Anna karenina, p.92
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       Anna Karenina, p.92

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 23

  On Monday there was the usual sitting of the Commission of the 2nd ofJune. Alexey Alexandrovitch walked into the hall where the sitting washeld, greeted the members and the president, as usual, and sat down inhis place, putting his hand on the papers laid ready before him. Amongthese papers lay the necessary evidence and a rough outline of thespeech he intended to make. But he did not really need these documents.He remembered every point, and did not think it necessary to go over inhis memory what he would say. He knew that when the time came, and whenhe saw his enemy facing him, and studiously endeavoring to assume anexpression of indifference, his speech would flow of itself better thanhe could prepare it now. He felt that the import of his speech was ofsuch magnitude that every word of it would have weight. Meantime, as helistened to the usual report, he had the most innocent and inoffensiveair. No one, looking at his white hands, with their swollen veins andlong fingers, so softly stroking the edges of the white paper that laybefore him, and at the air of weariness with which his head drooped onone side, would have suspected that in a few minutes a torrent of wordswould flow from his lips that would arouse a fearful storm, set themembers shouting and attacking one another, and force the president tocall for order. When the report was over, Alexey Alexandrovitchannounced in his subdued, delicate voice that he had several points tobring before the meeting in regard to the Commission for theReorganization of the Native Tribes. All attention was turned upon him.Alexey Alexandrovitch cleared his throat, and not looking at hisopponent, but selecting, as he always did while he was delivering hisspeeches, the first person sitting opposite him, an inoffensive littleold man, who never had an opinion of any sort in the Commission, beganto expound his views. When he reached the point about the fundamentaland radical law, his opponent jumped up and began to protest. Stremov,who was also a member of the Commission, and also stung to the quick,began defending himself, and altogether a stormy sitting followed; butAlexey Alexandrovitch triumphed, and his motion was carried, three newcommissions were appointed, and the next day in a certain Petersburgcircle nothing else was talked of but this sitting. AlexeyAlexandrovitch's success had been even greater than he had anticipated.

  Next morning, Tuesday, Alexey Alexandrovitch, on waking up, recollectedwith pleasure his triumph of the previous day, and he could not helpsmiling, though he tried to appear indifferent, when the chief secretaryof his department, anxious to flatter him, informed him of the rumorsthat had reached him concerning what had happened in the Commission.

  Absorbed in business with the chief secretary, Alexey Alexandrovitch hadcompletely forgotten that it was Tuesday, the day fixed by him for thereturn of Anna Arkadyevna, and he was surprised and received a shock ofannoyance when a servant came in to inform him of her arrival.

  Anna had arrived in Petersburg early in the morning; the carriage hadbeen sent to meet her in accordance with her telegram, and so AlexeyAlexandrovitch might have known of her arrival. But when she arrived, hedid not meet her. She was told that he had not yet gone out, but wasbusy with his secretary. She sent word to her husband that she had come,went to her own room, and occupied herself in sorting out her things,expecting he would come to her. But an hour passed; he did not come. Shewent into the dining room on the pretext of giving some directions, andspoke loudly on purpose, expecting him to come out there; but he did notcome, though she heard him go to the door of his study as he parted fromthe chief secretary. She knew that he usually went out quickly to hisoffice, and she wanted to see him before that, so that their attitude toone another might be defined.

  She walked across the drawing room and went resolutely to him. When shewent into his study he was in official uniform, obviously ready to goout, sitting at a little table on which he rested his elbows, lookingdejectedly before him. She saw him before he saw her, and she saw thathe was thinking of her.

  On seeing her, he would have risen, but changed his mind, then his faceflushed hotly--a thing Anna had never seen before, and he got up quicklyand went to meet her, looking not at her eyes, but above them at herforehead and hair. He went up to her, took her by the hand, and askedher to sit down.

  "I am very glad you have come," he said, sitting down beside her, andobviously wishing to say something, he stuttered. Several times he triedto begin to speak, but stopped. In spite of the fact that, preparingherself for meeting him, she had schooled herself to despise andreproach him, she did not know what to say to him, and she felt sorryfor him. And so the silence lasted for some time. "Is Seryozha quitewell?" he said, and not waiting for an answer, he added: "I shan't bedining at home today, and I have got to go out directly."

  "I had thought of going to Moscow," she said.

  "No, you did quite, quite right to come," he said, and was silent again.

  Seeing that he was powerless to begin the conversation, she beganherself.

  "Alexey Alexandrovitch," she said, looking at him and not dropping hereyes under his persistent gaze at her hair, "I'm a guilty woman, I'm abad woman, but I am the same as I was, as I told you then, and I havecome to tell you that I can change nothing."

  "I have asked you no question about that," he said, all at once,resolutely and with hatred looking her straight in the face; "that wasas I had supposed." Under the influence of anger he apparently regainedcomplete possession of all his faculties. "But as I told you then, andhave written to you," he said in a thin, shrill voice, "I repeat now,that I am not bound to know this. I ignore it. Not all wives are so kindas you, to be in such a hurry to communicate such agreeable news totheir husbands." He laid special emphasis on the word "agreeable." "Ishall ignore it so long as the world knows nothing of it, so long as myname is not disgraced. And so I simply inform you that our relationsmust be just as they have always been, and that only in the event ofyour compromising me I shall be obliged to take steps to secure myhonor."

  "But our relations cannot be the same as always," Anna began in a timidvoice, looking at him with dismay.

  When she saw once more those composed gestures, heard that shrill,childish, and sarcastic voice, her aversion for him extinguished herpity for him, and she felt only afraid, but at all costs she wanted tomake clear her position.

  "I cannot be your wife while I...." she began.

  He laughed a cold and malignant laugh.

  "The manner of life you have chosen is reflected, I suppose, in yourideas. I have too much respect or contempt, or both ... I respect yourpast and despise your present ... that I was far from the interpretationyou put on my words."

  Anna sighed and bowed her head.

  "Though indeed I fail to comprehend how, with the independence youshow," he went on, getting hot, "--announcing your infidelity to yourhusband and seeing nothing reprehensible in it, apparently--you can seeanything reprehensible in performing a wife's duties in relation to yourhusband."

  "Alexey Alexandrovitch! What is it you want of me?"

  "I want you not to meet that man here, and to conduct yourself so thatneither the world nor the servants can reproach you ... not to see him.That's not much, I think. And in return you will enjoy all theprivileges of a faithful wife without fulfilling her duties. That's allI have to say to you. Now it's time for me to go. I'm not dining athome." He got up and moved towards the door.

  Anna got up too. Bowing in silence, he let her pass before him.

 
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