Anna karenina, p.19
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       Anna Karenina, p.19

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 19

  When Anna went into the room, Dolly was sitting in the littledrawing-room with a white-headed fat little boy, already like hisfather, giving him a lesson in French reading. As the boy read, he kepttwisting and trying to tear off a button that was nearly off his jacket.His mother had several times taken his hand from it, but the fat littlehand went back to the button again. His mother pulled the button off andput it in her pocket.

  "Keep your hands still, Grisha," she said, and she took up her work, acoverlet she had long been making. She always set to work on it atdepressed moments, and now she knitted at it nervously, twitching herfingers and counting the stitches. Though she had sent word the daybefore to her husband that it was nothing to her whether his sister cameor not, she had made everything ready for her arrival, and was expectingher sister-in-law with emotion.

  Dolly was crushed by her sorrow, utterly swallowed up by it. Still shedid not forget that Anna, her sister-in-law, was the wife of one of themost important personages in Petersburg, and was a Petersburg _grandedame_. And, thanks to this circumstance, she did not carry out herthreat to her husband--that is to say, she remembered that hersister-in-law was coming. "And, after all, Anna is in no wise to blame,"thought Dolly. "I know nothing of her except the very best, and I haveseen nothing but kindness and affection from her towards myself." It wastrue that as far as she could recall her impressions at Petersburg atthe Karenins', she did not like their household itself; there wassomething artificial in the whole framework of their family life. "Butwhy should I not receive her? If only she doesn't take it into her headto console me!" thought Dolly. "All consolation and counsel andChristian forgiveness, all that I have thought over a thousand times,and it's all no use."

  All these days Dolly had been alone with her children. She did not wantto talk of her sorrow, but with that sorrow in her heart she could nottalk of outside matters. She knew that in one way or another she wouldtell Anna everything, and she was alternately glad at the thought ofspeaking freely, and angry at the necessity of speaking of herhumiliation with her, his sister, and of hearing her ready-made phrasesof good advice and comfort. She had been on the lookout for her,glancing at her watch every minute, and, as so often happens, let slipjust that minute when her visitor arrived, so that she did not hear thebell.

  Catching a sound of skirts and light steps at the door, she lookedround, and her care-worn face unconsciously expressed not gladness, butwonder. She got up and embraced her sister-in-law.

  "What, here already!" she said as she kissed her.

  "Dolly, how glad I am to see you!"

  "I am glad, too," said Dolly, faintly smiling, and trying by theexpression of Anna's face to find out whether she knew. "Most likely sheknows," she thought, noticing the sympathy in Anna's face. "Well, comealong, I'll take you to your room," she went on, trying to defer as longas possible the moment of confidences.

  "Is this Grisha? Heavens, how he's grown!" said Anna; and kissing him,never taking her eyes off Dolly, she stood still and flushed a little."No, please, let us stay here."

  She took off her kerchief and her hat, and catching it in a lock of herblack hair, which was a mass of curls, she tossed her head and shook herhair down.

  "You are radiant with health and happiness!" said Dolly, almost withenvy.

  "I?.... Yes," said Anna. "Merciful heavens, Tanya! You're the same ageas my Seryozha," she added, addressing the little girl as she ran in.She took her in her arms and kissed her. "Delightful child, delightful!Show me them all."

  She mentioned them, not only remembering the names, but the years,months, characters, illnesses of all the children, and Dolly could notbut appreciate that.

  "Very well, we will go to them," she said. "It's a pity Vassya'sasleep."

  After seeing the children, they sat down, alone now, in the drawingroom, to coffee. Anna took the tray, and then pushed it away from her.

  "Dolly," she said, "he has told me."

  Dolly looked coldly at Anna; she was waiting now for phrases ofconventional sympathy, but Anna said nothing of the sort.

  "Dolly, dear," she said, "I don't want to speak for him to you, nor totry to comfort you; that's impossible. But, darling, I'm simply sorry,sorry from my heart for you!"

  Under the thick lashes of her shining eyes tears suddenly glittered. Shemoved nearer to her sister-in-law and took her hand in her vigorouslittle hand. Dolly did not shrink away, but her face did not lose itsfrigid expression. She said:

  "To comfort me's impossible. Everything's lost after what has happened,everything's over!"

  And directly she had said this, her face suddenly softened. Anna liftedthe wasted, thin hand of Dolly, kissed it and said:

  "But, Dolly, what's to be done, what's to be done? How is it best to actin this awful position--that's what you must think of."

  "All's over, and there's nothing more," said Dolly. "And the worst ofall is, you see, that I can't cast him off: there are the children, I amtied. And I can't live with him! it's a torture to me to see him."

  "Dolly, darling, he has spoken to me, but I want to hear it from you:tell me about it."

  Dolly looked at her inquiringly.

  Sympathy and love unfeigned were visible on Anna's face.

  "Very well," she said all at once. "But I will tell you it from thebeginning. You know how I was married. With the education mamma gave usI was more than innocent, I was stupid. I knew nothing. I know they saymen tell their wives of their former lives, but Stiva"--she correctedherself--"Stepan Arkadyevitch told me nothing. You'll hardly believe it,but till now I imagined that I was the only woman he had known. So Ilived eight years. You must understand that I was so far from suspectinginfidelity, I regarded it as impossible, and then--try to imagineit--with such ideas, to find out suddenly all the horror, all theloathsomeness.... You must try and understand me. To be fully convincedof one's happiness, and all at once..." continued Dolly, holding backher sobs, "to get a letter ... his letter to his mistress, my governess.No, it's too awful!" She hastily pulled out her handkerchief and hid herface in it. "I can understand being carried away by feeling," she wenton after a brief silence, "but deliberately, slyly deceiving me ... andwith whom?... To go on being my husband together with her ... it'sawful! You can't understand..."

