Anna karenina, p.180
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       Anna Karenina, p.180

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 23

  Dolly was wanting to go to bed when Anna came in to see her, attired forthe night. In the course of the day Anna had several times begun tospeak of matters near her heart, and every time after a few words shehad stopped: "Afterwards, by ourselves, we'll talk about everything.I've got so much I want to tell you," she said.

  Now they were by themselves, and Anna did not know what to talk about.She sat in the window looking at Dolly, and going over in her own mindall the stores of intimate talk which had seemed so inexhaustiblebeforehand, and she found nothing. At that moment it seemed to her thateverything had been said already.

  "Well, what of Kitty?" she said with a heavy sigh, looking penitently atDolly. "Tell me the truth, Dolly: isn't she angry with me?"

  "Angry? Oh, no!" said Darya Alexandrovna, smiling.

  "But she hates me, despises me?"

  "Oh, no! But you know that sort of thing isn't forgiven."

  "Yes, yes," said Anna, turning away and looking out of the open window."But I was not to blame. And who is to blame? What's the meaning ofbeing to blame? Could it have been otherwise? What do you think? Couldit possibly have happened that you didn't become the wife of Stiva?"

  "Really, I don't know. But this is what I want you to tell me..."

  "Yes, yes, but we've not finished about Kitty. Is she happy? He's a verynice man, they say."

  "He's much more than very nice. I don't know a better man."

  "Ah, how glad I am! I'm so glad! Much more than very nice," sherepeated.

  Dolly smiled.

  "But tell me about yourself. We've a great deal to talk about. And I'vehad a talk with..." Dolly did not know what to call him. She felt itawkward to call him either the count or Alexey Kirillovitch.

  "With Alexey," said Anna, "I know what you talked about. But I wanted toask you directly what you think of me, of my life?"

  "How am I to say like that straight off? I really don't know."

  "No, tell me all the same.... You see my life. But you mustn't forgetthat you're seeing us in the summer, when you have come to us and we arenot alone.... But we came here early in the spring, lived quite alone,and shall be alone again, and I desire nothing better. But imagine meliving alone without him, alone, and that will be ... I see byeverything that it will often be repeated, that he will be half the timeaway from home," she said, getting up and sitting down close by Dolly.

  "Of course," she interrupted Dolly, who would have answered, "of courseI won't try to keep him by force. I don't keep him indeed. The races arejust coming, his horses are running, he will go. I'm very glad. Butthink of me, fancy my position.... But what's the use of talking aboutit?" She smiled. "Well, what did he talk about with you?"

  "He spoke of what I want to speak about of myself, and it's easy for meto be his advocate; of whether there is not a possibility ... whetheryou could not..." (Darya Alexandrovna hesitated) "correct, improve yourposition.... You know how I look at it.... But all the same, ifpossible, you should get married...."

  "Divorce, you mean?" said Anna. "Do you know, the only woman who came tosee me in Petersburg was Betsy Tverskaya? You know her, of course? _Aufond, c'est la femme la plus depravee qui existe._ She had an intriguewith Tushkevitch, deceiving her husband in the basest way. And she toldme that she did not care to know me so long as my position wasirregular. Don't imagine I would compare ... I know you, darling. But Icould not help remembering.... Well, so what did he say to you?" sherepeated.

  "He said that he was unhappy on your account and his own. Perhaps youwill say that it's egoism, but what a legitimate and noble egoism. Hewants first of all to legitimize his daughter, and to be your husband,to have a legal right to you."

  "What wife, what slave can be so utterly a slave as I, in my position?"she put in gloomily.

  "The chief thing he desires ... he desires that you should not suffer."

  "That's impossible. Well?"

  "Well, and the most legitimate desire--he wishes that your childrenshould have a name."

  "What children?" Anna said, not looking at Dolly, and half closing hereyes.

  "Annie and those to come..."

  "He need not trouble on that score; I shall have no more children."

  "How can you tell that you won't?"

