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Chapter 28


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
arid 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.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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