Anna karenina, p.57
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       Anna Karenina, p.57

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 23

  Vronsky had several times already, though not so resolutely as now,tried to bring her to consider their position, and every time he hadbeen confronted by the same superficiality and triviality with which shemet his appeal now. It was as though there were something in this whichshe could not or would not face, as though directly she began to speakof this, she, the real Anna, retreated somehow into herself, and anotherstrange and unaccountable woman came out, whom he did not love, and whomhe feared, and who was in opposition to him. But today he was resolvedto have it out.

  "Whether he knows or not," said Vronsky, in his usual quiet and resolutetone, "that's nothing to do with us. We cannot ... you cannot stay likethis, especially now."

  "What's to be done, according to you?" she asked with the same frivolousirony. She who had so feared he would take her condition too lightly wasnow vexed with him for deducing from it the necessity of taking somestep.

  "Tell him everything, and leave him."

  "Very well, let us suppose I do that," she said. "Do you know what theresult of that would be? I can tell you it all beforehand," and a wickedlight gleamed in her eyes, that had been so soft a minute before. "'Eh,you love another man, and have entered into criminal intrigues withhim?'" (Mimicking her husband, she threw an emphasis on the word"criminal," as Alexey Alexandrovitch did.) "'I warned you of the resultsin the religious, the civil, and the domestic relation. You have notlistened to me. Now I cannot let you disgrace my name,--'" "and my son,"she had meant to say, but about her son she could not jest,--"'disgracemy name, and'--and more in the same style," she added. "In generalterms, he'll say in his official manner, and with all distinctness andprecision, that he cannot let me go, but will take all measures in hispower to prevent scandal. And he will calmly and punctually act inaccordance with his words. That's what will happen. He's not a man, buta machine, and a spiteful machine when he's angry," she added, recallingAlexey Alexandrovitch as she spoke, with all the peculiarities of hisfigure and manner of speaking, and reckoning against him every defectshe could find in him, softening nothing for the great wrong she herselfwas doing him.

  "But, Anna," said Vronsky, in a soft and persuasive voice, trying tosoothe her, "we absolutely must, anyway, tell him, and then be guided bythe line he takes."

  "What, run away?"

  "And why not run away? I don't see how we can keep on like this. And notfor my sake--I see that you suffer."

  "Yes, run away, and become your mistress," she said angrily.

  "Anna," he said, with reproachful tenderness.

  "Yes," she went on, "become your mistress, and complete the ruin of..."

  Again she would have said "my son," but she could not utter that word.

  Vronsky could not understand how she, with her strong and truthfulnature, could endure this state of deceit, and not long to get out ofit. But he did not suspect that the chief cause of it was theword--_son_, which she could not bring herself to pronounce. When shethought of her son, and his future attitude to his mother, who hadabandoned his father, she felt such terror at what she had done, thatshe could not face it; but, like a woman, could only try to comfortherself with lying assurances that everything would remain as it alwayshad been, and that it was possible to forget the fearful question of howit would be with her son.

  "I beg you, I entreat you," she said suddenly, taking his hand, andspeaking in quite a different tone, sincere and tender, "never speak tome of that!"

  "But, Anna..."

  "Never. Leave it to me. I know all the baseness, all the horror of myposition; but it's not so easy to arrange as you think. And leave it tome, and do what I say. Never speak to me of it. Do you promise me?...No, no, promise!..."

  "I promise everything, but I can't be at peace, especially after whatyou have told me. I can't be at peace, when you can't be at peace...."

  "I?" she repeated. "Yes, I am worried sometimes; but that will pass, ifyou will never talk about this. When you talk about it--it's only thenit worries me."

  "I don't understand," he said.

  "I know," she interrupted him, "how hard it is for your truthful natureto lie, and I grieve for you. I often think that you have ruined yourwhole life for me."

  "I was just thinking the very same thing," he said; "how could yousacrifice everything for my sake? I can't forgive myself that you'reunhappy!"

  "I unhappy?" she said, coming closer to him, and looking at him with anecstatic smile of love. "I am like a hungry man who has been given food.He may be cold, and dressed in rags, and ashamed, but he is not unhappy.I unhappy? No, this is my unhappiness...."

  She could hear the sound of her son's voice coming towards them, andglancing swiftly round the terrace, she got up impulsively. Her eyesglowed with the fire he knew so well; with a rapid movement she raisedher lovely hands, covered with rings, took his head, looked a long lookinto his face, and, putting up her face with smiling, parted lips,swiftly kissed his mouth and both eyes, and pushed him away. She wouldhave gone, but he held her back.

  "When?" he murmured in a whisper, gazing in ecstasy at her.

  "Tonight, at one o'clock," she whispered, and, with a heavy sigh, shewalked with her light, swift step to meet her son.

  Seryozha had been caught by the rain in the big garden, and he and hisnurse had taken shelter in an arbor.

  "Well, _au revoir_," she said to Vronsky. "I must soon be getting readyfor the races. Betsy promised to fetch me."

  Vronsky, looking at his watch, went away hurriedly.

 

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