could not utter it; his lower lip quivered, but he still went on struggling with his emotion, and only now and then glanced at her. And each time he glanced at her, he saw her eyes gazing at him with such passionate and triumphant tenderness as he had never seen in them.

“Wait a minute, you don’t know…stay a little, stay!…” She stopped, as though collecting her ideas. “Yes,” she began; “yes, yes, yes. This is what I wanted to say. Don’t be surprised at me. I’m still the same…. But there is another woman in me, I’m afraid of her: she loved that man, and I tried to hate you, and could not forget about her that used to be. I’m not that woman. Now I’m my real self, all myself. I’m dying now, I know I shall die, ask him. Even now I feel–see here, the weights on my feet, on my hands, on my fingers. My fingers–see how huge they are! But this will soon all be over…. Only one thing I want: forgive me, forgive me quite. I’m terrible, but my nurse used to tell me; the holy martyr–what was her name? She was worse. And I’ll go to Rome; there’s a wilderness, and there I shall be no trouble to any one, only I’ll take Seryozha and the little one…. No, you can’t forgive me! I know, it can’t be forgiven! No, no, go away, you’re too good!” She held his hand in one burning hand, while she pushed him away with the other.

The nervous agitation of Alexey Alexandrovitch kept increasing, and had by now reached such a point that he ceased to struggle with it. He suddenly felt that what he had regarded as nervous agitation was on the contrary a blissful spiritual condition that gave him all at once a new happiness he had never known. He did not think that the Christian law that he had been all his life trying to follow, enjoined on him to forgive and love his enemies; but a glad feeling of love and forgiveness for his enemies filled his heart. He knelt down, and laying his head in the curve of her arm, which burned him as with fire through the sleeve, he sobbed like a little child. She put her arm around his head, moved towards him, and with defiant pride lifted up her eyes.

“That is he. I knew him! Now, forgive me, everyone, forgive me!… They’ve come again; why don’t they go away?… Oh, take these cloaks off me!”

The doctor unloosed her hands, carefully laying her on the pillow, and covered her up to the shoulders. She lay back submissively, and looked before her with beaming eyes.

“Remember one thing, that I needed nothing but forgiveness, and I want nothing more…. Why doesn’t HE come?” she said, turning to the door towards Vronsky. “Do come, do come! Give him your hand.”

Vronsky came to the side of the bed, and seeing Anna, again hid his face in his hands.

“Uncover your face–look at him! He’s a saint,” she said. “Oh! uncover your face, do uncover it!” she said angrily. “Alexey Alexandrovitch, do uncover his face! I want to see him.”

Alexey Alexandrovitch took Vronsky’s hands and drew them away from his face, which was awful with the expression of agony and shame upon it.

“Give him your hand. Forgive him.”

Alexey Alexandrovitch gave him his hand, not attempting to restrain the tears that streamed from his eyes.

“Thank God, thank God!” she said, “now everything is ready. Only to stretch my legs a little. There, that’s capital. How badly these flowers are done–not a bit like a violet,” she said, pointing to the hangings. “My God, my God! when will it end? Give me some morphine. Doctor, give me some morphine! Oh, my God, my God!”

And she tossed about on the bed.

The doctors said that it was puerperal fever, and that it was ninety-nine chances in a hundred it would end in death. The whole day long there was fever, delirium, and unconsciousness. At midnight the patient lay without consciousness, and almost without pulse.

The end was expected every minute.

Vronsky had gone home, but in the morning he came to inquire, and Alexey Alexandrovitch meeting him in the hall, said: “Better stay, she might ask for you,” and himself led him to his wife’s boudoir. Towards morning, there was a return again of excitement, rapid thought and talk, and again it ended in unconsciousness. On the third day it was the same thing, and the doctors said there was hope. That day Alexey Alexandrovitch went into the boudoir where Vronsky was sitting, and closing the door sat down opposite him.

“Alexey Alexandrovitch,” said Vronsky, feeling that a statement of the position was coming, “I can’t speak, I can’t understand. Spare me! However hard it is for you, believe me, it is more terrible for me.”

He would have risen; but Alexey Alexandrovitch took him by the hand and said:

“I beg you to hear me out; it is necessary. I must explain my feelings, the feelings that have guided me and will guide me, so that you may not be in error regarding me. You know I had resolved on a divorce, and had even begun to take proceedings. I won’t conceal from you that in beginning this I was in uncertainty, I was in misery; I will confess that I was pursued by a desire to revenge myself on you and on her. When I got the telegram, I came here with the same feelings; I will say more, I longed for her death. But….” He paused, pondering whether to disclose or not to disclose his feeling to him. “But I saw her and forgave her. And the happiness of forgiveness has revealed to me my duty. I forgive completely. I would offer the other cheek, I would give my cloak if my coat be taken. I pray to God only not to take from me the bliss of forgiveness!”

