FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 23

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

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Dolly was wanting to go to bed when
Anna came in to see her, attired for the night. 
In the course of the day Anna had several times begun
to speak of matters near her heart, and every time
after a few words she had stopped:  “Afterwards,
by ourselves, we’ll talk about everything. 
I’ve got so much I want to tell you,”
she said.

Now they were by themselves, and Anna
did not know what to talk about.  She sat in
the window looking at Dolly, and going over in her
own mind all the stores of intimate talk which had
seemed so inexhaustible beforehand, and she found
nothing.  At that moment it seemed to her that
everything had been said already.

“Well, what of Kitty?”
she said with a heavy sigh, looking penitently at
Dolly.  “Tell me the truth, Dolly: 
isn’t she angry with me?”

“Angry?  Oh, no!” said Darya Alexandrovna,
smiling.

“But she hates me, despises me?”

“Oh, no!  But you know that sort of thing
isn’t forgiven.”

“Yes, yes,” said Anna,
turning away and looking out of the open window. 
“But I was not to blame.  And who is to
blame?  What’s the meaning of being to
blame?  Could it have been otherwise?  What
do you think?  Could it possibly have happened
that you didn’t become the wife of Stiva?”

“Really, I don’t know. 
But this is what I want you to tell me…”

“Yes, yes, but we’ve not
finished about Kitty.  Is she happy?  He’s
a very nice man, they say.”

“He’s much more than very
nice.  I don’t know a better man.”

“Ah, how glad I am!  I’m
so glad!  Much more than very nice,” she
repeated.

Dolly smiled.

“But tell me about yourself. 
We’ve a great deal to talk about.  And
I’ve had a talk with…”  Dolly did
not know what to call him.  She felt it awkward
to call him either the count or Alexey Kirillovitch.

“With Alexey,” said Anna,
“I know what you talked about.  But I wanted
to ask you directly what you think of me, of my life?”

“How am I to say like that straight
off?  I really don’t know.”

“No, tell me all the same…. 
You see my life.  But you mustn’t forget
that you’re seeing us in the summer, when you
have come to us and we are not alone….  But
we came here early in the spring, lived quite alone,
and shall be alone again, and I desire nothing better. 
But imagine me living alone without him, alone, and
that will be…I see by everything that it will often
be repeated, that he will be half the time away from
home,” she said, getting up and sitting down
close by Dolly.

“Of course,” she interrupted
Dolly, who would have answered, “of course I
won’t try to keep him by force.  I don’t
keep him indeed.  The races are just coming,
his horses are running, he will go.  I’m
very glad.  But think of me, fancy my position…. 
But what’s the use of talking about it?”
She smiled.  “Well, what did he talk about
with you?”

“He spoke of what I want to
speak about of myself, and it’s easy for me
to be his advocate; of whether there is not a possibility
…whether you could not…” (Darya Alexandrovna
hesitated) “correct, improve your position…. 
You know how I look at it….  But all the same,
if possible, you should get married….”

“Divorce, you mean?” said
Anna.  “Do you know, the only woman who
came to see me in Petersburg was Betsy Tverskaya? 
You know her, of course? Au fond, c’est
la femme la plus depravee qui existe.
She had
an intrigue with Tushkevitch, deceiving her husband
in the basest way.  And she told me that she
did not care to know me so long as my position was
irregular.  Don’t imagine I would compare…I
know you, darling.  But I could not help remembering…. 
Well, so what did he say to you?” she repeated.

“He said that he was unhappy
on your account and his own.  Perhaps you will
say that it’s egoism, but what a legitimate and
noble egoism.  He wants first of all to legitimize
his daughter, and to be your husband, to have a legal
right to you.”

“What wife, what slave can be
so utterly a slave as I, in my position?” she
put in gloomily.

“The chief thing he desires…he
desires that you should not suffer.”

“That’s impossible.  Well?”

“Well, and the most legitimate
desire ­he wishes that your children should
have a name.”

“What children?” Anna
said, not looking at Dolly, and half closing her eyes.

“Annie and those to come…”

“He need not trouble on that
score; I shall have no more children.”

“How can you tell that you won’t?”

