Anna karenina, p.41
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       Anna Karenina, p.41

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 7

  Steps were heard at the door, and Princess Betsy, knowing it was MadameKarenina, glanced at Vronsky. He was looking towards the door, and hisface wore a strange new expression. Joyfully, intently, and at the sametime timidly, he gazed at the approaching figure, and slowly he rose tohis feet. Anna walked into the drawing room. Holding herself extremelyerect, as always, looking straight before her, and moving with herswift, resolute, and light step, that distinguished her from all othersociety women, she crossed the short space to her hostess, shook handswith her, smiled, and with the same smile looked around at Vronsky.Vronsky bowed low and pushed a chair up for her.

  She acknowledged this only by a slight nod, flushed a little, andfrowned. But immediately, while rapidly greeting her acquaintances, andshaking the hands proffered to her, she addressed Princess Betsy:

  "I have been at Countess Lidia's, and meant to have come here earlier,but I stayed on. Sir John was there. He's very interesting."

  "Oh, that's this missionary?"

  "Yes; he told us about the life in India, most interesting things."

  The conversation, interrupted by her coming in, flickered up again likethe light of a lamp being blown out.

  "Sir John! Yes, Sir John; I've seen him. He speaks well. The Vlassievagirl's quite in love with him."

  "And is it true the younger Vlassieva girl's to marry Topov?"

  "Yes, they say it's quite a settled thing."

  "I wonder at the parents! They say it's a marriage for love."

  "For love? What antediluvian notions you have! Can one talk of love inthese days?" said the ambassador's wife.

  "What's to be done? It's a foolish old fashion that's kept up still,"said Vronsky.

  "So much the worse for those who keep up the fashion. The only happymarriages I know are marriages of prudence."

  "Yes, but then how often the happiness of these prudent marriages fliesaway like dust just because that passion turns up that they have refusedto recognize," said Vronsky.

  "But by marriages of prudence we mean those in which both parties havesown their wild oats already. That's like scarlatina--one has to gothrough it and get it over."

  "Then they ought to find out how to vaccinate for love, like smallpox."

  "I was in love in my young days with a deacon," said the PrincessMyakaya. "I don't know that it did me any good."

  "No; I imagine, joking apart, that to know love, one must make mistakesand then correct them," said Princess Betsy.

  "Even after marriage?" said the ambassador's wife playfully.

  "'It's never too late to mend.'" The attache repeated the Englishproverb.

  "Just so," Betsy agreed; "one must make mistakes and correct them. Whatdo you think about it?" she turned to Anna, who, with a faintlyperceptible resolute smile on her lips, was listening in silence to theconversation.

  "I think," said Anna, playing with the glove she had taken off, "I think... of so many men, so many minds, certainly so many hearts, so manykinds of love."

  Vronsky was gazing at Anna, and with a fainting heart waiting for whatshe would say. He sighed as after a danger escaped when she utteredthese words.

  Anna suddenly turned to him.

  "Oh, I have had a letter from Moscow. They write me that KittyShtcherbatskaya's very ill."

  "Really?" said Vronsky, knitting his brows.

  Anna looked sternly at him.

  "That doesn't interest you?"

  "On the contrary, it does, very much. What was it exactly they told you,if I may know?" he questioned.

  Anna got up and went to Betsy.

  "Give me a cup of tea," she said, standing at her table.

  While Betsy was pouring out the tea, Vronsky went up to Anna.

  "What is it they write to you?" he repeated.

  "I often think men have no understanding of what's not honorable thoughthey're always talking of it," said Anna, without answering him. "I'vewanted to tell you so a long while," she added, and moving a few stepsaway, she sat down at a table in a corner covered with albums.

  "I don't quite understand the meaning of your words," he said, handingher the cup.

  She glanced towards the sofa beside her, and he instantly sat down.

  "Yes, I have been wanting to tell you," she said, not looking at him."You behaved wrongly, very wrongly."

  "Do you suppose I don't know that I've acted wrongly? But who was thecause of my doing so?"

  "What do you say that to me for?" she said, glancing severely at him.

  "You know what for," he answered boldly and joyfully, meeting her glanceand not dropping his eyes.

  Not he, but she, was confused.

  "That only shows you have no heart," she said. But her eyes said thatshe knew he had a heart, and that was why she was afraid of him.

  "What you spoke of just now was a mistake, and not love."

  "Remember that I have forbidden you to utter that word, that hatefulword," said Anna, with a shudder. But at once she felt that by that veryword "forbidden" she had shown that she acknowledged certain rights overhim, and by that very fact was encouraging him to speak of love. "I havelong meant to tell you this," she went on, looking resolutely into hiseyes, and hot all over from the burning flush on her cheeks. "I've comeon purpose this evening, knowing I should meet you. I have come to tellyou that this must end. I have never blushed before anyone, and youforce me to feel to blame for something."

