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Chapter 33

Vronsky for the first time experienced a feeling of anger against
Anna, almost a hatred for her willfully refusing to understand
her own position. This feeling was aggravated by his being
unable to tell her plainly the cause of his anger. If he had
told her directly what he was thinking, he would have said:

"In that dress, with a princess only too well known to everyone,
to show yourself at the theater is equivalent not merely to
acknowledging your position as a fallen woman, but is flinging
down a challenge to society, that is to say, cutting yourself off
from it forever."

He could not say that to her. "But how can she fail to see it,
and what is going on in her?" he said to himself. He felt at the
same time that his respect for her was diminished while his sense
of her beauty was intensified.

He went back scowling to his rooms, and sitting down beside
Yashvin, who, with his long legs stretched out on a chair, was
drinking brandy and seltzer water, he ordered a glass of the same
for himself.

"You were talking of Lankovsky's Powerful. That's a fine horse,
and I would advise you to buy him," said Yashvin, glancing at
his comrade's gloomy face. "His hind-quarters aren't quite
first-rate, but the legs and head--one couldn't wish for anything

"I think I will take him," answered Vronsky.

Their conversation about horses interested him, but he did not
for an instant forget Anna, and could not help listening to the
sound of steps in the corridor and looking at the clock on the
chimney piece.

"Anna Arkadyevna gave orders to announce that she has gone to the

Yashvin, tipping another glass of brandy into the bubbling water,
drank it and got up, buttoning his coat.

"Well, let's go," he said, faintly smiling under his mustache,
and showing by this smile that he knew the cause of Vronsky's
gloominess, and did not attach any significance to it.

"I'm not going," Vronsky answered gloomily.

"Well, I must, I promised to. Good-bye, then. If you do, come
to the stalls; you can take Kruzin's stall," added Yashvin as he
went out.

"No, I'm busy."

"A wife is a care, but it's worse when she's not a wife," thought
Yashvin, as he walked out of the hotel.

Vronsky, left alone, got up from his chair and began pacing up
and down the room.

"And what's today? The fourth night.... Yegor and his wife are
there, and my mother, most likely. Of course all Petersburg's
there. Now she's gone in, taken off her cloak and come into the
light. Tushkevitch, Yashvin, Princess Varvara," he pictured them
to himself.... "What about me? Either that I'm frightened or
have given up to Tushkevitch the right to protect her? From
every point of view--stupid, stupid!... And why is she putting
me in such a position?" he said with a gesture of despair.

With that gesture he knocked against the table, on which there
was standing the seltzer water and the decanter of brandy, and
almost upset it. He tried to catch it, let it slip, and angrily
kicked the table over and rang.

"If you care to be in my service," he said to the valet who came
in, "you had better remember your duties. This shouldn't be
here. You ought to have cleared away."

The valet, conscious of his own innocence, would have defended
himself, but glancing at his master, he saw from his face that
the only thing to do was to be silent, and hurriedly threading
his way in and out, dropped down on the carpet and began
gathering up the whole and broken glasses and bottles.

"That's not your duty; send the waiter to clear away, and get my
dress coat out."

Vronsky went into the theater at half-past eight. The
performance was in full swing. The little old box-keeper,
recognizing Vronsky as he helped him off with his fur coat,
called him "Your Excellency," and suggested he should not take a
number but should simply call Fyodor. In the brightly lighted
corridor there was no one but the box-opener and two attendants
with fur cloaks on their arms listening at the doors. Through
the closed doors came the sounds of the discreet staccato
accompaniment of the orchestra, and a single female voice
rendering distinctly a musical phrase. The door opened to let
the box-opener slip through, and the phrase drawing to the end
reached Vronsky's hearing clearly. But the doors were closed
again at once, and Vronsky did not hear the end of the phrase and
the cadence of the accompaniment, though he knew from the thunder
of applause that it was over. When he entered the hall,
brilliantly lighted with chandeliers and gas jets, the noise was
still going on. On the stage the singer, bowing and smiling,
with bare shoulders flashing with diamonds, was, with the help of
the tenor who had given her his arm, gathering up the bouquets
that were flying awkwardly over the footlights. Then she went up
to a gentleman with glossy pomaded hair parted down the center,
who was stretching across the footlights holding out something to
her, and all the public in the stalls as well as in the boxes was
in excitement, craning forward, shouting and clapping. The
conductor in his high chair assisted in passing the offering, and
straightened his white tie. Vronsky walked into the middle of
the stalls, and, standing still, began looking about him. That
day less than ever was his attention turned upon the familiar,
habitual surroundings, the stage, the noise, all the familiar,
uninteresting, particolored herd of spectators in the packed

