Anna karenina, p.145
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       Anna Karenina, p.145

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 21

  From the moment when Alexey Alexandrovitch understood from hisinterviews with Betsy and with Stepan Arkadyevitch that all that wasexpected of him was to leave his wife in peace, without burdening herwith his presence, and that his wife herself desired this, he felt sodistraught that he could come to no decision of himself; he did not knowhimself what he wanted now, and putting himself in the hands of thosewho were so pleased to interest themselves in his affairs, he meteverything with unqualified assent. It was only when Anna had left hishouse, and the English governess sent to ask him whether she should dinewith him or separately, that for the first time he clearly comprehendedhis position, and was appalled by it. Most difficult of all in thisposition was the fact that he could not in any way connect and reconcilehis past with what was now. It was not the past when he had livedhappily with his wife that troubled him. The transition from that pastto a knowledge of his wife's unfaithfulness he had lived throughmiserably already; that state was painful, but he could understand it.If his wife had then, on declaring to him her unfaithfulness, left him,he would have been wounded, unhappy, but he would not have been in thehopeless position--incomprehensible to himself--in which he felt himselfnow. He could not now reconcile his immediate past, his tenderness, hislove for his sick wife, and for the other man's child with what was nowthe case, that is with the fact that, as it were, in return for all thishe now found himself alone, put to shame, a laughing-stock, needed by noone, and despised by everyone.

  For the first two days after his wife's departure Alexey Alexandrovitchreceived applicants for assistance and his chief secretary, drove to thecommittee, and went down to dinner in the dining room as usual. Withoutgiving himself a reason for what he was doing, he strained every nerveof his being for those two days, simply to preserve an appearance ofcomposure, and even of indifference. Answering inquiries about thedisposition of Anna Arkadyevna's rooms and belongings, he had exercisedimmense self-control to appear like a man in whose eyes what hadoccurred was not unforeseen nor out of the ordinary course of events,and he attained his aim: no one could have detected in him signs ofdespair. But on the second day after her departure, when Korney gave hima bill from a fashionable draper's shop, which Anna had forgotten topay, and announced that the clerk from the shop was waiting, AlexeyAlexandrovitch told him to show the clerk up.

  "Excuse me, your excellency, for venturing to trouble you. But if youdirect us to apply to her excellency, would you graciously oblige uswith her address?"

  Alexey Alexandrovitch pondered, as it seemed to the clerk, and all atonce, turning round, he sat down at the table. Letting his head sinkinto his hands, he sat for a long while in that position, several timesattempted to speak and stopped short. Korney, perceiving his master'semotion, asked the clerk to call another time. Left alone, AlexeyAlexandrovitch recognized that he had not the strength to keep up theline of firmness and composure any longer. He gave orders for thecarriage that was awaiting him to be taken back, and for no one to beadmitted, and he did not go down to dinner.

  He felt that he could not endure the weight of universal contempt andexasperation, which he had distinctly seen in the face of the clerk andof Korney, and of everyone, without exception, whom he had met duringthose two days. He felt that he could not turn aside from himself thehatred of men, because that hatred did not come from his being bad (inthat case he could have tried to be better), but from his beingshamefully and repulsively unhappy. He knew that for this, for the veryfact that his heart was torn with grief, they would be merciless to him.He felt that men would crush him as dogs strangle a torn dog yelpingwith pain. He knew that his sole means of security against people was tohide his wounds from them, and instinctively he tried to do this for twodays, but now he felt incapable of keeping up the unequal struggle.

  His despair was even intensified by the consciousness that he wasutterly alone in his sorrow. In all Petersburg there was not a humanbeing to whom he could express what he was feeling, who would feel forhim, not as a high official, not as a member of society, but simply as asuffering man; indeed he had not such a one in the whole world.

  Alexey Alexandrovitch grew up an orphan. There were two brothers. Theydid not remember their father, and their mother died when AlexeyAlexandrovitch was ten years old. The property was a small one. Theiruncle, Karenin, a government official of high standing, at one time afavorite of the late Tsar, had brought them up.

  On completing his high school and university courses with medals, AlexeyAlexandrovitch had, with his uncle's aid, immediately started in aprominent position in the service, and from that time forward he haddevoted himself exclusively to political ambition. In the high schooland the university, and afterwards in the service, Alexey Alexandrovitchhad never formed a close friendship with anyone. His brother had beenthe person nearest to his heart, but he had a post in the Ministry ofForeign Affairs, and was always abroad, where he had died shortly afterAlexey Alexandrovitch's marriage.

  While he was governor of a province, Anna's aunt, a wealthy provinciallady, had thrown him--middle-aged as he was, though young for agovernor--with her niece, and had succeeded in putting him in such aposition that he had either to declare himself or to leave the town.Alexey Alexandrovitch was not long in hesitation. There were at the timeas many reasons for the step as against it, and there was nooverbalancing consideration to outweigh his invariable rule ofabstaining when in doubt. But Anna's aunt had through a commonacquaintance insinuated that he had already compromised the girl, andthat he was in honor bound to make her an offer. He made the offer, andconcentrated on his betrothed and his wife all the feeling of which hewas capable.

  The attachment he felt to Anna precluded in his heart every need ofintimate relations with others. And now among all his acquaintances hehad not one friend. He had plenty of so-called connections, but nofriendships. Alexey Alexandrovitch had plenty of people whom he couldinvite to dinner, to whose sympathy he could appeal in any public affairhe was concerned about, whose interest he could reckon upon for anyonehe wished to help, with whom he could candidly discuss other people'sbusiness and affairs of state. But his relations with these people wereconfined to one clearly defined channel, and had a certain routine fromwhich it was impossible to depart. There was one man, a comrade of hisat the university, with whom he had made friends later, and with whom hecould have spoken of a personal sorrow; but this friend had a post inthe Department of Education in a remote part of Russia. Of the people inPetersburg the most intimate and most possible were his chief secretaryand his doctor.

  Mihail Vassilievitch Sludin, the chief secretary, was a straightforward,intelligent, good-hearted, and conscientious man, and AlexeyAlexandrovitch was aware of his personal goodwill. But their five yearsof official work together seemed to have put a barrier between them thatcut off warmer relations.

  After signing the papers brought him, Alexey Alexandrovitch had sat fora long while in silence, glancing at Mihail Vassilievitch, and severaltimes he attempted to speak, but could not. He had already prepared thephrase: "You have heard of my trouble?" But he ended by saying, asusual: "So you'll get this ready for me?" and with that dismissed him.

  The other person was the doctor, who had also a kindly feeling for him;but there had long existed a taciturn understanding between them thatboth were weighed down by work, and always in a hurry.

  Of his women friends, foremost amongst them Countess Lidia Ivanovna,Alexey Alexandrovitch never thought. All women, simply as women, wereterrible and distasteful to him.

 

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