FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 21

Leo TolstoyAug 25, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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“No, I think the princess is
tired, and horses don’t interest her,”
Vronsky said to Anna, who wanted to go on to the stables,
where Sviazhsky wished to see the new stallion. 
“You go on, while I escort the princess home,
and we’ll have a little talk,” he said,
“if you would like that?” he added, turning
to her.

“I know nothing about horses,
and I shall be delighted,” answered Darya Alexandrovna,
rather astonished.

She saw by Vronsky’s face that
he wanted something from her.  She was not mistaken. 
As soon as they had passed through the little gate
back into the garden, he looked in the direction Anna
had taken, and having made sure that she could neither
hear nor see them, he began: 

“You guess that I have something
I want to say to you,” he said, looking at her
with laughing eyes.  “I am not wrong in
believing you to be a friend of Anna’s.” 
He took off his hat, and taking out his handkerchief,
wiped his head, which was growing bald.

Darya Alexandrovna made no answer,
and merely stared at him with dismay.  When she
was left alone with him, she suddenly felt afraid;
his laughing eyes and stern expression scared her.

The most diverse suppositions as to
what he was about to speak of to her flashed into
her brain.  “He is going to beg me to come
to stay with them with the children, and I shall have
to refuse; or to create a set that will receive Anna
in Moscow….  Or isn’t it Vassenka Veslovsky
and his relations with Anna?  Or perhaps about
Kitty, that he feels he was to blame?” All her
conjectures were unpleasant, but she did not guess
what he really wanted to talk about to her.

“You have so much influence
with Anna, she is so fond of you,” he said;
“do help me.”

Darya Alexandrovna looked with timid
inquiry into his energetic face, which under the lime-trees
was continually being lighted up in patches by the
sunshine, and then passing into complete shadow again. 
She waited for him to say more, but he walked in silence
beside her, scratching with his cane in the gravel.

“You have come to see us, you,
the only woman of Anna’s former friends ­I
don’t count Princess Varvara ­but I
know that you have done this not because you regard
our position as normal, but because, understanding
all the difficulty of the position, you still love
her and want to be a help to her.  Have I understood
you rightly?” he asked, looking round at her.

“Oh, yes,” answered Darya
Alexandrovna, putting down her sunshade, “but…”

“No,” he broke in, and
unconsciously, oblivious of the awkward position into
which he was putting his companion, he stopped abruptly,
so that she had to stop short too.  “No
one feels more deeply and intensely than I do all
the difficulty of Anna’s position; and that
you may well understand, if you do me the honor of
supposing I have any heart.  I am to blame for
that position, and that is why I feel it.”

“I understand,” said Darya
Alexandrovna, involuntarily admiring the sincerity
and firmness with which he said this.  “But
just because you feel yourself responsible, you exaggerate
it, I am afraid,” she said.  “Her
position in the world is difficult, I can well understand.”

“In the world it is hell!”
he brought out quickly, frowning darkly.  “You
can’t imagine moral sufferings greater than what
she went through in Petersburg in that fortnight…and
I beg you to believe it.”

“Yes, but here, so long as neither
Anna…nor you miss society…”

“Society!” he said contemptuously,
“how could I miss society?”

“So far ­and it may
be so always ­you are happy and at peace. 
I see in Anna that she is happy, perfectly happy,
she has had time to tell me so much already,”
said Darya Alexandrovna, smiling; and involuntarily,
as she said this, at the same moment a doubt entered
her mind whether Anna really were happy.

But Vronsky, it appeared, had no doubts
on that score.

“Yes, yes,” he said, “I
know that she has revived after all her sufferings;
she is happy.  She is happy in the present. 
But I?…  I am afraid of what is before us…I
beg your pardon, you would like to walk on?”

“No, I don’t mind.”

“Well, then, let us sit here.”

Darya Alexandrovna sat down on a garden
seat in a corner of the avenue.  He stood up
facing her.

