Anna Karenina ( Part 5 – Chapter 31-32)

Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy

Chapter 31

As intensely as Anna had longed to see her son, and long as she had been thinking of it and preparing herself for it, she had not in the least expected that seeing him would affect her so deeply. On getting back to her lonely rooms in the hotel she could not for a long while understand why she was there. “Yes, it’s all over, and I am again alone,” she said to herself, and without taking off her hat she sat down in a low chair by the hearth. Fixing her eyes on a bronze clock standing on a table between the windows, she tried to think.

The French maid brought from abroad came in to suggest she should dress. She gazed at her wonderingly and said, “Presently.” A footman offered her coffee. “Later on,” she said.

The Italian nurse, after having taken the baby out in her best, came in with her, and brought her to Anna. The plump, well-fed little baby, on seeing her mother, as she always did, held out her fat little hands, and with a smile on her toothless mouth, began, like a fish with a float, bobbing her fingers up and down the starched folds of her embroidered skirt, making them rustle. It was impossible not to smile, not to kiss the baby, impossible not to hold out a finger for her to clutch, crowing and prancing all over; impossible not to offer her a lip which she sucked into her little mouth by way of a kiss. And all this Anna did, and took her in her arms and made her dance, and kissed her fresh little cheek and bare little elbows; but at the sight of this child it was plainer than ever to her that the feeling she had for her could not be called love in comparison with what she felt for Seryozha. Everything in this baby was charming, but for some reason all this did not go deep to her heart. On her first child, though the child of an unloved father, had been concentrated all the love that had never found satisfaction. Her baby girl had been born in the most painful circumstances and had not had a hundredth part of the care and thought which had been

concentrated on her first child. Besides, in the little girl everything was still in the future, while Seryozha was by now almost a personality, and a personality dearly loved. In him there was a conflict of thought and feeling; he understood her, he loved her, he judged her, she thought, recalling his words and his eyes. And she was forever–not physically only but spiritually–divided from him, and it was impossible to set this right.

She gave the baby back to the nurse, let her go, and opened the locket in which there was Seryozha’s portrait when he was almost of the same age as the girl. She got up, and, taking off her hat, took up from a little table an album in which there were photographs of her son at different ages. She wanted to compare them, and began taking them out of the album. She took them all out except one, the latest and best photograph. In it he was in a white smock, sitting astride a chair, with frowning eyes and smiling lips. It was his best, most characteristic expression. With her little supple hands, her white, delicate fingers, that moved with a peculiar intensity today, she pulled at a corner of the photograph, but the photograph had caught somewhere, and she could not get it out. There was no paper knife on the table, and so, pulling out the photograph that was next to her son’s (it was a photograph of Vronsky taken at Rome in a round hat and with long hair), she used it to push out her son’s photograph. “Oh, here is he!” she said, glancing at the portrait of Vronsky, and she suddenly recalled that he was the cause of her present misery. She had not once thought of him all the morning. But now, coming all at once upon that manly, noble face, so familiar and so dear to her, she felt a sudden rush of love for him.

“But where is he? How is it he leaves me alone in my misery?” she thought all at once with a feeling of reproach, forgetting she had herself kept from him everything concerning her son. She sent to ask him to come to her immediately; with a throbbing heart she awaited him, rehearsing to herself the words in which she would tell him all, and the expressions of love with which he would console her. The messenger returned with the answer that he had a visitor with him, but that he would come immediately, and that he asked whether she would let him bring with him Prince Yashvin, who had just arrived in Petersburg. “He’s not coming alone, and since dinner yesterday he has not seen me,” she thought; “he’s not coming so that I could tell him everything, but coming with Yashvin.” And all at once a strange idea came to her: what if he had ceased to love her?

And going over the events of the last few days, it seemed to her that she saw in everything a confirmation of this terrible idea. The fact that he had not dined at home yesterday, and the fact that he had insisted on their taking separate sets of rooms in Petersburg, and that even now he was not coming to her alone, as though he were trying to avoid meeting her face to face.

