Anna karenina, p.91
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       Anna Karenina, p.91

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 22

  It was six o'clock already, and so, in order to be there quickly, and atthe same time not to drive with his own horses, known to everyone,Vronsky got into Yashvin's hired fly, and told the driver to drive asquickly as possible. It was a roomy, old-fashioned fly, with seats forfour. He sat in one corner, stretched his legs out on the front seat,and sank into meditation.

  A vague sense of the order into which his affairs had been brought, avague recollection of the friendliness and flattery of Serpuhovskoy, whohad considered him a man that was needed, and most of all, theanticipation of the interview before him--all blended into a general,joyous sense of life. This feeling was so strong that he could not helpsmiling. He dropped his legs, crossed one leg over the other knee, andtaking it in his hand, felt the springy muscle of the calf, where it hadbeen grazed the day before by his fall, and leaning back he drew severaldeep breaths.

  "I'm happy, very happy!" he said to himself. He had often before hadthis sense of physical joy in his own body, but he had never felt sofond of himself, of his own body, as at that moment. He enjoyed theslight ache in his strong leg, he enjoyed the muscular sensation ofmovement in his chest as he breathed. The bright, cold August day, whichhad made Anna feel so hopeless, seemed to him keenly stimulating, andrefreshed his face and neck that still tingled from the cold water. Thescent of brilliantine on his whiskers struck him as particularlypleasant in the fresh air. Everything he saw from the carriage window,everything in that cold pure air, in the pale light of the sunset, wasas fresh, and gay, and strong as he was himself: the roofs of the housesshining in the rays of the setting sun, the sharp outlines of fences andangles of buildings, the figures of passers-by, the carriages that methim now and then, the motionless green of the trees and grass, thefields with evenly drawn furrows of potatoes, and the slanting shadowsthat fell from the houses, and trees, and bushes, and even from the rowsof potatoes--everything was bright like a pretty landscape just finishedand freshly varnished.

  "Get on, get on!" he said to the driver, putting his head out of thewindow, and pulling a three-rouble note out of his pocket he handed itto the man as he looked round. The driver's hand fumbled with somethingat the lamp, the whip cracked, and the carriage rolled rapidly along thesmooth highroad.

  "I want nothing, nothing but this happiness," he thought, staring at thebone button of the bell in the space between the windows, and picturingto himself Anna just as he had seen her last time. "And as I go on, Ilove her more and more. Here's the garden of the Vrede Villa.Whereabouts will she be? Where? How? Why did she fix on this place tomeet me, and why does she write in Betsy's letter?" he thought,wondering now for the first time at it. But there was now no time forwonder. He called to the driver to stop before reaching the avenue, andopening the door, jumped out of the carriage as it was moving, and wentinto the avenue that led up to the house. There was no one in theavenue; but looking round to the right he caught sight of her. Her facewas hidden by a veil, but he drank in with glad eyes the specialmovement in walking, peculiar to her alone, the slope of the shoulders,and the setting of the head, and at once a sort of electric shock ranall over him. With fresh force, he felt conscious of himself from thespringy motions of his legs to the movements of his lungs as hebreathed, and something set his lips twitching.

  Joining him, she pressed his hand tightly.

  "You're not angry that I sent for you? I absolutely had to see you," shesaid; and the serious and set line of her lips, which he saw under theveil, transformed his mood at once.

  "I angry! But how have you come, where from?"

  "Never mind," she said, laying her hand on his, "come along, I must talkto you."

  He saw that something had happened, and that the interview would not bea joyous one. In her presence he had no will of his own: without knowingthe grounds of her distress, he already felt the same distressunconsciously passing over him.

  "What is it? what?" he asked her, squeezing her hand with his elbow, andtrying to read her thoughts in her face.

  She walked on a few steps in silence, gathering up her courage; thensuddenly she stopped.

  "I did not tell you yesterday," she began, breathing quickly andpainfully, "that coming home with Alexey Alexandrovitch I told himeverything ... told him I could not be his wife, that ... and told himeverything."

  He heard her, unconsciously bending his whole figure down to her asthough hoping in this way to soften the hardness of her position forher. But directly she had said this he suddenly drew himself up, and aproud and hard expression came over his face.

  "Yes, yes, that's better, a thousand times better! I know how painful itwas," he said. But she was not listening to his words, she was readinghis thoughts from the expression of his face. She could not guess thatthat expression arose from the first idea that presented itself toVronsky--that a duel was now inevitable. The idea of a duel had nevercrossed her mind, and so she put a different interpretation on thispassing expression of hardness.