“I see that she is happy,”
he repeated, and the doubt whether she were happy
sank more deeply into Darya Alexandrovna’s mind. 
“But can it last?  Whether we have acted
rightly or wrongly is another question, but the die
is cast,” he said, passing from Russian to French,
“and we are bound together for life.  We
are united by all the ties of love that we hold most
sacred.  We have a child, we may have other children. 
But the law and all the conditions of our position
are such that thousands of complications arise which
she does not see and does not want to see.  And
that one can well understand.  But I can’t
help seeing them.  My daughter is by law not
my daughter, but Karenin’s.  I cannot bear
this falsity!” he said, with a vigorous gesture
of refusal, and he looked with gloomy inquiry towards
Darya Alexandrovna.

She made no answer, but simply gazed
at him.  He went on: 

“One day a son may be born,
my son, and he will be legally a Karenin; he will
not be the heir of my name nor of my property, and
however happy we may be in our home life and however
many children we may have, there will be no real tie
between us.  They will be Karenins.  You
can understand the bitterness and horror of this position! 
I have tried to speak of this to Anna.  It irritates
her.  She does not understand, and to her I cannot
speak plainly of all this.  Now look at another
side.  I am happy, happy in her love, but I must
have occupation.  I have found occupation, and
am proud of what I am doing and consider it nobler
than the pursuits of my former companions at court
and in the army.  And most certainly I would
not change the work I am doing for theirs.  I
am working here, settled in my own place, and I am
happy and contented, and we need nothing more to make
us happy.  I love my work here. Ce n’est
pas un pis-aller,
on the contrary…”

Darya Alexandrovna noticed that at
this point in his explanation he grew confused, and
she did not quite understand this digression, but
she felt that having once begun to speak of matters
near his heart, of which he could not speak to Anna,
he was now making a clean breast of everything, and
that the question of his pursuits in the country fell
into the same category of matters near his heart,
as the question of his relations with Anna.

“Well, I will go on,”
he said, collecting himself.  “The great
thing is that as I work I want to have a conviction
that what I am doing will not die with me, that I
shall have heirs to come after me, ­and
this I have not.  Conceive the position of a man
who knows that his children, the children of the woman
he loves, will not be his, but will belong to someone
who hates them and cares nothing about them! 
It is awful!”

He paused, evidently much moved.

“Yes, indeed, I see that. 
But what can Anna do?” queried Darya Alexandrovna.

“Yes, that brings me to the
object of my conversation,” he said, calming
himself with an effort.  “Anna can, it depends
on her….  Even to petition the Tsar for legitimization,
a divorce is essential.  And that depends on
Anna.  Her husband agreed to a divorce ­at
that time your husband had arranged it completely. 
And now, I know, he would not refuse it.  It is
only a matter of writing to him.  He said plainly
at that time that if she expressed the desire, he
would not refuse.  Of course,” he said
gloomily, “it is one of those Pharisaical cruelties
of which only such heartless men are capable. 
He knows what agony any recollection of him must
give her, and knowing her, he must have a letter from
her.  I can understand that it is agony to her. 
But the matter is of such importance, that one must
passer pardessus toutes ces finesses de sentiment. 
Il y va du bonheur et de l’existence d’Anne
et de ses enfants.
I won’t speak of myself,
though it’s hard for me, very hard,” he
said, with an expression as though he were threatening
someone for its being hard for him.  “And
so it is, princess, that I am shamelessly clutching
at you as an anchor of salvation.  Help me to
persuade her to write to him and ask for a divorce.”

“Yes, of course,” Darya
Alexandrovna said dreamily, as she vividly recalled
her last interview with Alexey Alexandrovitch. 
“Yes, of course,” she repeated with decision,
thinking of Anna.

“Use your influence with her,
make her write.  I don’t like ­I’m
almost unable to speak about this to her.”

“Very well, I will talk to her. 
But how is it she does not think of it herself?”
said Darya Alexandrovna, and for some reason she suddenly
at that point recalled Anna’s strange new habit
of half-closing her eyes.  And she remembered
that Anna drooped her eyelids just when the deeper
questions of life were touched upon.  “Just
as though she half-shut her eyes to her own life,
so as not to see everything,” thought Dolly. 
“Yes, indeed, for my own sake and for hers
I will talk to her,” Dolly said in reply to
his look of gratitude.

They got up and walked to the house.

 

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