“But he ought to tell me so. I must know that it is so. If I knew it, then I know what I should do,” she said to herself, utterly unable to picture to herself the position she would be in if she were convinced of his not caring for her. She thought he had ceased to love her, she felt close upon despair, and consequently she felt exceptionally alert. She rang for her maid and went to her dressing room. As she dressed, she took more care over her appearance than she had done all those days, as though he might, if he had grown cold to her, fall in love with her again because she had dressed and arranged her hair in the way most becoming to her.

She heard the bell ring before she was ready. When she went into the drawing room it was not he, but Yashvin, who met her eyes. Vronsky was looking through the photographs of her son, which she had forgotten on the table, and he made no haste to look round at her.

“We have met already,” she said, putting her little hand into the huge hand of Yashvin, whose bashfulness was so queerly out of keeping with his immense frame and coarse face. “We met last year at the races. Give them to me,” she said, with a rapid movement snatching from Vronsky the photographs of her son, and glancing significantly at him with flashing eyes. “Were the races good this year? Instead of them I saw the races in the Corso in Rome. But you don’t care for life abroad,” she said with a cordial smile. “I know you and all your tastes, though I have seen so little of you.”

“I’m awfully sorry for that, for my tastes are mostly bad,” said Yashvin, gnawing at his left mustache.

Having talked a little while, and noticing that Vronsky glanced at the clock, Yashvin asked her whether she would be staying much longer in Petersburg, and unbending his huge figure reached after his cap.

“Not long, I think,” she said hesitatingly, glancing at Vronsky.

“So then we shan’t meet again?”

“Come and dine with me,” said Anna resolutely, angry it seemed with herself for her embarrassment, but flushing as she always did when she defined her position before a fresh person. “The dinner here is not good, but at least you will see him. There is no one of his old friends in the regiment Alexey cares for as he does for you.”

“Delighted,” said Yashvin with a smile, from which Vronsky could see that he liked Anna very much.

Yashvin said good-bye and went away; Vronsky stayed behind.

“Are you going too?” she said to him.

“I’m late already,” he answered. “Run along! I’ll catch you up in a moment,” he called to Yashvin.

She took him by the hand, and without taking her eyes off him, gazed at him while she ransacked her mind for the words to say that would keep him.

“Wait a minute, there’s something I want to say to you,” and taking his broad hand she pressed it on her neck. “Oh, was it right my asking him to dinner?”

“You did quite right,” he said with a serene smile that showed his even teeth, and he kissed her hand.

“Alexey, you have not changed to me?” she said, pressing his hand in both of hers. “Alexey, I am miserable here. When are we going away?”

“Soon, soon. You wouldn’t believe how disagreeable our way of living here is to me too,” he said, and he drew away his hand.

“Well, go, go!” she said in a tone of offense, and she walked quickly away from him.

Chapter 32

When Vronsky returned home, Anna was not yet home. Soon after he had left, some lady, so they told him, had come to see her, and she had gone out with her. That she had gone out without leaving word where she was going, that she had not yet come back, and that all the morning she had been going about somewhere without a word to him–all this, together with the strange look of excitement in her face in the morning, and the recollection of the hostile tone with which she had before Yashvin almost snatched her son’s photographs out of his hands, made him serious. He decided he absolutely must speak openly with her. And he waited for her in her drawing room. But Anna did not return alone, but brought with her her old unmarried aunt, Princess Oblonskaya. This was the lady who had come in the morning, and with whom Anna had gone out shopping. Anna appeared not to notice Vronsky’s worried and inquiring expression, and began a lively account of her morning’s shopping. He saw that there was something working within her; in her flashing eyes, when they rested for a moment on him, there was an intense concentration, and in her words and movements there was that nervous rapidity and grace which, during the early period of their intimacy, had so fascinated him, but which now so disturbed and alarmed him.

The dinner was laid for four. All were gathered together and about to go into the little dining room when Tushkevitch made his appearance with a message from Princess Betsy. Princess Betsy begged her to excuse her not having come to say good-bye; she had been indisposed, but begged Anna to come to her between half-past six and nine o’clock. Vronsky glanced at Anna at the precise limit of time, so suggestive of steps having been taken that she should meet no one; but Anna appeared not to notice it.

