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Chapter 31


As intensely as Anna had longed to see her son, and long as she
had been thinking of it and preparing herself for it, she had
not in the least expected that seeing him would affect her so
deeply. On getting back to her lonely rooms in the hotel she
could not for a long while understand why she was there. "Yes,
it's all over, and I am again alone," she said to herself, and
without taking off her hat she sat down in a low chair by the
hearth. Fixing her eyes on a bronze clock standing on a table
between the windows, she tried to think.

The French maid brought from abroad came in to suggest she should
dress. She gazed at her wonderingly and said, "Presently." A
footman offered her coffee. "Later on," she said.

The Italian nurse, after having taken the baby out in her best,
came in with her, and brought her to Anna. The plump, well-fed
little baby, on seeing her mother, as she always did, held out
her fat little hands, and with a smile on her toothless mouth,
began, like a fish with a float, bobbing her fingers up and down
the starched folds of her embroidered skirt, making them rustle.
It was impossible not to smile, not to kiss the baby, impossible
not to hold out a finger for her to clutch, crowing and prancing
all over; impossible not to offer her a lip which she sucked into
her little mouth by way of a kiss. And all this Anna did, and
took her in her arms and made her dance, and kissed her fresh
little cheek and bare little elbows; but at the sight of this
child it was plainer than ever to her that the feeling she had
for her could not be called love in comparison with what she felt
for Seryozha. Everything in this baby was charming, but for some
reason all this did not go deep to her heart. On her first
child, though the child of an unloved father, had been
concentrated all the love that had never found satisfaction. Her
baby girl had been born in the most painful circumstances and had
not had a hundredth part of the care and thought which had been

concentrated on her first child. Besides, in the little girl
everything was still in the future, while Seryozha was by now
almost a personality, and a personality dearly loved. In him
there was a conflict of thought and feeling; he understood her,
he loved her, he judged her, she thought, recalling his words and
his eyes. And she was forever--not physically only but
spiritually--divided from him, and it was impossible to set this
right.

She gave the baby back to the nurse, let her go, and opened the
locket in which there was Seryozha's portrait when he was almost
of the same age as the girl. She got up, and, taking off her
hat, took up from a little table an album in which there were
photographs of her son at different ages. She wanted to compare
them, and began taking them out of the album. She took them all
out except one, the latest and best photograph. In it he was in
a white smock, sitting astride a chair, with frowning eyes and
smiling lips. It was his best, most characteristic expression.
With her little supple hands, her white, delicate fingers, that
moved with a peculiar intensity today, she pulled at a corner of
the photograph, but the photograph had caught somewhere, and she
could not get it out. There was no paper knife on the table, and
so, pulling out the photograph that was next to her son's (it was
a photograph of Vronsky taken at Rome in a round hat and with
long hair), she used it to push out her son's photograph. "Oh,
here is he!" she said, glancing at the portrait of Vronsky, and
she suddenly recalled that he was the cause of her present
misery. She had not once thought of him all the morning. But
now, coming all at once upon that manly, noble face, so familiar
and so dear to her, she felt a sudden rush of love for him.

"But where is he? How is it he leaves me alone in my misery?"
she thought all at once with a feeling of reproach, forgetting
she had herself kept from him everything concerning her son. She
sent to ask him to come to her immediately; with a throbbing
heart she awaited him, rehearsing to herself the words in which
she would tell him all, and the expressions of love with which he
would console her. The messenger returned with the answer that
he had a visitor with him, but that he would come immediately,
and that he asked whether she would let him bring with him Prince
Yashvin, who had just arrived in Petersburg. "He's not coming
alone, and since dinner yesterday he has not seen me," she
thought; "he's not coming so that I could tell him everything,
but coming with Yashvin." And all at once a strange idea came to
her: what if he had ceased to love her?

And going over the events of the last few days, it seemed to her
that she saw in everything a confirmation of this terrible idea.
The fact that he had not dined at home yesterday, and the fact
that he had insisted on their taking separate sets of rooms in
Petersburg, and that even now he was not coming to her alone, as
though he were trying to avoid meeting her face to face.

"But he ought to tell me so. I must know that it is so. If I
knew it, then I know what I should do," she said to herself,
utterly unable to picture to herself the position she would be in
if she were convinced of his not caring for her. She thought he
had ceased to love her, she felt close upon despair, and
consequently she felt exceptionally alert. She rang for her maid
and went to her dressing room. As she dressed, she took more
care over her appearance than she had done all those days, as
though he might, if he had grown cold to her, fall in love with
her again because she had dressed and arranged her hair in the
way most becoming to her.

She heard the bell ring before she was ready. When she went into
the drawing room it was not he, but Yashvin, who met her eyes.
Vronsky was looking through the photographs of her son, which she
had forgotten on the table, and he made no haste to look round at
her.

"We have met already," she said, putting her little hand into the
huge hand of Yashvin, whose bashfulness was so queerly out of
keeping with his immense frame and coarse face. "We met last
year at the races. Give them to me," she said, with a rapid
movement snatching from Vronsky the photographs of her son, and
glancing significantly at him with flashing eyes. "Were the
races good this year? Instead of them I saw the races in the
Corso in Rome. But you don't care for life abroad," she said
with a cordial smile. "I know you and all your tastes, though I
have seen so little of you."

"I'm awfully sorry for that, for my tastes are mostly bad," said
Yashvin, gnawing at his left mustache.

Having talked a little while, and noticing that Vronsky glanced
at the clock, Yashvin asked her whether she would be staying much
longer in Petersburg, and unbending his huge figure reached after
his cap.

"Not long, I think," she said hesitatingly, glancing at Vronsky.

"So then we shan't meet again?"

"Come and dine with me," said Anna resolutely, angry it seemed
with herself for her embarrassment, but flushing as she always
did when she defined her position before a fresh person. "The
dinner here is not good, but at least you will see him. There is
no one of his old friends in the regiment Alexey cares for as he
does for you."

"Delighted," said Yashvin with a smile, from which Vronsky could
see that he liked Anna very much.

Yashvin said good-bye and went away; Vronsky stayed behind.

"Are you going too?" she said to him.

"I'm late already," he answered. "Run along! I'll catch you up
in a moment," he called to Yashvin.

She took him by the hand, and without taking her eyes off him,
gazed at him while she ransacked her mind for the words to say
that would keep him.

"Wait a minute, there's something I want to say to you," and
taking his broad hand she pressed it on her neck. "Oh, was it
right my asking him to dinner?"

"You did quite right," he said with a serene smile that showed
his even teeth, and he kissed her hand.

"Alexey, you have not changed to me?" she said, pressing his hand
in both of hers. "Alexey, I am miserable here. When are we
going away?"

"Soon, soon. You wouldn't believe how disagreeable our way of
living here is to me too," he said, and he drew away his hand.

"Well, go, go!" she said in a tone of offense, and she walked
quickly away from him.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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