FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 4

Leo TolstoyAug 21, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Darya Alexandrovna, in a dressing
jacket, and with her now scanty, once luxuriant and
beautiful hair fastened up with hairpins on the nape
of her neck, with a sunken, thin face and large, startled
eyes, which looked prominent from the thinness of
her face, was standing among a litter of all sorts
of things scattered all over the room, before an open
bureau, from which she was taking something. 
Hearing her husband’s steps, she stopped, looking
towards the door, and trying assiduously to give her
features a severe and contemptuous expression. 
She felt she was afraid of him, and afraid of the
coming interview.  She was just attempting to
do what she had attempted to do ten times already
in these last three days ­to sort out the
children’s things and her own, so as to take
them to her mother’s ­and again she
could not bring herself to do this; but now again,
as each time before, she kept saying to herself, “that
things cannot go on like this, that she must take
some step” to punish him, put him to shame,
avenge on him some little part at least of the suffering
he had caused her.  She still continued to tell
herself that she should leave him, but she was conscious
that this was impossible; it was impossible because
she could not get out of the habit of regarding him
as her husband and loving him.  Besides this,
she realized that if even here in her own house she
could hardly manage to look after her five children
properly, they would be still worse off where she
was going with them all.  As it was, even in the
course of these three days, the youngest was unwell
from being given unwholesome soup, and the others had
almost gone without their dinner the day before. 
She was conscious that it was impossible to go away;
but, cheating herself, she went on all the same sorting
out her things and pretending she was going.

Seeing her husband, she dropped her
hands into the drawer of the bureau as though looking
for something, and only looked round at him when he
had come quite up to her.  But her face, to which
she tried to give a severe and resolute expression,
betrayed bewilderment and suffering.

“Dolly!” he said in a
subdued and timid voice.  He bent his head towards
his shoulder and tried to look pitiful and humble,
but for all that he was radiant with freshness and
health.  In a rapid glance she scanned his figure
that beamed with health and freshness.  “Yes,
he is happy and content!” she thought; “while
I….  And that disgusting good nature, which
every one likes him for and praises ­I hate
that good nature of his,” she thought. 
Her mouth stiffened, the muscles of the cheek contracted
on the right side of her pale, nervous face.

“What do you want?” she
said in a rapid, deep, unnatural voice.

“Dolly!” he repeated,
with a quiver in his voice.  “Anna is coming
today.”

“Well, what is that to me? 
I can’t see her!” she cried.

“But you must, really, Dolly…”

“Go away, go away, go away!”
she shrieked, not looking at him, as though this shriek
were called up by physical pain.

Stepan Arkadyevitch could be calm
when he thought of his wife, he could hope that she
would come round, as Matvey expressed it, and
could quietly go on reading his paper and drinking
his coffee; but when he saw her tortured, suffering
face, heard the tone of her voice, submissive to fate
and full of despair, there was a catch in his breath
and a lump in his throat, and his eyes began to shine
with tears.

“My God! what have I done? 
Dolly!  For God’s sake!….  You know….” 
He could not go on; there was a sob in his throat.

She shut the bureau with a slam, and glanced at him.

“Dolly, what can I say?…. 
One thing:  forgive…Remember, cannot nine years
of my life atone for an instant….”

She dropped her eyes and listened,
expecting what he would say, as it were beseeching
him in some way or other to make her believe differently.

“ ­instant of passion?”
he said, and would have gone on, but at that word,
as at a pang of physical pain, her lips stiffened
again, and again the muscles of her right cheek worked.

“Go away, go out of the room!”
she shrieked still more shrilly, “and don’t
talk to me of your passion and your loathsomeness.”

She tried to go out, but tottered,
and clung to the back of a chair to support herself. 
His face relaxed, his lips swelled, his eyes were
swimming with tears.

“Dolly!” he said, sobbing
now; “for mercy’s sake, think of the children;
they are not to blame!  I am to blame, and punish
me, make me expiate my fault.  Anything I can
do, I am ready to do anything!  I am to blame,
no words can express how much I am to blame! 
But, Dolly, forgive me!”

She sat down.  He listened to
her hard, heavy breathing, and he was unutterably
sorry for her.  She tried several times to begin
to speak, but could not.  He waited.

“You remember the children,
Stiva, to play with them; but I remember them, and
know that this means their ruin,” she said ­obviously
one of the phrases she had more than once repeated
to herself in the course of the last few days.

She had called him “Stiva,”
and he glanced at her with gratitude, and moved to
take her hand, but she drew back from him with aversion.