“Very sorry that I can’t come just between half-past six and nine,” she said with a faint smile.

“The princess will be very sorry.”

“And so am I.”

“You’re going, no doubt, to hear Patti?” said Tushkevitch.

“Patti? You suggest the idea to me. I would go if it were possible to get a box.”

“I can get one,” Tushkevitch offered his services.

“I should be very, very grateful to you,” said Anna. “But won’t you dine with us?”

Vronsky gave a hardly perceptible shrug. He was at a complete loss to understand what Anna was about. What had she brought the old Princess Oblonskaya home for, what had she made Tushkevitch stay to dinner for, and, most amazing of all, why was she sending him for a box? Could she possibly think in her position of going to Patti’s benefit, where all the circle of her acquaintances would be? He looked at her with serious eyes, but she responded with that defiant, half-mirthful, half-desperate look, the meaning of which he could not comprehend. At dinner Anna was in aggressively high spirits–she almost flirted both with Tushkevitch and with Yashvin. When they got up from dinner and Tushkevitch had gone to get a box at the opera, Yashvin went to smoke, and Vronsky went down with him to his own rooms. After sitting there for some time he ran upstairs. Anna was already dressed in a low-necked gown of light silk and velvet that she had had made in Paris, and with costly white lace on her head, framing her face, and particularly becoming, showing up her dazzling beauty.

“Are you really going to the theater?” he said, trying not to look at her.

“Why do you ask with such alarm?” she said, wounded again at his not looking at her. “Why shouldn’t I go?”

She appeared not to understand the motive of his words.

“Oh, of course, there’s no reason whatever,” he said, frowning.

“That’s just what I say,” she said, willfully refusing to see the irony of his tone, and quietly turning back her long, perfumed glove.

“Anna, for God’s sake! what is the matter with you?” he said, appealing to her exactly as once her husband had done.

“I don’t understand what you are asking.”

“You know that it’s out of the question to go.”

“Why so? I’m not going alone. Princess Varvara has gone to dress, she is going with me.”

He shrugged his shoulders with an air of perplexity and despair.

“But do you mean to say you don’t know?…” he began.

“But I don’t care to know!” she almost shrieked. “I don’t care to. Do I regret what I have done? No, no, no! If it were all to do again from the beginning, it would be the same. For us, for you and for me, there is only one thing that matters, whether we love each other. Other people we need not consider. Why are we living here apart and not seeing each other? Why can’t I go? I love you, and I don’t care for anything,” she said in Russian, glancing at him with a peculiar gleam in her eyes that he could not understand. “If you have not changed to me, why don’t you look at me?”

He looked at her. He saw all the beauty of her face and full dress, always so becoming to her. But now her beauty and elegance were just what irritated him.

“My feeling cannot change, you know, but I beg you, I entreat you,” he said again in French, with a note of tender supplication in his voice, but with coldness in his eyes.

She did not hear his words, but she saw the coldness of his eyes, and answered with irritation:

“And I beg you to explain why I should not go.”

“Because it might cause you…” he hesitated.

“I don’t understand. Yashvin n’est pas compromettant, and Princess Varvara is no worse than others. Oh, here she is!”

Chapter 33

Vronsky for the first time experienced a feeling of anger against Anna, almost a hatred for her willfully refusing to understand her own position. This feeling was aggravated by his being unable to tell her plainly the cause of his anger. If he had told her directly what he was thinking, he would have said:

“In that dress, with a princess only too well known to everyone, to show yourself at the theater is equivalent not merely to acknowledging your position as a fallen woman, but is flinging down a challenge to society, that is to say, cutting yourself off from it forever.”

He could not say that to her. “But how can she fail to see it, and what is going on in her?” he said to himself. He felt at the same time that his respect for her was diminished while his sense of her beauty was intensified.

He went back scowling to his rooms, and sitting down beside Yashvin, who, with his long legs stretched out on a chair, was drinking brandy and seltzer water, he ordered a glass of the same for himself.

