Anna Karenina (Part 7 – Chapter 21-25)
After a capital dinner and a great deal of cognac drunk at Bartnyansky’s, Stepan Arkadyevitch, only a little later than the appointed time, went in to Countess Lidia Ivanovna’s.
“Who else is with the countess?–a Frenchman?” Stepan Arkadyevitch asked the hall porter, as he glanced at the familiar overcoat of Alexey Alexandrovitch and a queer, rather artless-looking overcoat with clasps.
“Alexey Alexandrovitch Karenin and Count Bezzubov,” the porter answered severely.
“Princess Myakaya guessed right,” thought Stepan Arkadyevitch, as he went upstairs. “Curious! It would be quite as well, though, to get on friendly terms with her. She has immense influence. If she would say a word to Pomorsky, the thing would be a certainty.”
It was still quite light out-of-doors, but in Countess Lidia Ivanovna’s little drawing room the blinds were drawn and the lamps lighted. At a round table under a lamp sat the countess and Alexey Alexandrovitch, talking softly. A short, thinnish man, very pale and handsome, with feminine hips and knock-kneed legs, with fine brilliant eyes and long hair lying on the collar of his coat, was standing at the end of the room gazing at the portraits on the wall. After greeting the lady of the house and Alexey Alexandrovitch, Stepan Arkadyevitch could not resist glancing once more at the unknown man.
“Monsieur Landau!” the countess addressed him with a softness and caution that impressed Oblonsky. And she introduced them.
Landau looked round hurriedly, came up, and smiling, laid his moist, lifeless hand in Stepan Arkadyevitch’s outstretched hand and immediately walked away and fell to gazing at the portraits again. The countess and Alexey Alexandrovitch looked at each other significantly.
“I am very glad to see you, particularly today,” said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, pointing Stepan Arkadyevitch to a seat beside Karenin.
“I introduced you to him as Landau,” she said in a soft voice, glancing at the Frenchman and again immediately after at Alexey Alexandrovitch, “but he is really Count Bezzubov, as you’re probably aware. Only he does not like the title.”
“Yes, I heard so,” answered Stepan Arkadyevitch; “they say he completely cured Countess Bezzubova.”
“She was here today, poor thing!” the countess said, turning to Alexey Alexandrovitch. “This separation is awful for her. It’s such a blow to her!”
“And he positively is going?” queried Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“Yes, he’s going to Paris. He heard a voice yesterday,” said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, looking at Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Ah, a voice!” repeated Oblonsky, feeling that he must be as circumspect as he possibly could in this society, where something peculiar was going on, or was to go on, to which he had not the key.
A moment’s silence followed, after which Countess Lidia Ivanovna, as though approaching the main topic of conversation, said with a fine smile to Oblonsky:
“I’ve known you for a long while, and am very glad to make a closer acquaintance with you. Les amis de nos amis sont nos amis. But to be a true friend, one must enter into the spiritual state of one’s friend, and I fear that you are not doing so in the case of Alexey Alexandrovitch. You understand what I mean?” she said, lifting her fine pensive eyes.
“In part, countess, I understand the position of Alexey Alexandrovitch…” said Oblonsky. Having no clear idea what they were talking about, he wanted to confine himself to generalities.
“The change is not in his external position,” Countess Lidia Ivanovna said sternly, following with eyes of love the figure of Alexey Alexandrovitch as he got up and crossed over to Landau; “his heart is changed, a new heart has been vouchsafed him, and I fear you don’t fully apprehend the change that has taken place in him.”
“Oh, well, in general outlines I can conceive the change. We have always been friendly, and now…” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, responding with a sympathetic glance to the expression of the countess, and mentally balancing the question with which of the two ministers she was most intimate, so as to know about which to ask her to speak for him.
“The change that has taken place in him cannot lessen his love for his neighbors; on the contrary, that change can only intensify love in his heart. But I am afraid you do not understand me. Won’t you have some tea?” she said, with her eyes indicating the footman, who was handing round tea on a tray.
“Not quite, countess. Of course, his misfortune…”
“Yes, a misfortune which has proved the highest happiness, when his heart was made new, was filled full of it,” she said, gazing with eyes full of love at Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“I do believe I might ask her to speak to both of them,” thought Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Oh, of course, countess,” he said; “but I imagine such changes are a matter so private that no one, even the most intimate friend, would care to speak of them.”
“On the contrary! We ought to speak freely and help one another.”
“Yes, undoubtedly so, but there is such a difference of convictions, and besides…” said Oblonsky with a soft smile.
