FictionForest

PART TWO : Chapter 27

Leo TolstoyAug 22, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Anna was upstairs, standing before
the looking glass, and, with Annushka’s assistance,
pinning the last ribbon on her gown when she heard
carriage wheels crunching the gravel at the entrance.

“It’s too early for Betsy,”
she thought, and glancing out of the window she caught
sight of the carriage and the black hat of Alexey
Alexandrovitch, and the ears that she knew so well
sticking up each side of it.  “How unlucky! 
Can he be going to stay the night?” she wondered,
and the thought of all that might come of such a chance
struck her as so awful and terrible that, without
dwelling on it for a moment, she went down to meet
him with a bright and radiant face; and conscious
of the presence of that spirit of falsehood and deceit
in herself that she had come to know of late, she
abandoned herself to that spirit and began talking,
hardly knowing what she was saying.

“Ah, how nice of you!”
she said, giving her husband her hand, and greeting
Sludin, who was like one of the family, with a smile. 
“You’re staying the night, I hope?”
was the first word the spirit of falsehood prompted
her to utter; “and now we’ll go together. 
Only it’s a pity I’ve promised Betsy. 
She’s coming for me.”

Alexey Alexandrovitch knit his brows
at Betsy’s name.

“Oh, I’m not going to
separate the inséparables,” he said in his
usual bantering tone.  “I’m going
with Mihail Vassilievitch.  I’m ordered
exercise by the doctors too.  I’ll walk,
and fancy myself at the springs again.”

“There’s no hurry,”
said Anna.  “Would you like tea?”

She rang.

“Bring in tea, and tell Seryozha
that Alexey Alexandrovitch is here.  Well, tell
me, how have you been?  Mihail Vassilievitch,
you’ve not been to see me before.  Look
how lovely it is out on the terrace,” she said,
turning first to one and then to the other.

She spoke very simply and naturally,
but too much and too fast.  She was the more aware
of this from noticing in the inquisitive look Mihail
Vassilievitch turned on her that he was, as it were,
keeping watch on her.

Mihail Vassilievitch promptly went
out on the terrace.

She sat down beside her husband.

“You don’t look quite well,” she
said.

“Yes,” he said; “the
doctor’s been with me today and wasted an hour
of my time.  I feel that some one of our friends
must have sent him:  my health’s so precious,
it seems.”

“No; what did he say?”

She questioned him about his health
and what he had been doing, and tried to persuade
him to take a rest and come out to her.

All this she said brightly, rapidly,
and with a peculiar brilliance in her eyes. 
But Alexey Alexandrovitch did not now attach any special
significance to this tone of hers.  He heard
only her words and gave them only the direct sense
they bore.  And he answered simply, though jestingly. 
There was nothing remarkable in all this conversation,
but never after could Anna recall this brief scene
without an agonizing pang of shame.

Seryozha came in preceded by his governess. 
If Alexey Alexandrovitch had allowed himself to observe
he would have noticed the timid and bewildered eyes
with which Seryozha glanced first at his father and
then at his mother.  But he would not see anything,
and he did not see it.

“Ah, the young man!  He’s
grown.  Really, he’s getting quite a man. 
How are you, young man?”

And he gave his hand to the scared
child.  Seryozha had been shy of his father before,
and now, ever since Alexey Alexandrovitch had taken
to calling him young man, and since that insoluble
question had occurred to him whether Vronsky were a
friend or a foe, he avoided his father.  He looked
round towards his mother as though seeking shelter. 
It was only with his mother that he was at ease. 
Meanwhile, Alexey Alexandrovitch was holding his
son by the shoulder while he was speaking to the governess,
and Seryozha was so miserably uncomfortable that Anna
saw he was on the point of tears.

Anna, who had flushed a little the
instant her son came in, noticing that Seryozha was
uncomfortable, got up hurriedly, took Alexey Alexandrovitch’s
hand from her son’s shoulder, and kissing the
boy, led him out onto the terrace, and quickly came
back.

“It’s time to start, though,”
said she, glancing at her watch.  “How is
it Betsy doesn’t come?…”

“Yes,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch,
and getting up, he folded his hands and cracked his
fingers.  “I’ve come to bring you
some money, too, for nightingales, we know, can’t
live on fairy tales,” he said.  “You
want it, I expect?”

“No, I don’t…yes, I
do,” she said, not looking at him, and crimsoning
to the roots of her hair.  “But you’ll
come back here after the races, I suppose?”

“Oh, yes!” answered Alexey
Alexandrovitch.  “And here’s the glory
of Peterhof, Princess Tverskaya,” he added, looking
out of the window at the elegant English carriage
with the tiny seats placed extremely high.  “What
elegance!  Charming!  Well, let us be starting
too, then.”

Princess Tverskaya did not get out
of her carriage, but her groom, in high boots, a cape,
and black hat, darted out at the entrance.

“I’m going; good-bye!”
said Anna, and kissing her son, she went up to Alexey
Alexandrovitch and held out her hand to him. 
“It was ever so nice of you to come.”

Alexey Alexandrovitch kissed her hand.

“Well, au revoir, then! 
You’ll come back for some tea; that’s
delightful!” she said, and went out, gay and
radiant.  But as soon as she no longer saw him,
she was aware of the spot on her hand that his lips
had touched, and she shuddered with repulsion.

 

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