Anna karenina, p.42
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       Anna Karenina, p.42

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 8

  Alexey Alexandrovitch had seen nothing striking or improper in the factthat his wife was sitting with Vronsky at a table apart, in eagerconversation with him about something. But he noticed that to the restof the party this appeared something striking and improper, and for thatreason it seemed to him too to be improper. He made up his mind that hemust speak of it to his wife.

  On reaching home Alexey Alexandrovitch went to his study, as he usuallydid, seated himself in his low chair, opened a book on the Papacy at theplace where he had laid the paper-knife in it, and read till oneo'clock, just as he usually did. But from time to time he rubbed hishigh forehead and shook his head, as though to drive away something. Athis usual time he got up and made his toilet for the night. AnnaArkadyevna had not yet come in. With a book under his arm he wentupstairs. But this evening, instead of his usual thoughts andmeditations upon official details, his thoughts were absorbed by hiswife and something disagreeable connected with her. Contrary to hisusual habit, he did not get into bed, but fell to walking up and downthe rooms with his hands clasped behind his back. He could not go tobed, feeling that it was absolutely needful for him first to thinkthoroughly over the position that had just arisen.

  When Alexey Alexandrovitch had made up his mind that he must talk to hiswife about it, it had seemed a very easy and simple matter. But now,when he began to think over the question that had just presented itself,it seemed to him very complicated and difficult.

  Alexey Alexandrovitch was not jealous. Jealousy according to his notionswas an insult to one's wife, and one ought to have confidence in one'swife. Why one ought to have confidence--that is to say, completeconviction that his young wife would always love him--he did not askhimself. But he had no experience of lack of confidence, because he hadconfidence in her, and told himself that he ought to have it. Now,though his conviction that jealousy was a shameful feeling and that oneought to feel confidence, had not broken down, he felt that he wasstanding face to face with something illogical and irrational, and didnot know what was to be done. Alexey Alexandrovitch was standing face toface with life, with the possibility of his wife's loving someone otherthan himself, and this seemed to him very irrational andincomprehensible because it was life itself. All his life AlexeyAlexandrovitch had lived and worked in official spheres, having to dowith the reflection of life. And every time he had stumbled against lifeitself he had shrunk away from it. Now he experienced a feeling akin tothat of a man who, while calmly crossing a precipice by a bridge, shouldsuddenly discover that the bridge is broken, and that there is a chasmbelow. That chasm was life itself, the bridge that artificial life inwhich Alexey Alexandrovitch had lived. For the first time the questionpresented itself to him of the possibility of his wife's loving someoneelse, and he was horrified at it.

  He did not undress, but walked up and down with his regular tread overthe resounding parquet of the dining room, where one lamp was burning,over the carpet of the dark drawing room, in which the light wasreflected on the big new portrait of himself hanging over the sofa, andacross her boudoir, where two candles burned, lighting up the portraitsof her parents and woman friends, and the pretty knick-knacks of herwriting table, that he knew so well. He walked across her boudoir to thebedroom door, and turned back again. At each turn in his walk,especially at the parquet of the lighted dining room, he halted and saidto himself, "Yes, this I must decide and put a stop to; I must expressmy view of it and my decision." And he turned back again. "But expresswhat--what decision?" he said to himself in the drawing room, and hefound no reply. "But after all," he asked himself before turning intothe boudoir, "what has occurred? Nothing. She was talking a long whilewith him. But what of that? Surely women in society can talk to whomthey please. And then, jealousy means lowering both myself and her," hetold himself as he went into her boudoir; but this dictum, which hadalways had such weight with him before, had now no weight and no meaningat all. And from the bedroom door he turned back again; but as heentered the dark drawing room some inner voice told him that it was notso, and that if others noticed it that showed that there was something.And he said to himself again in the dining room, "Yes, I must decide andput a stop to it, and express my view of it..." And again at the turn inthe drawing room he asked himself, "Decide how?" And again he askedhimself, "What had occurred?" and answered, "Nothing," and recollectedthat jealousy was a feeling insulting to his wife; but again in thedrawing room he was convinced that something had happened. His thoughts,like his body, went round a complete circle, without coming uponanything new. He noticed this, rubbed his forehead, and sat down in herboudoir.

  There, looking at her table, with the malachite blotting case lying atthe top and an unfinished letter, his thoughts suddenly changed. Hebegan to think of her, of what she was thinking and feeling. For thefirst time he pictured vividly to himself her personal life, her ideas,her desires, and the idea that she could and should have a separate lifeof her own seemed to him so alarming that he made haste to dispel it. Itwas the chasm which he was afraid to peep into. To put himself inthought and feeling in another person's place was a spiritual exercisenot natural to Alexey Alexandrovitch. He looked on this spiritualexercise as a harmful and dangerous abuse of the fancy.

  "And the worst of it all," thought he, "is that just now, at the verymoment when my great work is approaching completion" (he was thinking ofthe project he was bringing forward at the time), "when I stand in needof all my mental peace and all my energies, just now this stupid worryshould fall foul of me. But what's to be done? I'm not one of those menwho submit to uneasiness and worry without having the force of characterto face them.

  "I must think it over, come to a decision, and put it out of my mind,"he said aloud.

  "The question of her feelings, of what has passed and may be passing inher soul, that's not my affair; that's the affair of her conscience, andfalls under the head of religion," he said to himself, feelingconsolation in the sense that he had found to which division ofregulating principles this new circumstance could be properly referred.

  "And so," Alexey Alexandrovitch said to himself, "questions as to herfeelings, and so on, are questions for her conscience, with which I canhave nothing to do. My duty is clearly defined. As the head of thefamily, I am a person bound in duty to guide her, and consequently, inpart the person responsible; I am bound to point out the danger Iperceive, to warn her, even to use my authority. I ought to speakplainly to her." And everything that he would say tonight to his wifetook clear shape in Alexey Alexandrovitch's head. Thinking over what hewould say, he somewhat regretted that he should have to use his time andmental powers for domestic consumption, with so little to show for it,but, in spite of that, the form and contents of the speech before himshaped itself as clearly and distinctly in his head as a ministerialreport.

  "I must say and express fully the following points: first, exposition ofthe value to be attached to public opinion and to decorum; secondly,exposition of religious significance of marriage; thirdly, if need be,reference to the calamity possibly ensuing to our son; fourthly,reference to the unhappiness likely to result to herself." And,interlacing his fingers, Alexey Alexandrovitch stretched them, and thejoints of the fingers cracked. This trick, a bad habit, the cracking ofhis fingers, always soothed him, and gave precision to his thoughts, soneedful to him at this juncture.

  There was the sound of a carriage driving up to the front door. AlexeyAlexandrovitch halted in the middle of the room.

  A woman's step was heard mounting the stairs. Alexey Alexandrovitch,ready for his speech, stood compressing his crossed fingers, waiting tosee if the crack would not come again. One joint cracked.

  Already, from the sound of light steps on the stairs, he was aware thatshe was close, and though he was satisfied with his speech, he feltfrightened of the explanation confronting him...

 

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