“There can be no difference where it is a question of holy truth.”
“Oh, no, of course; but…” and Stepan Arkadyevitch paused in confusion. He understood at last that they were talking of religion.
“I fancy he will fall asleep immediately,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch in a whisper full of meaning, going up to Lidia Ivanovna.
Stepan Arkadyevitch looked round. Landau was sitting at the window, leaning on his elbow and the back of his chair, his head drooping. Noticing that all eyes were turned on him he raised his head and smiled a smile of childlike artlessness.
“Don’t take any notice,” said Lidia Ivanovna, and she lightly moved a chair up for Alexey Alexandrovitch. “I have observed…” she was beginning, when a footman came into the room with a letter. Lidia Ivanovna rapidly ran her eyes over the note, and excusing herself, wrote an answer with extraordinary rapidity, handed it to the man, and came back to the table. “I have observed,” she went on, “that Moscow people, especially the men, are more indifferent to religion than anyone.”
“Oh, no, countess, I thought Moscow people had the reputation of being the firmest in the faith,” answered Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“But as far as I can make out, you are unfortunately one of the indifferent ones,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, turning to him with a weary smile.
“How anyone can be indifferent!” said Lidia Ivanovna.
“I am not so much indifferent on that subject as I am waiting in suspense,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, with his most deprecating smile. “I hardly think that the time for such questions has come yet for me.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch and Lidia Ivanovna looked at each other.
“We can never tell whether the time has come for us or not,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch severely. “We ought not to think whether we are ready or not ready. God’s grace is not guided by human considerations: sometimes it comes not to those that strive for it, and comes to those that are unprepared, like Saul.”
“No, I believe it won’t be just yet,” said Lidia Ivanovna, who had been meanwhile watching the movements of the Frenchman. Landau got up and came to them.
“Do you allow me to listen?” he asked.
“Oh, yes; I did not want to disturb you,” said Lidia Ivanovna, gazing tenderly at him; “sit here with us.”
“One has only not to close one’s eyes to shut out the light,” Alexey Alexandrovitch went on.
“Ah, if you knew the happiness we know, feeling His presence ever in our hearts!” said Countess Lidia Ivanovna with a rapturous smile.
“But a man may feel himself unworthy sometimes to rise to that height,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, conscious of hypocrisy in admitting this religious height, but at the same time unable to bring himself to acknowledge his free-thinking views before a person who, by a single word to Pomorsky, might procure him the coveted appointment.
“That is, you mean that sin keeps him back?” said Lidia Ivanovna. “But that is a false idea. There is no sin for believers, their sin has been atoned for. Pardon,” she added, looking at the footman, who came in again with another letter. She read it and gave a verbal answer: “Tomorrow at the Grand Duchess’s, say.” “For the believer sin is not,” she went on.
“Yes, but faith without works is dead,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, recalling the phrase from the catechism, and only by his smile clinging to his independence.
“There you have it–from the epistle of St. James,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, addressing Lidia Ivanovna, with a certain reproachfulness in his tone. It was unmistakably a subject they had discussed more than once before. “What harm has been done by the false interpretation of that passage! Nothing holds men back from belief like that misinterpretation. ‘I have not works, so I cannot believe,’ though all the while that is not said. But the very opposite is said.”
“Striving for God, saving the soul by fasting,” said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, with disgusted contempt, “those are the crude ideas of our monks…. Yet that is nowhere said. It is far simpler and easier,” she added, looking at Oblonsky with the same encouraging smile with which at court she encouraged youthful maids of honor, disconcerted by the new surroundings of the court.
“We are saved by Christ who suffered for us. We are saved by faith,” Alexey Alexandrovitch chimed in, with a glance of approval at her words.
“Vous comprenez l’anglais?” asked Lidia Ivanovna, and receiving a reply in the affirmative, she got up and began looking through a shelf of books.
“I want to read him ‘Safe and Happy,’ or ‘Under the Wing,'” she said, looking inquiringly at Karenin. And finding the book, and sitting down again in her place, she opened it. “It’s very short. In it is described the way by which faith can be reached, and the happiness, above all earthly bliss, with which it fills the soul. The believer cannot be unhappy because he is not alone. But you will see.” She was just settling herself to read when the footman came in again. “Madame Borozdina? Tell her, tomorrow at two o’clock. Yes,” she said, putting her finger in the place in the book, and gazing before her with her fine pensive eyes, “that is how true faith acts. You know Marie Sanina? You know about her trouble? She lost her only child. She was in despair. And what happened? She found this comforter, and she thanks God now for the death of her child. Such is the happiness faith brings!”
