FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 25

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

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Feeling that the reconciliation was
complete, Anna set eagerly to work in the morning
preparing for their departure.  Though it was
not settled whether they should go on Monday or Tuesday,
as they had each given way to the other, Anna packed
busily, feeling absolutely indifferent whether they
went a day earlier or later.  She was standing
in her room over an open box, taking things out of
it, when he came in to see her earlier than usual,
dressed to go out.

“I’m going off at once
to see maman; she can send me the money by Yegorov. 
And I shall be ready to go tomorrow,” he said.

Though she was in such a good mood,
the thought of his visit to his mother’s gave
her a pang.

“No, I shan’t be ready
by then myself,” she said; and at once reflected,
“so then it was possible to arrange to do as
I wished.”  “No, do as you meant
to do.  Go into the dining room, I’m coming
directly.  It’s only to turn out those things
that aren’t wanted,” she said, putting
something more on the heap of frippery that lay in
Annushka’s arms.

Vronsky was eating his beefsteak when
she came into the dining-room.

“You wouldn’t believe
how distasteful these rooms have become to me,”
she said, sitting down beside him to her coffee. 
“There’s nothing more awful than these
chambres garnies.  There’s no individuality
in them, no soul.  These clocks, and curtains,
and, worst of all, the wallpapers ­they’re
a nightmare.  I think of Vozdvizhenskoe as the
promised land.  You’re not sending the
horses off yet?”

“No, they will come after us. 
Where are you going to?”

“I wanted to go to Wilson’s
to take some dresses to her.  So it’s really
to be tomorrow?” she said in a cheerful voice;
but suddenly her face changed.

Vronsky’s valet came in to ask
him to sign a receipt for a telegram from Petersburg. 
There was nothing out of the way in Vronsky’s
getting a telegram, but he said, as though anxious
to conceal something from her, that the receipt was
in his study, and he turned hurriedly to her.

“By tomorrow, without fail, I will finish it
all.”

“From whom is the telegram?” she asked,
not hearing him.

“From Stiva,” he answered reluctantly.

“Why didn’t you show it
to me?  What secret can there be between Stiva
and me?”

Vronsky called the valet back, and
told him to bring the telegram.

“I didn’t want to show
it to you, because Stiva has such a passion for telegraphing: 
why telegraph when nothing is settled?”

“About the divorce?”

“Yes; but he says he has not
been able to come at anything yet.  He has promised
a decisive answer in a day or two.  But here it
is; read it.”

With trembling hands Anna took the
telegram, and read what Vronsky had told her. 
At the end was added:  “Little hope; but
I will do everything possible and impossible.”

“I said yesterday that it’s
absolutely nothing to me when I get, or whether I
never get, a divorce,” she said, flushing crimson. 
“There was not the slightest necessity to hide
it from me.”  “So he may hide and
does hide his correspondence with women from me,”
she thought.

“Yashvin meant to come this
morning with Voytov,” said Vronsky; “I
believe he’s won from Pyevtsov all and more than
he can pay, about sixty thousand.”

“No,” she said, irritated
by his so obviously showing by this change of subject
that he was irritated, “why did you suppose
that this news would affect me so, that you must even
try to hide it?  I said I don’t want to
consider it, and I should have liked you to care as
little about it as I do.”

“I care about it because I like
definiteness,” he said.

“Definiteness is not in the
form but the love,” she said, more and more
irritated, not by his words, but by the tone of cool
composure in which he spoke.  “What do you
want it for?”

“My God! love again,” he thought, frowning.

“Oh, you know what for; for
your sake and your children’s in the future.”

“There won’t be children in the future.”

“That’s a great pity,” he said.

“You want it for the children’s
sake, but you don’t think of me?” she
said, quite forgetting or not having heard that he
had said, “for your sake and the children’s.”

The question of the possibility of
having children had long been a subject of dispute
and irritation to her.  His desire to have children
she interpreted as a proof he did not prize her beauty.

“Oh, I said:  for your sake. 
Above all for your sake,” he repeated, frowning
as though in pain, “because I am certain that
the greater part of your irritability comes from the
indefiniteness of the position.”

“Yes, now he has laid aside
all pretense, and all his cold hatred for me is apparent,”
she thought, not hearing his words, but watching with
terror the cold, cruel judge who looked mocking her
out of his eyes.

“The cause is not that,”
she said, “and, indeed, I don’t see how
the cause of my irritability, as you call it, can be
that I am completely in your power.  What indefiniteness
is there in the position? on the contrary…”

“I am very sorry that you don’t
care to understand,” he interrupted, obstinately
anxious to give utterance to his thought.  “The
indefiniteness consists in your imagining that I am
free.”

“On that score you can set your
mind quite at rest,” she said, and turning away
from him, she began drinking her coffee.

