Anna karenina, p.120
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       Anna Karenina, p.120

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 19

  The mistake made by Alexey Alexandrovitch in that, when preparing forseeing his wife, he had overlooked the possibility that her repentancemight be sincere, and he might forgive her, and she might not die--thismistake was two months after his return from Moscow brought home to himin all its significance. But the mistake made by him had arisen notsimply from his having overlooked that contingency, but also from thefact that until that day of his interview with his dying wife, he hadnot known his own heart. At his sick wife's bedside he had for the firsttime in his life given way to that feeling of sympathetic sufferingalways roused in him by the sufferings of others, and hitherto looked onby him with shame as a harmful weakness. And pity for her, and remorsefor having desired her death, and most of all, the joy of forgiveness,made him at once conscious, not simply of the relief of his ownsufferings, but of a spiritual peace he had never experienced before. Hesuddenly felt that the very thing that was the source of his sufferingshad become the source of his spiritual joy; that what had seemedinsoluble while he was judging, blaming, and hating, had become clearand simple when he forgave and loved.

  He forgave his wife and pitied her for her sufferings and her remorse.He forgave Vronsky, and pitied him, especially after reports reached himof his despairing action. He felt more for his son than before. And heblamed himself now for having taken too little interest in him. But forthe little newborn baby he felt a quite peculiar sentiment, not of pity,only, but of tenderness. At first, from a feeling of compassion alone,he had been interested in the delicate little creature, who was not hischild, and who was cast on one side during her mother's illness, andwould certainly have died if he had not troubled about her, and he didnot himself observe how fond he became of her. He would go into thenursery several times a day, and sit there for a long while, so that thenurses, who were at first afraid of him, got quite used to his presence.Sometimes for half an hour at a stretch he would sit silently gazing atthe saffron-red, downy, wrinkled face of the sleeping baby, watching themovements of the frowning brows, and the fat little hands, with clenchedfingers, that rubbed the little eyes and nose. At such momentsparticularly, Alexey Alexandrovitch had a sense of perfect peace andinward harmony, and saw nothing extraordinary in his position, nothingthat ought to be changed.

  But as time went on, he saw more and more distinctly that howevernatural the position now seemed to him, he would not long be allowed toremain in it. He felt that besides the blessed spiritual forcecontrolling his soul, there was another, a brutal force, as powerful, ormore powerful, which controlled his life, and that this force would notallow him that humble peace he longed for. He felt that everyone waslooking at him with inquiring wonder, that he was not understood, andthat something was expected of him. Above all, he felt the instabilityand unnaturalness of his relations with his wife.

  When the softening effect of the near approach of death had passed away,Alexey Alexandrovitch began to notice that Anna was afraid of him, illat ease with him, and could not look him straight in the face. Sheseemed to be wanting, and not daring, to tell him something; and asthough foreseeing their present relations could not continue, she seemedto be expecting something from him.

  Towards the end of February it happened that Anna's baby daughter, whohad been named Anna too, fell ill. Alexey Alexandrovitch was in thenursery in the morning, and leaving orders for the doctor to be sentfor, he went to his office. On finishing his work, he returned home atfour. Going into the hall he saw a handsome groom, in a braided liveryand a bear fur cape, holding a white fur cloak.

  "Who is here?" asked Alexey Alexandrovitch.

  "Princess Elizaveta Federovna Tverskaya," the groom answered, and itseemed to Alexey Alexandrovitch that he grinned.

  During all this difficult time Alexey Alexandrovitch had noticed thathis worldly acquaintances, especially women, took a peculiar interest inhim and his wife. All these acquaintances he observed with difficultyconcealing their mirth at something; the same mirth that he hadperceived in the lawyer's eyes, and just now in the eyes of this groom.Everyone seemed, somehow, hugely delighted, as though they had just beenat a wedding. When they met him, with ill-disguised enjoyment theyinquired after his wife's health. The presence of Princess Tverskaya wasunpleasant to Alexey Alexandrovitch from the memories associated withher, and also because he disliked her, and he went straight to thenursery. In the day nursery Seryozha, leaning on the table with his legson a chair, was drawing and chatting away merrily. The Englishgoverness, who had during Anna's illness replaced the French one, wassitting near the boy knitting a shawl. She hurriedly got up, curtseyed,and pulled Seryozha.

  Alexey Alexandrovitch stroked his son's hair, answered the governess'sinquiries about his wife, and asked what the doctor had said of thebaby.

  "The doctor said it was nothing serious, and he ordered a bath, sir."

  "But she is still in pain," said Alexey Alexandrovitch, listening to thebaby's screaming in the next room.

  "I think it's the wet-nurse, sir," the Englishwoman said firmly.

  "What makes you think so?" he asked, stopping short.

  "It's just as it was at Countess Paul's, sir. They gave the babymedicine, and it turned out that the baby was simply hungry: the nursehad no milk, sir."

  Alexey Alexandrovitch pondered, and after standing still a few secondshe went in at the other door. The baby was lying with its head thrownback, stiffening itself in the nurse's arms, and would not take theplump breast offered it; and it never ceased screaming in spite of thedouble hushing of the wet-nurse and the other nurse, who was bendingover her.

  "Still no better?" said Alexey Alexandrovitch.

  "She's very restless," answered the nurse in a whisper.

  "Miss Edwarde says that perhaps the wet-nurse has no milk," he said.

  "I think so too, Alexey Alexandrovitch."

  "Then why didn't you say so?"

  "Who's one to say it to? Anna Arkadyevna still ill..." said the nursediscontentedly.

