FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 32

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

Light off Small Medium Large

Before Vronsky’s departure for
the elections, Anna had reflected that the scenes
constantly repeated between them each time he left
home, might only make him cold to her instead of attaching
him to her, and resolved to do all she could to control
herself so as to bear the parting with composure. 
But the cold, severe glance with which he had looked
at her when he came to tell her he was going had wounded
her, and before he had started her peace of mind was
destroyed.

In solitude afterwards, thinking over
that glance which had expressed his right to freedom,
she came, as she always did, to the same point ­the
sense of her own humiliation.  “He has the
right to go away when and where he chooses.  Not
simply to go away, but to leave me.  He has every
right, and I have none.  But knowing that, he
ought not to do it.  What has he done, though?… 
He looked at me with a cold, severe expression. 
Of course that is something indefinable, impalpable,
but it has never been so before, and that glance means
a great deal,” she thought.  “That
glance shows the beginning of indifference.”

And though she felt sure that a coldness
was beginning, there was nothing she could do, she
could not in any way alter her relations to him. 
Just as before, only by love and by charm could she
keep him.  And so, just as before, only by occupation
in the day, by morphine at night, could she stifle
the fearful thought of what would be if he ceased
to love her.  It is true there was still one
means; not to keep him ­for that she wanted
nothing more than his love ­but to be nearer
to him, to be in such a position that he would not
leave her.  That means was divorce and marriage. 
And she began to long for that, and made up her mind
to agree to it the first time he or Stiva approached
her on the subject.

Absorbed in such thoughts, she passed
five days without him, the five days that he was to
be at the elections.

Walks, conversation with Princess
Varvara, visits to the hospital, and, most of all,
reading ­reading of one book after another ­filled
up her time.  But on the sixth day, when the
coachman came back without him, she felt that now she
was utterly incapable of stifling the thought of him
and of what he was doing there, just at that time
her little girl was taken ill.  Anna began to
look after her, but even that did not distract her
mind, especially as the illness was not serious. 
However hard she tried, she could not love this little
child, and to feign love was beyond her powers. 
Towards the evening of that day, still alone, Anna
was in such a panic about him that she decided to
start for the town, but on second thoughts wrote him
the contradictory letter that Vronsky received, and
without reading it through, sent it off by a special
messenger.  The next morning she received his
letter and regretted her own.  She dreaded a
repetition of the severe look he had flung at her at
parting, especially when he knew that the baby was
not dangerously ill.  But still she was glad she
had written to him.  At this moment Anna was
positively admitting to herself that she was a burden
to him, that he would relinquish his freedom regretfully
to return to her, and in spite of that she was glad
he was coming.  Let him weary of her, but he
would be here with her, so that she would see him,
would know of every action he took.

She was sitting in the drawing room
near a lamp, with a new volume of Taine, and as she
read, listening to the sound of the wind outside,
and every minute expecting the carriage to arrive. 
Several times she had fancied she heard the sound of
wheels, but she had been mistaken.  At last she
heard not the sound of wheels, but the coachman’s
shout and the dull rumble in the covered entry. 
Even Princess Varvara, playing patience, confirmed
this, and Anna, flushing hotly, got up; but instead
of going down, as she had done twice before, she stood
still.  She suddenly felt ashamed of her duplicity,
but even more she dreaded how he might meet her. 
All feeling of wounded pride had passed now; she
was only afraid of the expression of his displeasure. 
She remembered that her child had been perfectly well
again for the last two days.  She felt positively
vexed with her for getting better from the very moment
her letter was sent off.  Then she thought of
him, that he was here, all of him, with his hands,
his eyes.  She heard his voice.  And forgetting
everything, she ran joyfully to meet him.

“Well, how is Annie?”
he said timidly from below, looking up to Anna as
she ran down to him.

He was sitting on a chair, and a footman
was pulling off his warm over-boot.

“Oh, she is better.”

“And you?” he said, shaking himself.

She took his hand in both of hers,
and drew it to her waist, never taking her eyes off
him.

“Well, I’m glad,”
he said, coldly scanning her, her hair, her dress,
which he knew she had put on for him.  All was
charming, but how many times it had charmed him! 
And the stern, stony expression that she so dreaded
settled upon his face.

“Well, I’m glad. 
And are you well?” he said, wiping his damp
beard with his handkerchief and kissing her hand.

“Never mind,” she thought,
“only let him be here, and so long as he’s
here he cannot, he dare not, cease to love me.”

The evening was spent happily and
gaily in the presence of Princess Varvara, who complained
to him that Anna had been taking morphine in his absence.

“What am I to do?  I couldn’t
sleep….  My thoughts prevented me.  When
he’s here I never take it ­hardly ever.”

He told her about the election, and
Anna knew how by adroit questions to bring him to
what gave him most pleasure ­his own success. 
She told him of everything that interested him at
home; and all that she told him was of the most cheerful
description.

But late in the evening, when they
were alone, Anna, seeing that she had regained complete
possession of him, wanted to erase the painful impression
of the glance he had given her for her letter. 
She said: 

“Tell me frankly, you were vexed
at getting my letter, and you didn’t believe
me?”

As soon as she had said it, she felt
that however warm his feelings were to her, he had
not forgiven her for that.

“Yes,” he said, “the
letter was so strange.  First, Annie ill, and
then you thought of coming yourself.”

“It was all the truth.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt it.”

“Yes, you do doubt it.  You are vexed,
I see.”

“Not for one moment.  I’m
only vexed, that’s true, that you seem somehow
unwilling to admit that there are duties…”

“The duty of going to a concert…”

“But we won’t talk about it,” he
said.

“Why not talk about it?” she said.

“I only meant to say that matters
of real importance may turn up.  Now, for instance,
I shall have to go to Moscow to arrange about the
house….  Oh, Anna, why are you so irritable? 
Don’t you know that I can’t live without
you?”

“If so,” said Anna, her
voice suddenly changing, “it means that you
are sick of this life….  Yes, you will come
for a day and go away, as men do…”

“Anna, that’s cruel.  I am ready
to give up my whole life.”

But she did not hear him.

“If you go to Moscow, I will
go too.  I will not stay here.  Either we
must separate or else live together.”

“Why, you know, that’s my one desire. 
But for that…”

“We must get a divorce. 
I will write to him.  I see I cannot go on like
this….  But I will come with you to Moscow.”

“You talk as if you were threatening
me.  But I desire nothing so much as never to
be parted from you,” said Vronsky, smiling.

But as he said these words there gleamed
in his eyes not merely a cold look, but the vindictive
look of a man persecuted and made cruel.

She saw the look and correctly divined its meaning.

“If so, it’s a calamity!”
that glance told her.  It was a moment’s
impression, but she never forgot it.

Anna wrote to her husband asking him
about a divorce, and towards the end of November,
taking leave of Princess Varvara, who wanted to go
to Petersburg, she went with Vronsky to Moscow. 
Expecting every day an answer from Alexey Alexandrovitch,
and after that the divorce, they now established themselves
together like married people.

 

Leave a Reply