Tears stood in his eyes, and the luminous, serene look in them impressed Vronsky.

“This is my position: you can trample me in the mud, make me the laughing-stock of the world, I will not abandon her, and I will never utter a word of reproach to you,” Alexey Alexandrovitch went on. “My duty is clearly marked for me; I ought to be with her, and I will be. If she wishes to see you, I will let you know, but now I suppose it would be better for you to go away.”

He got up, and sobs cut short his words. Vronsky too was getting up, and in a stooping, not yet erect posture, looked up at him from under his brows. He did not understand Alexey Alexandrovitch’s feeling, but he felt that it was something higher and even unattainable for him with his view of life.

Chapter 18

After the conversation with Alexey Alexandrovitch, Vronsky went out onto the steps of the Karenins’ house and stood still, with difficulty remembering where he was, and where he ought to walk or drive. He felt disgraced, humiliated, guilty, and deprived of all possibility of washing away his humiliation. He felt thrust out of the beaten track along which he had so proudly and lightly walked till then. All the habits and rules of his life that had seemed so firm, had turned out suddenly false and inapplicable. The betrayed husband, who had figured till that time as a pitiful creature, an incidental and somewhat ludicrous obstacle to his happiness, had suddenly been summoned by her herself, elevated to an awe-inspiring pinnacle, and on the pinnacle that husband had shown himself, not malignant, not false, not ludicrous, but kind and straightforward and large. Vronsky could not but feel this, and the parts were suddenly reversed. Vronsky felt his elevation and his own abasement, his truth and his own falsehood. He felt that the husband was magnanimous even in his sorrow, while he had been base and petty in his deceit. But this sense of his own humiliation before the man he had unjustly despised made up only a small part of his misery. He felt unutterably wretched now, for his passion for Anna, which had seemed to him of late to be growing cooler, now that he knew he had lost her forever, was stronger than ever it had been. He had seen all of her in her illness, had come to know her very soul, and it seemed to him that he had never loved her till then. And now when he had learned to know her, to love her as she should be loved, he had been humiliated before her, and had lost her forever, leaving with her nothing of himself but a shameful memory. Most terrible of all had been his ludicrous, shameful position when Alexey Alexandrovitch had pulled his hands away from his humiliated face. He stood on the steps of the Karenins’ house like one distraught, and did not know what to do.

“A sledge, sir?” asked the porter.

“Yes, a sledge.”

On getting home, after three sleepless nights, Vronsky, without undressing, lay down fiat on the sofa, clasping his hands and laying his head on them. His head was heavy. Images, memories, and ideas of the strangest description followed one another with extraordinary rapidity and vividness. First it was the medicine he had poured out for the patient and spilt over the spoon, then the midwife’s white hands, then the queer posture of Alexey Alexandrovitch on the floor beside the bed.

“To sleep! To forget!” he said to himself with the serene confidence of a healthy man that if he is tired and sleepy, he will go to sleep at once. And the same instant his head did begin to feel drowsy and he began to drop off into forgetfulness. The waves of the sea of unconsciousness had begun to meet over his head, when all at once–it was as though a violent shock of electricity had passed over him. He started so that he leaped up on the springs of the sofa, and leaning on his arms got in a panic onto his knees. His eyes were wide open as though he had never been asleep. The heaviness in his head and the weariness in his limbs that he had felt a minute before had suddenly gone.

“You may trample me in the mud,” he heard Alexey Alexandrovitch’s words and saw him standing before him, and saw Anna’s face with its burning flush and glittering eyes, gazing with love and tenderness not at him but at Alexey Alexandrovitch; he saw his own, as he fancied, foolish and ludicrous figure when Alexey Alexandrovitch took his hands away from his face. He stretched out his legs again and flung himself on the sofa in the same position and shut his eyes.

“To sleep! To forget!” he repeated to himself. But with his eyes shut he saw more distinctly than ever Anna’s face as it had been on the memorable evening before the races.

