FictionForest

PART FOUR : Chapter 18

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

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After the conversation with Alexey
Alexandrovitch, Vronsky went out onto the steps of
the Karenins’ house and stood still, with difficulty
remembering where he was, and where he ought to walk
or drive.  He felt disgraced, humiliated, guilty,
and deprived of all possibility of washing away his
humiliation.  He felt thrust out of the beaten
track along which he had so proudly and lightly walked
till then.  All the habits and rules of his life
that had seemed so firm, had turned out suddenly false
and inapplicable.  The betrayed husband, who had
figured till that time as a pitiful creature, an incidental
and somewhat ludicrous obstacle to his happiness,
had suddenly been summoned by her herself, elevated
to an awe-inspiring pinnacle, and on the pinnacle that
husband had shown himself, not malignant, not false,
not ludicrous, but kind and straightforward and large. 
Vronsky could not but feel this, and the parts were
suddenly reversed.  Vronsky felt his elevation
and his own abasement, his truth and his own falsehood. 
He felt that the husband was magnanimous even in his
sorrow, while he had been base and petty in his deceit. 
But this sense of his own humiliation before the
man he had unjustly despised made up only a small
part of his misery.  He felt unutterably wretched
now, for his passion for Anna, which had seemed to
him of late to be growing cooler, now that he knew
he had lost her forever, was stronger than ever it
had been.  He had seen all of her in her illness,
had come to know her very soul, and it seemed to him
that he had never loved her till then.  And now
when he had learned to know her, to love her as she
should be loved, he had been humiliated before her,
and had lost her forever, leaving with her nothing
of himself but a shameful memory.  Most terrible
of all had been his ludicrous, shameful position when
Alexey Alexandrovitch had pulled his hands away from
his humiliated face.  He stood on the steps of
the Karenins’ house like one distraught, and
did not know what to do.

“A sledge, sir?” asked the porter.

“Yes, a sledge.”

On getting home, after three sleepless
nights, Vronsky, without undressing, lay down flat
on the sofa, clasping his hands and laying his head
on them.  His head was heavy.  Images, memories,
and ideas of the strangest description followed one
another with extraordinary rapidity and vividness. 
First it was the medicine he had poured out for the
patient and spilt over the spoon, then the midwife’s
white hands, then the queer posture of Alexey Alexandrovitch
on the floor beside the bed.

“To sleep!  To forget!”
he said to himself with the serene confidence of a
healthy man that if he is tired and sleepy, he will
go to sleep at once.  And the same instant his
head did begin to feel drowsy and he began to drop
off into forgetfulness.  The waves of the sea
of unconsciousness had begun to meet over his head,
when all at once ­it was as though a violent
shock of electricity had passed over him.  He
started so that he leaped up on the springs of the
sofa, and leaning on his arms got in a panic onto
his knees.  His eyes were wide open as though
he had never been asleep.  The heaviness in his
head and the weariness in his limbs that he had felt
a minute before had suddenly gone.

“You may trample me in the mud,”
he heard Alexey Alexandrovitch’s words and saw
him standing before him, and saw Anna’s face
with its burning flush and glittering eyes, gazing
with love and tenderness not at him but at Alexey
Alexandrovitch; he saw his own, as he fancied, foolish
and ludicrous figure when Alexey Alexandrovitch took
his hands away from his face.  He stretched out
his legs again and flung himself on the sofa in the
same position and shut his eyes.

“To sleep!  To forget!”
he repeated to himself.  But with his eyes shut
he saw more distinctly than ever Anna’s face
as it had been on the memorable evening before the
races.

“That is not and will not be,
and she wants to wipe it out of her memory. 
But I cannot live without it.  How can we be reconciled?
how can we be reconciled?” he said aloud, and
unconsciously began to repeat these words.  This
repetition checked the rising up of fresh images and
memories, which he felt were thronging in his brain. 
But repeating words did not check his imagination
for long.  Again in extraordinarily rapid succession
his best moments rose before his mind, and then his
recent humiliation.  “Take away his hands,”
Anna’s voice says.  He takes away his hands
and feels the shamestruck and idiotic expression of
his face.