“Oh, yes, that is most…” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, glad they were going to read, and let him have a chance to collect his faculties. “No, I see I’d better not ask her about anything today,” he thought. “If only I can get out of this without putting my foot in it!”
“It will be dull for you,” said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, addressing Landau; “you don’t know English, but it’s short.”
“Oh, I shall understand,” said Landau, with the same smile, and he closed his eyes. Alexey Alexandrovitch and Lidia Ivanovna exchanged meaningful glances, and the reading began.
Stepan Arkadyevitch felt completely nonplussed by the strange talk which he was hearing for the first time. The complexity of Petersburg, as a rule, had a stimulating effect on him, rousing him out of his Moscow stagnation. But he liked these complications, and understood them only in the circles he knew and was at home in. In these unfamiliar surroundings he was puzzled and disconcerted, and could not get his bearings. As he listened to Countess Lidia Ivanovna, aware of the beautiful, artless–or perhaps artful, he could not decide which–eyes of Landau fixed upon him, Stepan Arkadyevitch began to be conscious of a peculiar heaviness in his head.
The most incongruous ideas were in confusion in his head. “Marie Sanina is glad her child’s dead…. How good a smoke would be now!… To be saved, one need only believe, and the monks don’t know how the thing’s to be done, but Countess Lidia Ivanovna does know…. And why is my head so heavy? Is it the cognac, or all this being so queer? Anyway, I fancy I’ve done nothing unsuitable so far. But anyway, it won’t do to ask her now. They say they make one say one’s prayers. I only hope they won’t make me! That’ll be too imbecile. And what stuff it is she’s reading! but she has a good accent. Landau–Bezzubov– what’s he Bezzubov for?” All at once Stepan Arkadyevitch became aware that his lower jaw was uncontrollably forming a yawn. He pulled his whiskers to cover the yawn, and shook himself together. But soon after he became aware that he was dropping asleep and on the very point of snoring. He recovered himself at the very moment when the voice of Countess Lidia Ivanovna was saying “he’s asleep.” Stepan Arkadyevitch started with dismay, feeling guilty and caught. But he was reassured at once by seeing that the words “he’s asleep” referred not to him, but to Landau. The Frenchman was asleep as well as Stepan Arkadyevitch. But Stepan Arkadyevitch’s being asleep would have offended them, as he thought (though even this, he thought, might not be so, as everything seemed so queer), while Landau’s being asleep delighted them extremely, especially Countess Lidia Ivanovna.
“Mon ami,” said Lidia Ivanovna, carefully holding the folds of her silk gown so as not to rustle, and in her excitement calling Karenin not Alexey Alexandrovitch, but “mon ami,” “donnez-lui la main. Vous voyez? Sh!” she hissed at the footman as he came in again. “Not at home.”
The Frenchman was asleep, or pretending to be asleep, with his head on the back of his chair, and his moist hand, as it lay on his knee, made faint movements, as though trying to catch something. Alexey Alexandrovitch got up, tried to move carefully, but stumbled against the table, went up and laid his hand in the Frenchman’s hand. Stepan Arkadyevitch got up too, and opening his eyes wide, trying to wake himself up if he were asleep, he looked first at one and then at the other. It was all real. Stepan Arkadyevitch felt that his head was getting worse and worse.
“Que la personne qui est arrivee la derniere, celle qui demande, qu’elle sorte! Qu’elle sorte!” articulated the Frenchman, without opening his eyes.
“Vous m’excuserez, mais vous voyez…. Revenez vers dix heures, encore mieux demain.”
“Qu’elle sorte!” repeated the Frenchman impatiently.
“C’est moi, n’est-ce pas?” And receiving an answer in the affirmative, Stepan Arkadyevitch, forgetting the favor he had meant to ask of Lidia Ivanovna, and forgetting his sister’s affairs, caring for nothing, but filled with the sole desire to get away as soon as possible, went out on tiptoe and ran out into the street as though from a plague-stricken house. For a long while he chatted and joked with his cab-driver, trying to recover his spirits.
At the French theater where he arrived for the last act, and afterwards at the Tatar restaurant after his champagne, Stepan Arkadyevitch felt a little refreshed in the atmosphere he was used to. But still he felt quite unlike himself all that evening.
On getting home to Pyotr Oblonsky’s, where he was staying, Stepan Arkadyevitch found a note from Betsy. She wrote to him that she was very anxious to finish their interrupted conversation, and begged him to come next day. He had scarcely read this note, and frowned at its contents, when he heard below the ponderous tramp of the servants, carrying something heavy.
