Anna karenina, p.104
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       Anna Karenina, p.104

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 3

  "You met him?" she asked, when they had sat down at the table in thelamplight. "You're punished, you see, for being late."

  "Yes; but how was it? Wasn't he to be at the council?"

  "He had been and come back, and was going out somewhere again. Butthat's no matter. Don't talk about it. Where have you been? With theprince still?"

  She knew every detail of his existence. He was going to say that he hadbeen up all night and had dropped asleep, but looking at her thrilledand rapturous face, he was ashamed. And he said he had had to go toreport on the prince's departure.

  "But it's over now? He is gone?"

  "Thank God it's over! You wouldn't believe how insufferable it's beenfor me."

  "Why so? Isn't it the life all of you, all young men, always lead?" shesaid, knitting her brows; and taking up the crochet work that was lyingon the table, she began drawing the hook out of it, without looking atVronsky.

  "I gave that life up long ago," said he, wondering at the change in herface, and trying to divine its meaning. "And I confess," he said, with asmile, showing his thick, white teeth, "this week I've been, as it were,looking at myself in a glass, seeing that life, and I didn't like it."

  She held the work in her hands, but did not crochet, and looked at himwith strange, shining, and hostile eyes.

  "This morning Liza came to see me--they're not afraid to call on me, inspite of the Countess Lidia Ivanovna," she put in--"and she told meabout your Athenian evening. How loathsome!"

  "I was just going to say..."

  She interrupted him. "It was that Therese you used to know?"

  "I was just saying..."

  "How disgusting you are, you men! How is it you can't understand that awoman can never forget that," she said, getting more and more angry, andso letting him see the cause of her irritation, "especially a woman whocannot know your life? What do I know? What have I ever known?" shesaid, "what you tell me. And how do I know whether you tell me thetruth?..."

  "Anna, you hurt me. Don't you trust me? Haven't I told you that Ihaven't a thought I wouldn't lay bare to you?"

  "Yes, yes," she said, evidently trying to suppress her jealous thoughts."But if only you knew how wretched I am! I believe you, I believeyou.... What were you saying?"

  But he could not at once recall what he had been going to say. Thesefits of jealousy, which of late had been more and more frequent withher, horrified him, and however much he tried to disguise the fact, madehim feel cold to her, although he knew the cause of her jealousy was herlove for him. How often he had told himself that her love was happiness;and now she loved him as a woman can love when love has outweighed forher all the good things of life--and he was much further from happinessthan when he had followed her from Moscow. Then he had thought himselfunhappy, but happiness was before him; now he felt that the besthappiness was already left behind. She was utterly unlike what she hadbeen when he first saw her. Both morally and physically she had changedfor the worse. She had broadened out all over, and in her face at thetime when she was speaking of the actress there was an evil expressionof hatred that distorted it. He looked at her as a man looks at a fadedflower he has gathered, with difficulty recognizing in it the beauty forwhich he picked and ruined it. And in spite of this he felt that then,when his love was stronger, he could, if he had greatly wished it, havetorn that love out of his heart; but now, when as at that moment itseemed to him he felt no love for her, he knew that what bound him toher could not be broken.

  "Well, well, what was it you were going to say about the prince? I havedriven away the fiend," she added. The fiend was the name they had givenher jealousy. "What did you begin to tell me about the prince? Why didyou find it so tiresome?"

  "Oh, it was intolerable!" he said, trying to pick up the thread of hisinterrupted thought. "He does not improve on closer acquaintance. If youwant him defined, here he is: a prime, well-fed beast such as takesmedals at the cattle shows, and nothing more," he said, with a tone ofvexation that interested her.

  "No; how so?" she replied. "He's seen a great deal, anyway; he'scultured?"

  "It's an utterly different culture--their culture. He's cultivated, onesees, simply to be able to despise culture, as they despise everythingbut animal pleasures."

  "But don't you all care for these animal pleasures?" she said, and againhe noticed a dark look in her eyes that avoided him.

  "How is it you're defending him?" he said, smiling.

  "I'm not defending him, it's nothing to me; but I imagine, if you hadnot cared for those pleasures yourself, you might have got out of them.But if it affords you satisfaction to gaze at Therese in the attire ofEve..."

  "Again, the devil again," Vronsky said, taking the hand she had laid onthe table and kissing it.

  "Yes; but I can't help it. You don't know what I have suffered waitingfor you. I believe I'm not jealous. I'm not jealous: I believe you whenyou're here; but when you're away somewhere leading your life, soincomprehensible to me..."

  She turned away from him, pulled the hook at last out of the crochetwork, and rapidly, with the help of her forefinger, began working loopafter loop of the wool that was dazzling white in the lamplight, whilethe slender wrist moved swiftly, nervously in the embroidered cuff.

  "How was it, then? Where did you meet Alexey Alexandrovitch?" Her voicesounded in an unnatural and jarring tone.

