FictionForest

PART FIVE : Chapter 28

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

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On arriving in Petersburg, Vronsky
and Anna stayed at one of the best hotels; Vronsky
apart in a lower story, Anna above with her child,
its nurse, and her maid, in a large suite of four
rooms.

On the day of his arrival Vronsky
went to his brother’s.  There he found
his mother, who had come from Moscow on business. 
His mother and sister-in-law greeted him as usual: 
they asked him about his stay abroad, and talked of
their common acquaintances, but did not let drop a
single word in allusion to his connection with Anna. 
His brother came the next morning to see Vronsky,
and of his own accord asked him about her, and Alexey
Vronsky told him directly that he looked upon his
connection with Madame Karenina as marriage; that
he hoped to arrange a divorce, and then to marry her,
and until then he considered her as much a wife as
any other wife, and he begged him to tell their mother
and his wife so.

“If the world disapproves, I
don’t care,” said Vronsky; “but if
my relations want to be on terms of relationship with
me, they will have to be on the same terms with my
wife.”

The elder brother, who had always
a respect for his younger brother’s judgment,
could not well tell whether he was right or not till
the world had decided the question; for his part he
had nothing against it, and with Alexey he went up
to see Anna.

Before his brother, as before everyone,
Vronsky addressed Anna with a certain formality, treating
her as he might a very intimate friend, but it was
understood that his brother knew their real relations,
and they talked about Anna’s going to Vronsky’s
estate.

In spite of all his social experience
Vronsky was, in consequence of the new position in
which he was placed, laboring under a strange misapprehension. 
One would have thought he must have understood that
society was closed for him and Anna; but now some
vague ideas had sprung up in his brain that this was
only the case in old-fashioned days, and that now
with the rapidity of modern progress (he had unconsciously
become by now a partisan of every sort of progress)
the views of society had changed, and that the question
whether they would be received in society was not
a foregone conclusion.  “Of course,”
he thought, “she would not be received at court,
but intimate friends can and must look at it in the
proper light.”  One may sit for several
hours at a stretch with one’s legs crossed in
the same position, if one knows that there’s
nothing to prevent one’s changing one’s
position; but if a man knows that he must remain sitting
so with crossed legs, then cramps come on, the legs
begin to twitch and to strain towards the spot to
which one would like to draw them.  This was what
Vronsky was experiencing in regard to the world. 
Though at the bottom of his heart he knew that the
world was shut on them, he put it to the test whether
the world had not changed by now and would not receive
them.  But he very quickly perceived that though
the world was open for him personally, it was closed
for Anna.  Just as in the game of cat and mouse,
the hands raised for him were dropped to bar the way
for Anna.

One of the first ladies of Petersburg
society whom Vronsky saw was his cousin Betsy.

“At last!” she greeted
him joyfully.  “And Anna?  How glad
I am!  Where are you stopping?  I can fancy
after your delightful travels you must find our poor
Petersburg horrid.  I can fancy your honeymoon
in Rome.  How about the divorce?  Is that
all over?”

Vronsky noticed that Betsy’s
enthusiasm waned when she learned that no divorce
had as yet taken place.

“People will throw stones at
me, I know,” she said, “but I shall come
and see Anna; yes, I shall certainly come.  You
won’t be here long, I suppose?”

And she did certainly come to see
Anna the same day, but her tone was not at all the
same as in former days.  She unmistakably prided
herself on her courage, and wished Anna to appreciate
the fidelity of her friendship.  She only stayed
ten minutes, talking of society gossip, and on leaving
she said: 

“You’ve never told me
when the divorce is to be?  Supposing I’m
ready to fling my cap over the mill, other starchy
people will give you the cold shoulder until you’re
married.  And that’s so simple nowadays.
Ca se fait.  So you’re going on
Friday?  Sorry we shan’t see each other
again.”

From Betsy’s tone Vronsky might
have grasped what he had to expect from the world;
but he made another effort in his own family. 
His mother he did not reckon upon.  He knew that
his mother, who had been so enthusiastic over Anna
at their first acquaintance, would have no mercy on
her now for having ruined her son’s career. 
But he had more hope of Varya, his brother’s
wife.  He fancied she would not throw stones,
and would go simply and directly to see Anna, and
would receive her in her own house.

The day after his arrival Vronsky
went to her, and finding her alone, expressed his
wishes directly.

“You know, Alexey,” she
said after hearing him, “how fond I am of you,
and how ready I am to do anything for you; but I have
not spoken, because I knew I could be of no use to
you and to Anna Arkadyevna,” she said, articulating
the name “Anna Arkadyevna” with particular
care.  “Don’t suppose, please, that
I judge her.  Never; perhaps in her place I should
have done the same.  I don’t and can’t
enter into that,” she said, glancing timidly
at his gloomy face.  “But one must call
things by their names.  You want me to go and
see her, to ask her here, and to rehabilitate her in
society; but do understand that I cannot do
so.  I have daughters growing up, and I must
live in the world for my husband’s sake. 
Well, I’m ready to come and see Anna Arkadyevna: 
she will understand that I can’t ask her here,
or I should have to do so in such a way that she would
not meet people who look at things differently; that
would offend her.  I can’t raise her…”

“Oh, I don’t regard her
as fallen more than hundreds of women you do receive!”
Vronsky interrupted her still more gloomily, and he
got up in silence, understanding that his sister-in-law’s
decision was not to be shaken.

“Alexey! don’t be angry
with me.  Please understand that I’m not
to blame,” began Varya, looking at him with a
timid smile.

“I’m not angry with you,”
he said still as gloomily; “but I’m sorry
in two ways.  I’m sorry, too, that this
means breaking up our friendship ­if not
breaking up, at least weakening it.  You will
understand that for me, too, it cannot be otherwise.”

And with that he left her.

Vronsky knew that further efforts
were useless, and that he had to spend these few days
in Petersburg as though in a strange town, avoiding
every sort of relation with his own old circle in
order not to be exposed to the annoyances and humiliations
which were so intolerable to him.  One of the
most unpleasant features of his position in Petersburg
was that Alexey Alexandrovitch and his name seemed
to meet him everywhere.  He could not begin to
talk of anything without the conversation turning on
Alexey Alexandrovitch; he could not go anywhere without
risk of meeting him.  So at least it seemed to
Vronsky, just as it seems to a man with a sore finger
that he is continually, as though on purpose, grazing
his sore finger on everything.

Their stay in Petersburg was the more
painful to Vronsky that he perceived all the time
a sort of new mood that he could not understand in
Anna.  At one time she would seem in love with
him, and then she would become cold, irritable, and
impenetrable.  She was worrying over something,
and keeping something back from him, and did not seem
to notice the humiliations which poisoned his existence,
and for her, with her delicate intuition, must have
been still more unbearable.

 

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