Stepan Arkadyevitch went out to look. It was the rejuvenated Pyotr Oblonsky. He was so drunk that he could not walk upstairs; but he told them to set him on his legs when he saw Stepan Arkadyevitch, and clinging to him, walked with him into his room and there began telling him how he had spent the evening, and fell asleep doing so.
Stepan Arkadyevitch was in very low spirits, which happened rarely with him, and for a long while he could not go to sleep. Everything he could recall to his mind, everything was disgusting; but most disgusting of all, as if it were something shameful, was the memory of the evening he had spent at Countess Lidia Ivanovna’s.
Next day he received from Alexey Alexandrovitch a final answer, refusing to grant Anna’s divorce, and he understood that this decision was based on what the Frenchman had said in his real or pretended trance.
In order to carry through any undertaking in family life, there must necessarily be either complete division between the husband and wife, or loving agreement. When the relations of a couple are vacillating and neither one thing nor the other, no sort of enterprise can be undertaken.
Many families remain for years in the same place, though both husband and wife are sick of it, simply because there is neither complete division nor agreement between them.
Both Vronsky and Anna felt life in Moscow insupportable in the heat and dust, when the spring sunshine was followed by the glare of summer, and all the trees in the boulevards had long since been in full leaf, and the leaves were covered with dust. But they did not go back to Vozdvizhenskoe, as they had arranged to do long before; they went on staying in Moscow, though they both loathed it, because of late there had been no agreement between them.
The irritability that kept them apart had no external cause, and all efforts to come to an understanding intensified it, instead of removing it. It was an inner irritation, grounded in her mind on the conviction that his love had grown less; in his, on regret that he had put himself for her sake in a difficult position, which she, instead of lightening, made still more difficult. Neither of them gave full utterance to their sense of grievance, but they considered each other in the wrong, and tried on every pretext to prove this to one another.
In her eyes the whole of him, with all his habits, ideas, desires, with all his spiritual and physical temperament, was one thing–love for women, and that love, she felt, ought to be entirely concentrated on her alone. That love was less; consequently, as she reasoned, he must have transferred part of his love to other women or to another woman–and she was jealous. She was jealous not of any particular woman but of the decrease of his love. Not having got an object for her jealousy, she was on the lookout for it. At the slightest hint she transferred her jealousy from one object to another. At one time she was jealous of those low women with whom he might so easily renew his old bachelor ties; then she was jealous of the society women he might meet; then she was jealous of the imaginary girl whom he might want to marry, for whose sake he would break with her. And this last form of jealousy tortured her most of all, especially as he had unwarily told her, in a moment of frankness, that his mother knew him so little that she had had the audacity to try and persuade him to marry the young Princess Sorokina.
And being jealous of him, Anna was indignant against him and found grounds for indignation in everything. For everything that was difficult in her position she blamed him. The agonizing condition of suspense she had passed in Moscow, the tardiness and indecision of Alexey Alexandrovitch, her solitude–she put it all down to him. If he had loved her he would have seen all the bitterness of her position, and would have rescued her from it. For her being in Moscow and not in the country, he was to blame too. He could not live buried in the country as she would have liked to do. He must have society, and he had put her in this awful position, the bitterness of which he would not see. And again, it was his fault that she was forever separated from her son.
Even the rare moments of tenderness that came from time to time did not soothe her; in his tenderness now she saw a shade of complacency, of self-confidence, which had not been of old and which exasperated her.
It was dusk. Anna was alone, and waiting for him to come back from a bachelor dinner. She walked up and down in his study (the room where the noise from the street was least heard), and thought over every detail of their yesterday’s quarrel. Going back from the well-remembered, offensive words of the quarrel to what had been the ground of it, she arrived at last at its origin. For a long while she could hardly believe that their dissension had arisen from a conversation so inoffensive, of so little moment to either. But so it actually had been. It all arose from his laughing at the girls’ high schools, declaring they were useless, while she defended them. He had spoken slightingly of women’s education in general, and had said that Hannah, Anna’s English protegee, had not the slightest need to know anything of physics.
This irritated Anna. She saw in this a contemptuous reference to her occupations. And she bethought her of a phrase to pay him back for the pain he had given her. “I don’t expect you to understand me, my feelings, as anyone who loved me might, but simple delicacy I did expect,” she said.
And he had actually flushed with vexation, and had said something unpleasant. She could not recall her answer, but at that point, with an unmistakable desire to wound her too, he had said:
“I feel no interest in your infatuation over this girl, that’s true, because I see it’s unnatural.”
