Anna karenina, p.213
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       Anna Karenina, p.213

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 24

  "Well, was it nice?" she asked, coming out to meet him with a penitentand meek expression.

  "Just as usual," he answered, seeing at a glance that she was in one ofher good moods. He was used by now to these transitions, and he wasparticularly glad to see it today, as he was in a specially good humorhimself.

  "What do I see? Come, that's good!" he said, pointing to the boxes inthe passage.

  "Yes, we must go. I went out for a drive, and it was so fine I longed tobe in the country. There's nothing to keep you, is there?"

  "It's the one thing I desire. I'll be back directly, and we'll talk itover; I only want to change my coat. Order some tea."

  And he went into his room.

  There was something mortifying in the way he had said "Come, that'sgood," as one says to a child when it leaves off being naughty, andstill more mortifying was the contrast between her penitent and hisself-confident tone; and for one instant she felt the lust of striferising up in her again, but making an effort she conquered it, and metVronsky as good-humoredly as before.

  When he came in she told him, partly repeating phrases she had preparedbeforehand, how she had spent the day, and her plans for going away.

  "You know it came to me almost like an inspiration," she said. "Why waithere for the divorce? Won't it be just the same in the country? I can'twait any longer! I don't want to go on hoping, I don't want to hearanything about the divorce. I have made up my mind it shall not have anymore influence on my life. Do you agree?"

  "Oh, yes!" he said, glancing uneasily at her excited face.

  "What did you do? Who was there?" she said, after a pause.

  Vronsky mentioned the names of the guests. "The dinner was first rate,and the boat race, and it was all pleasant enough, but in Moscow theycan never do anything without something _ridicule_. A lady of a sortappeared on the scene, teacher of swimming to the Queen of Sweden, andgave us an exhibition of her skill."

  "How? did she swim?" asked Anna, frowning.

  "In an absurd red _costume de natation;_ she was old and hideous too. Sowhen shall we go?"

  "What an absurd fancy! Why, did she swim in some special way, then?"said Anna, not answering.

  "There was absolutely nothing in it. That's just what I say, it wasawfully stupid. Well, then, when do you think of going?"

  Anna shook her head as though trying to drive away some unpleasant idea.

  "When? Why, the sooner the better! By tomorrow we shan't be ready. Theday after tomorrow."

  "Yes ... oh, no, wait a minute! The day after tomorrow's Sunday, I haveto be at maman's," said Vronsky, embarrassed, because as soon as heuttered his mother's name he was aware of her intent, suspicious eyes.His embarrassment confirmed her suspicion. She flushed hotly and drewaway from him. It was now not the Queen of Sweden's swimming-mistresswho filled Anna's imagination, but the young Princess Sorokina. She wasstaying in a village near Moscow with Countess Vronskaya.

  "Can't you go tomorrow?" she said.

  "Well, no! The deeds and the money for the business I'm going there forI can't get by tomorrow," he answered.

  "If so, we won't go at all."

  "But why so?"

  "I shall not go later. Monday or never!"

  "What for?" said Vronsky, as though in amazement. "Why, there's nomeaning in it!"

  "There's no meaning in it to you, because you care nothing for me. Youdon't care to understand my life. The one thing that I cared for herewas Hannah. You say it's affectation. Why, you said yesterday that Idon't love my daughter, that I love this English girl, that it'sunnatural. I should like to know what life there is for me that could benatural!"

  For an instant she had a clear vision of what she was doing, and washorrified at how she had fallen away from her resolution. But eventhough she knew it was her own ruin, she could not restrain herself,could not keep herself from proving to him that he was wrong, could notgive way to him.

  "I never said that; I said I did not sympathize with this suddenpassion."

  "How is it, though you boast of your straightforwardness, you don't tellthe truth?"

  "I never boast, and I never tell lies," he said slowly, restraining hisrising anger. "It's a great pity if you can't respect..."

