FictionForest

PART FIVE : Chapter 31

Leo TolstoyAug 24, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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As intensely as Anna had longed to
see her son, and long as she had been thinking of
it and preparing herself for it, she had not in the
least expected that seeing him would affect her so
deeply.  On getting back to her lonely rooms in
the hotel she could not for a long while understand
why she was there.  “Yes, it’s all
over, and I am again alone,” she said to herself,
and without taking off her hat she sat down in a low
chair by the hearth.  Fixing her eyes on a bronze
clock standing on a table between the windows, she
tried to think.

The French maid brought from abroad
came in to suggest she should dress.  She gazed
at her wonderingly and said, “Presently.” 
A footman offered her coffee.  “Later on,”
she said.

The Italian nurse, after having taken
the baby out in her best, came in with her, and brought
her to Anna.  The plump, well-fed little baby,
on seeing her mother, as she always did, held out
her fat little hands, and with a smile on her toothless
mouth, began, like a fish with a float, bobbing her
fingers up and down the starched folds of her embroidered
skirt, making them rustle.  It was impossible
not to smile, not to kiss the baby, impossible not
to hold out a finger for her to clutch, crowing and
prancing all over; impossible not to offer her a lip
which she sucked into her little mouth by way of a
kiss.  And all this Anna did, and took her in
her arms and made her dance, and kissed her fresh
little cheek and bare little elbows; but at the sight
of this child it was plainer than ever to her that
the feeling she had for her could not be called love
in comparison with what she felt for Seryozha. 
Everything in this baby was charming, but for some
reason all this did not go deep to her heart. 
On her first child, though the child of an unloved
father, had been concentrated all the love that had
never found satisfaction.  Her baby girl had
been born in the most painful circumstances and had
not had a hundredth part of the care and thought which
had been concentrated on her first child.  Besides,
in the little girl everything was still in the future,
while Seryozha was by now almost a personality, and
a personality dearly loved.  In him there was
a conflict of thought and feeling; he understood her,
he loved her, he judged her, she thought, recalling
his words and his eyes.  And she was forever ­not
physically only but spiritually ­divided
from him, and it was impossible to set this right.

She gave the baby back to the nurse,
let her go, and opened the locket in which there was
Seryozha’s portrait when he was almost of the
same age as the girl.  She got up, and, taking
off her hat, took up from a little table an album
in which there were photographs of her son at different
ages.  She wanted to compare them, and began
taking them out of the album.  She took them all
out except one, the latest and best photograph. 
In it he was in a white smock, sitting astride a
chair, with frowning eyes and smiling lips. 
It was his best, most characteristic expression. 
With her little supple hands, her white, delicate fingers,
that moved with a peculiar intensity today, she pulled
at a corner of the photograph, but the photograph
had caught somewhere, and she could not get it out. 
There was no paper knife on the table, and so, pulling
out the photograph that was next to her son’s
(it was a photograph of Vronsky taken at Rome in a
round hat and with long hair), she used it to push
out her son’s photograph.  “Oh, here
is he!” she said, glancing at the portrait of
Vronsky, and she suddenly recalled that he was the
cause of her present misery.  She had not once
thought of him all the morning.  But now, coming
all at once upon that manly, noble face, so familiar
and so dear to her, she felt a sudden rush of love
for him.

“But where is he?  How
is it he leaves me alone in my misery?” she
thought all at once with a feeling of reproach, forgetting
she had herself kept from him everything concerning
her son.  She sent to ask him to come to her
immediately; with a throbbing heart she awaited him,
rehearsing to herself the words in which she would
tell him all, and the expressions of love with which
he would console her.  The messenger returned
with the answer that he had a visitor with him, but
that he would come immediately, and that he asked
whether she would let him bring with him Prince Yashvin,
who had just arrived in Petersburg.  “He’s
not coming alone, and since dinner yesterday he has
not seen me,” she thought; “he’s
not coming so that I could tell him everything, but
coming with Yashvin.”  And all at once a
strange idea came to her:  what if he had ceased
to love her?

And going over the events of the last
few days, it seemed to her that she saw in everything
a confirmation of this terrible idea.  The fact
that he had not dined at home yesterday, and the fact
that he had insisted on their taking separate sets
of rooms in Petersburg, and that even now he was not
coming to her alone, as though he were trying to avoid
meeting her face to face.

“But he ought to tell me so. 
I must know that it is so.  If I knew it, then
I know what I should do,” she said to herself,
utterly unable to picture to herself the position she
would be in if she were convinced of his not caring
for her.  She thought he had ceased to love her,
she felt close upon despair, and consequently she
felt exceptionally alert.  She rang for her maid
and went to her dressing room.  As she dressed,
she took more care over her appearance than she had
done all those days, as though he might, if he had
grown cold to her, fall in love with her again because
she had dressed and arranged her hair in the way most
becoming to her.

She heard the bell ring before she
was ready.  When she went into the drawing room
it was not he, but Yashvin, who met her eyes. 
Vronsky was looking through the photographs of her
son, which she had forgotten on the table, and he
made no haste to look round at her.

“We have met already,”
she said, putting her little hand into the huge hand
of Yashvin, whose bashfulness was so queerly out of
keeping with his immense frame and coarse face. 
“We met last year at the races.  Give
them to me,” she said, with a rapid movement
snatching from Vronsky the photographs of her son,
and glancing significantly at him with flashing eyes. 
“Were the races good this year?  Instead
of them I saw the races in the Corso in Rome. 
But you don’t care for life abroad,” she
said with a cordial smile.  “I know you
and all your tastes, though I have seen so little
of you.”

“I’m awfully sorry for
that, for my tastes are mostly bad,” said Yashvin,
gnawing at his left mustache.

Having talked a little while, and
noticing that Vronsky glanced at the clock, Yashvin
asked her whether she would be staying much longer
in Petersburg, and unbending his huge figure reached
after his cap.

“Not long, I think,” she
said hesitatingly, glancing at Vronsky.

“So then we shan’t meet again?”

“Come and dine with me,”
said Anna resolutely, angry it seemed with herself
for her embarrassment, but flushing as she always
did when she defined her position before a fresh person. 
“The dinner here is not good, but at least
you will see him.  There is no one of his old
friends in the regiment Alexey cares for as he does
for you.”

“Delighted,” said Yashvin
with a smile, from which Vronsky could see that he
liked Anna very much.

Yashvin said good-bye and went away;
Vronsky stayed behind.

“Are you going too?” she said to him.

“I’m late already,”
he answered.  “Run along!  I’ll
catch you up in a moment,” he called to Yashvin.

She took him by the hand, and without
taking her eyes off him, gazed at him while she ransacked
her mind for the words to say that would keep him.

“Wait a minute, there’s
something I want to say to you,” and taking
his broad hand she pressed it on her neck.  “Oh,
was it right my asking him to dinner?”

“You did quite right,”
he said with a serene smile that showed his even teeth,
and he kissed her hand.

“Alexey, you have not changed
to me?” she said, pressing his hand in both
of hers.  “Alexey, I am miserable here. 
When are we going away?”

“Soon, soon.  You wouldn’t
believe how disagreeable our way of living here is
to me too,” he said, and he drew away his hand.

“Well, go, go!” she said
in a tone of offense, and she walked quickly away
from him.

 

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