The cruelty with which he shattered the world she had built up for herself so laboriously to enable her to endure her hard life, the injustice with which he had accused her of affectation, of artificiality, aroused her.
“I am very sorry that nothing but what’s coarse and material is comprehensible and natural to you,” she said and walked out of the room.
When he had come in to her yesterday evening, they had not referred to the quarrel, but both felt that the quarrel had been smoothed over, but was not at an end.
Today he had not been at home all day, and she felt so lonely and wretched in being on bad terms with him that she wanted to forget it all, to forgive him, and be reconciled with him; she wanted to throw the blame on herself and to justify him.
“I am myself to blame. I’m irritable, I’m insanely jealous. I will make it up with him, and we’ll go away to the country; there I shall be more at peace.”
“Unnatural!” she suddenly recalled the word that had stung her most of all, not so much the word itself as the intent to wound her with which it was said. “I know what he meant; he meant– unnatural, not loving my own daughter, to love another person’s child. What does he know of love for children, of my love for Seryozha, whom I’ve sacrificed for him? But that wish to wound me! No, he loves another woman, it must be so.”
And perceiving that, while trying to regain her peace of mind, she had gone round the same circle that she had been round so often before, and had come back to her former state of exasperation, she was horrified at herself. “Can it be impossible? Can it be beyond me to control myself?” she said to herself, and began again from the beginning. “He’s truthful, he’s honest, he loves me. I love him, and in a few days the divorce will come. What more do I want? I want peace of mind and trust, and I will take the blame on myself. Yes, now when he comes in, I will tell him I was wrong, though I was not wrong, and we will go away tomorrow.”
And to escape thinking any more, and being overcome by irritability, she rang, and ordered the boxes to be brought up for packing their things for the country.
At ten o’clock Vronsky came in.
“Well, was it nice?” she asked, coming out to meet him with a penitent and meek expression.
“Just as usual,” he answered, seeing at a glance that she was in One of her good moods. He was used by now to these transitions, and he was particularly glad to see it today, as he was in a specially good humor himself.
“What do I see? Come, that’s good!” he said, pointing to the boxes in the passage.
“Yes, we must go. I went out for a drive, and it was so fine I longed to be in the country. There’s nothing to keep you, is there?”
“It’s the one thing I desire. I’ll be back directly, and we’ll talk it over; I only want to change my coat. Order some tea.”
And he went into his room.
There was something mortifying in the way he had said “Come, that’s good,” as one says to a child when it leaves off being naughty, and still more mortifying was the contrast between her penitent and his self-confident tone; and for one instant she felt the lust of strife rising up in her again, but making an effort she conquered it, and met Vronsky as good-humoredly as before.
When he came in she told him, partly repeating phrases she had prepared beforehand, how she had spent the day, and her plans for going away.
“You know it came to me almost like an inspiration,” she said. “Why wait here for the divorce? Won’t it be just the same in the country? I can’t wait any longer! I don’t want to go on hoping, I don’t want to hear anything about the divorce. I have made up my mind it shall not have any more influence on my life. Do you agree?”
“Oh, yes!” he said, glancing uneasily at her excited face.
“What did you do? Who was there?” she said, after a pause.
Vronsky mentioned the names of the guests. “The dinner was first rate, and the boat race, and it was all pleasant enough, but in Moscow they can never do anything without something ridicule. A lady of a sort appeared on the scene, teacher of swimming to the Queen of Sweden, and gave us an exhibition of her skill.”
“How? did she swim?” asked Anna, frowning.
“In an absurd red costume de natation; she was old and hideous too. So when shall we go?”
“What an absurd fancy! Why, did she swim in some special way, then?” said Anna, not answering.
“There was absolutely nothing in it. That’s just what I say, it was awfully stupid. Well, then, when do you think of going?”
Anna shook her head as though trying to drive away some unpleasant idea.
“When? Why, the sooner the better! By tomorrow we shan’t be ready. The day after tomorrow.”
“Yes…oh, no, wait a minute! The day after to-morrow’s Sunday, I have to be at maman’s,” said Vronsky, embarrassed, because as soon as he uttered his mother’s name he was aware of her intent, suspicious eyes. His embarrassment confirmed her suspicion. She flushed hotly and drew away from him. It was now not the Queen of Sweden’s swimming-mistress who filled Anna’s imagination, but the young Princess Sorokina. She was staying in a village near Moscow with Countess Vronskaya.
“Can’t you go tomorrow?” she said.