“I shall not, because I don’t
wish it.”  And, in spite of all her emotion,
Anna smiled, as she caught the naïve expression of
curiosity, wonder, and horror on Dolly’s face.

“The doctor told me after my illness…”

“Impossible!” said Dolly, opening her
eyes wide.

For her this was one of those discoveries
the consequences and deductions from which are so
immense that all that one feels for the first instant
is that it is impossible to take it all in, and that
one will have to reflect a great, great deal upon it.

This discovery, suddenly throwing
light on all those families of one or two children,
which had hitherto been so incomprehensible to her,
aroused so many ideas, reflections, and contradictory
emotions, that she had nothing to say, and simply gazed
with wide-open eyes of wonder at Anna.  This
was the very thing she had been dreaming of, but now
learning that it was possible, she was horrified. 
She felt that it was too simple a solution of too
complicated a problem.

“N’est-ce pas immoral?”
was all she said, after a brief pause.

“Why so?  Think, I have
a choice between two alternatives:  either to
be with child, that is an invalid, or to be the friend
and companion of my husband ­practically
my husband,” Anna said in a tone intentionally
superficial and frivolous.

“Yes, yes,” said Darya
Alexandrovna, hearing the very arguments she had used
to herself, and not finding the same force in them
as before.

“For you, for other people,”
said Anna, as though divining her thoughts, “there
may be reason to hesitate; but for me….  You
must consider, I am not his wife; he loves me as long
as he loves me.  And how am I to keep his love? 
Not like this!”

She moved her white hands in a curve
before her waist with extraordinary rapidity, as happens
during moments of excitement; ideas and memories rushed
into Darya Alexandrovna’s head.  “I,”
she thought, “did not keep my attraction for
Stiva; he left me for others, and the first woman
for whom he betrayed me did not keep him by being
always pretty and lively.  He deserted her and
took another.  And can Anna attract and keep Count
Vronsky in that way?  If that is what he looks
for, he will find dresses and manners still more attractive
and charming.  And however white and beautiful
her bare arms are, however beautiful her full figure
and her eager face under her black curls, he will find
something better still, just as my disgusting, pitiful,
and charming husband does.”

Dolly made no answer, she merely sighed. 
Anna noticed this sigh, indicating dissent, and she
went on.  In her armory she had other arguments
so strong that no answer could be made to them.

“Do you say that it’s
not right?  But you must consider,” she
went on; “you forget my position.  How can
I desire children?  I’m not speaking of
the suffering, I’m not afraid of that. 
Think only, what are my children to be?  Ill-fated
children, who will have to bear a stranger’s
name.  For the very fact of their birth they
will be forced to be ashamed of their mother, their
father, their birth.”

“But that is just why a divorce
is necessary.”  But Anna did not hear her. 
She longed to give utterance to all the arguments
with which she had so many times convinced herself.

“What is reason given me for,
if I am not to use it to avoid bringing unhappy beings
into the world!” She looked at Dolly, but without
waiting for a reply she went on: 

“I should always feel I had
wronged these unhappy children,” she said. 
“If they are not, at any rate they are not unhappy;
while if they are unhappy, I alone should be to blame
for it.”

These were the very arguments Darya
Alexandrovna had used in her own reflections; but
she heard them without understanding them.  “How
can one wrong creatures that don’t exist?”
she thought.  And all at once the idea struck
her:  could it possibly, under any circumstances,
have been better for her favorite Grisha if he had
never existed?  And this seemed to her so wild,
so strange, that she shook her head to drive away
this tangle of whirling, mad ideas.

“No, I don’t know; it’s
not right,” was all she said, with an expression
of disgust on her face.

“Yes, but you mustn’t
forget that you and I….  And besides that,”
added Anna, in spite of the wealth of her arguments
and the poverty of Dolly’s objections, seeming
still to admit that it was not right, “don’t
forget the chief point, that I am not now in the same
position as you.  For you the question is: 
do you desire not to have any more children; while
for me it is:  do I desire to have them? 
And that’s a great difference.  You must
see that I can’t desire it in my position.”

Darya Alexandrovna made no reply. 
She suddenly felt that she had got far away from
Anna; that there lay between them a barrier of questions
on which they could never agree, and about which it
was better not to speak.

 

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