  He looked at her and was struck by a new spiritual beauty in her face.

  "What do you wish of me?" he said simply and seriously.

  "I want you to go to Moscow and ask for Kitty's forgiveness," she said.

  "You don't wish that?" he said.

  He saw she was saying what she forced herself to say, not what shewanted to say.

  "If you love me, as you say," she whispered, "do so that I may be atpeace."

  His face grew radiant.

  "Don't you know that you're all my life to me? But I know no peace, andI can't give it to you; all myself--and love ... yes. I can't think ofyou and myself apart. You and I are one to me. And I see no chancebefore us of peace for me or for you. I see a chance of despair, ofwretchedness ... or I see a chance of bliss, what bliss!... Can it bethere's no chance of it?" he murmured with his lips; but she heard.

  She strained every effort of her mind to say what ought to be said. Butinstead of that she let her eyes rest on him, full of love, and made noanswer.

  "It's come!" he thought in ecstasy. "When I was beginning to despair,and it seemed there would be no end--it's come! She loves me! She ownsit!"

  "Then do this for me: never say such things to me, and let us befriends," she said in words; but her eyes spoke quite differently.

  "Friends we shall never be, you know that yourself. Whether we shall bethe happiest or the wretchedest of people--that's in your hands."

  She would have said something, but he interrupted her.

  "I ask one thing only: I ask for the right to hope, to suffer as I do.But if even that cannot be, command me to disappear, and I disappear.You shall not see me if my presence is distasteful to you."

  "I don't want to drive you away."

  "Only don't change anything, leave everything as it is," he said in ashaky voice. "Here's your husband."

  At that instant Alexey Alexandrovitch did in fact walk into the roomwith his calm, awkward gait.

  Glancing at his wife and Vronsky, he went up to the lady of the house,and sitting down for a cup of tea, began talking in his deliberate,always audible voice, in his habitual tone of banter, ridiculingsomeone.

  "Your Rambouillet is in full conclave," he said, looking round at allthe party; "the graces and the muses."

  But Princess Betsy could not endure that tone of his--"sneering," as shecalled it, using the English word, and like a skillful hostess she atonce brought him into a serious conversation on the subject of universalconscription. Alexey Alexandrovitch was immediately interested in thesubject, and began seriously defending the new imp
erial decree againstPrincess Betsy, who had attacked it.

  Vronsky and Anna still sat at the little table.

  "This is getting indecorous," whispered one lady, with an expressiveglance at Madame Karenina, Vronsky, and her husband.

  "What did I tell you?" said Anna's friend.

  But not only those ladies, almost everyone in the room, even thePrincess Myakaya and Betsy herself, looked several times in thedirection of the two who had withdrawn from the general circle, asthough that were a disturbing fact. Alexey Alexandrovitch was the onlyperson who did not once look in that direction, and was not divertedfrom the interesting discussion he had entered upon.

  Noticing the disagreeable impression that was being made on everyone,Princess Betsy slipped someone else into her place to listen to AlexeyAlexandrovitch, and went up to Anna.

  "I'm always amazed at the clearness and precision of your husband'slanguage," she said. "The most transcendental ideas seem to be within mygrasp when he's speaking."

  "Oh, yes!" said Anna, radiant with a smile of happiness, and notunderstanding a word of what Betsy had said. She crossed over to the bigtable and took part in the general conversation.

  Alexey Alexandrovitch, after staying half an hour, went up to his wifeand suggested that they should go home together. But she answered, notlooking at him, that she was staying to supper. Alexey Alexandrovitchmade his bows and withdrew.

  The fat old Tatar, Madame Karenina's coachman, was with difficultyholding one of her pair of grays, chilled with the cold and rearing atthe entrance. A footman stood opening the carriage door. The hall porterstood holding open the great door of the house. Anna Arkadyevna, withher quick little hand, was unfastening the lace of her sleeve, caught inthe hook of her fur cloak, and with bent head listening to the wordsVronsky murmured as he escorted her down.

  "You've said nothing, of course, and I ask nothing," he was saying; "butyou know that friendship's not what I want: that there's only onehappiness in life for me, that word that you dislike so ... yes,love!..."

  "Love," she repeated slowly, in an inner voice, and suddenly, at thevery instant she unhooked the lace, she added, "Why I don't like theword is that it means too much to me, far more than you can understand,"and she glanced into his face. "_Au revoir!_"

  She gave him her hand, and with her rapid, springy step she passed bythe porter and vanished into the carriage.

  Her glance, the touch of her hand, set him aflame. He kissed the palm ofhis hand where she had touched it, and went home, happy in the sensethat he had got nearer to the attainment of his aims that evening thanduring the last two months.

 
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