“Well, no! The deeds and the money for the business I’m going there for I can’t get by tomorrow,” he answered.
“If so, we won’t go at all.”
“But why so?”
“I shall not go later. Monday or never!”
“What for?” said Vronsky, as though in amazement. “Why, there’s no meaning in it!”
“There’s no meaning in it to you, because you care nothing for me. You don’t care to understand my life. The one thing that I cared for here was Hannah. You say it’s affectation. Why, you said yesterday that I don’t love my daughter, that I love this English girl, that it’s unnatural. I should like to know what life there is for me that could be natural!”
For an instant she had a clear vision of what she was doing, and was horrified at how she had fallen away from her resolution. But even though she knew it was her own ruin, she could not restrain herself, could not keep herself from proving to him that he was wrong, could not give way to him.
“I never said that; I said I did not sympathize with this sudden passion.”
“How is it, though you boast of your straightforwardness, you don’t tell the truth?”
“I never boast, and I never tell lies,” he said slowly, restraining his rising anger. “It’s a great pity if you can’t respect…”
“Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be. And if you don’t love me any more, it would be better and more honest to say so.”
“No, this is becoming unbearable!” cried Vronsky, getting up from his chair; and stopping short, facing her, he said, speaking deliberately: “What do you try my patience for?” looking as though he might have said much more, but was restraining himself. “It has limits.”
“What do you mean by that?” she cried, looking with terror at the undisguised hatred in his whole face, and especially in his cruel, menacing eyes
“I mean to say…” he was beginning, but he checked himself. “I must ask what it is you want of me?”
“What can I want? All I can want is that you should not desert me, as you think of doing,” she said, understanding all he had not uttered. “But that I don’t want; that’s secondary. I want love, and there is none. So then all is over.”
She turned towards the door.
“Stop! sto–op!” said Vronsky, with no change in the gloomy lines of his brows, though he held her by the hand. “What is it all about? I said that we must put off going for three days, and on that you told me I was lying, that I was not an honorable man.”
“Yes, and I repeat that the man who reproaches me with having sacrificed everything for me,” she said, recalling the words of a still earlier quarrel, “that he’s worse than a dishonorable man– he’s a heartless man.”
“Oh, there are limits to endurance!” he cried, and hastily let go her hand.
“He hates me, that’s clear,” she thought, and in silence, without looking round, she walked with faltering steps out of the room. “He loves another woman, that’s even clearer,” she said to herself as she went into her own room. “I want love, and there is none. So, then, all is over.” She repeated the words she had said, “and it must be ended.”
“But how?” she asked herself, and she sat down in a low chair before the looking glass.
Thoughts of where she would go now, whether to the aunt who had brought her up, to Dolly, or simply alone abroad, and of what he was doing now alone in his study; whether this was the final quarrel, or whether reconciliation were still possible; and of what all her old friends at Petersburg would say of her now; and of how Alexey Alexandrovitch would look at it, and many other ideas of what would happen now after this rupture, came into her head; but she did not give herself up to them with all her heart. At the bottom of her heart was some obscure idea that alone interested her, but she could not get clear sight of it. Thinking once more of Alexey Alexandrovitch, she recalled the time of her illness after her confinement, and the feeling which never left her at that time. “Why didn’t I die?” and the words and the feeling of that time came back to her. And all at once she knew what was in her soul. Yes, it was that idea which alone solved all. “Yes, to die!… And the shame and disgrace of Alexey Alexandrovitch and of Seryozha, and my awful shame, it will all be saved by death. To die! and he will feel remorse; will be sorry; will love me; he will suffer on my account.” With the trace of a smile of commiseration for herself she sat down in the armchair, taking off and putting on the rings on her left hand, vividly picturing from different sides his feelings after her death.
Approaching footsteps–his steps–distracted her attention. As though absorbed in the arrangement of her rings, she did not even turn to him.
He went up to her, and taking her by the hand, said softly:
“Anna, we’ll go the day after tomorrow, if you like. I agree to everything.”
She did not speak.
“What is it?” he urged.
“You know,” she said, and at the same instant, unable to restrain herself any longer, she burst into sobs.
“Cast me off!” she articulated between her sobs. “I’ll go away tomorrow…I’ll do more. What am I? An immoral woman! A stone round your neck. I don’t want to make you wretched, I don’t want to! I’ll set you free. You don’t love me; you love someone else!”
Vronsky besought her to be calm, and declared that there was no trace of foundation for her jealousy; that he had never ceased, and never would cease, to love her; that he loved her more than ever.
