FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 24

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

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“Well, was it nice?” she
asked, coming out to meet him with a penitent and
meek expression.

“Just as usual,” he answered,
seeing at a glance that she was in one of her good
moods.  He was used by now to these transitions,
and he was particularly glad to see it today, as he
was in a specially good humor himself.

“What do I see?  Come,
that’s good!” he said, pointing to the
boxes in the passage.

“Yes, we must go.  I went
out for a drive, and it was so fine I longed to be
in the country.  There’s nothing to keep
you, is there?”

“It’s the one thing I
desire.  I’ll be back directly, and we’ll
talk it over; I only want to change my coat. 
Order some tea.”

And he went into his room.

There was something mortifying in
the way he had said “Come, that’s good,”
as one says to a child when it leaves off being naughty,
and still more mortifying was the contrast between
her penitent and his self-confident tone; and for
one instant she felt the lust of strife rising up
in her again, but making an effort she conquered it,
and met Vronsky as good-humoredly as before.

When he came in she told him, partly
repeating phrases she had prepared beforehand, how
she had spent the day, and her plans for going away.

“You know it came to me almost
like an inspiration,” she said.  “Why
wait here for the divorce?  Won’t it be
just the same in the country?  I can’t
wait any longer!  I don’t want to go on
hoping, I don’t want to hear anything about
the divorce.  I have made up my mind it shall
not have any more influence on my life.  Do you
agree?”

“Oh, yes!” he said, glancing
uneasily at her excited face.

“What did you do?  Who
was there?” she said, after a pause.

Vronsky mentioned the names of the
guests.  “The dinner was first rate, and
the boat race, and it was all pleasant enough, but
in Moscow they can never do anything without something
ridicule.  A lady of a sort appeared on
the scene, teacher of swimming to the Queen of Sweden,
and gave us an exhibition of her skill.”

“How? did she swim?” asked Anna, frowning.

“In an absurd red costume
de natation;
she was old and hideous too. 
So when shall we go?”

“What an absurd fancy! 
Why, did she swim in some special way, then?”
said Anna, not answering.

“There was absolutely nothing
in it.  That’s just what I say, it was
awfully stupid.  Well, then, when do you think
of going?”

Anna shook her head as though trying
to drive away some unpleasant idea.

“When?  Why, the sooner
the better!  By tomorrow we shan’t be ready. 
The day after tomorrow.”

“Yes…oh, no, wait a minute! 
The day after to-morrow’s Sunday, I have to
be at maman’s,” said Vronsky, embarrassed,
because as soon as he uttered his mother’s name
he was aware of her intent, suspicious eyes. 
His embarrassment confirmed her suspicion.  She
flushed hotly and drew away from him.  It was
now not the Queen of Sweden’s swimming-mistress
who filled Anna’s imagination, but the young
Princess Sorokina.  She was staying in a village
near Moscow with Countess Vronskaya.

“Can’t you go tomorrow?” she said.

“Well, no!  The deeds and
the money for the business I’m going there for
I can’t get by tomorrow,” he answered.

“If so, we won’t go at all.”

“But why so?”

“I shall not go later.  Monday or never!”

“What for?” said Vronsky,
as though in amazement.  “Why, there’s
no meaning in it!”

“There’s no meaning in
it to you, because you care nothing for me. 
You don’t care to understand my life.  The
one thing that I cared for here was Hannah. 
You say it’s affectation.  Why, you said
yesterday that I don’t love my daughter, that
I love this English girl, that it’s unnatural. 
I should like to know what life there is for me that
could be natural!”

For an instant she had a clear vision
of what she was doing, and was horrified at how she
had fallen away from her resolution.  But even
though she knew it was her own ruin, she could not
restrain herself, could not keep herself from proving
to him that he was wrong, could not give way to him.

“I never said that; I said I
did not sympathize with this sudden passion.”

“How is it, though you boast
of your straightforwardness, you don’t tell
the truth?”

“I never boast, and I never
tell lies,” he said slowly, restraining his
rising anger.  “It’s a great pity
if you can’t respect…”

“Respect was invented to cover
the empty place where love should be.  And if
you don’t love me any more, it would be better
and more honest to say so.”

