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Chapter 2

When he got home, Vronsky found there a note from Anna. She
wrote, "I am ill and unhappy. I cannot come out, but I cannot go
on longer without seeing you. Come in this evening. Alexey
Alexandrovitch goes to the council at seven and will be there
till ten." Thinking for an instant of the strangeness of her
bidding him come straight to her, in spite of her husband's
insisting on her not receiving him, he decided to go.

Vronsky had that winter got his promotion, was now a colonel, had
left the regimental quarters, and was living alone. After having
some lunch, he lay down on the sofa immediately, and in five
minutes memories of the hideous scenes he had witnessed during
the last few days were confused together and joined on to a
mental image of Anna and of the peasant who had played an
important part in the bear hunt, and Vronsky fell asleep. He
waked up in the dark, trembling with horror, and made haste to
light a candle. "What was it? What? What was the dreadful
thing I dreamed? Yes, yes; I think a little dirty man with a
disheveled beard was stooping down doing something, and all of a
sudden he began saying some strange words in French. Yes, there
was nothing else in the dream," he said to himself. "But why was
it so awful?" He vividly recalled the peasant again and those
incomprehensible French words the peasant had uttered, and a
chill of horror ran down his spine.

"What nonsense!" thought Vronsky, and glanced at his watch.

It was half-past eight already. He rang up his servant, dressed
in haste, and went out onto the steps, completely forgetting the
dream and only worried at being late. As he drove up to the
Karenins' entrance he looked at his watch and saw it was ten
minutes to nine. A high, narrow carriage with a pair of grays
was standing at the entrance. He recognized Anna's carriage.
"She is coming to me," thought Vronsky, "and better she should.
I don't like going into that house. But no matter; I can't hide
myself," he thought, and with that manner peculiar to him from
childhood, as of a man who has nothing to be ashamed of, Vronsky
got out of his sledge and went to the door. The door opened, and
the hall porter with a rug on his arm called the carriage.
Vronsky, though he did not usually notice details, noticed at
this moment the amazed expression with which the porter glanced
at him. In the very doorway Vronsky almost ran up against Alexey
Alexandrovitch. The gas jet threw its full light on the
bloodless, sunken face under the black hat and on the white
cravat, brilliant against the beaver of the coat. Karenin's
fixed, dull eyes were fastened upon Vronsky's face. Vronsky
bowed, and Alexey Alexandrovitch, chewing his lips, lifted his
hand to his hat and went on. Vronsky saw him without looking
round get into the carriage, pick up the rug and the opera-glass
at the window and disappear. Vronsky went into the hall. His
brows were scowling, and his eyes gleamed with a proud and angry
light in them.

"What a position!" he thought. "If he would fight, would stand
up for his honor, I could act, could express my feelings; but
this weakness or baseness.... He puts me in the position of
playing false, which I never meant and never mean to do."

Vronsky's ideas had changed since the day of his conversation
with Anna in the Vrede garden. Unconsciously yielding to the
weakness of Anna--who had surrendered herself up to him utterly,
and simply looked to him to decide her fate, ready to submit to
anything--he had long ceased to think that their tie might end
as he had thought then. His ambitious plans had retreated into
the background again, and feeling that he had got out of that
circle of activity in which everything was definite, he had given
himself entirely to his passion, and that passion was binding him
more and more closely to her.

He was still in the hall when he caught the sound of her
retreating footsteps. He knew she had been expecting him, had
listened for him, and was now going back to the drawing room.

"No," she cried, on seeing him, and at the first sound of her
voice the tears came into her eyes. "No; if things are to go on
like this, the end will come much, much too soon."

"What is it, dear one?"

"What? I've been waiting in agony for an hour, two hours...No,
I won't...I can't quarrel with you. Of course you couldn't
come. No, I won't." She laid her two hands on his shoulders,
and looked a long while at him with a profound, passionate, and
at the same time searching look. She was studying his face to
make up for the time she had not seen him. She was, every time
she saw him, making the picture of him in her imagination
(incomparably superior, impossible in reality) fit with him as he
really was.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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