FictionForest

PART FIVE : Chapter 32

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

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When Vronsky returned home, Anna was
not yet home.  Soon after he had left, some lady,
so they told him, had come to see her, and she had
gone out with her.  That she had gone out without
leaving word where she was going, that she had not
yet come back, and that all the morning she had been
going about somewhere without a word to him ­all
this, together with the strange look of excitement
in her face in the morning, and the recollection of
the hostile tone with which she had before Yashvin
almost snatched her son’s photographs out of
his hands, made him serious.  He decided he absolutely
must speak openly with her.  And he waited for
her in her drawing room.  But Anna did not return
alone, but brought with her her old unmarried aunt,
Princess Oblonskaya.  This was the lady who had
come in the morning, and with whom Anna had gone out
shopping.  Anna appeared not to notice Vronsky’s
worried and inquiring expression, and began a lively
account of her morning’s shopping.  He saw
that there was something working within her; in her
flashing eyes, when they rested for a moment on him,
there was an intense concentration, and in her words
and movements there was that nervous rapidity and
grace which, during the early period of their intimacy,
had so fascinated him, but which now so disturbed
and alarmed him.

The dinner was laid for four. 
All were gathered together and about to go into the
little dining room when Tushkevitch made his appearance
with a message from Princess Betsy.  Princess
Betsy begged her to excuse her not having come to
say good-bye; she had been indisposed, but begged
Anna to come to her between half-past six and nine
o’clock.  Vronsky glanced at Anna at the
precise limit of time, so suggestive of steps having
been taken that she should meet no one; but Anna appeared
not to notice it.

“Very sorry that I can’t
come just between half-past six and nine,” she
said with a faint smile.

“The princess will be very sorry.”

“And so am I.”

“You’re going, no doubt, to hear Patti?”
said Tushkevitch.

“Patti?  You suggest the
idea to me.  I would go if it were possible to
get a box.”

“I can get one,” Tushkevitch offered his
services.

“I should be very, very grateful
to you,” said Anna.  “But won’t
you dine with us?”

Vronsky gave a hardly perceptible
shrug.  He was at a complete loss to understand
what Anna was about.  What had she brought the
old Princess Oblonskaya home for, what had she made
Tushkevitch stay to dinner for, and, most amazing
of all, why was she sending him for a box?  Could
she possibly think in her position of going to Patti’s
benefit, where all the circle of her acquaintances
would be?  He looked at her with serious eyes,
but she responded with that defiant, half-mirthful,
half-desperate look, the meaning of which he could
not comprehend.  At dinner Anna was in aggressively
high spirits ­she almost flirted both with
Tushkevitch and with Yashvin.  When they got up
from dinner and Tushkevitch had gone to get a box
at the opera, Yashvin went to smoke, and Vronsky went
down with him to his own rooms.  After sitting
there for some time he ran upstairs.  Anna was
already dressed in a low-necked gown of light silk
and velvet that she had had made in Paris, and with
costly white lace on her head, framing her face, and
particularly becoming, showing up her dazzling beauty.

“Are you really going to the
theater?” he said, trying not to look at her.

“Why do you ask with such alarm?”
she said, wounded again at his not looking at her. 
“Why shouldn’t I go?”

She appeared not to understand the
motive of his words.

“Oh, of course, there’s
no reason whatever,” he said, frowning.

“That’s just what I say,”
she said, willfully refusing to see the irony of his
tone, and quietly turning back her long, perfumed
glove.

“Anna, for God’s sake!
what is the matter with you?” he said, appealing
to her exactly as once her husband had done.

“I don’t understand what you are asking.”

“You know that it’s out of the question
to go.”

“Why so?  I’m not
going alone.  Princess Varvara has gone to dress,
she is going with me.”

He shrugged his shoulders with an air of perplexity
and despair.

“But do you mean to say you don’t know?…”
he began.

“But I don’t care to know!”
she almost shrieked.  “I don’t care
to.  Do I regret what I have done?  No, no,
no!  If it were all to do again from the beginning,
it would be the same.  For us, for you and for
me, there is only one thing that matters, whether
we love each other.  Other people we need not
consider.  Why are we living here apart and not
seeing each other?  Why can’t I go? 
I love you, and I don’t care for anything,”
she said in Russian, glancing at him with a peculiar
gleam in her eyes that he could not understand. 
“If you have not changed to me, why don’t
you look at me?”

He looked at her.  He saw all
the beauty of her face and full dress, always so becoming
to her.  But now her beauty and elegance were
just what irritated him.

“My feeling cannot change, you
know, but I beg you, I entreat you,” he said
again in French, with a note of tender supplication
in his voice, but with coldness in his eyes.

She did not hear his words, but she
saw the coldness of his eyes, and answered with irritation: 

“And I beg you to explain why I should not go.”

“Because it might cause you…” he hesitated.

“I don’t understand. 
Yashvin n’est pas compromettant, and
Princess Varvara is no worse than others.  Oh,
here she is!”

 

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