Anna karenina, p.153
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       Anna Karenina, p.153

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 29

  One of Anna's objects in coming back to Russia had been to see her son.From the day she left Italy the thought of it had never ceased toagitate her. And as she got nearer to Petersburg, the delight andimportance of this meeting grew ever greater in her imagination. She didnot even put to herself the question how to arrange it. It seemed to hernatural and simple to see her son when she should be in the same townwith him. But on her arrival in Petersburg she was suddenly madedistinctly aware of her present position in society, and she grasped thefact that to arrange this meeting was no easy matter.

  She had now been two days in Petersburg. The thought of her son neverleft her for a single instant, but she had not yet seen him. To gostraight to the house, where she might meet Alexey Alexandrovitch, thatshe felt she had no right to do. She might be refused admittance andinsulted. To write and so enter into relations with her husband--that itmade her miserable to think of doing; she could only be at peace whenshe did not think of her husband. To get a glimpse of her son outwalking, finding out where and when he went out, was not enough for her;she had so looked forward to this meeting, she had so much she must sayto him, she so longed to embrace him, to kiss him. Seryozha's old nursemight be a help to her and show her what to do. But the nurse was notnow living in Alexey Alexandrovitch's house. In this uncertainty, and inefforts to find the nurse, two days had slipped by.

  Hearing of the close intimacy between Alexey Alexandrovitch and CountessLidia Ivanovna, Anna decided on the third day to write to her a letter,which cost her great pains, and in which she intentionally said thatpermission to see her son must depend on her husband's generosity. Sheknew that if the letter were shown to her husband, he would keep up hischaracter of magnanimity, and would not refuse her request.

  The commissionaire who took the letter had brought her back the mostcruel and unexpected answer, that there was no answer. She had neverfelt so humiliated as at the moment when, sending for thecommissionaire, she heard from him the exact account of how he hadwaited, and how afterwards he had been told there was no answer. Annafelt humiliated, insulted, but she saw that from her point of viewCountess Lidia Ivanovna was right. Her suffering was the more poignantthat she had to bear it in solitude. She could not and would not shareit with Vronsky. She knew that to him, although he was the primary causeof her distress, the question of her seeing her son would seem a matterof very little consequence. She knew that he would never be capable ofunderstanding all the depth of her suffering, that for his cool tone atany allusion to it she would begin to hate him. And she dreaded thatmore than anything in the world, and so she hid from him everything thatrelated to her son. Spending the whole day at home she considered waysof seeing her son, and had reached a decision to write to her husband.She was just composing this letter when she was handed the letter fromLidia Ivanovna. The countess's silence had subdued and depressed her,but the letter, all that she read between the lines in it, soexasperated her, this malice was so revolting beside her passionate,legitimate tenderness for her son, that she turned against other peopleand left off blaming herself.

  "This coldness--this pretense of feeling!" she said to herself. "Theymust needs insult me and torture the child, and I am to submit to it!Not on any consideration! She is worse than I am. I don't lie, anyway."And she decided on the spot that next day, Seryozha's birthday, shewould go straight to her husband's house, bribe or deceive the servants,but at any cost see her son and overturn the hideous deception withwhich they were encompassing the unhappy child.

  She went to a toy shop, bought toys and thought over a plan of action.She would go early in the morning at eight o'clock, when AlexeyAlexandrovitch would be certain not to be up. She would have money inher hand to give the hall porter and the footman, so that they shouldlet her in, and not raising her veil, she would say that she had comefrom Seryozha's godfather to congratulate him, and that she had beencharged to leave the toys at his bedside. She had prepared everythingbut the words she should say to her son. Often as she had dreamed of it,she could never think of anything.

  The next day, at eight o'clock in the morning, Anna got out of a hiredsledge and rang at the front entrance of her former home.

  "Run and see what's wanted. Some lady," said Kapitonitch, who, not yetdressed, in his overcoat and galoshes, had peeped out of the window andseen a lady in a veil standing close up to the door. His assistant, alad Anna did not know, had no sooner opened the door to her than shecame in, and pulling a three-rouble note out of her muff put ithurriedly into his hand.

  "Seryozha--Sergey Alexeitch," she said, and was going on. Scrutinizingthe note, the porter's assistant stopped her at the second glass door.

  "Whom do you want?" he asked.

  She did not hear his words and made no answer.

  Noticing the embarrassment of the unknown lady, Kapitonitch went out toher, opened the second door for her, and asked her what she was pleasedto want.

  "From Prince Skorodumov for Sergey Alexeitch," she said.

