Anna karenina, p.147
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       Anna Karenina, p.147

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 23

  The Countess Lidia Ivanovna had, as a very young and sentimental girl,been married to a wealthy man of high rank, an extremely good-natured,jovial, and extremely dissipated rake. Two months after marriage herhusband abandoned her, and her impassioned protestations of affection hemet with a sarcasm and even hostility that people knowing the count'sgood heart, and seeing no defects in the sentimental Lidia, were at aloss to explain. Though they were divorced and lived apart, yet wheneverthe husband met the wife, he invariably behaved to her with the samemalignant irony, the cause of which was incomprehensible.

  Countess Lidia Ivanovna had long given up being in love with herhusband, but from that time she had never given up being in love withsomeone. She was in love with several people at once, both men andwomen; she had been in love with almost everyone who had beenparticularly distinguished in any way. She was in love with all the newprinces and princesses who married into the imperial family; she hadbeen in love with a high dignitary of the Church, a vicar, and a parishpriest; she had been in love with a journalist, three Slavophiles, withKomissarov, with a minister, a doctor, an English missionary andKarenin. All these passions constantly waning or growing more ardent,did not prevent her from keeping up the most extended and complicatedrelations with the court and fashionable society. But from the time thatafter Karenin's trouble she took him under her special protection, fromthe time that she set to work in Karenin's household looking after hiswelfare, she felt that all her other attachments were not the realthing, and that she was now genuinely in love, and with no one butKarenin. The feeling she now experienced for him seemed to her strongerthan any of her former feelings. Analyzing her feeling, and comparing itwith former passions, she distinctly perceived that she would not havebeen in love with Komissarov if he had not saved the life of the Tsar,that she would not have been in love with Ristitch-Kudzhitsky if therehad been no Slavonic question, but that she loved Karenin for himself,for his lofty, uncomprehended soul, for the sweet--to her--high notes ofhis voice, for his drawling intonation, his weary eyes, his character,and his soft white hands with their swollen veins. She was not simplyoverjoyed at meeting him, but she sought in his face signs of theimpression she was making on him. She tried to please him, not by herwords only, but in her whole person. For his sake it was that she nowlavished more care on her dress than before. She caught herself inreveries on what might have been, if she had not been married and he hadbeen free. She blushed with emotion when he came into the room, shecould not repress a smile of rapture when he said anything amiable toher.

  For several days now Countess Lidia Ivanovna had been in a state ofintense excitement. She had learned that Anna and Vronsky were inPetersburg. Alexey Alexandrovitch must be saved from seeing her, he mustbe saved even from the torturing knowledge that that awful woman was inthe same town with him, and that he might meet her any minute.

  Lidia Ivanovna made inquiries through her friends as to what those_infamous people_, as she called Anna and Vronsky, intended doing, andshe endeavored so to guide every movement of her friend during thosedays that he could not come across them. The young adjutant, anacquaintance of Vronsky, through whom she obtained her information, andwho hoped through Countess Lidia Ivanovna to obtain a concession, toldher that they had finished their business and were going away next day.Lidia Ivanovna had already begun to calm down, when the next morning anote was brought her, the handwriting of which she recognized withhorror. It was the handwriting of Anna Karenina. The envelope was ofpaper as thick as bark; on the oblong yellow paper there was a hugemonogram, and the letter smelt of agreeable scent.

  "Who brought it?"

  "A commissionaire from the hotel."

  It was some time before Countess Lidia Ivanovna could sit down to readthe letter. Her excitement brought on an attack of asthma, to which shewas subject. When she had recovered her composure, she read thefollowing letter in French:

  "Madame la Comtesse,

  "The Christian feelings with which your heart is filled give me the, I feel, unpardonable boldness to write to you. I am miserable at being separated from my son. I entreat permission to see him once before my departure. Forgive me for recalling myself to your memory. I apply to you and not to Alexey Alexandrovitch, simply because I do not wish to cause that generous man to suffer in remembering me. Knowing your friendship for him, I know you will understand me. Could you send Seryozha to me, or should I come to the house at some fixed hour, or will you let me know when and where I could see him away from home? I do not anticipate a refusal, knowing the magnanimity of him with whom it rests. You cannot conceive the craving I have to see him, and so cannot conceive the gratitude your help will arouse in me.

  Anna"

  Everything in this letter exasperated Countess Lidia Ivanovna: itscontents and the allusion to magnanimity, and especially its free andeasy--as she considered--tone.

  "Say that there is no answer," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, andimmediately opening her blotting-book, she wrote to AlexeyAlexandrovitch that she hoped to see him at one o'clock at the levee.

  "I must talk with you of a grave and painful subject. There we willarrange where to meet. Best of all at my house, where I will order tea_as you like it_. Urgent. He lays the cross, but He gives the strengthto bear it," she added, so as to give him some slight preparation.Countess Lidia Ivanovna usually wrote some two or three letters a day toAlexey Alexandrovitch. She enjoyed that form of communication, whichgave opportunity for a refinement and air of mystery not afforded bytheir personal interviews.

 

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