There were, as always, the same ladies of some sort with officers
of some sort in the back of the boxes; the same gaily dressed
women--God knows who--and uniforms and black coats; the same
dirty crowd in the upper gallery; and among the crowd, in the
boxes and in the front rows, were some forty of the REAL people.
And to those oases Vronsky at once directed his attention, and
with them he entered at once into relation.

The act was over when he went in, and so he did not go straight
to his brother's box, but going up to the first row of stalls
stopped at the footlights with Serpuhovskoy, who, standing with
one knee raised and his heel on the footlights, caught sight of
him in the distance and beckoned to him, smiling.

Vronsky had not yet seen Anna. He purposely avoided looking in
her direction. But he knew by the direction of people's eyes
where she was. He looked round discreetly, but he was not
seeking her; expecting the worst, his eyes sought for Alexey
Alexandrovitch. To his relief Alexey Alexandrovitch was not in
the theater that evening.

"How little of the military man there is left in you!"
Serpuhovskoy was saying to him. "A diplomat, an artist,
something of that sort, one would say."

"Yes, it was like going back home when I put on a black coat,"
answered Vronsky, smiling and slowly taking out his opera glass.

"Well, I'll own I envy you there. When I come back from abroad
and put on this," he touched his epaulets, "I regret my

Serpuhovskoy had long given up all hope of Vronsky's career, but
he liked him as before, and was now particularly cordial to him.

"What a pity you were not in time for the first act!"

Vronsky, listening with one ear, moved his opera glass from the
stalls and scanned the boxes. Near a lady in a turban and a bald
old man, who seemed to wave angrily in the moving opera glass,
Vronsky suddenly caught sight of Anna's head, proud, strikingly
beautiful, and smiling in the frame of lace. She was in the
fifth box, twenty paces from him. She was sitting in front, and
slightly turning, was saying something to Yashvin. The setting
of her head on her handsome, broad shoulders, and the restrained
excitement and brilliance of her eyes and her whole face reminded
him of her just as he had seen her at the ball in Moscow. But he
felt utterly different towards her beauty now. In his feeling
for her now there was no element of mystery, and so her beauty,
though it attracted him even more intensely than before, gave him
now a sense of injury. She was not looking in his direction, but
Vronsky felt that she had seen him already.

When Vronsky turned the opera glass again in that direction, he
noticed that Princess Varvara was particularly red, and kept
laughing unnaturally and looking round at the next box. Anna,
folding her fan and tapping it on the red velvet, was gazing away
and did not see, and obviously did not wish to see, what was
taking place in the next box. Yashvin's face wore the expression
which was common when he was losing at cards. Scowling, he
sucked the left end of his mustache further and further into his
mouth, and cast sidelong glances at the next box.

In that box on the left were the Kartasovs. Vronsky knew them,
and knew that Anna was acquainted with them. Madame Kartasova, a
thin little woman, was standing up in her box, and, her back
turned upon Anna, she was putting on a mantle that her husband
was holding for her. Her face was pale and angry, and she was
talking excitedly. Kartasov, a fat, bald man, was continually
looking round at Anna, while he attempted to soothe his wife.
When the wife had gone out, the husband lingered a long while,
and tried to catch Anna's eye, obviously anxious to bow to her.
But Anna, with unmistakable intention, avoided noticing him, and
talked to Yashvin, whose cropped head was bent down to her.
Kartasov went out without making his salutation, and the box was
left empty.

Vronsky could not understand exactly what had passed between the
Kartasovs and Anna, but he saw that something humiliating for
Anna had happened. He knew this both from what he had seen, and
most of all from the face of Anna, who, he could see, was taxing
every nerve to carry through the part she had taken up. And in
maintaining this attitude of external composure she was
completely successful. Anyone who did not know her and her
circle, who had not heard all the utterances of the women
expressive of commiseration, indignation, and amazement, that she
should show herself in society, and show herself so conspicuously
with her lace and her beauty, would have admired the serenity and
loveliness of this woman without a suspicion that she was
undergoing the sensations of a man in the stocks.