  "I shall not, because I don't wish it." And, in spite of all heremotion, Anna smiled, as she caught the naive expression of curiosity,wonder, and horror on Dolly's face.

  "The doctor told me after my illness..."

  "Impossible!" said Dolly, opening her eyes wide.

  For her this was one of those discoveries the consequences anddeductions from which are so immense that all that one feels for thefirst instant is that it is impossible to take it all in, and that onewill have to reflect a great, great deal upon it.

  This discovery, suddenly throwing light on all those families of one ortwo children, which had hitherto been so incomprehensible to her,aroused so many ideas, reflections, and contradictory emotions, that shehad nothing to say, and simply gazed with wide-open eyes of wonder atAnna. This was the very thing she had been dreaming of, but now learningthat it was possible, she was horrified. She felt that it was too simplea solution of too complicated a problem.

  _"N'est-ce pas immoral?"_ was all she said, after a brief pause.

  "Why so? Think, I have a choice between two alternatives: either to bewith child, that is an invalid, or to be the friend and companion of myhusband--practically my husband," Anna said in a tone intentionallysuperficial and frivolous.

  "Yes, yes," said Darya Alexandrovna, hearing the very arguments she hadused to herself, and not finding the same force in them as before.

  "For you, for other people," said Anna, as though divining her thoughts,"there may be reason to hesitate; but for me.... You must consider, I amnot his wife; he loves me as long as he loves me. And how am I to keephis love? Not like this!"

  She moved her white hands in a curve before her waist with extraordinaryrapidity, as happens during moments of excitement; ideas and memoriesrushed into Darya Alexandrovna's head. "I," she thought, "did not keepmy attraction for Stiva; he left me for others, and the first woman forwhom he betrayed me did not keep him by being always pretty and lively.He deserted her and took another. And can Anna attract and keep CountVronsky in that way? If that is what he looks for, he will find dressesand manners still more attractive and charming. And however white andbeautiful her bare arms are, however beautiful her full figure and hereager face under her black curls, he will find something better still,just as my disgusting, pitiful, and charming husband does."

  Dolly made no answer, she merely sighed. Anna noticed this sigh,indicating dissent, and she went on. In her armory she had otherarguments so strong that no answer could be made to them.

  "Do you say that it's not right? But you must consider," she went on;"you forget my position. How can I desire children? I'm not speaking ofthe suffering, I'm not afraid of that. Think only, what are my childrento be? Ill-fated children, who will have to bear a stranger's name. Forthe very fact of their birth they will be forced to be ashamed of theirmother, their father, their birth."

  "But that is just why a divorce is necessary." But Anna did not hearher. She longed to give utterance to all the arguments with which shehad so many times convinced herself.

  "What is reason given me for, if I am not to use it to avoid bringingunhappy beings into the world!" She looked at Dolly, but without waitingfor a reply she went on:

  "I should always feel I had wronged these unhappy children," she said."If they are not, at any rate they are not unhappy; while if they areunhappy, I alone should be to blame for it."

  These were the very arguments Darya Alexandrovna had used in her ownreflections; but she heard them without understanding them. "How can onewrong creatures that don't exist?" she thought. And all at once the ideastruck her: could it possibly, under any circumstances, have been betterfor her favorite Grisha if he had never existed? And this seemed to herso wild, so strange, that she shoo
k her head to drive away this tangleof whirling, mad ideas.

  "No, I don't know; it's not right," was all she said, with an expressionof disgust on her face.

  "Yes, but you mustn't forget that you and I.... And besides that," addedAnna, in spite of the wealth of her arguments and the poverty of Dolly'sobjections, seeming still to admit that it was not right, "don't forgetthe chief point, that I am not now in the same position as you. For youthe question is: do you desire not to have any more children; while forme it is: do I desire to have them? And that's a great difference. Youmust see that I can't desire it in my position."

  Darya Alexandrovna made no reply. She suddenly felt that she had got faraway from Anna; that there lay between them a barrier of questions onwhich they could never agree, and about which it was better not tospeak.

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