Anna karenina, p.83
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       Anna Karenina, p.83

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 14

  As he neared Petersburg, Alexey Alexandrovitch not only adhered entirelyto his decision, but was even composing in his head the letter he wouldwrite to his wife. Going into the porter's room, Alexey Alexandrovitchglanced at the letters and papers brought from his office, and directedthat they should be brought to him in his study.

  "The horses can be taken out and I will see no one," he said in answerto the porter, with a certain pleasure, indicative of his agreeableframe of mind, emphasizing the words, "see no one."

  In his study Alexey Alexandrovitch walked up and down twice, and stoppedat an immense writing-table, on which six candles had already beenlighted by the valet who had preceded him. He cracked his knuckles andsat down, sorting out his writing appurtenances. Putting his elbows onthe table, he bent his head on one side, thought a minute, and began towrite, without pausing for a second. He wrote without using any form ofaddress to her, and wrote in French, making use of the plural "_vous_,"which has not the same note of coldness as the corresponding Russianform.

  "At our last conversation, I notified you of my intention to communicate to you my decision in regard to the subject of that conversation. Having carefully considered everything, I am writing now with the object of fulfilling that promise. My decision is as follows. Whatever your conduct may have been, I do not consider myself justified in breaking the ties in which we are bound by a Higher Power. The family cannot be broken up by a whim, a caprice, or even by the sin of one of the partners in the marriage, and our life must go on as it has done in the past. This is essential for me, for you, and for our son. I am fully persuaded that you have repented and do repent of what has called forth the present letter, and that you will cooperate with me in eradicating the cause of our estrangement, and forgetting the past. In the contrary event, you can conjecture what awaits you and your son. All this I hope to discuss more in detail in a personal interview. As the season is drawing to a close, I would beg you to return to Petersburg as quickly as possible, not later than Tuesday. All necessary preparations shall be made for your arrival here. I beg you to note that I attach particular significance to compliance with this request.

  A. Karenin

  "P.S.--I enclose the money which may be needed for your expenses."

  He read the letter through and felt pleased with it, and especially thathe had remembered to enclose money: there was not a harsh word, not areproach in it, nor was there undue indulgence. Most of all, it was agolden bridge for return. Folding the letter and smoothing it with amassive ivory knife, and putting it in an envelope with the money, herang the bell with the gratification it always afforded him to use thewell arranged appointments of his writing-table.

  "Give this to the courier to be delivered to Anna Arkadyevna tomorrow atthe summer villa," he said, getting up.

  "Certainly, your excellency; tea to be served in the study?"

