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Chapter 16


Darya Alexandrovna carried out her intention and went to see
Anna. She was sorry to annoy her sister and to do anything Levin
disliked. She quite understood how right the Levins were in not
wishing to have anything to do with Vronsky. But she felt she
must go and see Anna, and show her that her feelings could not be
changed, in spite of the change in her position. That she might
be independent of the Levins in this expedition, Darya
Alexandrovna sent to the village to hire horses for the drive;
but Levin learning of it went to her to protest.

"What makes you suppose that I dislike your going? But, even if
I did dislike it, I should still more dislike your not taking my
horses," he said. "You never told me that you were going for
certain. Hiring horses in the village is disagreeable to me,
and, what's of more importance, they'll undertake the job and
never get you there. I have horses. And if you don't want to
wound me, you'll take mine."

Darya Alexandrovna had to consent, and on the day fixed Levin had
ready for his sister-in-law a set of four horses and relays,
getting them together from the farm- and saddle-horses--not at
all a smart-looking set, but capable of taking Darya Alexandrovna
the whole distance in a single day. At that moment, when horses
were wanted for the princess, who was going, and for the midwife,
it was a difficult matter for Levin to make up the number, but
the duties of hospitality would not let him allow Darya
Alexandrovna to hire horses when staying in his house. Moreover,
he was well aware that the twenty roubles that would be asked for
the journey were a serious matter for her; Darya Alexandrovna's
pecuniary affairs, which were in a very unsatisfactory state,
were taken to heart by the Levins as if they were their own.

Darya Alexandrovna, by Levin's advice, started before daybreak.
The road was good, the carriage comfortable, the horses trotted
along merrily, and on the box, besides the coachman, sat the
counting-house clerk, whom Levin was sending instead of a groom
for greater security. Darya Alexandrovna dozed and waked up only
on reaching the inn where the horses were to be changed.

After drinking tea at the same well-to-do peasant's with whom
Levin had stayed on the way to Sviazhsky's, and chatting with the
women about their children, and with the old man about Count
Vronsky, whom the latter praised very highly, Darya Alexandrovna,
at ten o'clock, went on again. At home, looking after her
children, she had no time to think. So now, after this journey
of four hours, all the thoughts she had suppressed before rushed
swarming into her brain, and she thought over all her life as she
never had before, and from the most different points of view.
Her thoughts seemed strange even to herself. At first she
thought about the children, about whom she was uneasy, although
the princess and Kitty (she reckoned more upon her) had promised
to look after them. "If only Masha does not begin her naughty
tricks, if Grisha isn't kicked by a horse, and Lily's stomach
isn't upset again!" she thought. But these questions of the
present were succeeded by questions of the immediate future. She
began thinking how she had to get a new flat in Moscow for the
coming winter, to renew the drawing room furniture, and to make
her elder girl a cloak. Then questions of the more remote future
occurred to her: how she was to place her children in the world.
'The girls are all right," she thought; "but the boys?"

"It's very well that I'm teaching Grisha, but of course that's
only because I am free myself now, I'm not with child. Stiva,
of course, there's no counting on. And with the help of
good-natured friends I can bring them up; but if there's another
baby coming?..." And the thought struck her how untruly it was
said that the curse laid on woman was that in sorrow she should
bring forth children.

"The birth itself, that's nothing; but the months of carrying the
child--that's what's so intolerable," she thought, picturing to
herself her last pregnancy, and the death of the last baby. And
she recalled the conversation she had just had with the young
woman at the inn. On being asked whether she had any children,
the handsome young woman had answered cheerfully:

"I had a girl baby, but God set me free; I buried her last Lent."

"Well, did you grieve very much for her?" asked Darya
Alexandrovna.

"Why grieve? The old man has grandchildren enough as it is. It
was only a trouble. No working, nor nothing. Only a tie."

This answer had struck Darya Alexandrovna as revolting in spite
of the good-natured and pleasing face of the young woman; but now
she could not help recalling these words. In those cynical words
there was indeed a grain of truth.

"Yes, altogether," thought Darya Alexandrovna, looking back over
her whole existence during those fifteen years of her married
life, "pregnancy, sickness, mental incapacity, indifference to
everything, and most of all--hideousness. Kitty, young and
pretty as she is, even Kitty has lost her looks; and I when I'm
with child become hideous, I know it. The birth, the agony, the
hideous agonies, that last moment...then the nursing, the
sleepless nights, the fearful pains...."

