Anna karenina, p.220
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       Anna Karenina, p.220

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 31

  A bell rang, some young men, ugly and impudent, and at the same timecareful of the impression they were making, hurried by. Pyotr, too,crossed the room in his livery and top-boots, with his dull, animalface, and came up to her to take her to the train. Some noisy men werequiet as she passed them on the platform, and one whispered somethingabout her to another--something vile, no doubt. She stepped up on thehigh step, and sat down in a carriage by herself on a dirty seat thathad been white. Her bag lay beside her, shaken up and down by thespringiness of the seat. With a foolish smile Pyotr raised his hat, withits colored band, at the window, in token of farewell; an impudentconductor slammed the door and the latch. A grotesque-looking ladywearing a bustle (Anna mentally undressed the woman, and was appalled ather hideousness), and a little girl laughing affectedly ran down theplatform.

  "Katerina Andreevna, she's got them all, _ma tante!_" cried the girl.

  "Even the child's hideous and affected," thought Anna. To avoid seeinganyone, she got up quickly and seated herself at the opposite window ofthe empty carriage. A misshapen-looking peasant covered with dirt, in acap from which his tangled hair stuck out all round, passed by thatwindow, stooping down to the carriage wheels. "There's somethingfamiliar about that hideous peasant," thought Anna. And remembering herdream, she moved away to the opposite door, shaking with terror. Theconductor opened the door and let in a man and his wife.

  "Do you wish to get out?"

  Anna made no answer. The conductor and her two fellow-passengers did notnotice under her veil her panic-stricken face. She went back to hercorner and sat down. The couple seated themselves on the opposite side,and intently but surreptitiously scrutinized her clothes. Both husbandand wife seemed repulsive to Anna. The husband asked, would she allowhim to smoke, obviously not with a view to smoking but to getting intoconversation with her. Receiving her assent, he said to his wife inFrench something about caring less to smoke than to talk. They madeinane and affected remarks to one another, entirely for her benefit.Anna saw clearly that they were sick of each other, and hated eachother. And no one could have helped hating such miserable monstrosities.

  A second bell sounded, and was followed by moving of luggage, noise,shouting and laughter. It was so clear to Anna that there was nothingfor anyone to be glad of, that this laughter irritated her agonizingly,and she would have liked to stop up her ears not to hear it. At last thethird bell rang, there was a whistle and a hiss of steam, and a clank ofchains, and the man in her carriage crossed himself. "It would beinteresting to ask him what meaning he attaches to that," thought Anna,looking angrily at him. She looked past the lady out of the window atthe people who seemed whirling by as they ran beside the train or stoodon the platform. The train, jerking at regular intervals at thejunctions of the rails, rolled by the platform, past a stone wall, asignal-box, past other trains; the wheels, moving more smoothly andevenly, resounded with a slight clang on the rails. The window waslighted up by the bright evening sun, and a slight breeze fluttered thecurtain. Anna forgot her fellow passengers, and to the light swaying ofthe train she fell to thinking again, as she breathed the fresh air.

  "Yes, what did I stop at? That I couldn't conceive a position in whichlife would not be a misery, that we are all created to be miserable, andthat we all know it, and all invent means of deceiving each other. Andwhen one sees the truth, what is one to do?"

  "That's what reason is given man for, to escape from what worries him,"said the lady in French, lisping affectedly, and obviously pleased withher phrase.

  The words seemed an answer to Anna's thoughts.

  "To escape from what worries him," repeated Anna. And glancing at thered-cheeked husband and the thin wife, she saw that the sickly wifeconsidered herself misunderstood, and the husband deceived her andencouraged her in that idea of herself. Anna seemed to see all theirhistory and all the crannies of their souls, as it were turning a lightupon them. But there was nothing interesting in them, and she pursuedher thought.

  "Yes, I'm very much worried, and that's what reason was given me for, toescape; so then one must escape: why not put out the light when there'snothing more to look at, when it's sickening to look at it all? But how?Why did the conductor run along the footboard, why are they shrieking,those young men in that train? why are they talking, why are theylaughing? It's all falsehood, all lying, all humbug, all cruelty!..."