“Anna, why distress yourself and me so?” he said to her, kissing her hands. There was tenderness now in his face, and she fancied she caught the sound of tears in his voice, and she felt them wet on her hand. And instantly Anna’s despairing jealousy changed to a despairing passion of tenderness. She put her arms round him, and covered with kisses his head, his neck, his hands.
Feeling that the reconciliation was complete, Anna set eagerly to to work in the morning preparing for their departure. Though it was not settled whether they should go on Monday or Tuesday, as they had each given way to the other, Anna packed busily, feeling absolutely indifferent whether they went a day earlier or later. She was standing in her room over an open box, taking things out of it, when he came in to see her earlier than usually, dressed to go out.
“I’m going off at once to see maman; she can send me the money by Yegorov. And I shall be ready to go tomorrow,” he said.
Though she was in such a good mood, the thought of his visit to his mother’s gave her a pang.
“No, I shan’t be ready by then myself,” she said; and at once reflected, “so then it was possible to arrange to do as I wished.” “No, do as you meant to do. Go into the dining room, I’m coming directly. It’s only to turn out those things that aren’t wanted,” she said, putting something more on the heap of frippery that lay in Annushka’s arms.
Vronsky was eating his beefsteak when she came into the dining- room.
“You wouldn’t believe how distasteful these rooms have become to me,” she said, sitting down beside him to her coffee. “There’s nothing more awful than these chambres garnies. There’s no individuality in them, no soul. These clocks, and curtains, and, worst of all, the wallpapers–they’re a nightmare. I think of Vozdvizhenskoe as the promised land. You’re not sending the horses off yet?”
“No, they will come after us. Where are you going to?”
“I wanted to go to Wilson’s to take some dresses to her. So it’s really to be tomorrow?” she said in a cheerful voice; but suddenly her face changed.
Vronsky’s valet came in to ask him to sign a receipt for a telegram from Petersburg. There was nothing out of the way in Vronsky’s getting a telegram, but he said, as though anxious to conceal something from her, that the receipt was in his study, and he turned hurriedly to her.
“By tomorrow, without fail, I will finish it all.”
“From whom is the telegram?” she asked, not hearing him.
“From Stiva,” he answered reluctantly.
“Why didn’t you show it to me? What secret can there be between Stiva and me?”
Vronsky called the valet back, and told him to bring the telegram.
“I didn’t want to show it to you, because Stiva has such a passion for telegraphing: why telegraph when nothing is settled?”
“About the divorce?”
“Yes; but he says he has not been able to come at anything yet. He has promised a decisive answer in a day or two. But here it is; read it.”
With trembling hands Anna took the telegram, and read what Vronsky had told her. At the end was added: “Little hope; but I will do everything possible and impossible.”
“I said yesterday that it’s absolutely nothing to me when I get, or whether I never get, a divorce,” she said, flushing crimson. “There was not the slightest necessity to hide it from me.” “So he may hide and does hide his correspondence with women from me,” she thought.
“Yashvin meant to come this morning with Voytov,” said Vronsky; “I believe he’s won from Pyevtsov all and more than he can pay, about sixty thousand.”
“No,” she said, irritated by his so obviously showing by this change of subject that he was irritated, “why did you suppose that this news would affect me so, that you must even try to hide it? I said I don’t want to consider it, and I should have liked you to care as little about it as I do.”
“I care about it because I like definiteness,” he said.
“Definiteness is not in the form but the love,” she said, more and more irritated, not by his words, but by the tone of cool composure in which he spoke. “What do you want it for?”
“My God! love again,” he thought, frowning.
“Oh, you know what for; for your sake and your children’s in the future.”
“There won’t be children in the future.”
“That’s a great pity,” he said.
“You want it for the children’s sake, but you don’t think of me?” she said, quite forgetting or not having heard that he had said, “for your sake and the children’s.”
The question of the possibility of having children had long been a subject of dispute and irritation to her. His desire to have children she interpreted as a proof he did not prize her beauty.
“Oh, I said: for your sake. Above all for your sake,” he repeated, frowning as though in pain, “because I am certain that the greater part of your irritability comes from the indefiniteness of the position.”
“Yes, now he has laid aside all pretense, and all his cold hatred for me is apparent,” she thought, not hearing his words, but watching with terror the cold, cruel judge who looked mocking her out of his eyes.
“The cause is not that,” she said, “and, indeed, I don’t see how the cause of my irritability, as you call it, can be that I am completely in your power. What indefiniteness is there in the position? on the contrary…”
“I am very sorry that you don’t care to understand,” he interrupted, obstinately anxious to give utterance to his thought. “The indefiniteness consists in your imagining that I am free.”