“You were talking of Lankovsky’s Powerful. That’s a fine horse, and I would advise you to buy him,” said Yashvin, glancing at his comrade’s gloomy face. “His hind-quarters aren’t quite first-rate, but the legs and head–one couldn’t wish for anything better.”

“I think I will take him,” answered Vronsky.

Their conversation about horses interested him, but he did not for an instant forget Anna, and could not help listening to the sound of steps in the corridor and looking at the clock on the chimney piece.

“Anna Arkadyevna gave orders to announce that she has gone to the theater.”

Yashvin, tipping another glass of brandy into the bubbling water, drank it and got up, buttoning his coat.

“Well, let’s go,” he said, faintly smiling under his mustache, and showing by this smile that he knew the cause of Vronsky’s gloominess, and did not attach any significance to it.

“I’m not going,” Vronsky answered gloomily.

“Well, I must, I promised to. Good-bye, then. If you do, come to the stalls; you can take Kruzin’s stall,” added Yashvin as he went out.

“No, I’m busy.”

“A wife is a care, but it’s worse when she’s not a wife,” thought Yashvin, as he walked out of the hotel.

Vronsky, left alone, got up from his chair and began pacing up and down the room.

“And what’s today? The fourth night…. Yegor and his wife are there, and my mother, most likely. Of course all Petersburg’s there. Now she’s gone in, taken off her cloak and come into the light. Tushkevitch, Yashvin, Princess Varvara,” he pictured them to himself…. “What about me? Either that I’m frightened or have given up to Tushkevitch the right to protect her? From every point of view–stupid, stupid!… And why is she putting me in such a position?” he said with a gesture of despair.

With that gesture he knocked against the table, on which there was standing the seltzer water and the decanter of brandy, and almost upset it. He tried to catch it, let it slip, and angrily kicked the table over and rang.

“If you care to be in my service,” he said to the valet who came in, “you had better remember your duties. This shouldn’t be here. You ought to have cleared away.”

The valet, conscious of his own innocence, would have defended himself, but glancing at his master, he saw from his face that the only thing to do was to be silent, and hurriedly threading his way in and out, dropped down on the carpet and began gathering up the whole and broken glasses and bottles.

“That’s not your duty; send the waiter to clear away, and get my dress coat out.”

 

Vronsky went into the theater at half-past eight. The performance was in full swing. The little old box-keeper, recognizing Vronsky as he helped him off with his fur coat, called him “Your Excellency,” and suggested he should not take a number but should simply call Fyodor. In the brightly lighted corridor there was no one but the box-opener and two attendants with fur cloaks on their arms listening at the doors. Through the closed doors came the sounds of the discreet staccato accompaniment of the orchestra, and a single female voice rendering distinctly a musical phrase. The door opened to let the box-opener slip through, and the phrase drawing to the end reached Vronsky’s hearing clearly. But the doors were closed again at once, and Vronsky did not hear the end of the phrase and the cadence of the accompaniment, though he knew from the thunder of applause that it was over. When he entered the hall, brilliantly lighted with chandeliers and gas jets, the noise was still going on. On the stage the singer, bowing and smiling, with bare shoulders flashing with diamonds, was, with the help of the tenor who had given her his arm, gathering up the bouquets that were flying awkwardly over the footlights. Then she went up to a gentleman with glossy pomaded hair parted down the center, who was stretching across the footlights holding out something to her, and all the public in the stalls as well as in the boxes was in excitement, craning forward, shouting and clapping. The conductor in his high chair assisted in passing the offering, and straightened his white tie. Vronsky walked into the middle of the stalls, and, standing still, began looking about him. That day less than ever was his attention turned upon the familiar, habitual surroundings, the stage, the noise, all the familiar, uninteresting, particolored herd of spectators in the packed theater.

There were, as always, the same ladies of some sort with officers of some sort in the back of the boxes; the same gaily dressed women–God knows who–and uniforms and black coats; the same dirty crowd in the upper gallery; and among the crowd, in the boxes and in the front rows, were some forty of the REAL people. And to those oases Vronsky at once directed his attention, and with them he entered at once into relation.