“That is not and will not be, and she wants to wipe it out of her memory. But I cannot live without it. How can we be reconciled? how can we be reconciled?” he said aloud, and unconsciously began to repeat these words. This repetition checked the rising up of fresh images and memories, which he felt were thronging in his brain. But repeating words did not check his imagination for long. Again in extraordinarily rapid succession his best moments rose before his mind, and then his recent humiliation. “Take away his hands,” Anna’s voice says. He takes away his hands and feels the shamestruck and idiotic expression of his face.

He still lay down, trying to sleep, though he felt there was not the smallest hope of it, and kept repeating stray words from some chain of thought, trying by this to check the rising flood of fresh images. He listened, and heard in a strange, mad whisper words repeated: “I did not appreciate it, did not make enough of it. I did not appreciate it, did not make enough of it.”

“What’s this? Am I going out of my mind?” he said to himself. “Perhaps. What makes men go out of their minds; what makes men shoot themselves?” he answered himself, and opening his eyes, he saw with wonder an embroidered cushion beside him, worked by Varya, his brother’s wife. He touched the tassel of the cushion, and tried to think of Varya, of when he had seen her last. But to think of anything extraneous was an agonizing effort. “No, I must sleep!” He moved the cushion up, and pressed his head into it, but he had to make an effort to keep his eyes shut. He jumped up and sat down. “That’s all over for me,” he said to himself. “I must think what to do. What is left?” His mind rapidly ran through his life apart from his love of Anna.

“Ambition? Serpuhovskoy? Society? The court?” He could not come to a pause anywhere. All of it had had meaning before, but now there was no reality in it. He got up from the sofa, took off his coat, undid his belt, and uncovering his hairy chest to breathe more freely, walked up and down the room. “This is how people go mad,” he repeated, “and how they shoot themselves…to escape humiliation,” he added slowly.

He went to the door and closed it, then with fixed eyes and clenched teeth he went up to the table, took a revolver, looked round him, turned it to a loaded barrel, and sank into thought. For two minutes, his head bent forward with an expression of an intense effort of thought, he stood with the revolver in his hand, motionless, thinking.

“Of course,” he said to himself, as though a logical, continuous, and clear chain of reasoning had brought him to an indubitable conclusion. In reality this “of course,” that seemed convincing to him, was simply the result of exactly the same circle of memories and images through which he had passed ten times already during the last hour–memories of happiness lost forever. There was the same conception of the senselessness of everything to come in life, the same consciousness of humiliation. Even the sequence of these images and emotions was the same.

“Of course,” he repeated, when for the third time his thought passed again round the same spellbound circle of memories and images, and pulling the revolver to the left side of his chest, and clutching it vigorously with his whole hand, as it were, squeezing it in his fist, he pulled the trigger. He did not hear the sound of the shot, but a violent blow on his chest sent him reeling. He tried to clutch at the edge of the table, dropped the revolver, staggered, and sat down on the ground, looking about him in astonishment. He did not recognize his room, looking up from the ground, at the bent legs of the table, at the wastepaper basket, and the tiger-skin rug. The hurried, creaking steps of his servant coming through the drawing room brought him to his senses. He made an effort at thought, and was aware that he was on the floor; and seeing blood on the tiger-skin rug and on his arm, he knew he had shot himself.

“Idiotic! Missed!” he said, fumbling after the revolver. The revolver was close beside him–he sought further off. Still feeling for it, he stretched out to the other side, and not being strong enough to keep his balance, fell over, streaming with blood.

The elegant, whiskered manservant, who used to be continually complaining to his acquaintances of the delicacy of his nerves, was so panic-stricken on seeing his master lying on the floor, that he left him losing blood while he ran for assistance. An hour later Varya, his brother’s wife, had arrived, and with the assistance of three doctors, whom she had sent for in all directions, and who all appeared at the same moment, she got the wounded man to bed, and remained to nurse him.

Chapter 19

The mistake made by Alexey Alexandrovitch in that, when preparing for seeing his wife, he had overlooked the possibility that her repentance might be sincere, and he might forgive her, and she might not die–this mistake was two months after his return from Moscow brought home to him in all its significance. But the mistake made by him had arisen not simply from his having overlooked that contingency, but also from the fact that until that day of his interview with his dying wife, he had not known his own heart. At his sick wife’s bedside he had for the first time in his life given way to that feeling of sympathetic suffering always roused in him by the sufferings of others, and hitherto looked on by him with shame as a harmful weakness. And pity for her, and remorse for having desired her death, and most of all, the joy of forgiveness, made him at once conscious, not simply of the relief of his own sufferings, but of a spiritual peace he had never experienced before. He suddenly felt that the very thing that was the source of his sufferings had become the source of his spiritual joy; that what had seemed insoluble while he was judging, blaming, and hating, had become clear and simple when he forgave and loved.