Knowing that something had happened, but not knowing precisely
what, Vronsky felt a thrill of agonizing anxiety, and hoping to
find out something, he went towards his brother's box. Purposely
choosing the way round furthest from Anna's box, he jostled as he
came out against the colonel of his old regiment talking to two
acquaintances. Vronsky heard the name of Madame Karenina, and
noticed how the colonel hastened to address Vronsky loudly by
name, with a meaning glance at his companions.

"Ah, Vronsky! When are you coming to the regiment? We can't let
you off without a supper. You're one of the old set," said the
colonel of his regiment.

"I can't stop, awfully sorry, another time," said Vronsky, and
he ran upstairs towards his brother's box.

The old countess, Vronsky's mother, with her steel-gray curls,
was in his brother's box. Varya with the young Princess Sorokina
met him in the corridor.

Leaving the Princess Sorokina with her mother, Varya held out her
hand to her brother-in-law, and began immediately to speak of
what interested him. She was more excited than he had ever seen

"I think it's mean and hateful, and Madame Kartasova had no
right to do it. Madame Karenina..." she began.

"But what is it? I don't know."

"What? you've not heard?"

"You know I should be the last person to hear of it."

"There isn't a more spiteful creature than that Madame

"But what did she do?"

"My husband told me.... She has insulted Madame Karenina. Her
husband began talking to her across the box, and Madame Kartasova
made a scene. She said something aloud, he says, something
insulting, and went away."

"Count, your maman is asking for you," said the young Princess
Sorokina, peeping out of the door of the box.

"I've been expecting you all the while," said his mother, smiling
sarcastically. "You were nowhere to be seen."

Her son saw that she could not suppress a smile of delight.

"Good evening, maman. I have come to you," he said coldly.

"Why aren't you going to faire la cour a Madame Karenina?" she
went on, when Princess Sorokina had moved away. "Elle fait
sensation. On oublie la Patti pour elle."

"Maman, I have asked you not to say anything to me of that," he
answered, scowling.

"I'm only saying what everyone's saying."

Vronsky made no reply, and saying a few words to Princess
Sorokina, he went away. At the door he met his brother.

"Ah, Alexey!" said his brother. "How disgusting! Idiot of a
woman, nothing else.... I wanted to go straight to her. Let's
go together."

Vronsky did not hear him. With rapid steps he went downstairs;
he felt that he must do something, but he did not know what.
Anger with her for having put herself and him in such a false
position, together with pity for her suffering, filled his heart.
He went down, and made straight for Anna's box. At her box stood
Stremov, talking to her.

"There are no more tenors. Le moule en est brise!"

Vronsky bowed to her and stopped to greet Stremov.

"You came in late, I think, and have missed the best song," Anna
said to Vronsky, glancing ironically, he thought, at him.

"I am a poor judge of music," he said, looking sternly at her.

"Like Prince Yashvin," she said smiling, "who considers that
Patti sings too loud."

"Thank you," she said, her little hand in its long glove taking
the playbill Vronsky picked up, and suddenly at that instant her
lovely face quivered. She got up and went into the interior of
the box.

Noticing in the next act that her box was empty, Vronsky, rousing
indignant "hushes" in the silent audience, went out in the middle
of a solo and drove home.

Anna was already at home. When Vronsky went up to her, she was
in the same dress as she had worn at the theater. She was
sitting in the first armchair against the wall, looking straight
before her. She looked at him, and at once resumed her former

"Anna," he said.

"You, you are to blame for everything!" she cried, with tears of
despair and hatred in her voice, getting up.

"I begged, I implored you not to go, I knew it would be

"Unpleasant!" she cried--"hideous! As long as I live I shall
never forget it. She said it was a disgrace to sit beside me."

"A silly woman's chatter," he said: "but why risk it, why

"I hate your calm. You ought not to have brought me to this. If
you had loved me..."

"Anna! How does the question of my love come in?"

"Oh, if you loved me, as I love, if you were tortured as I
am!..." she said, looking at him with an expression of terror.

He was sorry for her, and angry notwithstanding. He assured her
of his love because he saw that this was the only means of
soothing her, and he did not reproach her in words, but in his
heart he reproached her.

And the asseverations of his love, which seemed to him so vulgar
that he was ashamed to utter them, she drank in eagerly, and
gradually became calmer. The next day, completely reconciled,
they left for the country.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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