“On that score you can set your mind quite at rest,” she said, and turning away from him, she began drinking her coffee.
She lifted her cup, with her little finger held apart, and put it to her lips. After drinking a few sips she glanced at him, and by his expression, she saw clearly that he was repelled by her hand, and her gesture, and the sound made by her lips.
“I don’t care in the least what your mother thinks, and what match she wants to make for you,” she said, putting the cup down with a shaking hand.
“But we are not talking about that.”
“Yes, that’s just what we are talking about. And let me tell you that a heartless woman, whether she’s old or not old, your mother or anyone else, is of no consequence to me, and I would not consent to know her.”
“Anna, I beg you not to speak disrespectfully of my mother.”
“A woman whose heart does not tell her where her son’s happiness and honor lie has no heart.”
“I repeat my request that you will not speak disrespectfully of my mother, whom I respect,” he said, raising his voice and looking sternly at her
She did not answer. Looking intently at him, at his face, his hands, she recalled all the details of their reconciliation the previous day, and his passionate caresses. “There, just such caresses he has lavished, and will lavish, and longs to lavish on other women!” she thought.
“You don’t love your mother. That’s all talk, and talk, and talk!” she said, looking at him with hatred in her eyes.
“Even if so, you must…”
“Must decide, and I have decided,” she said, and she would have gone away, but at that moment Yashvin walked into the room. Anna greeted him and remained.
Why, when there was a tempest in her soul, and she felt she was standing at a turning point in her life, which might have fearful consequences–why, at that minute, she had to keep up appearances before an outsider, who sooner or later must know it all–she did not know. But at once quelling the storm within her, she sat down and began talking to their guest.
“Well, how are you getting on? Has your debt been paid you?” she asked Yashvin.
“Oh, pretty fair; I fancy I shan’t get it all, but I shall get a good half. And when are you off?” said Yashvin, looking at Vronsky, and unmistakably guessing at a quarrel.
“The day after tomorrow, I think,” said Vronsky.
“You’ve been meaning to go so long, though.”
“But now it’s quite decided,” said Anna, looking Vronsky straight in the face with a look which told him not to dream of the possibility of reconciliation.
“Don’t you feel sorry for that unlucky Pyevtsov?” she went on, talking to Yashvin.
“I’ve never asked myself the question, Anna Arkadyevna, whether I’m sorry for him or not. You see, all my fortune’s here”–he touched his breast pocket–“and just now I’m a wealthy man. But today I’m going to the club, and I may come out a beggar. You see, whoever sits down to play with me–he wants to leave me without a shirt to my back, and so do I him. And so we fight it out, and that’s the pleasure of it.”
“Well, but suppose you were married,” said Anna, “how would it be for your wife?”
“That’s why I’m not married, and never mean to be.”
“And Helsingfors?” said Vronsky, entering into the conversation and glancing at Anna’s smiling face. Meeting his eyes, Anna’s face instantly took a coldly severe expression as though she were saying to him: “It’s not forgotten. It’s all the same.”
“Were you really in love?” she said to Yashvin.
“Oh heavens! ever so many times! But you see, some men can play but only so that they can always lay down their cards when the hour of a rendezvous comes, while I can take up love, but only so as not to be late for my cards in the evening. That’s how I manage things.”
“No, I didn’t mean that, but the real thing.” She would have said Helsingfors, but would not repeat the word used by Vronsky.
Voytov, who was buying the horse, came in. Anna got up and went out of the room.
Before leaving the house, Vronsky went into her room. She would have pretended to be looking for something on the table, but ashamed of making a pretense, she looked straight in his face with cold eyes.
“What do you want?” she asked in French.
“To get the guarantee for Gambetta, I’ve sold him,” he said, in a tone which said more clearly than words, “I’ve no time for discussing things, and it would lead to nothing.”
“I’m not to blame in any way,” he thought. “If she will punish herself, tant pis pour elle.” But as he was going he fancied that she said something, and his heart suddenly ached with pity for her.
“Eh, Anna?” he queried.
“I said nothing,” she answered just as coldly and calmly.
“Oh, nothing, tant pis then,” he thought, feeling cold again, and he turned and went out. As he was going out he caught a glimpse in the looking glass of her face, white, with quivering lips. He even wanted to stop and to say some comforting word to her, but his legs carried him out of the room before he could think what to say. The whole of that day he spent away from home, and when he came in late in the evening the maid told him that Anna Arkadyevna had a headache and begged him not to go in to her.