Anna karenina, p.118
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       Anna Karenina, p.118

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 17

  Unconsciously going over in his memory the conversations that had takenplace during and after dinner, Alexey Alexandrovitch returned to hissolitary room. Darya Alexandrovna's words about forgiveness had arousedin him nothing but annoyance. The applicability or non-applicability ofthe Christian precept to his own case was too difficult a question to bediscussed lightly, and this question had long ago been answered byAlexey Alexandrovitch in the negative. Of all that had been said, whatstuck most in his memory was the phrase of stupid, good-naturedTurovtsin--"_Acted like a man, he did! Called him out and shot him!_"Everyone had apparently shared this feeling, though from politeness theyhad not expressed it.

  "But the matter is settled, it's useless thinking about it," AlexeyAlexandrovitch told himself. And thinking of nothing but the journeybefore him, and the revision work he had to do, he went into his roomand asked the porter who escorted him where his man was. The porter saidthat the man had only just gone out. Alexey Alexandrovitch ordered teato be sent him, sat down to the table, and taking the guidebook, beganconsidering the route of his journey.

  "Two telegrams," said his manservant, coming into the room. "I beg yourpardon, your excellency; I'd only just that minute gone out."

  Alexey Alexandrovitch took the telegrams and opened them. The firsttelegram was the announcement of Stremov's appointment to the very postKarenin had coveted. Alexey Alexandrovitch flung the telegram down, andflushing a little, got up and began to pace up and down the room. "_Quosvult perdere dementat_," he said, meaning by _quos_ the personsresponsible for this appointment. He was not so much annoyed that he hadnot received the post, that he had been conspicuously passed over; butit was incomprehensible, amazing to him that they did not see that thewordy phrase-monger Stremov was the last man fit for it. How could theyfail to see how they were ruining themselves, lowering their _prestige_by this appointment?

  "Something else in the same line," he said to himself bitterly, openingthe second telegram. The telegram was from his wife. Her name, writtenin blue pencil, "Anna," was the first thing that caught his eye. "I amdying; I beg, I implore you to come. I shall die easier with yourforgiveness," he read. He smiled contemptuously, and flung down thetelegram. That this was a trick and a fraud, of that, he thought for thefirst 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 legitimizethe child, to compromise me, and prevent a divorce," he thought. "Butsomething 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 themoment 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, andeveryone 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 hiswife. If her illness was a trick, he would say nothing and go awayagain. If she was really in danger, and wished to see him before herdeath, he would forgive her if he found her alive, and pay her the lastduties 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 thetrain, in the early fog of Petersburg Alexey Alexandrovitch drovethrough the deserted Nevsky and stared straight before him, not thinkingof what was awaiting him. He could not think about it, because inpicturing what would happen, he could not drive away the reflection thather death would at once remove all the difficulty of his position.Bakers, closed shops, night-cabmen, porters sweeping the pavementsflashed past his eyes, and he watched it all, trying to smother thethought of what was awaiting him, and what he dared not hope for, andyet was hoping for. He drove up to the steps. A sledge and a carriagewith the coachman asleep stood at the entrance. As he went into theentry, Alexey Alexandrovitch, as it were, got out his resolution fromthe remotest corner of his brain, and mastered it thoroughly. Itsmeaning ran: "If it's a trick, then calm contempt and departure. Iftruth, do what is proper."

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

  "How is your mistress?"

  "A successful confinement yesterday."

  Alexey Alexandrovitch stopped short and turned white. He felt distinctlynow 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 thedoctor's here now."

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

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

  "Who is here?"

  "The doctor, the midwife, and Count Vronsky."

  Alexey Alexandrovitch went into the inner rooms.

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

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

  "Thank God you've come! She keeps on about you and nothing but you," shesaid.

  "Make haste with the ice!" the doctor's peremptory voice said from thebedroom.

  Alexey Alexandrovitch went into her boudoir.

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

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

  Alexey Alexandrovitch, seeing Vronsky's tears, felt a rush of thatnervous emotion always produced in him by the sight of other people'ssuffering, and turning away his face, he moved hurriedly to the door,without hearing the rest of his words. From the bedroom came the soundof Anna's voice saying something. Her voice was lively, eager, withexceedingly distinct intonations. Alexey Alexandrovitch went into thebedroom, and went up to the bed. She was lying turned with her facetowards him. Her cheeks were flushed crimson, her eyes glittered, herlittle white hands thrust out from the sleeves of her dressing gown wereplaying with the quilt, twisting it about. It seemed as though she werenot only well and blooming, but in the happiest frame of mind. She wastalking rapidly, musically, and with exceptionally correct articulationand expressive intonation.

