FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 24

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

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“Then there is all the more
reason for you to legalize your position, if possible,”
said Dolly.

“Yes, if possible,” said
Anna, speaking all at once in an utterly different
tone, subdued and mournful.

“Surely you don’t mean
a divorce is impossible?  I was told your husband
had consented to it.”

“Dolly, I don’t want to talk about that.”

“Oh, we won’t then,”
Darya Alexandrovna hastened to say, noticing the expression
of suffering on Anna’s face.  “All
I see is that you take too gloomy a view of things.”

“I?  Not at all! 
I’m always bright and happy.  You see, je
fais des passions.
Veslovsky…”

“Yes, to tell the truth, I don’t
like Veslovsky’s tone,” said Darya Alexandrovna,
anxious to change the subject.

“Oh, that’s nonsense! 
It amuses Alexey, and that’s all; but he’s
a boy, and quite under my control.  You know,
I turn him as I please.  It’s just as it
might be with your Grisha….  Dolly!” ­
she suddenly changed the subject ­“you
say I take too gloomy a view of things.  You
can’t understand.  It’s too awful! 
I try not to take any view of it at all.”

“But I think you ought to. 
You ought to do all you can.”

“But what can I do?  Nothing. 
You tell me to marry Alexey, and say I don’t
think about it.  I don’t think about it!”
she repeated, and a flush rose into her face. 
She got up, straightening her chest, and sighed heavily. 
With her light step she began pacing up and down
the room, stopping now and then.  “I don’t
think of it?  Not a day, not an hour passes that
I don’t think of it, and blame myself for thinking
of it…because thinking of that may drive me mad. 
Drive me mad!” she repeated.  “When
I think of it, I can’t sleep without morphine. 
But never mind.  Let us talk quietly. 
They tell me, divorce.  In the first place, he
won’t give me a divorce.  He’s under
the influence of Countess Lidia Ivanovna now.”

Darya Alexandrovna, sitting erect
on a chair, turned her head, following Anna with a
face of sympathetic suffering.

“You ought to make the attempt,” she said
softly.

“Suppose I make the attempt. 
What does it mean?” she said, evidently giving
utterance to a thought, a thousand times thought over
and learned by heart.  “It means that I,
hating him, but still recognizing that I have wronged
him ­and I consider him magnanimous ­that
I humiliate myself to write to him….  Well,
suppose I make the effort; I do it.  Either I
receive a humiliating refusal or consent…. 
Well, I have received his consent, say…” 
Anna was at that moment at the furthest end of the
room, and she stopped there, doing something to the
curtain at the window.  “I receive his consent,
but my…my son?  They won’t give him up
to me.  He will grow up despising me, with his
father, whom I’ve abandoned.  Do you see,
I love… equally, I think, but both more than myself ­two
creatures, Seryozha and Alexey.”

She came out into the middle of the
room and stood facing Dolly, with her arms pressed
tightly across her chest.  In her white dressing
gown her figure seemed more than usually grand and
broad.  She bent her head, and with shining, wet
eyes looked from under her brows at Dolly, a thin
little pitiful figure in her patched dressing jacket
and nightcap, shaking all over with emotion.

“It is only those two creatures
that I love, and one excludes the other.  I can’t
have them together, and that’s the only thing
I want.  And since I can’t have that, I
don’t care about the rest.  I don’t
care about anything, anything.  And it will end
one way or another, and so I can’t, I don’t
like to talk of it.  So don’t blame me,
don’t judge me for anything.  You can’t
with your pure heart understand all that I’m
suffering.”  She went up, sat down beside
Dolly, and with a guilty look, peeped into her face
and took her hand.

“What are you thinking? 
What are you thinking about me?  Don’t
despise me.  I don’t deserve contempt. 
I’m simply unhappy.  If anyone is unhappy,
I am,” she articulated, and turning away, she
burst into tears.

Left alone, Darya Alexandrovna said
her prayers and went to bed.  She had felt for
Anna with all her heart while she was speaking to
her, but now she could not force herself to think of
her.  The memories of home and of her children
rose up in her imagination with a peculiar charm quite
new to her, with a sort of new brilliance.  That
world of her own seemed to her now so sweet and precious
that she would not on any account spend an extra day
outside it, and she made up her mind that she would
certainly go back next day.

Anna meantime went back to her boudoir,
took a wine glass and dropped into it several drops
of a medicine, of which the principal ingredient was
morphine.  After drinking it off and sitting
still a little while, she went into her bedroom in
a soothed and more cheerful frame of mind.

When she went into the bedroom, Vronsky
looked intently at her.  He was looking for traces
of the conversation which he knew that, staying so
long in Dolly’s room, she must have had with
her.  But in her expression of restrained excitement,
and of a sort of reserve, he could find nothing but
the beauty that always bewitched him afresh though
he was used to it, the consciousness of it, and the
desire that it should affect him.  He did not
want to ask her what they had been talking of, but
he hoped that she would tell him something of her
own accord.  But she only said: 

“I am so glad you like Dolly.  You do,
don’t you?”

“Oh, I’ve known her a
long while, you know.  She’s very good-hearted,
I suppose, maïs excessivement terre-a-terre.
Still, I’m very glad to see her.”

He took Anna’s hand and looked
inquiringly into her eyes.

Misinterpreting the look, she smiled
to him.  Next morning, in spite of the protests
of her hosts, Darya Alexandrovna prepared for her
homeward journey.  Levin’s coachman, in
his by no means new coat and shabby hat, with his
ill-matched horses and his coach with the patched
mud-guards, drove with gloomy determination into the
covered gravel approach.

Darya Alexandrovna disliked taking
leave of Princess Varvara and the gentlemen of the
party.  After a day spent together, both she
and her hosts were distinctly aware that they did not
get on together, and that it was better for them not
to meet.  Only Anna was sad.  She knew that
now, from Dolly’s departure, no one again would
stir up within her soul the feelings that had been
roused by their conversation.  It hurt her to
stir up these feelings, but yet she knew that that
was the best part of her soul, and that that part
of her soul would quickly be smothered in the life
she was leading.

As she drove out into the open country,
Darya Alexandrovna had a delightful sense of relief,
and she felt tempted to ask the two men how they had
liked being at Vronsky’s, when suddenly the
coachman, Philip, expressed himself unasked: 

“Rolling in wealth they may
be, but three pots of oats was all they gave us. 
Everything cleared up till there wasn’t a grain
left by cockcrow.  What are three pots? 
A mere mouthful!  And oats now down to forty-five
kopecks.  At our place, no fear, all comers
may have as much as they can eat.”

“The master’s a screw,”
put in the counting house clerk.

“Well, did you like their horses?” asked
Dolly.

“The horses! ­there’s
no two opinions about them.  And the food was
good.  But it seemed to me sort of dreary there,
Darya Alexandrovna.  I don’t know what
you thought,” he said, turning his handsome,
good-natured face to her.

“I thought so too.  Well,
shall we get home by evening?”

“Eh, we must!”

On reaching home and finding everyone
entirely satisfactory and particularly charming, Darya
Alexandrovna began with great liveliness telling them
how she had arrived, how warmly they had received
her, of the luxury and good taste in which the Vronskys
lived, and of their recreations, and she would not
allow a word to be said against them.

“One has to know Anna and Vronsky ­I
have got to know him better now ­to see
how nice they are, and how touching,” she said,
speaking now with perfect sincerity, and forgetting
the vague feeling of dissatisfaction and awkwardness
she had experienced there.

 

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