FictionForest

PART FOUR : Chapter 4

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

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Alexey Alexandrovitch, after meeting
Vronsky on his own steps, drove, as he had intended,
to the Italian opera.  He sat through two acts
there, and saw everyone he had wanted to see. 
On returning home, he carefully scrutinized the hat
stand, and noticing that there was not a military
overcoat there, he went, as usual, to his own room. 
But, contrary to his usual habit, he did not go to
bed, he walked up and down his study till three o’clock
in the morning.  The feeling of furious anger
with his wife, who would not observe the proprieties
and keep to the one stipulation he had laid on her,
not to receive her lover in her own home, gave him
no peace.  She had not complied with his request,
and he was bound to punish her and carry out his threat ­obtain
a divorce and take away his son.  He knew all
the difficulties connected with this course, but he
had said he would do it, and now he must carry out
his threat.  Countess Lidia Ivanovna had hinted
that this was the best way out of his position, and
of late the obtaining of divorces had been brought
to such perfection that Alexey Alexandrovitch saw a
possibility of overcoming the formal difficulties. 
Misfortunes never come singly, and the affairs of
the reorganization of the native tribes, and of the
irrigation of the lands of the Zaraisky province,
had brought such official worries upon Alexey Alexandrovitch
that he had been of late in a continual condition
of extreme irritability.

He did not sleep the whole night,
and his fury, growing in a sort of vast, arithmetical
progression, reached its highest limits in the morning. 
He dressed in haste, and as though carrying his cup
full of wrath, and fearing to spill any over, fearing
to lose with his wrath the energy necessary for the
interview with his wife, he went into her room directly
he heard she was up.

Anna, who had thought she knew her
husband so well, was amazed at his appearance when
he went in to her.  His brow was lowering, and
his eyes stared darkly before him, avoiding her eyes;
his mouth was tightly and contemptuously shut. 
In his walk, in his gestures, in the sound of his
voice there was a determination and firmness such
as his wife had never seen in him.  He went into
her room, and without greeting her, walked straight
up to her writing-table, and taking her keys, opened
a drawer.

“What do you want?” she cried.

“Your lover’s letters,” he said.

“They’re not here,”
she said, shutting the drawer; but from that action
he saw he had guessed right, and roughly pushing away
her hand, he quickly snatched a portfolio in which
he knew she used to put her most important papers. 
She tried to pull the portfolio away, but he pushed
her back.

“Sit down!  I have to speak
to you,” he said, putting the portfolio under
his arm, and squeezing it so tightly with his elbow
that his shoulder stood up.  Amazed and intimidated,
she gazed at him in silence.

“I told you that I would not
allow you to receive your lover in this house.”

“I had to see him to…”

She stopped, not finding a reason.

“I do not enter into the details
of why a woman wants to see her lover.”

“I meant, I only…” she
said, flushing hotly.  This coarseness of his
angered her, and gave her courage.  “Surely
you must feel how easy it is for you to insult me?”
she said.

“An honest man and an honest
woman may be insulted, but to tell a thief he’s
a thief is simply la constatation d’un fait.”

“This cruelty is something new
I did not know in you.”

“You call it cruelty for a husband
to give his wife liberty, giving her the honorable
protection of his name, simply on the condition of
observing the proprieties:  is that cruelty?”

“It’s worse than cruel ­it’s
base, if you want to know!” Anna cried, in a
rush of hatred, and getting up, she was going away.

“No!” he shrieked, in
his shrill voice, which pitched a note higher than
usual even, and his big hands clutching her by the
arm so violently that red marks were left from the
bracelet he was squeezing, he forcibly sat her down
in her place.

“Base!  If you care to
use that word, what is base is to forsake husband
and child for a lover, while you eat your husband’s
bread!”

She bowed her head.  She did
not say what she had said the evening before to her
lover, that he was her husband, and her husband
was superfluous; she did not even think that. 
She felt all the justice of his words, and only said
softly: 

“You cannot describe my position
as worse than I feel it to be myself; but what are
you saying all this for?”

“What am I saying it for? what
for?” he went on, as angrily.  “That
you may know that since you have not carried out my
wishes in regard to observing outward decorum, I will
take measures to put an end to this state of things.”

“Soon, very soon, it will end,
anyway,” she said; and again, at the thought
of death near at hand and now desired, tears came
into her eyes.

“It will end sooner than you
and your lover have planned!  If you must have
the satisfaction of animal passion…”

“Alexey Alexandrovitch! 
I won’t say it’s not generous, but it’s
not like a gentleman to strike anyone who’s down.”

“Yes, you only think of yourself! 
But the sufferings of a man who was your husband
have no interest for you.  You don’t care
that his whole life is ruined, that he is thuff…thuff…”

Alexey Alexandrovitch was speaking
so quickly that he stammered, and was utterly unable
to articulate the word “suffering.” 
In the end he pronounced it “thuffering.” 
She wanted to laugh, and was immediately ashamed
that anything could amuse her at such a moment. 
And for the first time, for an instant, she felt for
him, put herself in his place, and was sorry for him. 
But what could she say or do?  Her head sank,
and she sat silent.  He too was silent for some
time, and then began speaking in a frigid, less shrill
voice, emphasizing random words that had no special
significance.

“I came to tell you…” he said.

She glanced at him.  “No,
it was my fancy,” she thought, recalling the
expression of his face when he stumbled over the word
“suffering.”  “No; can a man
with those dull eyes, with that self-satisfied complacency,
feel anything?”

“I cannot change anything,” she whispered.

“I have come to tell you that
I am going tomorrow to Moscow, and shall not return
again to this house, and you will receive notice of
what I decide through the lawyer into whose hands I
shall intrust the task of getting a divorce. 
My son is going to my sister’s,” said
Alexey Alexandrovitch, with an effort recalling what
he had meant to say about his son.

“You take Seryozha to hurt me,”
she said, looking at him from under her brows. 
“You do not love him….  Leave me Seryozha!”

“Yes, I have lost even my affection
for my son, because he is associated with the repulsion
I feel for you.  But still I shall take him. 
Goodbye!”

And he was going away, but now she detained him.

“Alexey Alexandrovitch, leave
me Seryozha!” she whispered once more. 
“I have nothing else to say.  Leave Seryozha
till my…I shall soon be confined; leave him!”

Alexey Alexandrovitch flew into a
rage, and, snatching his hand from her, he went out
of the room without a word.

 

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