  "We ran up against each other in the doorway."

  "And he bowed to you like this?"

  She drew a long face, and half-closing her eyes, quickly transformed herexpression, folded her hands, and Vronsky suddenly saw in her beautifulface the very expression with which Alexey Alexandrovitch had bowed tohim. He smiled, while she laughed gaily, with that sweet, deep laugh,which was one of her greatest charms.

  "I don't understand him in the least," said Vronsky. "If after youravowal to him at your country house he had broken with you, if he hadcalled me out--but this I can't understand. How can he put up with sucha position? He feels it, that's evident."

  "He?" she said sneeringly. "He's perfectly satisfied."

  "What are we all miserable for, when everything might be so happy?"

  "Only not he. Don't I know him, the falsity in which he's utterlysteeped?... Could one, with any feeling, live as he is living with me?He understands nothing, and feels nothing. Could a man of any feelinglive in the same house with his unfaithful wife? Could he talk to her,call her 'my dear'?"

  And again she could not help mimicking him: "'Anna, _ma chere_; Anna,dear'!"

  "He's not a man, not a human being--he's a doll! No one knows him; but Iknow him. Oh, if I'd been in his place, I'd long ago have killed, havetorn to pieces a wife like me. I wouldn't have said, 'Anna, _ma chere_'!He's not a man, he's an official machine. He doesn't understand that I'myour wife, that he's outside, that he's superfluous.... Don't let's talkof him!..."

  "You're unfair, very unfair, dearest," said Vronsky, trying to sootheher. "But never mind, don't let's talk of him. Tell me what you've beendoing? What is the matter? What has been wrong with you, and what didthe doctor say?"

  She looked at him with mocking amusement. Evidently she had hit on otherabsurd and grotesque aspects in her husband and was awaiting the momentto give expression to them.

  But he went on:

  "I imagine that it's not illness, but your condition. When will it be?"

  The ironical light died away in her eyes, but a different smile, aconsciousness of something, he did not know what, and of quietmelancholy, came over her face.

  "Soon, soon. You say that our position is miserable, that we must put anend to it. If you knew how terrible it is to me, what I would give to beable to love you freely and boldly! I should not torture myself andtorture you with my jealousy.... And it will come soon, but not as weexpect."

  And at the thought of how it would come, she seemed so pitiable toherself that tears came into her eyes, and she could not go on. She laidher hand on his sleeve, dazzling and white with its rings in the
lamplight.

  "It won't come as we suppose. I didn't mean to say this to you, butyou've made me. Soon, soon, all will be over, and we shall all, all beat peace, and suffer no more."

  "I don't understand," he said, understanding her.

  "You asked when? Soon. And I shan't live through it. Don't interruptme!" and she made haste to speak. "I know it; I know for certain. Ishall die; and I'm very glad I shall die, and release myself and you."

  Tears dropped from her eyes; he bent down over her hand and begankissing it, trying to hide his emotion, which, he knew, had no sort ofgrounds, though he could not control it.

  "Yes, it's better so," she said, tightly gripping his hand. "That's theonly way, the only way left us."

  He had recovered himself, and lifted his head.

  "How absurd! What absurd nonsense you are talking!"

  "No, it's the truth."

  "What, what's the truth?"

  "That I shall die. I have had a dream."

  "A dream?" repeated Vronsky, and instantly he recalled the peasant ofhis dream.

  "Yes, a dream," she said. "It's a long while since I dreamed it. Idreamed that I ran into my bedroom, that I had to get something there,to find out something; you know how it is in dreams," she said, her eyeswide with horror; "and in the bedroom, in the corner, stood something."

  "Oh, what nonsense! How can you believe..."

  But she would not let him interrupt her. What she was saying was tooimportant to her.

  "And the something turned round, and I saw it was a peasant with adisheveled beard, little, and dreadful looking. I wanted to run away,but he bent down over a sack, and was fumbling there with his hands..."

  She showed how he had moved his hands. There was terror in her face. AndVronsky, remembering his dream, felt the same terror filling his soul.

  "He was fumbling and kept talking quickly, quickly in French, you know:_Il faut le battre, le fer, le brayer, le petrir_.... And in my horror Itried to wake up, and woke up ... but woke up in the dream. And I beganasking myself what it meant. And Korney said to me: 'In childbirthyou'll die, ma'am, you'll die....' And I woke up."

  "What nonsense, what nonsense!" said Vronsky; but he felt himself thatthere was no conviction in his voice.

  "But don't let's talk of it. Ring the bell, I'll have tea. And stay alittle now; it's not long I shall..."

  But all at once she stopped. The expression of her face instantaneouslychanged. Horror and excitement were suddenly replaced by a look of soft,solemn, blissful attention. He could not comprehend the meaning of thechange. She was listening to the stirring of the new life within her.

 

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