  "Oh, yes, I understand! I understand! Dolly, dearest, I do understand,"said Anna, pressing her hand.

  "And do you imagine he realizes all the awfulness of my position?" Dollyresumed. "Not the slightest! He's happy and contented."

  "Oh, no!" Anna interposed quickly. "He's to be pitied, he's weighed downby remorse..."

  "Is he capable of remorse?" Dolly interrupted, gazing intently into hersister-in-law's face.

  "Yes. I know him. I could not look at him without feeling sorry for him.We both know him. He's good-hearted, but he's proud, and now he's sohumiliated. What touched me most..." (and here Anna guessed what wouldtouch Dolly most) "he's tortured by two things: that he's ashamed forthe children's sake, and that, loving you--yes, yes, loving you beyondeverything on earth," she hurriedly interrupted Dolly, who would haveanswered--"he has hurt you, pierced you to the heart. 'No, no, shecannot forgive me,' he keeps saying."

  Dolly looked dreamily away beyond her sister-in-law as she listened toher words.

  "Yes, I can see that his position is awful; it's worse for the guiltythan the innocent," she said, "if he feels that all the misery comesfrom his fault. But how am I to forgive him, how am I to be his wifeagain after her? For me to live with him now would be torture, justbecause I love my past love for him..."

  And sobs cut short her words. But as though of set design, each time shewas softened she began to speak again of what exasperated her.

  "She's young, you see, she's pretty," she went on. "Do you know, Anna,my youth and my beauty are gone, taken by whom? By him and his children.I have worked for him, and all I had has gone in his service, and now ofcourse any fresh, vulgar creature has more charm for him. No doubt theytalked of me together, or, worse
still, they were silent. Do youunderstand?"

  Again her eyes glowed with hatred.

  "And after that he will tell me.... What! can I believe him? Never! No,everything is over, everything that once made my comfort, the reward ofmy work, and my sufferings.... Would you believe it, I was teachingGrisha just now: once this was a joy to me, now it is a torture. Whathave I to strive and toil for? Why are the children here? What's soawful is that all at once my heart's turned, and instead of love andtenderness, I have nothing but hatred for him; yes, hatred. I could killhim."

  "Darling Dolly, I understand, but don't torture yourself. You are sodistressed, so overwrought, that you look at many things mistakenly."

  Dolly grew calmer, and for two minutes both were silent.

  "What's to be done? Think for me, Anna, help me. I have thought overeverything, and I see nothing."

  Anna could think of nothing, but her heart responded instantly to eachword, to each change of expression of her sister-in-law.

  "One thing I would say," began Anna. "I am his sister, I know hischaracter, that faculty of forgetting everything, everything" (she wavedher hand before her forehead), "that faculty for being completelycarried away, but for completely repenting too. He cannot believe it, hecannot comprehend now how he can have acted as he did."

  "No; he understands, he understood!" Dolly broke in. "But I ... you areforgetting me ... does it make it easier for me?"

  "Wait a minute. When he told me, I will own I did not realize all theawfulness of your position. I saw nothing but him, and that the familywas broken up. I felt sorry for him, but after talking to you, I see it,as a woman, quite differently. I see your agony, and I can't tell youhow sorry I am for you! But, Dolly, darling, I fully realize yoursufferings, only there is one thing I don't know; I don't know ... Idon't know how much love there is still in your heart for him. That youknow--whether there is enough for you to be able to forgive him. Ifthere is, forgive him!"

  "No," Dolly was beginning, but Anna cut her short, kissing her hand oncemore.

  "I know more of the world than you do," she said. "I know how men likeStiva look at it. You speak of his talking of you with her. That neverhappened. Such men are unfaithful, but their home and wife are sacred tothem. Somehow or other these women are still looked on with contempt bythem, and do not touch on their feeling for their family. They draw asort of line that can't be crossed between them and their families. Idon't understand it, but it is so."

  "Yes, but he has kissed her..."

  "Dolly, hush, darling. I saw Stiva when he was in love with you. Iremember the time when he came to me and cried, talking of you, and allthe poetry and loftiness of his feeling for you, and I know that thelonger he has lived with you the loftier you have been in his eyes. Youknow we have sometimes laughed at him for putting in at every word:'Dolly's a marvelous woman.' You have always been a divinity for him,and you are that still, and this has not been an infidelity of theheart..."

  "But if it is repeated?"

  "It cannot be, as I understand it..."

  "Yes, but could you forgive it?"

  "I don't know, I can't judge.... Yes, I can," said Anna, thinking amoment; and grasping the position in her thought and weighing it in herinner balance, she added: "Yes, I can, I can, I can. Yes, I couldforgive it. I could not be the same, no; but I could forgive it, andforgive it as though it had never been, never been at all..."

  "Oh, of course," Dolly interposed quickly, as though saying what she hadmore than once thought, "else it would not be forgiveness. If oneforgives, it must be completely, completely. Come, let us go; I'll takeyou to your room," she said, getting up, and on the way she embracedAnna. "My dear, how glad I am you came. It has made things better, everso much better."

 

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