He forgave his wife and pitied her for her sufferings and her remorse. He forgave Vronsky, and pitied him, especially after reports reached him of his despairing action. He felt more for his son than before. And he blamed himself now for having taken too little interest in him. But for the little newborn baby he felt a quite peculiar sentiment, not of pity, only, but of tenderness. At first, from a feeling of compassion alone, he had been interested in the delicate little creature, who was not his child, and who was cast on one side during her mother’s illness, and would certainly have died if he had not troubled about her, and he did not himself observe how fond he became of her. He would go into the nursery several times a day, and sit there for a long while, so that the nurses, who were at first afraid of him, got quite used to his presence. Sometimes for half an hour at a stretch he would sit silently gazing at the saffron-red, downy, wrinkled face of the sleeping baby, watching the movements of the frowning brows, and the fat little hands, with clenched fingers, that rubbed the little eyes and nose. At such moments particularly, Alexey Alexandrovitch had a sense of perfect peace and inward harmony, and saw nothing extraordinary in his position, nothing that ought to be changed.

But as time went on, he saw more and more distinctly that however natural the position now seemed to him, he would not long be allowed to remain in it. He felt that besides the blessed spiritual force controlling his soul, there was another, a brutal force, as powerful, or more powerful, which controlled his life, and that this force would not allow him that humble peace he longed for. He felt that everyone was looking at him with inquiring wonder, that he was not understood, and that something was expected of him. Above all, he felt the instability and unnaturalness of his relations with his wife.

When the softening effect of the near approach of death had passed away, Alexey Alexandrovitch began to notice that Anna was afraid of him, ill at ease with him, and could not look him straight in the face. She seemed to be wanting, and not daring, to tell him something; and as though foreseeing their present relations could not continue, she seemed to be expecting something from him.

Towards the end of February it happened that Anna’s baby daughter, who had been named Anna too, fell ill. Alexey Alexandrovitch was in the nursery in the morning, and leaving orders for the doctor to be sent for, he went to his office. On finishing his work, he returned home at four. Going into the hall he saw a handsome groom, in a braided livery and a bear fur cape, holding a white fur cloak.

“Who is here?” asked Alexey Alexandrovitch.

“Princess Elizaveta Federovna Tverskaya,” the groom answered, and it seemed to Alexey Alexandrovitch that he grinned.

During all this difficult time Alexey Alexandrovitch had noticed that his worldly acquaintances, especially women, took a peculiar interest in him and his wife. All these acquaintances he observed with difficulty concealing their mirth at something; the same mirth that he had perceived in the lawyer’s eyes, and just now in the eyes of this groom. Everyone seemed, somehow, hugely delighted, as though they had just been at a wedding. When they met him, with ill-disguised enjoyment they inquired after his wife’s health. The presence of Princess Tverskaya was unpleasant to Alexey Alexandrovitch from the memories associated with her, and also because he disliked her, and he went straight to the nursery. In the day nursery Seryozha, leaning on the table with his legs on a chair, was drawing and chatting away merrily. The English governess, who had during Anna’s illness replaced the French one, was sitting near the boy knitting a shawl. She hurriedly got up, curtseyed, and pulled Seryozha.

Alexey Alexandrovitch stroked his son’s hair, answered the governess’s inquiries about his wife, and asked what the doctor had said of the baby.

“The doctor said it was nothing serious, and he ordered a bath, sir.”

“But she is still in pain,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, listening to the baby’s screaming in the next room.

“I think it’s the wet-nurse, sir,” the Englishwoman said firmly.

“What makes you think so?” he asked, stopping short.

“It’s just as it was at Countess Paul’s, sir. They gave the baby medicine, and it turned out that the baby was simply hungry: the nurse had no milk, sir.”

Alexey Alexandrovitch pondered, and after standing still a few seconds he went in at the other door. The baby was lying with its head thrown back, stiffening itself in the nurse’s arms, and would not take the plump breast offered it; and it never ceased screaming in spite of the double hushing of the wet-nurse and the other nurse, who was bending over her.

“Still no better?” said Alexey Alexandrovitch.

“She’s very restless,” answered the nurse in a whisper.

“Miss Edwarde says that perhaps the wet-nurse has no milk,” he said.

“I think so too, Alexey Alexandrovitch.”

“Then why didn’t you say so?”

“Who’s one to say it to? Anna Arkadyevna still ill…” said the nurse discontentedly.

