FictionForest

PART THREE : Chapter 15

Leo TolstoyAug 23, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Though Anna had obstinately and with
exasperation contradicted Vronsky when he told her
their position was impossible, at the bottom of her
heart she regarded her own position as false and dishonorable,
and she longed with her whole soul to change it. 
On the way home from the races she had told her husband
the truth in a moment of excitement, and in spite
of the agony she had suffered in doing so, she was
glad of it.  After her husband had left her,
she told herself that she was glad, that now everything
was made clear, and at least there would be no more
lying and deception.  It seemed to her beyond
doubt that her position was now made clear forever. 
It might be bad, this new position, but it would
be clear; there would be no indefiniteness or falsehood
about it.  The pain she had caused herself and
her husband in uttering those words would be rewarded
now by everything being made clear, she thought. 
That evening she saw Vronsky, but she did not tell
him of what had passed between her and her husband,
though, to make the position definite, it was necessary
to tell him.

When she woke up next morning the
first thing that rose to her mind was what she had
said to her husband, and those words seemed to her
so awful that she could not conceive now how she could
have brought herself to utter those strange, coarse
words, and could not imagine what would come of it. 
But the words were spoken, and Alexey Alexandrovitch
had gone away without saying anything.  “I
saw Vronsky and did not tell him.  At the very
instant he was going away I would have turned him back
and told him, but I changed my mind, because it was
strange that I had not told him the first minute. 
Why was it I wanted to tell him and did not tell
him?” And in answer to this question a burning
blush of shame spread over her face.  She knew
what had kept her from it, she knew that she had been
ashamed.  Her position, which had seemed to her
simplified the night before, suddenly struck her now
as not only not simple, but as absolutely hopeless. 
She felt terrified at the disgrace, of which she
had not ever thought before.  Directly she thought
of what her husband would do, the most terrible ideas
came to her mind.  She had a vision of being
turned out of the house, of her shame being proclaimed
to all the world.  She asked herself where she
should go when she was turned out of the house, and
she could not find an answer.

When she thought of Vronsky, it seemed
to her that he did not love her, that he was already
beginning to be tired of her, that she could not offer
herself to him, and she felt bitter against him for
it.  It seemed to her that the words that she
had spoken to her husband, and had continually repeated
in her imagination, she had said to everyone, and
everyone had heard them.  She could not bring
herself to look those of her own household in the face. 
She could not bring herself to call her maid, and still
less go downstairs and see her son and his governess.

The maid, who had been listening at
her door for a long while, came into her room of her
own accord.  Anna glanced inquiringly into her
face, and blushed with a scared look.  The maid
begged her pardon for coming in, saying that she had
fancied the bell rang.  She brought her clothes
and a note.  The note was from Betsy.  Betsy
reminded her that Liza Merkalova and Baroness Shtoltz
were coming to play croquet with her that morning with
their adorers, Kaluzhsky and old Stremov.  “Come,
if only as a study in morals.  I shall expect
you,” she finished.

Anna read the note and heaved a deep sigh.

“Nothing, I need nothing,”
she said to Annushka, who was rearranging the bottles
and brushes on the dressing table.  “You
can go.  I’ll dress at once and come down. 
I need nothing.”

Annushka went out, but Anna did not
begin dressing, and sat in the same position, her
head and hands hanging listlessly, and every now and
then she shivered all over, seemed as though she would
make some gesture, utter some word, and sank back into
lifelessness again.  She repeated continually,
“My God! my God!” But neither “God”
nor “my” had any meaning to her. 
The idea of seeking help in her difficulty in religion
was as remote from her as seeking help from Alexey
Alexandrovitch himself, although she had never had
doubts of the faith in which she had been brought
up.  She knew that the support of religion was
possible only upon condition of renouncing what made
up for her the whole meaning of life.  She was
not simply miserable, she began to feel alarm at the
new spiritual condition, never experienced before,
in which she found herself.  She felt as though
everything were beginning to be double in her soul,
just as objects sometimes appear double to over-tired
eyes.  She hardly knew at times what it was she
feared, and what she hoped for.  Whether she feared
or desired what had happened, or what was going to
happen, and exactly what she longed for, she could
not have said.

“Ah, what am I doing!”
she said to herself, feeling a sudden thrill of pain
in both sides of her head.  When she came to
herself, she saw that she was holding her hair in both
hands, each side of her temples, and pulling it. 
She jumped up, and began walking about.

“The coffee is ready, and mademoiselle
and Seryozha are waiting,” said Annushka, coming
back again and finding Anna in the same position.

“Seryozha?  What about Seryozha?”
Anna asked, with sudden eagerness, recollecting her
son’s existence for the first time that morning.

“He’s been naughty, I
think,” answered Annushka with a smile.

“In what way?”

“Some peaches were lying on
the table in the corner room.  I think he slipped
in and ate one of them on the sly.”