  "His honor's not up yet," said the porter, looking at her attentively.

  Anna had not anticipated that the absolutely unchanged hall of the housewhere she had lived for nine years would so greatly affect her. Memoriessweet and painful rose one after another in her heart, and for a momentshe forgot what she was here for.

  "Would you kindly wait?" said Kapitonitch, taking off her fur cloak.

  As he took off the cloak, Kapitonitch glanced at her face, recognizedher, and made her a low bow in silence.

  "Please walk in, your excellency," he said to her.

  She tried to say something, but her voice refused to utter any sound;with a guilty and imploring glance at the old man she went with light,swift steps up the stairs. Bent double, and his galoshes catching in thesteps, Kapitonitch ran after her, trying to overtake her.

  "The tutor's there; maybe he's not dressed. I'll let him know."

  Anna still mounted the familiar staircase, not understanding what theold man was saying.

  "This way, to the left, if you please. Excuse its not being tidy. Hishonor's in the old parlor now," the hall porter said, panting. "Excuseme, wait a little, your excellency; I'll just see," he said, andovertaking her, he opened the high door and disappeared behind it. Annastood still waiting. "He's only just awake," said the hall porter,coming out. And at the very instant the porter said this, Anna caughtthe sound of a childish yawn. From the sound of this yawn alone she knewher son and seemed to see him living before her eyes.

  "Let me in; go away!" she said, and went in through the high doorway. Onthe right of the door stood a bed, and sitting up in the bed was theboy. His little body bent forward with his nightshirt unbuttoned, he wasstretching and still yawning. The instant his lips came together theycurved into a blissfully sleepy smile, and with that smile he slowly anddeliciously rolled back again.

  "Seryozha!" she whispered, going noiselessly up to him.

  When she was parted from him, and all this latter time when she had beenfeeling a fresh rush of love for him, she had pictured him as he was atfour years old, when she had loved him most of all. Now he was not eventhe same as when she had left him; he was still further from thefour-year-old baby, more grown and thinner. How thin his face was, howshort his hair was! What long hands! How he had changed since she lefthim! But it was he with his head, his lips, his soft neck and broadlittle shoulders.

  "Seryozha!" she repeated just in the child's ear.

  He raised himself again on his elbow, turned his tangled head from sideto side as though looking for something, and opened his eyes. Slowly andinquiringly he looked for several seconds at his mother standingmotionless before him, then all at once he smiled a blissful smile, andshutting his eyes, rolled not backwards but towards her into her arms.

  "Seryozha! my darling boy!" she said, breathing hard and putting herarms round his plump little body. "Mother!" he said, wriggling about inher arms so as to touch her hands with different parts of him.

  Smiling sleepily still with clo
sed eyes, he flung fat little arms roundher shoulders, rolled towards her, with the delicious sleepy warmth andfragrance that is only found in children, and began rubbing his faceagainst her neck and shoulders.

  "I know," he said, opening his eyes; "it's my birthday today. I knewyou'd come. I'll get up directly."

  And saying that he dropped asleep.

  Anna looked at him hungrily; she saw how he had grown and changed in herabsence. She knew, and did not know, the bare legs so long now, thatwere thrust out below the quilt, those short-cropped curls on his neckin which she had so often kissed him. She touched all this and could saynothing; tears choked her.

  "What are you crying for, mother?" he said, waking completely up."Mother, what are you crying for?" he cried in a tearful voice.

  "I won't cry ... I'm crying for joy. It's so long since I've seen you. Iwon't, I won't," she said, gulping down her tears and turning away."Come, it's time for you to dress now," she added, after a pause, and,never letting go his hands, she sat down by his bedside on the chair,where his clothes were put ready for him.

  "How do you dress without me? How..." she tried to begin talking simplyand cheerfully, but she could not, and again she turned away.

  "I don't have a cold bath, papa didn't order it. And you've not seenVassily Lukitch? He'll come in soon. Why, you're sitting on my clothes!"

  And Seryozha went off into a peal of laughter. She looked at him andsmiled.

  "Mother, darling, sweet one!" he shouted, flinging himself on her againand hugging her. It was as though only now, on seeing her smile, hefully grasped what had happened.

  "I don't want that on," he said, taking off her hat. And as it were,seeing her afresh without her hat, he fell to kissing her again.

  "But what did you think about me? You didn't think I was dead?"

  "I never believed it."

  "You didn't believe it, my sweet?"

  "I knew, I knew!" he repeated his favorite phrase, and snatching thehand that was stroking his hair, he pressed the open palm to his mouthand kissed it.

 
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