  "For Alexey--I am speaking of Alexey Alexandrovitch (what a strange andawful thing that both are Alexey, isn't it?)--Alexey would not refuseme. I should forget, he would forgive.... But why doesn't he come? He'sso 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 infact. He'll be coming; it will hurt him to see her. Give her to thenurse."

  "Anna Arkadyevna, he has come. Here he is!" said the midwife, trying toattract her attention to Alexey Alexandrovitch.

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

&nb
sp; All of a sudden she shrank back, was silent; and in terror, as thoughexpecting a blow, as though to defend herself, she raised her hands toher 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 longleft to live; the fever will begin directly and I shall understandnothing more. Now I understand, I understand it all, I see it all!"

  Alexey Alexandrovitch's wrinkled face wore an expression of agony; hetook her by the hand and tried to say something, but he could not utterit; his lower lip quivered, but he still went on struggling with hisemotion, and only now and then glanced at her. And each time he glancedat her, he saw her eyes gazing at him with such passionate andtriumphant 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. Thisis what I wanted to say. Don't be surprised at me. I'm still thesame.... But there is another woman in me, I'm afraid of her: she lovedthat man, and I tried to hate you, and could not forget about her thatused to be. I'm not that woman. Now I'm my real self, all myself. I'mdying now, I know I shall die, ask him. Even now I feel--see here, theweights on my feet, on my hands, on my fingers. My fingers--see how hugethey 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 tellme; the holy martyr--what was her name? She was worse. And I'll go toRome; 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!" Sheheld his hand in one burning hand, while she pushed him away with theother.

  The nervous agitation of Alexey Alexandrovitch kept increasing, and hadby now reached such a point that he ceased to struggle with it. Hesuddenly felt that what he had regarded as nervous agitation was on thecontrary a blissful spiritual condition that gave him all at once a newhappiness he had never known. He did not think that the Christian lawthat he had been all his life trying to follow, enjoined on him toforgive and love his enemies; but a glad feeling of love and forgivenessfor his enemies filled his heart. He knelt down, and laying his head inthe 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, movedtowards 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 offme!"

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

  "Remember one thing, that I needed nothing but forgiveness, and I wantnothing more.... Why doesn't _he_ come?" she said, turning to the doortowards Vronsky. "Do come, do come! Give him your hand."

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

  "Uncover your face--look at him! He's a saint," she said. "Oh! uncoveryour face, do uncover it!" she said angrily. "Alexey Alexandrovitch, douncover his face! I want to see him."

  Alexey Alexandrovitch took Vronsky's hands and drew them away from hisface, 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 thetears that streamed from his eyes.

  "Thank God, thank God!" she said, "now everything is ready. Only tostretch my legs a little. There, that's capital. How badly these flowersare 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, giveme 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 wasninety-nine chances in a hundred it would end in death. The whole daylong there was fever, delirium, and unconsciousness. At midnight thepatient 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 AlexeyAlexandrovitch meeting him in the hall, said: "Better stay, she mightask for you," and himself led him to his wife's boudoir. Towardsmorning, there was a return again of excitement, rapid thought and talk,and again it ended in unconsciousness. On the third day it was the samething, and the doctors said there was hope. That day AlexeyAlexandrovitch went into the boudoir where Vronsky was sitting, andclosing the door sat down opposite him.

  "Alexey Alexandrovitch," said Vronsky, feeling that a statement of theposition 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 andsaid:

  "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 notbe in error regarding me. You know I had resolved on a divorce, and hadeven begun to take proceedings. I won't conceal from you that inbeginning this I was in uncertainty, I was in misery; I will confessthat I was pursued by a desire to revenge myself on you and on her. WhenI got the telegram, I came here with the same feelings; I will say more,I longed for her death. But...." He paused, pondering whether todisclose or not to disclose his feeling to him. "But I saw her andforgave her. And the happiness of forgiveness has revealed to me myduty. I forgive completely. I would offer the other cheek, I would givemy cloak if my coat be taken. I pray to God only not to take from me thebliss of forgiveness!"

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

  "This is my position: you can trample me in the mud, make me thelaughing-stock of the world, I will not abandon her, and I will neverutter a word of reproach to you," Alexey Alexandrovitch went on. "Myduty is clearly marked for me; I ought to be with her, and I will be. Ifshe wishes to see you, I will let you know, but now I suppose it wouldbe better for you to go away."

  He got up, and sobs cut short his words. Vronsky too was getting up, andin a stooping, not yet erect posture, looked up at him from under hisbrows. He did not understand Alexey Alexandrovitch's feeling, but hefelt that it was something higher and even unattainable for him with hisview of life.

 

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