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Chapter 8


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.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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