Anna karenina, p.124
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       Anna Karenina, p.124

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 23

  Vronsky's wound had been a dangerous one, though it did not touch theheart, and for several days he had lain between life and death. Thefirst time he was able to speak, Varya, his brother's wife, was alone inthe room.

  "Varya," he said, looking sternly at her, "I shot myself by accident.And please never speak of it, and tell everyone so. Or else it's tooridiculous."

  Without answering his words, Varya bent over him, and with a delightedsmile gazed into his face. His eyes were clear, not feverish; but theirexpression was stern.

  "Thank God!" she said. "You're not in pain?"

  "A little here." He pointed to his breast.

  "Then let me change your bandages."

  In silence, stiffening his broad jaws, he looked at her while shebandaged him up. When she had finished he said:

  "I'm not delirious. Please manage that there may be no talk of my havingshot myself on purpose."

  "No one does say so. Only I hope you won't shoot yourself by accidentany more," she said, with a questioning smile.

  "Of course I won't, but it would have been better..."

  And he smiled gloomily.

  In spite of these words and this smile, which so frightened Varya, whenthe inflammation was over and he began to recover, he felt that he wascompletely free from one part of his misery. By his action he had, as itwere, washed away the shame and humiliation he had felt before. He couldnow think calmly of Alexey Alexandrovitch. He recognized all hismagnanimity, but he did not now feel himself humiliated by it. Besides,he got back again into the beaten track of his life. He saw thepossibility of looking men in the face again without shame, and he couldlive in accordance with his own habits. One thing he could not pluck outof his heart, though he never ceased struggling with it, was the regret,amounting to despair, that he had lost her forever. That now, havingexpiated his sin against the husband, he was bound to renounce her, andnever in future to stand between her with her repentance and herhusband, he had firmly decided in his heart; but he could not tear outof his heart his regret at the loss of her love, he could not erase fromhis memory those moments of happiness that he had so little prized atthe time, and that haunted him in all their charm.

  Serpuhovskoy had planned his appointment at Tashkend, and Vronsky agreedto the proposition without the slightest hesitation. But the nearer thetime of departure came, the bitterer was the sacrifice he was making towhat he thought his duty.

  His wound had healed, and he was driving about making preparations forhis departure for Tashkend.

  "To see her once and then to bury myself, to die," he thought, and as hewas paying farewell visits, he uttered this thought to Betsy. Chargedwith this commission, Betsy had gone to Anna, and brought him back anegative reply.

  "So much the better," thought Vronsky, when he received the news. "Itwas a weakness, which would have shattered what strength I have left."

  Next day Betsy herself came to him in the morning, and announced thatshe had heard through Oblonsky as a positive fact that AlexeyAlexandrovitch had agreed to a divorce, and that therefore Vronsky couldsee Anna.

  Without even troubling himself to see Betsy out of his flat, forgettingall his resolutions, without asking when he could see her, where herhusband was, Vronsky drove straight to the Karenins'. He ran up thestairs seeing no one and nothing, and with a rapid step, almost breakinginto a run, he went into her room. And without considering, withoutnoticing whether there was anyone in the room or not, he flung his armsround her, and began to cover her face, her hands, her neck with kisses.

  Anna had been preparing herself for this meeting, had thought what shewould say to him, but she did not succeed in saying anything of it; hispassion mastered her. She tried to calm him, to calm herself, but it wastoo late. His feeling infected her. Her lips trembled so that for a longwhile she could say nothing.

  "Yes, you have conquered me, and I am yours," she said at last, pressinghis hands to her bosom.

  "So it had to be," he said. "So long as we live, it must be so. I knowit now."

  "That's true," she said, getting whiter and whiter, and embracing hishead. "Still there is something terrible in it after all that hashappened."

  "It will all pass, it will all pass; we shall be so happy. Our love, ifit could be stronger, will be strengthened by there being somethingterrible in it," he said, lifting his head and parting his strong teethin a smile.

  And she could not but respond with a smile--not to his words, but to thelove in his eyes. She took his hand and stroked her chilled cheeks andcropped head with it.

  "I don't know you with this short hair. You've grown so pretty. A boy.But how pale you are!"

  "Yes, I'm very weak," she said, smiling. And her lips began tremblingagain.

  "We'll go to Italy; you will get strong," he said.

  "Can it be possible we could be like husband and wife, alone, yourfamily with you?" she said, looking close into his eyes.

  "It only seems strange to me that it can ever have been otherwise."

  "Stiva says that _he_ has agreed to everything, but I can't accept _his_generosity," she said, looking dreamily past Vronsky's face. "I don'twant a divorce; it's all the same to me now. Only I don't know what hewill decide about Seryozha."

  He could not conceive how at this moment of their meeting she couldremember and think of her son, of divorce. What did it all matter?

  "Don't speak of that, don't think of it," he said, turning her hand inhis, and trying to draw her attention to him; but still she did not lookat him.

  "Oh, why didn't I die! it would have been better," she said, and silenttears flowed down both her cheeks; but she tried to smile, so as not towound him.

  To decline the flattering and dangerous appointment at Tashkend wouldhave been, Vronsky had till then considered, disgraceful and impossible.But now, without an instant's consideration, he declined it, andobserving dissatisfaction in the most exalted quarters at this step, heimmediately retired from the army.

  A month later Alexey Alexandrovitch was left alone with his son in hishouse at Petersburg, while Anna and Vronsky had gone abroad, not havingobtained a divorce, but having absolutely declined all idea of one.

 
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