“No, this is becoming unbearable!”
cried Vronsky, getting up from his chair; and stopping
short, facing her, he said, speaking deliberately: 
“What do you try my patience for?” looking
as though he might have said much more, but was restraining
himself.  “It has limits.”

“What do you mean by that?”
she cried, looking with terror at the undisguised
hatred in his whole face, and especially in his cruel,
menacing eyes.

“I mean to say…” he
was beginning, but he checked himself.  “I
must ask what it is you want of me?”

“What can I want?  All
I can want is that you should not desert me, as you
think of doing,” she said, understanding all
he had not uttered.  “But that I don’t
want; that’s secondary.  I want love, and
there is none.  So then all is over.”

She turned towards the door.

“Stop! stoop!”
said Vronsky, with no change in the gloomy lines of
his brows, though he held her by the hand.  “What
is it all about?  I said that we must put off
going for three days, and on that you told me I was
lying, that I was not an honorable man.”

“Yes, and I repeat that the
man who reproaches me with having sacrificed everything
for me,” she said, recalling the words of a
still earlier quarrel, “that he’s worse
than a dishonorable man ­ he’s a heartless
man.”

“Oh, there are limits to endurance!”
he cried, and hastily let go her hand.

“He hates me, that’s clear,”
she thought, and in silence, without looking round,
she walked with faltering steps out of the room. 
“He loves another woman, that’s even clearer,”
she said to herself as she went into her own room. 
“I want love, and there is none.  So,
then, all is over.”  She repeated the words
she had said, “and it must be ended.”

“But how?” she asked herself,
and she sat down in a low chair before the looking
glass.

Thoughts of where she would go now,
whether to the aunt who had brought her up, to Dolly,
or simply alone abroad, and of what he was
doing now alone in his study; whether this was the
final quarrel, or whether reconciliation were still
possible; and of what all her old friends at Petersburg
would say of her now; and of how Alexey Alexandrovitch
would look at it, and many other ideas of what would
happen now after this rupture, came into her head;
but she did not give herself up to them with all her
heart.  At the bottom of her heart was some obscure
idea that alone interested her, but she could not
get clear sight of it.  Thinking once more of
Alexey Alexandrovitch, she recalled the time of her
illness after her confinement, and the feeling which
never left her at that time.  “Why didn’t
I die?” and the words and the feeling of that
time came back to her.  And all at once she knew
what was in her soul.  Yes, it was that idea which
alone solved all.  “Yes, to die!… 
And the shame and disgrace of Alexey Alexandrovitch
and of Seryozha, and my awful shame, it will all be
saved by death.  To die! and he will feel remorse;
will be sorry; will love me; he will suffer on my account.” 
With the trace of a smile of commiseration for herself
she sat down in the armchair, taking off and putting
on the rings on her left hand, vividly picturing from
different sides his feelings after her death.

Approaching footsteps ­his
steps ­distracted her attention.  As
though absorbed in the arrangement of her rings, she
did not even turn to him.

He went up to her, and taking her
by the hand, said softly: 

“Anna, we’ll go the day
after tomorrow, if you like.  I agree to everything.”

She did not speak.

“What is it?” he urged.

“You know,” she said,
and at the same instant, unable to restrain herself
any longer, she burst into sobs.

“Cast me off!” she articulated
between her sobs.  “I’ll go away
tomorrow…I’ll do more.  What am I? 
An immoral woman!  A stone round your neck. 
I don’t want to make you wretched, I don’t
want to!  I’ll set you free.  You
don’t love me; you love someone else!”

Vronsky besought her to be calm, and
declared that there was no trace of foundation for
her jealousy; that he had never ceased, and never
would cease, to love her; that he loved her more than
ever.

“Anna, why distress yourself
and me so?” he said to her, kissing her hands. 
There was tenderness now in his face, and she fancied
she caught the sound of tears in his voice, and she
felt them wet on her hand.  And instantly Anna’s
despairing jealousy changed to a despairing passion
of tenderness.  She put her arms round him, and
covered with kisses his head, his neck, his hands.

 

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