  When she got her husband's letter, she knew then at the bottom of herheart that everything would go on in the old way, that she would nothave the strength of will to forego her position, to abandon her son,and to join her lover. The morning spent at Princess Tverskaya's hadconfirmed her still more in this. But this interview was still of theutmost gravity for her. She hoped that this interview would transformher position, and save her. If on hearing this news he were to say toher resolutely, passionately, without an instant's wavering: "Throw upeverything and come with me!" she would give up her son and go away withhim. But this news had not produced what she had expected in him; hesimply seemed as though he were resenting some affront.

  "It was not in the least painful to me. It happened of itself," she saidirritably; "and see..." she pulled her husband's letter out of herglove.

  "I understand, I understand," he interrupted her, taking the letter, butnot reading it, and trying to soothe her. "The one thing I longed for,the one thing I prayed for, was to cut short this position, so as todevote my life to your happiness."

  "Why do you tell me that?" she said. "Do you suppose I can doubt it? IfI doubted..."

  "Who's that coming?" said Vronsky suddenly, pointing to two ladieswalking towards them. "Perhaps they know us!" and he hurriedly turnedoff, drawing her after him into a side path.

  "Oh, I don't care!" she said. Her lips were quivering. And he fanciedthat her eyes looked with strange fury at him from under the veil. "Itell you that's not the point--I can't doubt that; but see what hewrites to me. Read it." She stood still again.

  Again, just as at the first moment of hearing of her rupture with herhusband, Vronsky, on reading the letter, was unconsciously carried awayby the natural sensation aroused in him by his own relation to thebetrayed husband. Now while he held his letter in his hands, he couldnot help picturing the challenge, which he would most likely find athome today or tomorrow, and the duel itself, in which, with the samecold and haughty expression that his face was assuming at this moment hewould await the injured husband's shot, after having himself fired intothe air. And at that instant there flashed across his mind the thoughtof what Serpuhovskoy had just said to him, and what he had himself beenthinking in the morning--that it was better not to bind himself--and heknew that this thought he could not tell her.

  Having read the letter, he raised his eyes to her, and there was nodetermination in them. She saw at once that he had been thinking aboutit before by himself. She knew that whatever he might say to her, hewould not say all he thought. And she knew that her last hope had failedher. This was not what she had been reckoning on.

  "You see the sort of man he is," she said, with a shaking voice; "he..."

  "Forgive me, but I rejoice at it," Vronsky interrupted. "For God's sake,let me finish!" he added, his eyes imploring her to give him time toexplain his words. "I rejoice, because things cannot, cannot possiblyremain as he supposes."

  "Why can't they?" Anna said, restraining her tears, and obviouslyattaching no sort of consequence t
o what he said. She felt that her fatewas sealed.

  Vronsky meant that after the duel--inevitable, he thought--things couldnot go on as before, but he said something different.

  "It can't go on. I hope that now you will leave him. I hope"--he wasconfused, and reddened--"that you will let me arrange and plan our life.Tomorrow..." he was beginning.

  She did not let him go on.

  "But my child!" she shrieked. "You see what he writes! I should have toleave him, and I can't and won't do that."

  "But, for God's sake, which is better?--leave your child, or keep upthis degrading position?"

  "To whom is it degrading?"

  "To all, and most of all to you."

  "You say degrading ... don't say that. Those words have no meaning forme," she said in a shaking voice. She did not want him now to say whatwas untrue. She had nothing left her but his love, and she wanted tolove him. "Don't you understand that from the day I loved you everythinghas changed for me? For me there is one thing, and one thing only--yourlove. If that's mine, I feel so exalted, so strong, that nothing can behumiliating to me. I am proud of my position, because ... proud of being... proud...." She could not say what she was proud of. Tears of shameand despair choked her utterance. She stood still and sobbed.

  He felt, too, something swelling in his throat and twitching in hisnose, and for the first time in his life he felt on the point ofweeping. He could not have said exactly what it was touched him so. Hefelt sorry for her, and he felt he could not help her, and with that heknew that he was to blame for her wretchedness, and that he had donesomething wrong.

  "Is not a divorce possible?" he said feebly. She shook her head, notanswering. "Couldn't you take your son, and still leave him?"

  "Yes; but it all depends on him. Now I must go to him," she saidshortly. Her presentiment that all would again go on in the old way hadnot deceived her.

  "On Tuesday I shall be in Petersburg, and everything can be settled."

  "Yes," she said. "But don't let us talk any more of it."

  Anna's carriage, which she had sent away, and ordered to come back tothe little gate of the Vrede garden, drove up. Anna said good-bye toVronsky, and drove home.

 
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