He still lay down, trying to sleep,
though he felt there was not the smallest hope of
it, and kept repeating stray words from some chain
of thought, trying by this to check the rising flood
of fresh images.  He listened, and heard in a
strange, mad whisper words repeated:  “I
did not appreciate it, did not make enough of it. 
I did not appreciate it, did not make enough of it.”

“What’s this?  Am
I going out of my mind?” he said to himself. 
“Perhaps.  What makes men go out of their
minds; what makes men shoot themselves?” he
answered himself, and opening his eyes, he saw with
wonder an embroidered cushion beside him, worked by
Varya, his brother’s wife.  He touched the
tassel of the cushion, and tried to think of Varya,
of when he had seen her last.  But to think of
anything extraneous was an agonizing effort. 
“No, I must sleep!” He moved the cushion
up, and pressed his head into it, but he had to make
an effort to keep his eyes shut.  He jumped up
and sat down.  “That’s all over for
me,” he said to himself.  “I must
think what to do.  What is left?” His mind
rapidly ran through his life apart from his love of
Anna.

“Ambition?  Serpuhovskoy? 
Society?  The court?” He could not come
to a pause anywhere.  All of it had had meaning
before, but now there was no reality in it. 
He got up from the sofa, took off his coat, undid
his belt, and uncovering his hairy chest to breathe
more freely, walked up and down the room.  “This
is how people go mad,” he repeated, “and
how they shoot themselves…to escape humiliation,”
he added slowly.

He went to the door and closed it,
then with fixed eyes and clenched teeth he went up
to the table, took a revolver, looked round him, turned
it to a loaded barrel, and sank into thought. 
For two minutes, his head bent forward with an expression
of an intense effort of thought, he stood with the
revolver in his hand, motionless, thinking.

“Of course,” he said to
himself, as though a logical, continuous, and clear
chain of reasoning had brought him to an indubitable
conclusion.  In reality this “of course,”
that seemed convincing to him, was simply the result
of exactly the same circle of memories and images
through which he had passed ten times already during
the last hour ­memories of happiness lost
forever.  There was the same conception of the
senselessness of everything to come in life, the same
consciousness of humiliation.  Even the sequence
of these images and emotions was the same.

“Of course,” he repeated,
when for the third time his thought passed again round
the same spellbound circle of memories and images,
and pulling the revolver to the left side of his chest,
and clutching it vigorously with his whole hand, as
it were, squeezing it in his fist, he pulled the trigger. 
He did not hear the sound of the shot, but a violent
blow on his chest sent him reeling.  He tried
to clutch at the edge of the table, dropped the revolver,
staggered, and sat down on the ground, looking about
him in astonishment.  He did not recognize his
room, looking up from the ground, at the bent legs
of the table, at the wastepaper basket, and the tiger-skin
rug.  The hurried, creaking steps of his servant
coming through the drawing room brought him to his
senses.  He made an effort at thought, and was
aware that he was on the floor; and seeing blood on
the tiger-skin rug and on his arm, he knew he had
shot himself.

“Idiotic!  Missed!”
he said, fumbling after the revolver.  The revolver
was close beside him ­he sought further off. 
Still feeling for it, he stretched out to the other
side, and not being strong enough to keep his balance,
fell over, streaming with blood.

The elegant, whiskered manservant,
who used to be continually complaining to his acquaintances
of the delicacy of his nerves, was so panic-stricken
on seeing his master lying on the floor, that he left
him losing blood while he ran for assistance. 
An hour later Varya, his brother’s wife, had
arrived, and with the assistance of three doctors,
whom she had sent for in all directions, and who all
appeared at the same moment, she got the wounded man
to bed, and remained to nurse him.

 

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