FictionForest

PART FIVE : Chapter 8

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

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Anna, in that first period of her
emancipation and rapid return to health, felt herself
unpardonably happy and full of the joy of life. 
The thought of her husband’s unhappiness did
not poison her happiness.  On one side that memory
was too awful to be thought of.  On the other
side her husband’s unhappiness had given her
too much happiness to be regretted.  The memory
of all that had happened after her illness:  her
reconciliation with her husband, its breakdown, the
news of Vronsky’s wound, his visit, the preparations
for divorce, the departure from her husband’s
house, the parting from her son ­all that
seemed to her like a delirious dream, from which she
had waked up alone with Vronsky abroad.  The
thought of the harm caused to her husband aroused in
her a feeling like repulsion, and akin to what a drowning
man might feel who has shaken off another man clinging
to him.  That man did drown.  It was an
evil action, of course, but it was the sole means
of escape, and better not to brood over these fearful
facts.

One consolatory reflection upon her
conduct had occurred to her at the first moment of
the final rupture, and when now she recalled all the
past, she remembered that one reflection.  “I
have inevitably made that man wretched,” she
thought; “but I don’t want to profit by
his misery.  I too am suffering, and shall suffer;
I am losing what I prized above everything ­I
am losing my good name and my son.  I have done
wrong, and so I don’t want happiness, I don’t
want a divorce, and shall suffer from my shame and
the separation from my child.”  But, however
sincerely Anna had meant to suffer, she was not suffering. 
Shame there was not.  With the tact of which
both had such a large share, they had succeeded in
avoiding Russian ladies abroad, and so had never placed
themselves in a false position, and everywhere they
had met people who pretended that they perfectly understood
their position, far better indeed than they did themselves. 
Separation from the son she loved ­even
that did not cause her anguish in these early days. 
The baby girl ­his child ­was
so sweet, and had so won Anna’s heart, since
she was all that was left her, that Anna rarely thought
of her son.

The desire for life, waxing stronger
with recovered health, was so intense, and the conditions
of life were so new and pleasant, that Anna felt unpardonably
happy.  The more she got to know Vronsky, the
more she loved him.  She loved him for himself,
and for his love for her.  Her complete ownership
of him was a continual joy to her.  His presence
was always sweet to her.  All the traits of his
character, which she learned to know better and better,
were unutterably dear to her.  His appearance,
changed by his civilian dress, was as fascinating
to her as though she were some young girl in love. 
In everything he said, thought, and did, she saw
something particularly noble and elevated.  Her
adoration of him alarmed her indeed; she sought and
could not find in him anything not fine.  She
dared not show him her sense of her own insignificance
beside him.  It seemed to her that, knowing this,
he might sooner cease to love her; and she dreaded
nothing now so much as losing his love, though she
had no grounds for fearing it.  But she could
not help being grateful to him for his attitude to
her, and showing that she appreciated it.  He,
who had in her opinion such a marked aptitude for a
political career, in which he would have been certain
to play a leading part ­he had sacrificed
his ambition for her sake, and never betrayed the
slightest regret.  He was more lovingly respectful
to her than ever, and the constant care that she should
not feel the awkwardness of her position never deserted
him for a single instant.  He, so manly a man,
never opposed her, had indeed, with her, no will of
his own, and was anxious, it seemed, for nothing but
to anticipate her wishes.  And she could not but
appreciate this, even though the very intensity of
his solicitude for her, the atmosphere of care with
which he surrounded her, sometimes weighed upon her.

Vronsky, meanwhile, in spite of the
complete realization of what he had so long desired,
was not perfectly happy.  He soon felt that the
realization of his desires gave him no more than a
grain of sand out of the mountain of happiness he
had expected.  It showed him the mistake men
make in picturing to themselves happiness as the realization
of their desires.  For a time after joining his
life to hers, and putting on civilian dress, he had
felt all the delight of freedom in general of which
he had known nothing before, and of freedom in his
love, ­and he was content, but not for long. 
He was soon aware that there was springing up in
his heart a desire for desires ­ennui
Without conscious intention he began to clutch at
every passing caprice, taking it for a desire and
an object.  Sixteen hours of the day must be
occupied in some way, since they were living abroad
in complete freedom, outside the conditions of social
life which filled up time in Petersburg.  As
for the amusements of bachelor existence, which had
provided Vronsky with entertainment on previous tours
abroad, they could not be thought of, since the sole
attempt of the sort had led to a sudden attack of
depression in Anna, quite out of proportion with the
cause ­a late supper with bachelor friends. 
Relations with the society of the place ­foreign
and Russian ­were equally out of the question
owing to the irregularity of their position. 
The inspection of objects of interest, apart from
the fact that everything had been seen already, had
not for Vronsky, a Russian and a sensible man, the
immense significance Englishmen are able to attach
to that pursuit.

And just as the hungry stomach eagerly
accepts every object it can get, hoping to find nourishment
in it, Vronsky quite unconsciously clutched first
at politics, then at new books, and then at pictures.

As he had from a child a taste for
painting, and as, not knowing what to spend his money
on, he had begun collecting engravings, he came to
a stop at painting, began to take interest in it, and
concentrated upon it the unoccupied mass of desires
which demanded satisfaction.

He had a ready appreciation of art,
and probably, with a taste for imitating art, he supposed
himself to have the real thing essential for an artist,
and after hesitating for some time which style of
painting to select ­religious, historical,
realistic, or genre painting ­he set to
work to paint.  He appreciated all kinds, and
could have felt inspired by any one of them; but he
had no conception of the possibility of knowing nothing
at all of any school of painting, and of being inspired
directly by what is within the soul, without caring
whether what is painted will belong to any recognized
school.  Since he knew nothing of this, and drew
his inspiration, not directly from life, but indirectly
from life embodied in art, his inspiration came very
quickly and easily, and as quickly and easily came
his success in painting something very similar to
the sort of painting he was trying to imitate.

More than any other style he liked
the French ­graceful and effective ­and
in that style he began to paint Anna’s portrait
in Italian costume, and the portrait seemed to him,
and to everyone who saw it, extremely successful.

 

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