  Alexey Alexandrovitch ordered tea to be brought to the study, andplaying with the massive paper-knife, he moved to his easy chair, nearwhich there had been placed ready for him a lamp and the French work onEgyptian hieroglyphics that he had begun. Over the easy chair there hungin a gold frame an oval portrait of Anna, a fine painting by acelebrated artist. Alexey Alexandrovitch glanced at it. The unfathomableeyes gazed ironically and insolently at him. Insufferably insolent andchallenging was the effect in Alexey Alexandrovitch's eyes of the blacklace about the head, admirably touched in by the painter, the black hairand handsome white hand with one finger lifted, covered with rings.After looking at the portrait for a minute, Alexey Alexandrovitchshuddered so that his lips quivered and he uttered the sound "brrr," andturned away. He made haste to sit down in his easy chair and opened thebook. He tried to read, but he could not revive the very vivid interesthe had felt before in Egyptian hieroglyphics. He looked at the book andthought of something else. He thought not of his wife, but of acomplication that had arisen in his official life, which at the timeconstituted the chief interest of it. He felt that he had penetratedmore deeply than ever before into this intricate affair, and that he hadoriginated a leading idea--he could say it withoutself-flattery--calculated to clear up the whole business, to strengthenhim in his official career, to discomfit his enemies, and thereby to beof the greatest benefit to the government. Directly the servant had setthe tea and left the room, Alexey Alexandrovitch got up and went to thewriting-table. Moving into the middle of the table a portfolio ofpapers, with a scarcely perceptible smile of self-satisfaction, he tooka pencil from a rack and plunged into the perusal of a complex reportrelating to the present complication. The complication was of thisnature: Alexey Alexandrovitch's characteristic quality as a politician,that special individual qualification that every rising functionarypossesses, the qualification that with his unflagging ambition, hisreserve, his honesty, and with his self-confidence had made his career,was his contempt for red tape, his cutting down of correspondence, hisdirect contact, wherever possible, with the living fact, and hiseconomy. It happened that the famous Commission of the 2nd of June hadset on foot an inquiry into the irrigation of lands in the Zaraiskyprovince, which fell under Alexey Alexandrovitch's department, and was aglaring example of fruitless expenditure and paper reforms. AlexeyAlexandrovitch was aware of the truth of this. The irrigation of theselands in the Zaraisky province had been initiated by the predecessor ofAlexey Alexandrovitch's predecessor. And vast sums of money had actuallybeen spent and were still being spent on this business, and utterlyunproductively, and the whole business could obviously lead to nothingwhatever. Alexey Alexandrovitch had perceived this at once on enteringoffice, and would have liked to lay hands on the Board of Irrigation.But at first, when he did not yet feel secure in his position, he knewit would affect too many interests, and would be injudicious. Later onhe had been engrossed in other questions, and had simply forgotten theBoard of Irrigation. It went of itself, like all such boards, by themere force of inertia. (Many people gained their livelihood by the Boardof Irrigation, especially one highly conscientious and musical family:all the daughters played on stringed instruments, and AlexeyAlexandrovitch knew the family and had stood godfather to one of theelder daughters.) The raising of this question by a hostile departmentwas in Alexey Alexandrovitch's opinion a dishonorable proceeding, seeingthat in every department there were things similar and worse, which noone inquired into, for well-known reasons of official etiquette.However, now that the glove had been thrown down to him, he had boldlypicked it up and demanded the appointment of a special commission toinvestigate and verify the working of the Board of Irrigation of thelands in the Zaraisky province. But in compensation he gave no quarterto the enemy either. He demanded the appointment of another specialcommission to inquire into the question of the Native TribesOrganization Committee. The question of the Native Tribes had beenbrought up incidentally in the Commission of the 2nd of June, and hadbeen pressed forward actively by Alexey Alexandrovitch as one admittingof no delay on account of the deplorable condition of the native tribes.In the commission this question had been a ground of contention betweenseveral departments. The department hostile to Alexey Alexandrovitchproved that the condition of the native tribes was exceedinglyflourishing, that the proposed reconstruction might be the ruin of theirprosperity, and that if there were anything wrong, it arose mainly fromthe failure on the part of Alexey Alexandrovitch's department to carryout the measures prescribed by law. Now Alexey Alexandrovitch intendedto demand: First, that a new commission should be formed which should beempowered to investigate the condition of the native tribes on the spot;secondly, if it should appear that the condition of the native tribesactually was such as it appeared to be from the official documents inthe hands of the committee, that another new scientific commissionshould be appointed to investigate the deplorable condition of thenative tribes from the--(1) political, (2) administrative, (3) economic,(4) ethnographical, (5) material, and
(6) religious points of view;thirdly, that evidence should be required from the rival department ofthe measures that had been taken during the last ten years by thatdepartment for averting the disastrous conditions in which the nativetribes were now placed; and fourthly and finally, that that departmentexplain why it had, as appeared from the evidence before the committee,from No. 17,015 and 18,038, from December 5, 1863, and June 7, 1864,acted in direct contravention of the intent of the law T... Act 18, andthe note to Act 36. A flash of eagerness suffused the face of AlexeyAlexandrovitch as he rapidly wrote out a synopsis of these ideas for hisown benefit. Having filled a sheet of paper, he got up, rang, and sent anote to the chief secretary of his department to look up certainnecessary facts for him. Getting up and walking about the room, heglanced again at the portrait, frowned, and smiled contemptuously. Afterreading a little more of the book on Egyptian hieroglyphics, andrenewing his interest in it, Alexey Alexandrovitch went to bed at eleveno'clock, and recollecting as he lay in bed the incident with his wife,he saw it now in by no means such a gloomy light.

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