Anna karenina, p.43
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       Anna Karenina, p.43

           graf Leo Tolstoy
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  Chapter 9

  Anna came in with hanging head, playing with the tassels of her hood.Her face was brilliant and glowing; but this glow was not one ofbrightness; it suggested the fearful glow of a conflagration in themidst of a dark night. On seeing her husband, Anna raised her head andsmiled, as though she had just waked up.

  "You're not in bed? What a wonder!" she said, letting fall her hood, andwithout stopping, she went on into the dressing room. "It's late, AlexeyAlexandrovitch," she said, when she had gone through the doorway.

  "Anna, it's necessary for me to have a talk with you."

  "With me?" she said, wonderingly. She came out from behind the door ofthe dressing room, and looked at him. "Why, what is it? What about?" sheasked, sitting down. "Well, let's talk, if it's so necessary. But itwould be better to get to sleep."

  Anna said what came to her lips, and marveled, hearing herself, at herown capacity for lying. How simple and natural were her words, and howlikely that she was simply sleepy! She felt herself clad in animpenetrable armor of falsehood. She felt that some unseen force hadcome to her aid and was supporting her.

  "Anna, I must warn you," he began.

  "Warn me?" she said. "Of what?"

  She looked at him so simply, so brightly, that anyone who did not knowher as her husband knew her could not have noticed anything unnatural,either in the sound or the sense of her words. But to him, knowing her,knowing that whenever he went to bed five minutes later than usual, shenoticed it, and asked him the reason; to him, knowing that every joy,every pleasure and pain that she felt she communicated to him at once;to him, now to see that she did not care to notice his state of mind,that she did not care to say a word about herself, meant a great deal.He saw that the inmost recesses of her soul, that had always hithertolain open before him, were closed against him. More than that, he sawfrom her tone that she was not even perturbed at that, but as it weresaid straight out to him: "Yes, it's shut up, and so it must be, andwill be in future." Now he experienced a feeling such as a man mighthave, returning home and finding his own house locked up. "But perhapsthe key may yet be found," thought Alexey Alexandrovitch.

  "I want to warn you," he said in a low voice, "that throughthoughtlessness and lack of caution you may cause yourself to be talkedabout in society. Your too animated conversation this evening with CountVronsky" (he enunciated the name firmly and with deliberate emphasis)"attracted attention."

  He talked and looked at her laughing eyes, which frightened him now withtheir impenetrable look, and, as he talked, he felt all the uselessnessand idleness of his words.

  "You're always like that," she answered, as though completelymisapprehending him, and of all he had said only taking in the lastphrase. "One time you don't like my being dull, and another time youdon't like my being lively. I wasn't dull. Does that offend you?"

  Alexey Alexandrovitch shivered, and bent his hands to make the jointscrack.

  "Oh, please, don't do that, I do so dislike it," she said.

  "Anna, is this you?" said Alexey Alexandrovitch, quietly making aneffort over himself, and restraining the motion of his fingers.

  "But what is it all about?" she said, with such genuine and drollwonder. "What do you want of me?"

  Alexey Alexandrovitch paused, and rubbed his forehead and his eyes. Hesaw that instead of doing as he had intended--that is to say, warninghis wife against a mistake in the eyes of the world--he hadunconsciously become agitated over what was the affair of herconscience, and was struggling against the barrier he fancied betweenthem.

  "This is what I meant to say to you," he went on coldly and composedly,"and I beg you to listen to it. I consider jealousy, as you know, ahumiliating and degrading feeling, and I shall never allow myself to beinfluenced by it; but there are certain rules of decorum which cannot bedisregarded with impunity. This evening it was not I observed it, butjudging by the impression made on the company, everyone observed thatyour conduct and deportment were not altogether what could be desired."

  "I positively don't understand," said Anna, shrugging her shoulders--"Hedoesn't care," she thought. "But other people noticed it, and that'swhat upsets him."--"You're not well, Alexey Alexandrovitch," she added,and she got up, and would have gone towards the door; but he movedforward as though he would stop her.

  His face was ugly and forbidding, as Anna had never seen him. Shestopped, and bending her head back and on one side, began with her rapidhand taking out her hairpins.

  "Well, I'm listening to what's to come," she said, calmly andironically; "and indeed I listen with interest, for I should like tounderstand what's the matter."

  She spoke, and marveled at the confident, calm, and natural tone inwhich she was speaking, and the choice of the words she used.

  "To enter into all the details of your feelings I have no right, andbesides, I regard that as useless and even harmful," began AlexeyAlexandrovitch. "Ferreting in one's soul, one often ferrets outsomething that might have lain there unnoticed. Your feelings are anaffair of your own conscience; but I am in duty bound to you, to myself,and to God, to point out to you your duties. Our life has been joined,not by man, but by God. That union can only be severed by a crime, and acrime of that nature brings its own chastisement."

  "I don't understand a word. And, oh dear! how sleepy I am, unluckily,"she said, rapidly passing her hand through her hair, feeling for theremaining hairpins.

  "Anna, for God's sake don't speak like that!" he said gently. "Perhaps Iam mistaken, but believe me, what I say, I say as much for myself as foryou. I am your husband, and I love you."

  For an instant her face fell, and the mocking gleam in her eyes diedaway; but the word _love_ threw her into revolt again. She thought:"Love? Can he love? If he hadn't heard there was such a thing as love,he would never have used the word. He doesn't even know what love is."

  "Alexey Alexandrovitch, really I don't understand," she said. "Definewhat it is you find..."

  "Pardon, let me say all I have to say. I love you. But I am not speakingof myself; the most important persons in this matter are our son andyourself. It may very well be, I repeat, that my words seem to youutterly unnecessary and out of place; it may be that they are calledforth by my mistaken impression. In that case, I beg you to forgive me.But if you are conscious yourself of even the smallest foundation forthem, then I beg you to think a little, and if your heart prompts you,to speak out to me..."

  Alexey Alexandrovitch was unconsciously saying something utterly unlikewhat he had prepared.

  "I have nothing to say. And besides," she said hurriedly, withdifficulty repressing a smile, "it's really time to be in bed."

  Alexey Alexandrovitch sighed, and, without saying more, went into thebedroom.

  When she came into the bedroom, he was already in bed. His lips weresternly compressed, and his eyes looked away from her. Anna got into herbed, and lay expecting every minute that he would begin to speak to heragain. She both feared his speaking and wished for it. But he wassilent. She waited for a long while without moving, and had forgottenabout him. She thought of that other; she pictured him, and felt how herheart was flooded with emotion and guilty delight at the thought of him.Suddenly she heard an even, tranquil snore. For the first instant AlexeyAlexandrovitch seemed, as it were, appalled at his own snoring, andceased; but after an interval of two breathings the snore sounded again,with a new tranquil rhythm.

  "It's late, it's late," she whispered with a smile. A long while shelay, not moving, with open eyes, whose brilliance she almost fancied shecould herself see in the darkness.

 

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