The recollection of her son suddenly
roused Anna from the helpless condition in which she
found herself.  She recalled the partly sincere,
though greatly exaggerated, rôle of the mother living
for her child, which she had taken up of late years,
and she felt with joy that in the plight in which
she found herself she had a support, quite apart from
her relation to her husband or to Vronsky.  This
support was her son.  In whatever position she
might be placed, she could not lose her son. 
Her husband might put her to shame and turn her out,
Vronsky might grow cold to her and go on living his
own life apart (she thought of him again with bitterness
and reproach); she could not leave her son.  She
had an aim in life.  And she must act; act to
secure this relation to her son, so that he might
not be taken from her.  Quickly indeed, as quickly
as possible, she must take action before he was taken
from her.  She must take her son and go away. 
Here was the one thing she had to do now.  She
needed consolation.  She must be calm, and get
out of this insufferable position.  The thought
of immediate action binding her to her son, of going
away somewhere with him, gave her this consolation.

She dressed quickly, went downstairs,
and with resolute steps walked into the drawing room,
where she found, as usual, waiting for her, the coffee,
Seryozha, and his governess.  Seryozha, all in
white, with his back and head bent, was standing at
a table under a looking-glass, and with an expression
of intense concentration which she knew well, and
in which he resembled his father, he was doing something
to the flowers he carried.

The governess had a particularly severe
expression.  Seryozha screamed shrilly, as he
often did, “Ah, mamma!” and stopped, hesitating
whether to go to greet his mother and put down the
flowers, or to finish making the wreath and go with
the flowers.

The governess, after saying good-morning,
began a long and detailed account of Seryozha’s
naughtiness, but Anna did not hear her; she was considering
whether she would take her with her or not. 
“No, I won’t take her,” she decided. 
“I’ll go alone with my child.”

“Yes, it’s very wrong,”
said Anna, and taking her son by the shoulder she
looked at him, not severely, but with a timid glance
that bewildered and delighted the boy, and she kissed
him.  “Leave him to me,” she said
to the astonished governess, and not letting go of
her son, she sat down at the table, where coffee was
set ready for her.

“Mamma!  I…I…didn’t…”
he said, trying to make out from her expression what
was in store for him in regard to the peaches.

“Seryozha,” she said,
as soon as the governess had left the room, “that
was wrong, but you’ll never do it again, will
you?…  You love me?”

She felt that the tears were coming
into her eyes.  “Can I help loving him?”
she said to herself, looking deeply into his scared
and at the same time delighted eyes.  “And
can he ever join his father in punishing me? 
Is it possible he will not feel for me?” Tears
were already flowing down her face, and to hide them
she got up abruptly and almost ran out on to the terrace.

After the thunder showers of the last
few days, cold, bright weather had set in.  The
air was cold in the bright sun that filtered through
the freshly washed leaves.

She shivered, both from the cold and
from the inward horror which had clutched her with
fresh force in the open air.

“Run along, run along to Mariette,”
she said to Seryozha, who had followed her out, and
she began walking up and down on the straw matting
of the terrace.  “Can it be that they won’t
forgive me, won’t understand how it all couldn’t
be helped?” she said to herself.

Standing still, and looking at the
tops of the aspen trees waving in the wind, with their
freshly washed, brightly shining leaves in the cold
sunshine, she knew that they would not forgive her,
that everyone and everything would be merciless to
her now as was that sky, that green.  And again
she felt that everything was split in two in her soul. 
“I mustn’t, mustn’t think,”
she said to herself.  “I must get ready. 
To go where?  When?  Whom to take with
me?  Yes, to Moscow by the evening train. 
Annushka and Seryozha, and only the most necessary
things.  But first I must write to them both.” 
She went quickly indoors into her boudoir, sat down
at the table, and wrote to her husband: ­“After
what has happened, I cannot remain any longer in your
house.  I am going away, and taking my son with
me.  I don’t know the law, and so I don’t
know with which of the parents the son should remain;
but I take him with me because I cannot live without
him.  Be generous, leave him to me.”

Up to this point she wrote rapidly
and naturally, but the appeal to his generosity, a
quality she did not recognize in him, and the necessity
of winding up the letter with something touching,
pulled her up.  “Of my fault and my remorse
I cannot speak, because…”

She stopped again, finding no connection
in her ideas.  “No,” she said to herself,
“there’s no need of anything,” and
tearing up the letter, she wrote it again, leaving
out the allusion to generosity, and sealed it up.

Another letter had to be written to
Vronsky.  “I have told my husband,”
she wrote, and she sat a long while unable to write
more.  It was so coarse, so unfeminine. 
“And what more am I to write to him?”
she said to herself.  Again a flush of shame spread
over her face; she recalled his composure, and a feeling
of anger against him impelled her to tear the sheet
with the phrase she had written into tiny bits. 
“No need of anything,” she said to herself,
and closing her blotting-case she went upstairs, told
the governess and the servants that she was going that
day to Moscow, and at once set to work to pack up
her things.

 

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