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Chapter 18


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 fiat 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.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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