Anna karenina, p.85
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       Anna Karenina, p.85

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 16

  All the rooms of the summer villa were full of porters, gardeners, andfootmen going to and fro carrying out things. Cupboards and chests wereopen; twice they had sent to the shop for cord; pieces of newspaper weretossing about on the floor. Two trunks, some bags and strapped-up rugs,had been carried down into the hall. The carriage and two hired cabswere waiting at the steps. Anna, forgetting her inward agitation in thework of packing, was standing at a table in her boudoir, packing hertraveling bag, when Annushka called her attention to the rattle of somecarriage driving up. Anna looked out of the window and saw AlexeyAlexandrovitch's courier on the steps, ringing at the front door bell.

  "Run and find out what it is," she said, and with a calm sense of beingprepared for anything, she sat down in a low chair, folding her hands onher knees. A footman brought in a thick packet directed in AlexeyAlexandrovitch's hand.

  "The courier has orders to wait for an answer," he said.

  "Very well," she said, and as soon as he had left the room she tore openthe letter with trembling fingers. A roll of unfolded notes done up in awrapper fell out of it. She disengaged the letter and began reading itat the end. "Preparations shall be made for your arrival here ... Iattach particular significance to compliance..." she read. She ran on,then back, read it all through, and once more read the letter allthrough again from the beginning. When she had finished, she felt thatshe was cold all over, and that a fearful calamity, such as she had notexpected, had burst upon her.

  In the morning she had regretted that she had spoken to her husband, andwished for nothing so much as that those words could be unspoken. Andhere this letter regarded them as unspoken, and gave her what she hadwanted. But now this letter seemed to her more awful than anything shehad been able to conceive.

  "He's right!" she said; "of course, he's always right; he's a Christian,he's generous! Yes, vile, base creature! And no one understands itexcept me, and no one ever will; and I can't explain it. They say he'sso religious, so high-principled, so upright, so clever; but they don'tsee what I've seen. They don't know how he has crushed my life for eightyears, crushed everything that was living in me--he has not once eventhought that I'm a live woman who must have love. They don't know how atevery step he's humiliated me, and been just as pleased with himself.Haven't I striven, striven with all my strength, to find something togive meaning to my life? Haven't I struggled to love him, to love my sonwhen I could not love my husband? But the time came when I knew that Icouldn't cheat myself any longer, that I was alive, that I was not toblame, that God has made me so that I must love and live. And now whatdoes he do? If he'd killed me, if he'd killed him, I could have borneanything, I could have forgiven anything; but, no, he.... How was it Ididn't guess what he would do? He's doing just what's characteristic ofhis mean character. He'll keep himself in the right, while me, in myruin, he'll drive still lower to worse ruin yet...."

  She recalled the words from the letter. "You can conjecture what awaitsyou and your son...." "That's a threat to take away my child, and mostlikely by their stupid law he can. But I know very well why he says it.He doesn't believe even in my love for my child, or he despises it (justas he always used to ridicule it). He despises that feeling in me, buthe knows that I won't abandon my child, that I can't abandon my child,that there could be no life for me without my child, even with him whomI love; but that if I abandoned my child and ran away from him, I shouldbe acting like the most infamous, basest of women. He knows that, andknows that I am incapable of doing that."

  She recalled another sentence in the letter. "Our life must go on as ithas done in the past...." "That life was miserable enough in the olddays; it has been awful of late. What will it be now? And he knows allthat; he knows that I can't repent that I breathe, that I love; he knowsthat it can lead to nothing but lying and deceit; but he wants to go ontorturing me. I know him; I know that he's at home and is happy indeceit, like a fish swimming in the water. No, I won't give him thathappiness. I'll break through the spiderweb of lies in which he wants tocatch me, come what may. Anything's better than lying and deceit.

  "But how? My God! my God! Was ever a woman so miserable as I am?..."

  "No; I will break through it, I will break through it!" she cried,jumping up and keeping back her tears. And she went to the writing tableto write him another letter. But at the bottom of her heart she feltthat she was not strong enough to break through anything, that she wasnot strong enough to get out of her old position, however false anddishonorable it might be.

  She sat down at the writing table, but instead of writing she claspedher hands on the table, and, laying her head on them, burst into tears,with sobs and heaving breast like a child crying. She was weeping thather dream of her position being made clear and definite had beenannihilated forever. She knew beforehand that everything would go on inthe old way, and far worse, indeed, than in the old way. She felt thatthe position in the world that she enjoyed, and that had seemed to herof so little consequence in the morning, that this position was preciousto her, that she would not have the strength to exchange it for theshameful position of a woman who has abandoned husband and child to joinher lover; that however much she might struggle, she could not bestronger than herself. She would never know freedom in love, but wouldremain forever a guilty wife, with the menace of detection hanging overher at every instant; deceiving her husband for the sake of a shamefulconnection with a man living apart and away from her, whose life shecould never share. She knew that this was how it would be, and at thesame time it was so awful that she could not even conceive what it wouldend in. And she cried without restraint, as children cry when they arepunished.

  The sound of the footman's steps forced her to rouse herself, and,hiding her face from him, she pretended to be writing.

  "The courier asks if there's an answer," the footman announced.

  "An answer? Yes," said Anna. "Let him wait. I'll ring."

  "What can I write?" she thought. "What can I decide upon alone? What doI know? What do I want? What is there I care for?" Again she felt thather soul was beginning to be split in two. She was terrified again atthis feeling, and clutched at the first pretext for doing somethingwhich might divert her thoughts from herself. "I ought to see Alexey"(so she called Vronsky in her thoughts); "no one but he can tell me whatI ought to do. I'll go to Betsy's, perhaps I shall see him there," shesaid to herself, completely forgetting that when she had told him theday before that she was not going to Princess Tverskaya's, he had saidthat in that case he should not go either. She went up to the table,wrote to her husband, "I have received your letter.--A."; and, ringingthe bell, gave it to the footman.

  "We are not going," she said to Annushka, as she came in.

  "Not going at all?"

  "No; don't unpack till tomorrow, and let the carriage wait. I'm going tothe princess's."

  "Which dress am I to get ready?"

 

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