  "Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be. Andif you don't love me any more, it would be better and more honest to sayso."

  "No, this is becoming unbearable!" cried Vronsky, getting up from hischair; and stopping short, facing her, he said, speaking deliberately:"What do you try my patience for?" looking as though he might have saidmuch more, but was restraining himself. "It has limits."

  "What do you mean by that?" she cried, looking with terror at theundisguised hatred in his whole face, and especially in his cruel,menacing eyes.

  "I mean to say..." he was beginning, but he checked himself. "I must askwhat it is you want of me?"

  "What can I want? All I can want is that you should not desert me, asyou think of doing," she said, understanding all he had not uttered."But that I don't want; that's secondary. I want love, and there isnone. So then all is over."

  She turned towards the door.

  "Stop! sto-op!" said Vronsky, with no change in the gloomy lines of hisbrows, though he held her by the hand. "What is it all about? I saidthat we must put off going for three days, and on that you told me I waslying, that I was not an honorable man."

  "Yes, and I repeat that the man who reproaches me with having sacrificedeverything for me," she said, recalling the words of a still earlierquarrel, "that he's worse than a dishonorable man--he's a heartlessman."

  "Oh, there are limits to endurance!" he cried, and hastily let go herhand.

  "He hates me, that's clear," she thought, and in silence, withoutlooking round, she walked with faltering steps out of the room. "Heloves another woman, that's even clearer," she said to herself as shewent into her own room. "I want love, and there is none. So, then, allis over." She repeated the words she had said, "and it must be ended."

  "But how?" she asked herself, and she sat down in a low chair before thelooking glass.

  Thoughts of where she would go now, whether to the aunt who had broughther up, to Dolly, or simply alone abroad, and of what _he_ was doing nowalone in his study; whether this was the final quarrel, or whetherreconciliation were still possible; and of what all her old friends atPetersburg would say of her now; and of how Alexey Alexandrovitch wouldlook at it, and many other ideas of what would happen now after thisrupture, came into her head; but she did not give herself up to themwith all her heart. At the bottom of her heart was some obscure ideathat alone interested her, but she could not get clear sight of it.Thinking once more of Alexey Alexandrovitch, she recalled the time ofher illness after her confinement, and the feeling which never left herat that time. "Why didn't I die?" and the words and the feeling of thattime came back to her. And all at once she knew what was in her soul.Yes, it was that idea which alone solved all. "Yes, to die!... And theshame and disgrace of Alexey Alexandrovitch and of Seryozha, and myawful shame, it will all be saved by death. To die! and he will feelremorse; will be sorry; will love me; he will suffer on my account."With the trace of a smile of commiseration for herself she sat down inthe armchair, taking off and putting on the rings on her left hand,vividly picturing from different sides his feelings after her death.

  Approaching footsteps--his steps--distracted her attention. As thoughabsorbed in the arrangement of her rings, she did not even turn to him.

  He went up to her, and taking her by the hand, said softly:

  "Anna, we'll go the day after tomorrow, if you like. I agree toeverything."

  She did not speak.

  "What is it?" he urged.

  "You know," she said, and at the same instant, unable to restrainherself any longer, she burst into sobs.

  "Cast me off!" she articulated between her sobs. "I'll go away tomorrow... I'll do more. What am I? An immoral woman! A stone round your neck.I don't want to make y
ou wretched, I don't want to! I'll set you free.You don't love me; you love someone else!"

  Vronsky besought her to be calm, and declared that there was no trace offoundation for her jealousy; that he had never ceased, and never wouldcease, to love her; that he loved her more than ever.

  "Anna, why distress yourself and me so?" he said to her, kissing herhands. There was tenderness now in his face, and she fancied she caughtthe sound of tears in his voice, and she felt them wet on her hand. Andinstantly Anna's despairing jealousy changed to a despairing passion oftenderness. She put her arms round him, and covered with kisses hishead, his neck, his hands.

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