The nurse was an old servant of the family. And in her simple words there seemed to Alexey Alexandrovitch an allusion to his position.

The baby screamed louder than ever, struggling and sobbing. The nurse, with a gesture of despair, went to it, took it from the wet-nurse’s arms, and began walking up and down, rocking it.

“You must ask the doctor to examine the wet-nurse,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch. The smartly dressed and healthy-looking nurse, frightened at the idea of losing her place, muttered something to herself, and covering her bosom, smiled contemptuously at the idea of doubts being cast on her abundance of milk. In that smile, too, Alexey Alexandrovitch saw a sneer at his position.

“Luckless child!” said the nurse, hushing the baby, and still walking up and down with it.

Alexey Alexandrovitch sat down, and with a despondent and suffering face watched the nurse walking to and fro.

When the child at last was still, and had been put in a deep bed, and the nurse, after smoothing the little pillow, had left her, Alexey Alexandrovitch got up, and walking awkwardly on tiptoe, approached the baby. For a minute he was still, and with the same despondent face gazed at the baby; but all at once a smile, that moved his hair and the skin of his forehead, came out on his face, and he went as softly out of the room.

In the dining room he rang the bell, and told the servant who came in to send again for the doctor. He felt vexed with his wife for not being anxious about this exquisite baby, and in this vexed humor he had no wish to go to her; he had no wish, either, to see Princess Betsy. But his wife might wonder why he did not go to her as usual; and so, overcoming his disinclination, he went towards the bedroom. As he walked over the soft rug towards the door, he could not help overhearing a conversation he did not want to hear.

“If he hadn’t been going away, I could have understood your answer and his too. But your husband ought to be above that,” Betsy was saying.

“It’s not for my husband; for myself I don’t wish it. Don’t say that!” answered Anna’s excited voice.

“Yes, but you must care to say good-bye to a man who has shot himself on your account….”

“That’s just why I don’t want to.”

With a dismayed and guilty expression, Alexey Alexandrovitch stopped and would have gone back unobserved. But reflecting that this would be undignified, he turned back again, and clearing his throat, he went up to the bedroom. The voices were silent, and he went in.

Anna, in a gray dressing gown, with a crop of short clustering black curls on her round head, was sitting on a settee. The eagerness died out of her face, as it always did, at the sight of her husband; she dropped her head and looked round uneasily at Betsy. Betsy, dressed in the height of the latest fashion, in a hat that towered somewhere over her head like a shade on a lamp, in a blue dress with violet crossway stripes slanting one way on the bodice and the other way on the skirt, was sitting beside Anna, her tall flat figure held erect. Bowing her head, she greeted Alexey Alexandrovitch with an ironical smile.

“Ah!” she said, as though surprised. “I’m very glad you’re at home. You never put in an appearance anywhere, and I haven’t seen you ever since Anna has been ill. I have heard all about it–your anxiety. Yes, you’re a wonderful husband!” she said, with a meaning and affable air, as though she were bestowing an order of magnanimity on him for his conduct to his wife.

Alexey Alexandrovitch bowed frigidly, and kissing his wife’s hand, asked how she was.

“Better, I think,” she said, avoiding his eyes.

“But you’ve rather a feverish-looking color,” he said, laying stress on the word “feverish.”

“We’ve been talking too much,” said Betsy. “I feel it’s selfishness on my part, and I am going away.”

She got up, but Anna, suddenly flushing, quickly caught at her hand.

“No, wait a minute, please. I must tell you…no, you.” she turned to Alexey Alexandrovitch, and her neck and brow were suffused with crimson. “I won’t and can’t keep anything secret from you,” she said.

Alexey Alexandrovitch cracked his fingers and bowed his head.

“Betsy’s been telling me that Count Vronsky wants to come here to say good-bye before his departure for Tashkend.” She did not look at her husband, and was evidently in haste to have everything out, however hard it might be for her. “I told her I could not receive him.”

“You said, my dear, that it would depend on Alexey Alexandrovitch,” Betsy corrected her.

“Oh, no, I can’t receive him; and what object would there….” She stopped suddenly, and glanced inquiringly at her husband (he did not look at her). “In short, I don’t wish it….”

Alexey Alexandrovitch advanced and would have taken her hand.

Her first impulse was to jerk back her hand from the damp hand with big swollen veins that sought hers, but with an obvious effort to control herself she pressed his hand.