The act was over when he went in, and so he did not go straight to his brother’s box, but going up to the first row of stalls stopped at the footlights with Serpuhovskoy, who, standing with one knee raised and his heel on the footlights, caught sight of him in the distance and beckoned to him, smiling.

Vronsky had not yet seen Anna. He purposely avoided looking in her direction. But he knew by the direction of people’s eyes where she was. He looked round discreetly, but he was not seeking her; expecting the worst, his eyes sought for Alexey Alexandrovitch. To his relief Alexey Alexandrovitch was not in the theater that evening.

“How little of the military man there is left in you!” Serpuhovskoy was saying to him. “A diplomat, an artist, something of that sort, one would say.”

“Yes, it was like going back home when I put on a black coat,” answered Vronsky, smiling and slowly taking out his opera glass.

“Well, I’ll own I envy you there. When I come back from abroad and put on this,” he touched his epaulets, “I regret my freedom.”

Serpuhovskoy had long given up all hope of Vronsky’s career, but he liked him as before, and was now particularly cordial to him.

“What a pity you were not in time for the first act!”

Vronsky, listening with one ear, moved his opera glass from the stalls and scanned the boxes. Near a lady in a turban and a bald old man, who seemed to wave angrily in the moving opera glass, Vronsky suddenly caught sight of Anna’s head, proud, strikingly beautiful, and smiling in the frame of lace. She was in the fifth box, twenty paces from him. She was sitting in front, and slightly turning, was saying something to Yashvin. The setting of her head on her handsome, broad shoulders, and the restrained excitement and brilliance of her eyes and her whole face reminded him of her just as he had seen her at the ball in Moscow. But he felt utterly different towards her beauty now. In his feeling for her now there was no element of mystery, and so her beauty, though it attracted him even more intensely than before, gave him now a sense of injury. She was not looking in his direction, but Vronsky felt that she had seen him already.

When Vronsky turned the opera glass again in that direction, he noticed that Princess Varvara was particularly red, and kept laughing unnaturally and looking round at the next box. Anna, folding her fan and tapping it on the red velvet, was gazing away and did not see, and obviously did not wish to see, what was taking place in the next box. Yashvin’s face wore the expression which was common when he was losing at cards. Scowling, he sucked the left end of his mustache further and further into his mouth, and cast sidelong glances at the next box.

In that box on the left were the Kartasovs. Vronsky knew them, and knew that Anna was acquainted with them. Madame Kartasova, a thin little woman, was standing up in her box, and, her back turned upon Anna, she was putting on a mantle that her husband was holding for her. Her face was pale and angry, and she was talking excitedly. Kartasov, a fat, bald man, was continually looking round at Anna, while he attempted to soothe his wife. When the wife had gone out, the husband lingered a long while, and tried to catch Anna’s eye, obviously anxious to bow to her. But Anna, with unmistakable intention, avoided noticing him, and talked to Yashvin, whose cropped head was bent down to her. Kartasov went out without making his salutation, and the box was left empty.

Vronsky could not understand exactly what had passed between the Kartasovs and Anna, but he saw that something humiliating for Anna had happened. He knew this both from what he had seen, and most of all from the face of Anna, who, he could see, was taxing every nerve to carry through the part she had taken up. And in maintaining this attitude of external composure she was completely successful. Anyone who did not know her and her circle, who had not heard all the utterances of the women expressive of commiseration, indignation, and amazement, that she should show herself in society, and show herself so conspicuously with her lace and her beauty, would have admired the serenity and loveliness of this woman without a suspicion that she was undergoing the sensations of a man in the stocks.

Knowing that something had happened, but not knowing precisely what, Vronsky felt a thrill of agonizing anxiety, and hoping to find out something, he went towards his brother’s box. Purposely choosing the way round furthest from Anna’s box, he jostled as he came out against the colonel of his old regiment talking to two acquaintances. Vronsky heard the name of Madame Karenina, and noticed how the colonel hastened to address Vronsky loudly by name, with a meaning glance at his companions.