  The nurse was an old servant of the family. And in her simple wordsthere seemed to Alexey Alexandrovitch an allusion to his position.

  The baby screamed louder than ever, struggling and sobbing. The nurse,with a gesture of despair, went to it, took it from the wet-nurse'sarms, and began walking up and down, rocking it.

  "You must ask the doctor to examine the wet-nurse," said AlexeyAlexandrovitch. The smartly dressed and healthy-looking nurse,frightened at the idea of losing her place, muttered something toherself, and covering her bosom, smiled contemptuously at the idea ofdoubts being cast on her abundance of milk. In that smile, too, AlexeyAlexandrovitch saw a sneer at his position.

  "Luckless child!" said the nurse, hushing the baby, and still walking upand down with it.

  Alexey Alexandrovitch sat down, and with a despondent and suffering facewatched the nurse walking to and fro.

  When the child at last was still, and had been put in a deep bed, andthe nurse, after smoothing the little pillow, had left her, AlexeyAlexandrovitch got up, and walking awkwardly on tiptoe, approached thebaby. For a minute he was still, and with the same despondent face gazedat the baby; but all at once a smile, that moved his hair and the skinof his forehead, came out on his face, and he went as softly out of theroom.

  In the dining room he rang the bell, and told the servant who came in tosend again for the doctor. He felt vexed with his wife for not beinganxious about this exquisite baby, and in this vexed humor he had nowish to go to her; he had no wish, either, to see Princess Betsy. Buthis wife might wonder why he did not go to her as usual; and so,overcoming his disinclination, he went towards the bedroom. As he walkedover the soft rug towards the door, he could not help overhearing aconversation he did not want to hear.

  "If he hadn't been going away, I could have understood your answer andhis too. But your husband ought to be above that," Betsy was saying.

  "It's not for my husband; for myself I don't wish it. Don't say that!"answered Anna's excited voice.

  "Yes, but you
must care to say good-bye to a man who has shot himself onyour account...."

  "That's just why I don't want to."

  With a dismayed and guilty expression, Alexey Alexandrovitch stopped andwould have gone back unobserved. But reflecting that this would beundignified, he turned back again, and clearing his throat, he went upto the bedroom. The voices were silent, and he went in.

  Anna, in a gray dressing gown, with a crop of short clustering blackcurls on her round head, was sitting on a settee. The eagerness died outof her face, as it always did, at the sight of her husband; she droppedher head and looked round uneasily at Betsy. Betsy, dressed in theheight of the latest fashion, in a hat that towered somewhere over herhead like a shade on a lamp, in a blue dress with violet crosswaystripes slanting one way on the bodice and the other way on the skirt,was sitting beside Anna, her tall flat figure held erect. Bowing herhead, she greeted Alexey Alexandrovitch with an ironical smile.

  "Ah!" she said, as though surprised. "I'm very glad you're at home. Younever put in an appearance anywhere, and I haven't seen you ever sinceAnna has been ill. I have heard all about it--your anxiety. Yes, you'rea wonderful husband!" she said, with a meaning and affable air, asthough she were bestowing an order of magnanimity on him for his conductto his wife.

  Alexey Alexandrovitch bowed frigidly, and kissing his wife's hand, askedhow she was.

  "Better, I think," she said, avoiding his eyes.

  "But you've rather a feverish-looking color," he said, laying stress onthe word "feverish."

  "We've been talking too much," said Betsy. "I feel it's selfishness onmy part, and I am going away."

  She got up, but Anna, suddenly flushing, quickly caught at her hand.

  "No, wait a minute, please. I must tell you ... no, you." she turned toAlexey Alexandrovitch, and her neck and brow were suffused with crimson."I won't and can't keep anything secret from you," she said.

  Alexey Alexandrovitch cracked his fingers and bowed his head.

  "Betsy's been telling me that Count Vronsky wants to come here to saygood-bye before his departure for Tashkend." She did not look at herhusband, and was evidently in haste to have everything out, however hardit might be for her. "I told her I could not receive him."

  "You said, my dear, that it would depend on Alexey Alexandrovitch,"Betsy corrected her.

  "Oh, no, I can't receive him; and what object would there...." Shestopped suddenly, and glanced inquiringly at her husband (he did notlook at her). "In short, I don't wish it...."

  Alexey Alexandrovitch advanced and would have taken her hand.

  Her first impulse was to jerk back her hand from the damp hand with bigswollen veins that sought hers, but with an obvious effort to controlherself she pressed his hand.

  "I am very grateful to you for your confidence, but..." he said, feelingwith confusion and annoyance that what he could decide easily andclearly by himself, he could not discuss before Princess Tverskaya, whoto him stood for the incarnation of that brute force which wouldinevitably control him in the life he led in the eyes of the world, andhinder him from giving way to his feeling of love and forgiveness. Hestopped short, looking at Princess Tverskaya.

  "Well, good-bye, my darling," said Betsy, getting up. She kissed Anna,and went out. Alexey Alexandrovitch escorted her out.

  "Alexey Alexandrovitch! I know you are a truly magnanimous man," saidBetsy, stopping in the little drawing-room, and with special warmthshaking hands with him once more. "I am an outsider, but I so love herand respect you that I venture to advise. Receive him. Alexey Vronsky isthe soul of honor, and he is going away to Tashkend."

  "Thank you, princess, for your sympathy and advice. But the question ofwhether my wife can or cannot see anyone she must decide herself."

  He said this from habit, lifting his brows with dignity, and reflectedimmediately that whatever his words might be, there could be no dignityin his position. And he saw this by the suppressed, malicious, andironical smile with which Betsy glanced at him after this phrase.

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