FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 32

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

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The first person to meet Anna at home
was her son.  He dashed down the stairs to her,
in spite of the governess’s call, and with desperate
joy shrieked:  “Mother! mother!”
Running up to her, he hung on her neck.

“I told you it was mother!”
he shouted to the governess.  “I knew!”

And her son, like her husband, aroused
in Anna a feeling akin to disappointment.  She
had imagined him better than he was in reality. 
She had to let herself drop down to the reality to
enjoy him as he really was.  But even as he was,
he was charming, with his fair curls, his blue eyes,
and his plump, graceful little legs in tightly pulled-up
stockings.  Anna experienced almost physical
pleasure in the sensation of his nearness, and his
caresses, and moral soothing, when she met his simple,
confiding, and loving glance, and heard his naïve questions. 
Anna took out the presents Dolly’s children had
sent him, and told her son what sort of little girl
was Tanya at Moscow, and how Tanya could read, and
even taught the other children.

“Why, am I not so nice as she?” asked
Seryozha.

“To me you’re nicer than anyone in the
world.”

“I know that,” said Seryozha, smiling.

Anna had not had time to drink her
coffee when the Countess Lidia Ivanovna was announced. 
The Countess Lidia Ivanovna was a tall, stout woman,
with an unhealthily sallow face and splendid, pensive
black eyes.  Anna liked her, but today she seemed
to be seeing her for the first time with all her defects.

“Well, my dear, so you took
the olive branch?” inquired Countess Lidia Ivanovna,
as soon as she came into the room.

“Yes, it’s all over, but
it was all much less serious than we had supposed,”
answered Anna.  “My belle-soeur is
in general too hasty.”

But Countess Lidia Ivanovna, though
she was interested in everything that did not concern
her, had a habit of never listening to what interested
her; she interrupted Anna: 

“Yes, there’s plenty of
sorrow and evil in the world.  I am so worried
today.”

“Oh, why?” asked Anna, trying to suppress
a smile.

“I’m beginning to be weary
of fruitlessly championing the truth, and sometimes
I’m quite unhinged by it.  The Society of
the Little Sisters” (this was a religiously-patriotic,
philanthropic institution) “was going splendidly,
but with these gentlemen it’s impossible to
do anything,” added Countess Lidia Ivanovna in
a tone of ironical submission to destiny.  “They
pounce on the idea, and distort it, and then work
it out so pettily and unworthily.  Two or three
people, your husband among them, understand all the
importance of the thing, but the others simply drag
it down.  Yesterday Pravdin wrote to me…”

Pravdin was a well-known Panslavist
abroad, and Countess Lidia Ivanovna described the
purport of his letter.

Then the countess told her of more
disagreements and intrigues against the work of the
unification of the churches, and departed in haste,
as she had that day to be at the meeting of some society
and also at the Slavonic committee.

“It was all the same before,
of course; but why was it I didn’t notice it
before?” Anna asked herself.  “Or
has she been very much irritated today?  It’s
really ludicrous; her object is doing good; she a
Christian, yet she’s always angry; and she always
has enemies, and always enemies in the name of Christianity
and doing good.”

After Countess Lidia Ivanovna another
friend came, the wife of a chief secretary, who told
her all the news of the town.  At three o’clock
she too went away, promising to come to dinner. 
Alexey Alexandrovitch was at the ministry. 
Anna, left alone, spent the time till dinner in assisting
at her son’s dinner (he dined apart from his
parents) and in putting her things in order, and in
reading and answering the notes and letters which had
accumulated on her table.

The feeling of causeless shame, which
she had felt on the journey, and her excitement, too,
had completely vanished.  In the habitual conditions
of her life she felt again resolute and irreproachable.

She recalled with wonder her state
of mind on the previous day.  “What was
it?  Nothing.  Vronsky said something silly,
which it was easy to put a stop to, and I answered
as I ought to have done.  To speak of it to my
husband would be unnecessary and out of the question. 
To speak of it would be to attach importance to what
has no importance.”  She remembered how
she had told her husband of what was almost a declaration
made her at Petersburg by a young man, one of her
husband’s subordinates, and how Alexey Alexandrovitch
had answered that every woman living in the world
was exposed to such incidents, but that he had the
fullest confidence in her tact, and could never lower
her and himself by jealousy.  “So then
there’s no reason to speak of it?  And
indeed, thank God, there’s nothing to speak of,”
she told herself.

 

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