Anna karenina, p.119
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       Anna Karenina, p.119

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 18

  After the conversation with Alexey Alexandrovitch, Vronsky went out ontothe steps of the Karenins' house and stood still, with difficultyremembering where he was, and where he ought to walk or drive. He feltdisgraced, humiliated, guilty, and deprived of all possibility ofwashing away his humiliation. He felt thrust out of the beaten trackalong which he had so proudly and lightly walked till then. All thehabits and rules of his life that had seemed so firm, had turned outsuddenly false and inapplicable. The betrayed husband, who had figuredtill that time as a pitiful creature, an incidental and somewhatludicrous obstacle to his happiness, had suddenly been summoned by herherself, elevated to an awe-inspiring pinnacle, and on the pinnacle thathusband had shown himself, not malignant, not false, not ludicrous, butkind and straightforward and large. Vronsky could not but feel this, andthe parts were suddenly reversed. Vronsky felt his elevation and his ownabasement, his truth and his own falsehood. He felt that the husband wasmagnanimous even in his sorrow, while he had been base and petty in hisdeceit. But this sense of his own humiliation before the man he hadunjustly despised made up only a small part of his misery. He feltunutterably wretched now, for his passion for Anna, which had seemed tohim of late to be growing cooler, now that he knew he had lost herforever, was stronger than ever it had been. He had seen all of her inher illness, had come to know her very soul, and it seemed to him thathe had never loved her till then. And now when he had learned to knowher, to love her as she should be loved, he had been humiliated beforeher, and had lost her forever, leaving with her nothing of himself but ashameful memory. Most terrible of all had been his ludicrous, shamefulposition when Alexey Alexandrovitch had pulled his hands away from hishumiliated face. He stood on the steps of the Karenins' house like onedistraught, and did not know what to do.

  "A sledge, sir?" asked the porter.

  "Yes, a sledge."

  On getting home, after three sleepless nights, Vronsky, withoutundressing, lay down flat on the sofa, clasping his hands and laying hishead on them. His head was heavy. Images, memories, and ideas of thestrangest description followed one another with extraordinary rapidityand vividness. First it was the medicine he had poured out for thepatient and spilt over the spoon, then the midwife's white hands, thenthe queer posture of Alexey Alexandrovitch on the floor beside the bed.

  "To sleep! To forget!" he said to himself with the serene confidence ofa healthy man that if he is tired and sleepy, he will go to sleep atonce. And the same instant his head did begin to feel drowsy and hebegan to drop off into forgetfulness. The waves of the sea ofunconsciousness had begun to meet over his head, when all at once--itwas as though a violent shock of electricity had passed over him. Hestarted so that he leaped up on the springs of the sofa, and leaning onhis arms got in a panic onto his knees. His eyes were wide open asthough he had never been asleep. The heaviness in his head and theweariness in his limbs that he had felt a minute before had suddenlygone.

  "You may trample me in the mud," he heard Alexey Alexandrovitch's wordsand saw him standing before him, and saw Anna's face with its burningflush and glittering eyes, gazing with love and tenderness not at himbut at Alexey Alexandrovitch; he saw his own, as he fancied, foolish andludicrous figure when Alexey Alexandrovitch took his hands away from hisface. He stretched out his legs again and flung himself on the sofa inthe same position and shut his eyes.

  "To sleep! To forget!" he repeated to himself. But with his eyes shut hesaw more distinctly than ever Anna's face as it had been on thememorable evening before the races.

  "That is not and will not be, and she wants to wipe it out of hermemory. But I cannot live without it. How can we be reconciled? how canwe be reconciled?" he said aloud, and unconsciously began to repeatthese words. This repetition checked the rising up of fresh images andmemories, which he felt were thronging in his brain. But repeating wordsdid not check his imagination for long. Again in extraordinarily rapidsuccession his best moments rose before his mind, and then his recenthumiliation. "Take away his hands," Anna's voice says. He takes away hishands and feels the shamestruck and idiotic expression of his face.

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

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

  "Ambition? Serpuhovskoy? Society? The court?" He could not come to apause anywhere. All of it had had meaning before, but now there was noreality in it. He got up from the sofa, took off his coat, undid hisbelt, and uncovering his hairy chest to breathe more freely, walked upand down the room. "This is how people go mad," he repeated, "and howthey shoot themselves ... to escape humiliation," he added slowly.

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

  "Of course," he said to himself, as though a logical, continuous, andclear chain of reasoning had brought him to an indubitable conclusion.In reality this "of course," that seemed convincing to him, was simplythe result of exactly the same circle of memories and images throughwhich he had passed ten times already during the last hour--memories ofhappiness lost forever. There was the same conception of thesenselessness of everything to come in life, the same consciousness ofhumiliation. Even the sequence of these images and emotions was thesame.

  "Of course," he repeated, when for the third time his thought passedagain round the same spellbound circle of memories and images, andpulling the revolver to the left side of his chest, and clutching itvigorously with his whole hand, as it were, squeezing it in his fist, hepulled the trigger. He did not hear the sound of the shot, but a violentblow on his chest sent him reeling. He tried to clutch at the edge ofthe table, dropped the revolver, staggered, and sat down on the ground,looking about him in astonishment. He did not recognize his room,looking up from the ground, at the bent legs of the table, at thewastepaper basket, and the tiger-skin rug. The hurried, creaking stepsof his servant coming through the drawing room brought him to hissenses. He made an effort at thought, and was aware that he was on thefloor; and seeing blood on the tiger-skin rug and on his arm, he knew hehad shot himself.

  "Idiotic! Missed!" he said, fumbling after the revolver. The revolverwas close beside him--he sought further off. Still feeling for it, hestretched out to the other side, and not being strong enough to keep hisbalance, fell over, streaming with blood.

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

 
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