FictionForest

PART TWO : Chapter 29

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

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Everyone was loudly expressing disapprobation,
everyone was repeating a phrase some one had uttered ­“The
lions and gladiators will be the next thing,”
and everyone was feeling horrified; so that when Vronsky
fell to the ground, and Anna moaned aloud, there was
nothing very out of the way in it.  But afterwards
a change came over Anna’s face which really was
beyond decorum.  She utterly lost her head. 
She began fluttering like a caged bird, at one moment
would have got up and moved away, at the next turned
to Betsy.

“Let us go, let us go!” she said.

But Betsy did not hear her. 
She was bending down, talking to a general who had
come up to her.

Alexey Alexandrovitch went up to Anna
and courteously offered her his arm.

“Let us go, if you like,”
he said in French, but Anna was listening to the general
and did not notice her husband.

“He’s broken his leg too,
so they say,” the general was saying.  “This
is beyond everything.”

Without answering her husband, Anna
lifted her opera glass and gazed towards the place
where Vronsky had fallen; but it was so far off, and
there was such a crowd of people about it, that she
could make out nothing.  She laid down the opera
glass, and would have moved away, but at that moment
an officer galloped up and made some announcement
to the Tsar.  Anna craned forward, listening.

“Stiva!  Stiva!” she cried to her
brother.

But her brother did not hear her. 
Again she would have moved away.

“Once more I offer you my arm
if you want to be going,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch,
reaching towards her hand.

She drew back from him with aversion,
and without looking in his face answered: 

“No, no, let me be, I’ll stay.”

She saw now that from the place of
Vronsky’s accident an officer was running across
the course towards the pavilion.  Betsy waved
her handkerchief to him.  The officer brought
the news that the rider was not killed, but the horse
had broken its back.

On hearing this Anna sat down hurriedly,
and hid her face in her fan.  Alexey Alexandrovitch
saw that she was weeping, and could not control her
tears, nor even the sobs that were shaking her bosom. 
Alexey Alexandrovitch stood so as to screen her, giving
her time to recover herself.

“For the third time I offer
you my arm,” he said to her after a little time,
turning to her.  Anna gazed at him and did not
know what to say.  Princess Betsy came to her
rescue.

“No, Alexey Alexandrovitch;
I brought Anna and I promised to take her home,”
put in Betsy.

“Excuse me, princess,”
he said, smiling courteously but looking her very
firmly in the face, “but I see that Anna’s
not very well, and I wish her to come home with me.”

Anna looked about her in a frightened
way, got up submissively, and laid her hand on her
husband’s arm.

“I’ll send to him and
find out, and let you know,” Betsy whispered
to her.

As they left the pavilion, Alexey
Alexandrovitch, as always, talked to those he met,
and Anna had, as always, to talk and answer; but she
was utterly beside herself, and moved hanging on her
husband’s arm as though in a dream.

“Is he killed or not? 
Is it true?  Will he come or not?  Shall
I see him today?” she was thinking.

She took her seat in her husband’s
carriage in silence, and in silence drove out of the
crowd of carriages.  In spite of all he had seen,
Alexey Alexandrovitch still did not allow himself to
consider his wife’s real condition.  He
merely saw the outward symptoms.  He saw that
she was behaving unbecomingly, and considered it his
duty to tell her so.  But it was very difficult
for him not to say more, to tell her nothing but that. 
He opened his mouth to tell her she had behaved unbecomingly,
but he could not help saying something utterly different.

“What an inclination we all
have, though, for these cruel spectacles,” he
said.  “I observe…”

“Eh?  I don’t understand,” said
Anna contemptuously.

He was offended, and at once began
to say what he had meant to say.

“I am obliged to tell you,” he began.

“So now we are to have it out,”
she thought, and she felt frightened.

“I am obliged to tell you that
your behavior has been unbecoming today,” he
said to her in French.

“In what way has my behavior
been unbecoming?” she said aloud, turning her
head swiftly and looking him straight in the face,
not with the bright expression that seemed covering
something, but with a look of determination, under
which she concealed with difficulty the dismay she
was feeling.

“Mind,” he said, pointing
to the open window opposite the coachman.

He got up and pulled up the window.

“What did you consider unbecoming?” she
repeated.

“The despair you were unable
to conceal at the accident to one of the riders.”

He waited for her to answer, but she
was silent, looking straight before her.

“I have already begged you so
to conduct yourself in society that even malicious
tongues can find nothing to say against you. 
There was a time when I spoke of your inward attitude,
but I am not speaking of that now.  Now I speak
only of your external attitude.  You have behaved
improperly, and I would wish it not to occur again.”

She did not hear half of what he was
saying; she felt panic-stricken before him, and was
thinking whether it was true that Vronsky was not
killed.  Was it of him they were speaking when
they said the rider was unhurt, but the horse had broken
its back?  She merely smiled with a pretense
of irony when he finished, and made no reply, because
she had not heard what he said.  Alexey Alexandrovitch
had begun to speak boldly, but as he realized plainly
what he was speaking of, the dismay she was feeling
infected him too.  He saw the smile, and a strange
misapprehension came over him.

“She is smiling at my suspicions. 
Yes, she will tell me directly what she told me before;
that there is no foundation for my suspicions, that
it’s absurd.”

At that moment, when the revelation
of everything was hanging over him, there was nothing
he expected so much as that she would answer mockingly
as before that his suspicions were absurd and utterly
groundless.  So terrible to him was what he knew
that now he was ready to believe anything.  But
the expression of her face, scared and gloomy, did
not now promise even deception.

“Possibly I was mistaken,”
said he.  “If so, I beg your pardon.”

“No, you were not mistaken,”
she said deliberately, looking desperately into his
cold face.  “You were not mistaken. 
I was, and I could not help being in despair. 
I hear you, but I am thinking of him.  I love
him, I am his mistress; I can’t bear you; I’m
afraid of you, and I hate you….  You can do
what you like to me.”

And dropping back into the corner
of the carriage, she broke into sobs, hiding her face
in her hands.  Alexey Alexandrovitch did not
stir, and kept looking straight before him.  But
his whole face suddenly bore the solemn rigidity of
the dead, and his expression did not change during
the whole time of the drive home.  On reaching
the house he turned his head to her, still with the
same expression.

“Very well!  But I expect
a strict observance of the external forms of propriety
till such time” ­his voice shook ­“as
I may take measures to secure my honor and communicate
them to you.”

He got out first and helped her to
get out.  Before the servants he pressed her
hand, took his seat in the carriage, and drove back
to Petersburg.  Immediately afterwards a footman
came from Princess Betsy and brought Anna a note.

“I sent to Alexey to find out
how he is, and he writes me he is quite well and unhurt,
but in despair.”

“So he will be here,”
she thought.  “What a good thing I told
him all!”

She glanced at her watch.  She
had still three hours to wait, and the memories of
their last meeting set her blood in flame.

“My God, how light it is! 
It’s dreadful, but I do love to see his face,
and I do love this fantastic light….  My husband! 
Oh! yes….  Well, thank God! everything’s
over with him.”

 

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