  When the train came into the station, Anna got out into the crowd ofpassengers, and moving apart from them as if they were lepers, she stoodon the platform, trying to think what she had come here for, and whatshe meant to do. Everything that had seemed to her possible before wasnow so difficult to consider, especially in this noisy crowd of hideouspeople who would not leave her alone. One moment porters ran up to herproffering their services, then young men, clacking their heels on theplanks of the platform and talking loudly, stared at her; people meetingher dodged past on the wrong side. Remembering that she had meant to goon further if there were no answer, she stopped a porter and asked ifher coachman were not here with a note from Count Vronsky.

  "Count Vronsky? They sent up here from the Vronskys just this minute, tomeet Princess Sorokina and her daughter. And what is the coachman like?"

  Just as she was talking to the porter, the coachman Mihail, red andcheerful in his smart blue coat and chain, evidently proud of having sosuccessfully performed his commission, came up to her and gave her aletter. She broke it open, and her heart ached before she had read it.

  "I am very sorry your note did not reach me. I will be home at ten,"Vronsky had written carelessly....

  "Yes, that's what I expected!" she said to herself with an evil smile.

  "Very good, you can go home then," she said softly, addressing Mihail.She spoke softly because the rapidity of her heart's beating hinderedher breathing. "No, I won't let you make me miserable," she thoughtmenacingly, addressing not him, not herself, but the power that made hersuffer, and she walked along the platform.

  Two maid-servants walking along the platform turned their heads, staringat her and making some remarks about her dress. "Real," they said of thelace she was wearing. The young men would not leave her in peace. Againthey passed by, peering into her face, and with a laugh shoutingsomething in an unnatural voice. The station-master coming up asked herwhether she was going by train. A boy selling kvas never took his eyesoff her. "My God! where am I to go?" she thought, going farther andfarther along the platform. At the end she stopped. Some ladies andchildren, who had come to meet a gentleman in spectacles, paused intheir loud laughter and talking, and stared at her as she reached them.She quickened her pace and walked away from them to the edge of theplatform. A luggage train was coming in. The platform began to sway, andshe fancied she was in the train again.

  And all at once she thought of the man crushed by the train the day shehad first met Vronsky, and she knew what she had to do. With a rapid,light step she went down the steps that led from the tank to the railsand stopped quite near the approaching train.

  She looked at the lower part of the carriages, at the screws and chainsand the tall cast-iron wheel of the first carriage slowly moving up, andtrying to measure the middle between the front and back wheels, and thevery minute when that middle point would be opposite her.

  "There," she said to herself, looking into the shadow of the carriage,at the sand and coal dust which covered the sleepers--"there, in thevery middle, and I will punish him and escape from everyone and frommyself."

  She tried to fling herself below the wheels of the first carriage as itreached her; but the red bag which she tried to drop out of her handdelayed her, and she was too late; she missed the moment. She had towait for the next carriage. A feeling such as she had known when aboutto take the first plunge in bathing came upon her, and she crossedherself. That familiar gesture brought back into her soul a whole seriesof girlish and childish memories, and suddenly the darkness that hadcovered everything for her was torn apart, and life rose up before herfor an in
stant with all its bright past joys. But she did not take hereyes from the wheels of the second carriage. And exactly at the momentwhen the space between the wheels came opposite her, she dropped the redbag, and drawing her head back into her shoulders, fell on her handsunder the carriage, and lightly, as though she would rise again at once,dropped on to her knees. And at the same instant she was terror-strickenat what she was doing. "Where am I? What am I doing? What for?" Shetried to get up, to drop backwards; but something huge and mercilessstruck her on the head and rolled her on her back. "Lord, forgive meall!" she said, feeling it impossible to struggle. A peasant mutteringsomething was working at the iron above her. And the light by which shehad read the book filled with troubles, falsehoods, sorrow, and evil,flared up more brightly than ever before, lighted up for her all thathad been in darkness, flickered, began to grow dim, and was quenchedforever.

 

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