Anna karenina, p.207
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       Anna Karenina, p.207

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 18

  "Now there is something I want to talk about, and you know what it is.About Anna," Stepan Arkadyevitch said, pausing for a brief space, andshaking off the unpleasant impression.

  As soon as Oblonsky uttered Anna's name, the face of AlexeyAlexandrovitch was completely transformed; all the life was gone out ofit, and it looked weary and dead.

  "What is it exactly that you want from me?" he said, moving in his chairand snapping his pince-nez.

  "A definite settlement, Alexey Alexandrovitch, some settlement of theposition. I'm appealing to you" ("not as an injured husband," StepanArkadyevitch was going to say, but afraid of wrecking his negotiation bythis, he changed the words) "not as a statesman" (which did not sound _apropos_), "but simply as a man, and a good-hearted man and a Christian.You must have pity on her," he said.

  "That is, in what way precisely?" Karenin said softly.

  "Yes, pity on her. If you had seen her as I have!--I have been spendingall the winter with her--you would have pity on her. Her position isawful, simply awful!"

  "I had imagined," answered Alexey Alexandrovitch in a higher, almostshrill voice, "that Anna Arkadyevna had everything she had desired forherself."

  "Oh, Alexey Alexandrovitch, for heaven's sake, don't let us indulge inrecriminations! What is past is past, and you know what she wants and iswaiting for--divorce."

  "But I believe Anna Arkadyevna refuses a divorce, if I make it acondition to leave me my son. I replied in that sense, and supposed thatthe matter was ended. I consider it at an end," shrieked AlexeyAlexandrovitch.

  "But, for heaven's sake, don't get hot!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch,touching his brother-in-law's knee. "The matter is not ended. If youwill allow me to recapitulate, it was like this: when you parted, youwere as magnanimous as could possibly be; you were ready to give hereverything--freedom, divorce even. She appreciated that. No, don't thinkthat. She did appreciate it--to such a degree that at the first moment,feeling how she had wronged you, she did not consider and could notconsider everything. She gave up everything. But experience, time, haveshown that her position is unbearable, impossible."

  "The life of Anna Arkadyevna can have no interest for me," AlexeyAlexandrovitch put in, lifting his eyebrows.

  "Allow me to disbelieve that," Stepan Arkadyevitch replied gently. "Herposition is intolerable for her, and of no benefit to anyone whatever.She has deserved it, you will say. She knows that and asks you fornothing; she says plainly that she dare not ask you. But I, all of us,her relatives, all who love her, beg you, entreat you. Why should shesuffer? Who is any the better for it?"

  "Excuse me, you seem to put me in the position of the guilty party,"observed Alexey Alexandrovitch.

  "Oh, no, oh, no, not at all! please understand me," said StepanArkadyevitch, touching his hand again, as though feeling sure thisphysical contact would soften his brother-in-law. "All I say is this:her position is intolerable, and it might be alleviated by you, and youwill lose nothing by it. I will arrange it all for you, so that you'llnot notice it. You did promise it, you know."

  "The promise was given before. And I had supposed that the question ofmy son had settled the matter. Besides, I had hoped that Anna Arkadyevnahad enough generosity..." Alexey Alexandrovitch articulated withdifficulty, his lips twitching and his face white.

  "She leaves it all to your generosity. She begs, she implores one thingof you--to extricate her from the impossible position in which she isplaced. She does not ask for her son now. Alexey Alexandrovitch, you area good man. Put yourself in her position for a minute. The question ofdivorce for her in her position is a question of life and death. If youhad not promised it once, she would have reconciled herself to herposition, she would have gone on living in the country. But you promisedit, and she wrote to you, and moved to Moscow. And here she's been forsix months in Moscow, where every chance meeting cuts her to the heart,every day expecting an answer. Why, it's like keeping a condemnedcriminal for six months with the rope round his neck, promising himperhaps death, perhaps mercy. Have pity on her, and I will undertake toarrange everything. _Vos scrupules_..."

  "I am not talking about that, about that..." Alexey Alexandrovitchinterrupted with disgust. "But, perhaps, I promised what I had no rightto promise."

  "So you go back from your promise?"

  "I have never refused to do all that is possible, but I want time toconsider how much of what I promised is possible."

  "No, Alexey Alexandrovitch!" cried Oblonsky, jumping up, "I won'tbelieve that! She's unhappy as only an unhappy woman can be, and youcannot refuse in such..."

  "As much of what I promised as is possible. _Vous professez d'etre librepenseur._ But I as a believer cannot, in a matter of such gravity, actin opposition to the Christian law."

  "But in Christian societies and among us, as far as I'm aware, divorceis allowed," said Stepan Arkadyevitch. "Divorce is sanctioned even byour church. And we see..."

  "It is allowed, but not in the sense..."

  "Alexey Alexandrovitch, you are not like yourself," said Oblonsky, aftera brief pause. "Wasn't it you (and didn't we all appreciate it in you?)who forgave everything, and moved simply by Christian feeling was readyto make any sacrifice? You said yourself: if a man take thy coat, givehim thy cloak also, and now..."

  "I beg," said Alexey Alexandrovitch shrilly, getting suddenly onto hisfeet, his face white and his jaws twitching, "I beg you to drop this drop ... this subject!"

  "Oh, no! Oh, forgive me, forgive me if I have wounded you," said StepanArkadyevitch, holding out his hand with a smile of embarrassment; "butlike a messenger I have simply performed the commission given me."

  Alexey Alexandrovitch gave him his hand, pondered a little, and said:

  "I must think it over and seek for guidance. The day after tomorrow Iwill give you a final answer," he said, after considering a moment.

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