Anna karenina, p.33
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       Anna Karenina, p.33

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 33

  Alexey Alexandrovitch came back from the meeting of the ministers atfour o'clock, but as often happened, he had not time to come in to her.He went into his study to see the people waiting for him with petitions,and to sign some papers brought him by his chief secretary. At dinnertime (there were always a few people dining with the Karenins) therearrived an old lady, a cousin of Alexey Alexandrovitch, the chiefsecretary of the department and his wife, and a young man who had beenrecommended to Alexey Alexandrovitch for the service. Anna went into thedrawing room to receive these guests. Precisely at five o'clock, beforethe bronze Peter the First clock had struck the fifth stroke, AlexeyAlexandrovitch came in, wearing a white tie and evening coat with twostars, as he had to go out directly after dinner. Every minute of AlexeyAlexandrovitch's life was portioned out and occupied. And to make timeto get through all that lay before him every day, he adhered to thestrictest punctuality. "Unhasting and unresting," was his motto. He cameinto the dining hall, greeted everyone, and hurriedly sat down, smilingto his wife.

  "Yes, my solitude is over. You wouldn't believe how uncomfortable" (helaid stress on the word _uncomfortable_) "it is to dine alone."

  At dinner he talked a little to his wife about Moscow matters, and, witha sarcastic smile, asked her after Stepan Arkadyevitch; but theconversation was for the most part general, dealing with Petersburgofficial and public news. After dinner he spent half an hour with hisguests, and again, with a smile, pressed his wife's hand, withdrew, anddrove off to the council. Anna did not go out that evening either to thePrincess Betsy Tverskaya, who, hearing of her return, had invited her,nor to the theater, where she had a box for that evening. She did not goout principally because the dress she had reckoned upon was not ready.Altogether, Anna, on turning, after the departure of her guests, to theconsideration of her attire, was very much annoyed. She was generally amistress of the art of dressing well without great expense, and beforeleaving Moscow she had given her dressmaker three dresses to transform.The dresses had to be altered so that they could not be recognized, andthey ought to have been ready three days before. It appeared that twodresses had not been done at all, while the other one had not beenaltered as Anna had intended. The dressmaker came to explain, declaringthat it would be better as she had done it, and Anna was so furious thatshe felt ashamed when she thought of it afterwards. To regain herserenity completely she went into the nursery, and spent the wholeevening with her son, put him to bed herself, signed him with the cross,and tucked him up. She was glad she had not gone out anywhere, and hadspent the evening so well. She felt so light-hearted and serene, she sawso clearly that all that had seemed to her so important on her railwayjourney was only one of the common trivial incidents of fashionablelife, and that she had no reason to feel ashamed before anyone else orbefore herself. Anna sat down at the hearth with an English novel andwaited for her husband. Exactly at half-past nine she heard his ring,and he came into the room.

  "Here you are at last!" she observed, holding out her hand to him.

  He kissed her hand and sat down beside her.

  "Altogether then, I see your visit was a success," he said to her.

  "Oh, yes," she said, and she began telling him about everything from thebeginning: her journey with Countess Vronskaya, her arrival, theaccident at the station. Then she described the pity she had felt, firstfor her brother, and afterwards for Dolly.

  "I imagine one cannot exonerate such a man from blame, though he is yourbrother," said Alexey Alexandrovitch severely.

  Anna smiled. She knew that he said that simply to show that familyconsiderations could not prevent him from expressing his genuineopinion. She knew that characteristic in her husband, and liked it.

  "I am glad it has all ended so satisfactorily, and that you are backagain," he went on. "Come, what do they say about the new act I have gotpassed in the council?"

  Anna had heard nothing of this act, and she felt conscience-stricken athaving been able so readily to forget what was to him of suchimportance.

  "Here, on the other hand, it has made a great sensation," he said, witha complacent smile.

  She saw that Alexey Alexandrovitch wanted to tell her something pleasantto him about it, and she brought him by questions to telling it. Withthe same complacent smile he told her of the ovations he had received inconsequence of the act he had passed.

  "I was very, very glad. It shows that at last a reasonable and steadyview of the matter is becoming prevalent among us."

  Having drunk his second cup of tea with cream, and bread, AlexeyAlexandrovitch got up, and was going towards his study.

  "And you've not been anywhere this evening? You've been dull, I expect?"he said.

  "Oh, no!" she answered, getting up after him and accompanying him acrossthe room to his study. "What are you reading now?" she asked.

  "Just now I'm reading Duc de Lille, _Poesie des Enfers,_" he answered."A very remarkable book."

  Anna smiled, as people smile at the weaknesses of those they love, and,putting her hand under his, she escorted him to the door of the study.She knew his habit, that had grown into a necessity, of reading in theevening. She knew, too, that in spite of his official duties, whichswallowed up almost the whole of his time, he considered it his duty tokeep up with everything of note that appeared in the intellectual world.She knew, too, that he was really interested in books dealing withpolitics, philosophy, and theology, that art was utterly foreign to hisnature; but, in spite of this, or rather, in consequence of it, AlexeyAlexandrovitch never passed over anything in the world of art, but madeit his duty to read everything. She knew that in politics, inphilosophy, in theology, Alexey Alexandrovitch often had doubts, andmade investigations; but on questions of art and poetry, and, above all,of music, of which he was totally devoid of understanding, he had themost distinct and decided opinions. He was fond of talking aboutShakespeare, Raphael, Beethoven, of the significance of new schools ofpoetry and music, all of which were classified by him with veryconspicuous consistency.

  "Well, God be with you," she said at the door of the study, where ashaded candle and a decanter of water were already put by his armchair."And I'll write to Moscow."

  He pressed her hand, and again kissed it.

  "All the same he's a good man; truthful, good-hearted, and remarkable inhis own line," Anna said to herself going back to her room, as thoughshe were defending him to someone who had attacked him and said that onecould not love him. "But why is it his ears stick out so strangely? Orhas he had his hair cut?"

  Precisely at twelve o'clock, when Anna was still sitting at her writingtable, finishing a letter to Dolly, she heard the sound of measuredsteps in slippers, and Alexey Alexandrovitch, freshly washed and combed,with a book under his arm, came in to her.

  "It's time, it's time," said he, with a meaning smile, and he went intotheir bedroom.

  "And what right had he to look at him like that?" thought Anna,recalling Vronsky's glance at Alexey Alexandrovitch.

  Undressing, she went into the bedroom; but her face had none of theeagerness which, during her stay in Moscow, had fairly flashed from hereyes and her smile; on the contrary, now the fire seemed quenched inher, hidden somewhere far away.

 
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