Anna karenina, p.122
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       Anna Karenina, p.122

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 21

  Before Betsy had time to walk out of the drawing-room, she was met inthe doorway by Stepan Arkadyevitch, who had just come from Yeliseev's,where a consignment of fresh oysters had been received.

  "Ah! princess! what a delightful meeting!" he began. "I've been to seeyou."

  "A meeting for one minute, for I'm going," said Betsy, smiling andputting on her glove.

  "Don't put on your glove yet, princess; let me kiss your hand. There'snothing I'm so thankful to the revival of the old fashions for as thekissing the hand." He kissed Betsy's hand. "When shall we see eachother?"

  "You don't deserve it," answered Betsy, smiling.

  "Oh, yes, I deserve a great deal, for I've become a most serious person.I don't only manage my own affairs, but other people's too," he said,with a significant expression.

  "Oh, I'm so glad!" answered Betsy, at once understanding that he wasspeaking of Anna. And going back into the drawing room, they stood in acorner. "He's killing her," said Betsy in a whisper full of meaning."It's impossible, impossible..."

  "I'm so glad you think so," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, shaking his headwith a serious and sympathetically distressed expression, "that's whatI've come to Petersburg for."

  "The whole town's talking of it," she said. "It's an impossibleposition. She pines and pines away. He doesn't understand that she's oneof those women who can't trifle with their feelings. One of two things:either let him take her away, act with energy, or give her a divorce.This is stifling her."

  "Yes, yes ... just so..." Oblonsky said, sighing. "That's what I've comefor. At least not solely for that ... I've been made a _Kammerherr_; ofcourse, one has to say thank you. But the chief thing was having tosettle this."

  "Well, God help you!" said Betsy.

  After accompanying Betsy to the outside hall, once more kissing her handabove the glove, at the point where the pulse beats, and murmuring toher such unseemly nonsense that she did not know whether to laugh or beangry, Stepan Arkadyevitch went to his sister. He found her in tears.

  Although he happened to be bubbling over with good spirits, StepanArkadyevitch immediately and quite naturally fell into the sympathetic,poetically emotional tone which harmonized with her mood. He asked herhow she was, and how she had spent the morning.

  "Very, very miserably. Today and this morning and all past days and daysto come," she said.

  "I think you're giving way to pessimism. You must rouse yourself, youmust look life in the face. I know it's hard, but..."

  "I have heard it said that women love men even for their vices," Annabegan suddenly, "but I hate him for his virtues. I can't live with him.Do you understand? the sight of him has a physical effect on me, itmakes me beside myself. I can't, I can't live with him. What am I to do?I have been unhappy, and used to think one couldn't be more unhappy, butthe awful state of things I am going through now, I could never haveconceived. Would you believe it, that knowing he's a good man, asplendid man, that I'm not worth his little finger, still I hate him. Ihate him for his generosity. And there's nothing left for me but..."

  She would have said death, but Stepan Arkadyevitch would not let herfinish.

  "You are ill and overwrought," he said; "believe me, you're exaggeratingdreadfully. There's nothing so terrible in it."

  And Stepan Arkadyevitch smiled. No one else in Stepan Arkadyevitch'splace, having to do with such despair, would have ventured to smile (thesmile would have seemed brutal); but in his smile there was so much ofsweetness and almost feminine tenderness that his smile did not wound,but softened and soothed. His gentle, soothing words and smiles were assoothing and softening as almond oil. And Anna soon felt this.

  "No, Stiva," she said, "I'm lost, lost! worse than lost! I can't say yetthat all is over; on the contrary, I feel that it's not over. I'm anoverstrained string that must snap. But it's not ended yet ... and itwill have a fearful end."

  "No matter, we must let the string be loosened, little by little.There's no position from which there is no way of escape."

  "I have thought, and thought. Only one..."

  Again he knew from her terrified eyes that this one way of escape in herthought was death, and he would not let her say it.

  "Not at all," he said. "Listen to me. You can't see your own position asI can. Let me tell you candidly my opinion." Again he smiled discreetlyhis almond-oil smile. "I'll begin from the beginning. You married a mantwenty years older than yourself. You married him without love and notknowing what love was. It was a mistake, let's admit."

  "A fearful mistake!" said Anna.

  "But I repeat, it's an accomplished fact. Then you had, let us say, themisfortune to love a man not your husband. That was a misfortune; butthat, too, is an accomplished fact. And your husband knew it and forgaveit." He stopped at each sentence, waiting for her to object, but shemade no answer. "That's so. Now the question is: can you go on livingwith your husband? Do you wish it? Does he wish it?"

  "I know nothing, nothing."

  "But you said yourself that you can't endure him."

  "No, I didn't say so. I deny it. I can't tell, I don't know anythingabout it."

  "Yes, but let..."

  "You can't understand. I feel I'm lying head downwards in a sort of pit,but I ought not to save myself. And I can't . . ."

  "Never mind, we'll slip something under and pull you out. I understandyou: I understand that you can't take it on yourself to express yourwishes, your feelings."

  "There's nothing, nothing I wish ... except for it to be all over."

  "But he sees this and knows it. And do you suppose it weighs on him anyless than on you? You're wretched, he's wretched, and what good can comeof it? while divorce would solve the difficulty completely." With someeffort Stepan Arkadyevitch brought out his central idea, and lookedsignificantly at her.

  She said nothing, and shook her cropped head in dissent. But from thelook in her face, that suddenly brightened into its old beauty, he sawthat if she did not desire this, it was simply because it seemed to herunattainable happiness.

  "I'm awfully sorry for you! And how happy I should be if I could arrangethings!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling more boldly. "Don't speak,don't say a word! God grant only that I may speak as I feel. I'm goingto him."

  Anna looked at him with dreamy, shining eyes, and said nothing.

 
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