“I think of the children, and
for that reason I would do anything in the world to
save them, but I don’t myself know how to save
them.  By taking them away from their father,
or by leaving them with a vicious father ­yes,
a vicious father….  Tell me, after what…has
happened, can we live together?  Is that possible? 
Tell me, eh, is it possible?” she repeated, raising
her voice, “after my husband, the father of
my children, enters into a love affair with his own
children’s governess?”

“But what could I do? what could
I do?” he kept saying in a pitiful voice, not
knowing what he was saying, as his head sank lower
and lower.

“You are loathsome to me, repulsive!”
she shrieked, getting more and more heated. 
“Your tears mean nothing!  You have never
loved me; you have neither heart nor honorable feeling! 
You are hateful to me, disgusting, a stranger ­yes,
a complete stranger!” With pain and wrath she
uttered the word so terrible to herself ­stranger.

He looked at her, and the fury expressed
in her face alarmed and amazed him.  He did not
understand how his pity for her exasperated her. 
She saw in him sympathy for her, but not love. 
“No, she hates me.  She will not forgive
me,” he thought.

“It is awful! awful!” he said.

At that moment in the next room a
child began to cry; probably it had fallen down. 
Darya Alexandrovna listened, and her face suddenly
softened.

She seemed to be pulling herself together
for a few seconds, as though she did not know where
she was, and what she was doing, and getting up rapidly,
she moved towards the door.

“Well, she loves my child,”
he thought, noticing the change of her face at the
child’s cry, “my child:  how can she
hate me?”

“Dolly, one word more,” he said, following
her.

“If you come near me, I will
call in the servants, the children!  They may
all know you are a scoundrel!  I am going away
at once, and you may live here with your mistress!”

And she went out, slamming the door.

Stepan Arkadyevitch sighed, wiped
his face, and with a subdued tread walked out of the
room.  “Matvey says she will come round;
but how?  I don’t see the least chance of
it.  Ah, oh, how horrible it is!  And how
vulgarly she shouted,” he said to himself, remembering
her shriek and the words ­“scoundrel”
and “mistress.”  “And very
likely the maids were listening!  Horribly vulgar!
horrible!” Stepan Arkadyevitch stood a few seconds
alone, wiped his face, squared his chest, and walked
out of the room.

It was Friday, and in the dining room
the German watchmaker was winding up the clock. 
Stepan Arkadyevitch remembered his joke about this
punctual, bald watchmaker, “that the German was
wound up for a whole lifetime himself, to wind up
watches,” and he smiled.  Stepan Arkadyevitch
was fond of a joke:  “And maybe she will
come round!  That’s a good expression, ‘come
round,
’” he thought.  “I
must repeat that.”

“Matvey!” he shouted. 
“Arrange everything with Darya in the sitting
room for Anna Arkadyevna,” he said to Matvey
when he came in.

“Yes, sir.”

Stepan Arkadyevitch put on his fur
coat and went out onto the steps.

“You won’t dine at home?”
said Matvey, seeing him off.

“That’s as it happens. 
But here’s for the housekeeping,” he
said, taking ten roubles from his pocketbook. 
“That’ll be enough.”

“Enough or not enough, we must
make it do,” said Matvey, slamming the carriage
door and stepping back onto the steps.

Darya Alexandrovna meanwhile having
pacified the child, and knowing from the sound of
the carriage that he had gone off, went back again
to her bedroom.  It was her solitary refuge from
the household cares which crowded upon her directly
she went out from it.  Even now, in the short
time she had been in the nursery, the English governess
and Matrona Philimonovna had succeeded in putting
several questions to her, which did not admit of delay,
and which only she could answer:  “What were
the children to put on for their walk?  Should
they have any milk?  Should not a new cook be
sent for?”

“Ah, let me alone, let me alone!”
she said, and going back to her bedroom she sat down
in the same place as she had sat when talking to her
husband, clasping tightly her thin hands with the
rings that slipped down on her bony fingers, and fell
to going over in her memory all the conversation. 
“He has gone!  But has he broken it off
with her?” she thought.  “Can it be
he sees her?  Why didn’t I ask him! 
No, no, reconciliation is impossible.  Even if
we remain in the same house, we are strangers ­strangers
forever!” She repeated again with special significance
the word so dreadful to her.  “And how
I loved him! my God, how I loved him!….  How
I loved him!  And now don’t I love him? 
Don’t I love him more than before?  The
most horrible thing is,” she began, but did
not finish her thought, because Matrona Philimonovna
put her head in at the door.

“Let us send for my brother,”
she said; “he can get a dinner anyway, or we
shall have the children getting nothing to eat till
six again, like yesterday.”

“Very well, I will come directly
and see about it.  But did you send for some
new milk?”

And Darya Alexandrovna plunged into
the duties of the day, and drowned her grief in them
for a time.

 

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