“I am very grateful to you for your confidence, but…” he said, feeling with confusion and annoyance that what he could decide easily and clearly by himself, he could not discuss before Princess Tverskaya, who to him stood for the incarnation of that brute force which would inevitably control him in the life he led in the eyes of the world, and hinder him from giving way to his feeling of love and forgiveness. He stopped short, looking at Princess Tverskaya.

“Well, good-bye, my darling,” said Betsy, getting up. She kissed Anna, and went out. Alexey Alexandrovitch escorted her out.

“Alexey Alexandrovitch! I know you are a truly magnanimous man,” said Betsy, stopping in the little drawing-room, and with special warmth shaking hands with him once more. “I am an outsider, but I so love her and respect you that I venture to advise. Receive him. Alexey Vronsky is the soul of honor, and he is going away to Tashkend.”

“Thank you, princess, for your sympathy and advice. But the question of whether my wife can or cannot see anyone she must decide herself.”

He said this from habit, lifting his brows with dignity, and reflected immediately that whatever his words might be, there could be no dignity in his position. And he saw this by the suppressed, malicious, and ironical smile with which Betsy glanced at him after this phrase.

Chapter 20

Alexey Alexandrovitch took leave of Betsy in the drawing room, and went to his wife. She was lying down, but hearing his steps she sat up hastily in her former attitude, and looked in a scared way at him. He saw she had been crying.

“I am very grateful for your confidence in me.” He repeated gently in Russian the phrase he had said in Betsy’s presence in French, and sat down beside her. When he spoke to her in Russian, using the Russian “thou” of intimacy and affection, it was insufferably irritating to Anna. “And I am very grateful for your decision. I, too, imagine that since he is going away, there is no sort of necessity for Count Vronsky to come here. However, if…”

“But I’ve said so already, so why repeat it?” Anna suddenly interrupted him with an irritation she could not succeed in repressing. “No sort of necessity,” she thought, “for a man to come and say good-bye to the woman he loves, for whom he was ready to ruin himself, and has ruined himself, and who cannot live without him. No sort of necessity!” she compressed her lips, and dropped her burning eyes to his hands with their swollen veins. They were rubbing each other.

“Let us never speak of it,” she added more calmly.

“I have left this question to you to decide, and I am very glad to see…” Alexey Alexandrovitch was beginning.

“That my wish coincides with your own,” she finished quickly, exasperated at his talking so slowly while she knew beforehand all he would say.

“Yes,” he assented; “and Princess Tverskaya’s interference in the most difficult private affairs is utterly uncalled for. She especially…”

“I don’t believe a word of what’s said about her,” said Anna quickly. “I know she really cares for me.”

Alexey Alexandrovitch sighed and said nothing. She played nervously with the tassel of her dressing-gown, glancing at him with that torturing sensation of physical repulsion for which she blamed herself, though she could not control it. Her only desire now was to be rid of his oppressive presence.

“I have just sent for the doctor,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch.

“I am very well; what do I want the doctor for?”

“No, the little one cries, and they say the nurse hasn’t enough milk.”

“Why didn’t you let me nurse her, when I begged to? Anyway” (Alexey Alexandrovitch knew what was meant by that “anyway”), “she’s a baby, and they’re killing her.” She rang the bell and ordered the baby to be brought her. “I begged to nurse her, I wasn’t allowed to, and now I’m blamed for it.”

“I don’t blame…”

“Yes, you do blame me! My God! why didn’t I die!” And she broke into sobs. “Forgive me, I’m nervous, I’m unjust,” she said, controlling herself, “but do go away…”

“No, it can’t go on like this,” Alexey Alexandrovitch said to himself decidedly as he left his wife’s room.

Never had the impossibility of his position in the world’s eyes, and his wife’s hatred of him, and altogether the might of that mysterious brutal force that guided his life against his spiritual inclinations, and exacted conformity with its decrees and change in his attitude to his wife, been presented to him with such distinctness as that day. He saw clearly that all the world and his wife expected of him something, but what exactly, he could not make out. He felt that this was rousing in his soul a feeling of anger destructive of his peace of mind and of all the good of his achievement. He believed that for Anna herself it would be better to break off all relations with Vronsky; but if they all thought this out of the question, he was even ready to allow these relations to be renewed, so long as the children were not disgraced, and he was not deprived of them nor forced to change his position. Bad as this might be, it was anyway better than a rupture, which would put her in a hopeless and shameful position, and deprive him of everything he cared for. But he felt helpless; he knew beforehand that every one was against him, and that he would not be allowed to do what seemed to him now so natural and right, but would be forced to do what was wrong, though it seemed the proper thing to them.

 

 

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