She lifted her cup, with her little
finger held apart, and put it to her lips.  After
drinking a few sips she glanced at him, and by his
expression, she saw clearly that he was repelled by
her hand, and her gesture, and the sound made by her
lips.

“I don’t care in the least
what your mother thinks, and what match she wants
to make for you,” she said, putting the cup down
with a shaking hand.

“But we are not talking about that.”

“Yes, that’s just what
we are talking about.  And let me tell you that
a heartless woman, whether she’s old or not old,
your mother or anyone else, is of no consequence to
me, and I would not consent to know her.”

“Anna, I beg you not to speak
disrespectfully of my mother.”

“A woman whose heart does not
tell her where her son’s happiness and honor
lie has no heart.”

“I repeat my request that you
will not speak disrespectfully of my mother, whom
I respect,” he said, raising his voice and looking
sternly at her.

She did not answer.  Looking
intently at him, at his face, his hands, she recalled
all the details of their reconciliation the previous
day, and his passionate caresses.  “There,
just such caresses he has lavished, and will lavish,
and longs to lavish on other women!” she thought.

“You don’t love your mother. 
That’s all talk, and talk, and talk!”
she said, looking at him with hatred in her eyes.

“Even if so, you must…”

“Must decide, and I have decided,”
she said, and she would have gone away, but at that
moment Yashvin walked into the room.  Anna greeted
him and remained.

Why, when there was a tempest in her
soul, and she felt she was standing at a turning point
in her life, which might have fearful consequences ­why,
at that minute, she had to keep up appearances before
an outsider, who sooner or later must know it all ­she
did not know.  But at once quelling the storm
within her, she sat down and began talking to their
guest.

“Well, how are you getting on? 
Has your debt been paid you?” she asked Yashvin.

“Oh, pretty fair; I fancy I
shan’t get it all, but I shall get a good half. 
And when are you off?” said Yashvin, looking
at Vronsky, and unmistakably guessing at a quarrel.

“The day after tomorrow, I think,” said
Vronsky.

“You’ve been meaning to go so long, though.”

“But now it’s quite decided,”
said Anna, looking Vronsky straight in the face with
a look which told him not to dream of the possibility
of reconciliation.

“Don’t you feel sorry
for that unlucky Pyevtsov?” she went on, talking
to Yashvin.

“I’ve never asked myself
the question, Anna Arkadyevna, whether I’m sorry
for him or not.  You see, all my fortune’s
here” ­he touched his breast pocket ­“and
just now I’m a wealthy man.  But today
I’m going to the club, and I may come out a beggar. 
You see, whoever sits down to play with me ­he
wants to leave me without a shirt to my back, and
so do I him.  And so we fight it out, and that’s
the pleasure of it.”

“Well, but suppose you were
married,” said Anna, “how would it be
for your wife?”

Yashvin laughed.

“That’s why I’m not married, and
never mean to be.”

“And Helsingfors?” said
Vronsky, entering into the conversation and glancing
at Anna’s smiling face.  Meeting his eyes,
Anna’s face instantly took a coldly severe expression
as though she were saying to him:  “It’s
not forgotten.  It’s all the same.”

“Were you really in love?” she said to
Yashvin.

“Oh heavens! ever so many times! 
But you see, some men can play but only so that they
can always lay down their cards when the hour of a
rendezvous comes, while I can take up love,
but only so as not to be late for my cards in the
evening.  That’s how I manage things.”

“No, I didn’t mean that,
but the real thing.”  She would have said
Helsingfors, but would not repeat the word used
by Vronsky.

Voytov, who was buying the horse,
came in.  Anna got up and went out of the room.

Before leaving the house, Vronsky
went into her room.  She would have pretended
to be looking for something on the table, but ashamed
of making a pretense, she looked straight in his face
with cold eyes.

“What do you want?” she asked in French.

“To get the guarantee for Gambetta,
I’ve sold him,” he said, in a tone which
said more clearly than words, “I’ve no
time for discussing things, and it would lead to nothing.”

“I’m not to blame in any
way,” he thought.  “If she will punish
herself, tant pis pour elle.” But as
he was going he fancied that she said something, and
his heart suddenly ached with pity for her.

“Eh, Anna?” he queried.

“I said nothing,” she answered just as
coldly and calmly.

“Oh, nothing, tant pis
then,” he thought, feeling cold again, and he
turned and went out.  As he was going out he caught
a glimpse in the looking glass of her face, white,
with quivering lips.  He even wanted to stop
and to say some comforting word to her, but his legs
carried him out of the room before he could think what
to say.  The whole of that day he spent away from
home, and when he came in late in the evening the
maid told him that Anna Arkadyevna had a headache
and begged him not to go in to her.

 

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