“Ah, Vronsky! When are you coming to the regiment? We can’t let you off without a supper. You’re one of the old set,” said the colonel of his regiment.

“I can’t stop, awfully sorry, another time,” said Vronsky, and he ran upstairs towards his brother’s box.

The old countess, Vronsky’s mother, with her steel-gray curls, was in his brother’s box. Varya with the young Princess Sorokina met him in the corridor.

Leaving the Princess Sorokina with her mother, Varya held out her hand to her brother-in-law, and began immediately to speak of what interested him. She was more excited than he had ever seen her.

“I think it’s mean and hateful, and Madame Kartasova had no right to do it. Madame Karenina…” she began.

“But what is it? I don’t know.”

“What? you’ve not heard?”

“You know I should be the last person to hear of it.”

“There isn’t a more spiteful creature than that Madame Kartasova!”

“But what did she do?”

“My husband told me…. She has insulted Madame Karenina. Her husband began talking to her across the box, and Madame Kartasova made a scene. She said something aloud, he says, something insulting, and went away.”

“Count, your maman is asking for you,” said the young Princess Sorokina, peeping out of the door of the box.

“I’ve been expecting you all the while,” said his mother, smiling sarcastically. “You were nowhere to be seen.”

Her son saw that she could not suppress a smile of delight.

“Good evening, maman. I have come to you,” he said coldly.

“Why aren’t you going to faire la cour a Madame Karenina?” she went on, when Princess Sorokina had moved away. “Elle fait sensation. On oublie la Patti pour elle.”

“Maman, I have asked you not to say anything to me of that,” he answered, scowling.

“I’m only saying what everyone’s saying.”

Vronsky made no reply, and saying a few words to Princess Sorokina, he went away. At the door he met his brother.

“Ah, Alexey!” said his brother. “How disgusting! Idiot of a woman, nothing else…. I wanted to go straight to her. Let’s go together.”

Vronsky did not hear him. With rapid steps he went downstairs; he felt that he must do something, but he did not know what. Anger with her for having put herself and him in such a false position, together with pity for her suffering, filled his heart. He went down, and made straight for Anna’s box. At her box stood Stremov, talking to her.

“There are no more tenors. Le moule en est brise!”

Vronsky bowed to her and stopped to greet Stremov.

“You came in late, I think, and have missed the best song,” Anna said to Vronsky, glancing ironically, he thought, at him.

“I am a poor judge of music,” he said, looking sternly at her.

“Like Prince Yashvin,” she said smiling, “who considers that Patti sings too loud.”

“Thank you,” she said, her little hand in its long glove taking the playbill Vronsky picked up, and suddenly at that instant her lovely face quivered. She got up and went into the interior of the box.

Noticing in the next act that her box was empty, Vronsky, rousing indignant “hushes” in the silent audience, went out in the middle of a solo and drove home.

Anna was already at home. When Vronsky went up to her, she was in the same dress as she had worn at the theater. She was sitting in the first armchair against the wall, looking straight before her. She looked at him, and at once resumed her former position.

“Anna,” he said.

“You, you are to blame for everything!” she cried, with tears of despair and hatred in her voice, getting up.

“I begged, I implored you not to go, I knew it would be unpleasant….”

“Unpleasant!” she cried–“hideous! As long as I live I shall never forget it. She said it was a disgrace to sit beside me.”

“A silly woman’s chatter,” he said: “but why risk it, why provoke?…”

“I hate your calm. You ought not to have brought me to this. If you had loved me…”

“Anna! How does the question of my love come in?”

“Oh, if you loved me, as I love, if you were tortured as I am!…” she said, looking at him with an expression of terror.

He was sorry for her, and angry notwithstanding. He assured her of his love because he saw that this was the only means of soothing her, and he did not reproach her in words, but in his heart he reproached her.

And the asseverations of his love, which seemed to him so vulgar that he was ashamed to utter them, she drank in eagerly, and gradually became calmer. The next day, completely reconciled, they left for the country.

 

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