Anna karenina, p.132
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       Anna Karenina, p.132

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 8

  Anna, in that first period of her emancipation and rapid return tohealth, felt herself unpardonably happy and full of the joy of life. Thethought of her husband's unhappiness did not poison her happiness. Onone side that memory was too awful to be thought of. On the other sideher husband's unhappiness had given her too much happiness to beregretted. The memory of all that had happened after her illness: herreconciliation with her husband, its breakdown, the news of Vronsky'swound, his visit, the preparations for divorce, the departure from herhusband's house, the parting from her son--all that seemed to her like adelirious dream, from which she had waked up alone with Vronsky abroad.The thought of the harm caused to her husband aroused in her a feelinglike repulsion, and akin to what a drowning man might feel who hasshaken off another man clinging to him. That man did drown. It was anevil action, of course, but it was the sole means of escape, and betternot to brood over these fearful facts.

  One consolatory reflection upon her conduct had occurred to her at thefirst moment of the final rupture, and when now she recalled all thepast, she remembered that one reflection. "I have inevitably made thatman wretched," she thought; "but I don't want to profit by his misery. Itoo am suffering, and shall suffer; I am losing what I prized aboveeverything--I am losing my good name and my son. I have done wrong, andso I don't want happiness, I don't want a divorce, and shall suffer frommy shame and the separation from my child." But, however sincerely Annahad meant to suffer, she was not suffering. Shame there was not. Withthe tact of which both had such a large share, they had succeeded inavoiding Russian ladies abroad, and so had never placed themselves in afalse position, and everywhere they had met people who pretended thatthey perfectly understood their position, far better indeed than theydid themselves. Separation from the son she loved--even that did notcause her anguish in these early days. The baby girl--_his_ child--wasso sweet, and had so won Anna's heart, since she was all that was lefther, that Anna rarely thought of her son.

  The desire for life, waxing stronger with recovered health, was sointense, and the conditions of life were so new and pleasant, that Annafelt unpardonably happy. The more she got to know Vronsky, the more sheloved him. She loved him for himself, and for his love for her. Hercomplete ownership of him was a continual joy to her. His presence wasalways sweet to her. All the traits of his character, which she learnedto know better and better, were unutterably dear to her. His appearance,changed by his civilian dress, was as fascinating to her as though shewere some young girl in love. In everything he said, thought, and did,she saw something particularly noble and elevated. Her adoration of himalarmed her indeed; she sought and could not find in him anything notfine. She dared not show him her sense of her own insignificance besidehim. It seemed to her that, knowing this, he might sooner cease to loveher; and she dreaded nothing now so much as losing his love, though shehad no grounds for fearing it. But she could not help being grateful tohim for his attitude to her, and showing that she appreciated it. He,who had in her opinion such a marked aptitude for a political career, inwhich he would have been certain to play a leading part--he hadsacrificed his ambition for her sake, and never betrayed the slightestregret. He was more lovingly respectful to her than ever, and theconstant care that she should not feel the awkwardness of her positionnever deserted him for a single instant. He, so manly a man, neveropposed her, had indeed, with her, no will of his own, and was anxious,it seemed, for nothing but to anticipate her wishes. And she could notbut appreciate this, even though the very intensity of his solicitudefor her, the atmosphere of care with which he surrounded her, sometimesweighed upon her.

  Vronsky, meanwhile, in spite of the complete realization of what he hadso long desired, was not perfectly happy. He soon felt that therealization of his desires gave him no more than a grain of sand out ofthe mountain of happiness he had expected. It showed him the mistake menmake in picturing to themselves happiness as the realization of theirdesires. For a time after joining his life to hers, and putting oncivilian dress, he had felt all the delight of freedom in general ofwhich he had known nothing before, and of freedom in his love,--and hewas content, but not for long. He was soon aware that there wasspringing up in his heart a desire for desires--_ennui_. Withoutconscious intention he began to clutch at every passing caprice, takingit for a desire and an object. Sixteen hours of the day must be occupiedin some way, since they were living abroad in complete freedom, outsidethe conditions of social life which filled up time in Petersburg. As forthe amusements of bachelor existence, which had provided Vronsky withentertainment on previous tours abroad, they could not be thought of,since the sole attempt of the sort had led to a sudden attack ofdepression in Anna, quite out of proportion with the cause--a latesupper with bachelor friends. Relations with the society of theplace--foreign and Russian--were equally out of the question owing tothe irregularity of their position. The inspection of objects ofinterest, apart from the fact that everything had been seen already, hadnot for Vronsky, a Russian and a sensible man, the immense significanceEnglishmen are able to attach to that pursuit.

  And just as the hungry stomach eagerly accepts every object it can get,hoping to find nourishment in it, Vronsky quite unconsciously clutchedfirst at politics, then at new books, and then at pictures.

  As he had from a child a taste for painting, and as, not knowing what tospend his money on, he had begun collecting engravings, he came to astop at painting, began to take interest in it, and concentrated upon itthe unoccupied mass of desires which demanded satisfaction.

  He had a ready appreciation of art, and probably, with a taste forimitating art, he supposed himself to have the real thing essential foran artist, and after hesitating for some time which style of painting toselect--religious, historical, realistic, or genre painting--he set towork to paint. He appreciated all kinds, and could have felt inspired byany one of them; but he had no conception of the possibility of knowingnothing at all of any school of painting, and of being inspired directlyby what is within the soul, without caring whether what is painted willbelong to any recognized school. Since he knew nothing of this, and drewhis inspiration, not directly from life, but indirectly from lifeembodied in art, his inspiration came very quickly and easily, and asquickly and easily came his success in painting something very similarto the sort of painting he was trying to imitate.

  More than any other style he liked the French--graceful andeffective--and in that style he began to paint Anna's portrait inItalian costume, and the portrait seemed to him, and to everyone who sawit, extremely successful.

 
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