Darya Alexandrovna shuddered at the mere recollection of the pain
from sore breasts which she had suffered with almost every child.
"Then the children's illnesses, that everlasting apprehension;
then bringing them up; evil propensities" (she thought of little
Masha's crime among the raspberries), "education, Latin--it's all
so incomprehensible and difficult. And on the top of it all, the
death of these children." And there rose again before her
imagination the cruel memory, that always tore her mother's
heart, of the death of her last little baby, who had died of
croup; his funeral, the callous indifference of all at the little
pink coffin, and her own torn heart, and her lonely anguish at
the sight of the pale little brow with its projecting temples,
and the open, wondering little mouth seen in the coffin at the
moment when it was being covered with the little pink lid with a
cross braided on it.

"And all this, what's it for? What is to come of it all? That
I'm wasting my life, never having a moment's peace, either with
child, or nursing a child, forever irritable, peevish, wretched
myself and worrying others, repulsive to my husband, while the
children are growing up unhappy, badly educated, and penniless.
Even now, if it weren't for spending the summer at the Levins',
I don't know how we should be managing to live. Of course Kostya
and Kitty have so much tact that we don't feel it; but it can't
go on. They'll have children, they won't be able to keep us;
it's a drag on them as it is. How is papa, who has hardly
anything left for himself, to help us? So that I can't even
bring the children up by myself, and may find it hard with the
help of other people, at the cost of humiliation. Why, even if
we suppose the greatest good luck, that the children don't die,
and I bring them up somehow. At the very best they'll simply be
decent people. That's all I can hope for. And to gain simply
that--what agonies, what toil!... One's whole life ruined!"
Again she recalled what the young peasant woman had said, and
again she was revolted at the thought; but she could not help
admitting that there was a grain of brutal truth in the words.

"Is it far now, Mihail?" Darya Alexandrovna asked the
counting house clerk, to turn her mind from thoughts that were
frightening her.

"From this village, they say, it's five miles." The carriage
drove along the village street and onto a bridge. On the bridge
was a crowd of peasant women with coils of ties for the sheaves
on their shoulders, gaily and noisily chattering. They stood
still on the bridge, staring inquisitively at the carriage. All
the faces turned to Darya Alexandrovna looked to her healthy and
happy, making her envious of their enjoyment of life. "They're
all living, they're all enjoying life," Darya Alexandrovna still
mused when she had passed the peasant women and was driving
uphill again at a trot, seated comfortably on the soft springs of
the old carriage, "while I, let out, as it were from prison, from
the world of worries that fret me to death, am only looking about
me now for an instant. They all live; those peasant women and my
sister Natalia and Varenka and Anna, whom I am going to see--all,
but not I.

"And they attack Anna. What for? am I any better? I have,
anyway, a husband I love--not as I should like to love him, still
I do love him, while Anna never loved hers. How is she to blame?
She wants to live. God has put that in our hearts. Very likely
I should have done the same. Even to this day I don't feel sure
I did right in listening to her at that terrible time when she
came to me in Moscow. I ought then to have cast off my husband
and have begun my life fresh. I might have loved and have been
loved in reality. And is it any better as it is? I don't
respect him. He's necessary to me," she thought about her
husband, "and I put up with him. Is that any better? At that
time I could still have been admired, I had beauty left me
still," Darya Alexandrovna pursued her thoughts, and she would
have liked to look at herself in the looking glass. She had a
traveling looking glass in her handbag, and she wanted to take
it out; but looking at the backs of the coachman and the swaying
counting house clerk, she felt that she would be ashamed if
either of them were to look round, and she did not take out the
glass.

But without looking in the glass, she thought that even now it
was not too late; and she thought of Sergey Ivanovitch, who was
always particularly attentive to her, of Stiva's good-hearted
friend, Turovtsin, who had helped her nurse her children through
the scarlatina, and was in love with her. And there was someone
else, a quite young man, who--her husband had told her it as a
joke--thought her more beautiful than either of her sisters. And
the most passionate and impossible romances rose before Darya
Alexandrovna's imagination. "Anna did quite right, and certainly
I shall never reproach her for it. She is happy, she makes
another person happy, and she's not broken down as I am, but most
likely just as she always was, bright, clever, open to every
impression," thought Darya Alexandrovna,--and a sly smile curved
her lips, for, as she pondered on Anna's love affair, Darya
Alexandrovna constructed on parallel lines an almost identical
love affair for herself, with an imaginary composite figure, the
ideal man who was in love with her. She, like Anna, confessed
the whole affair to her husband. And the amazement and
perplexity of Stepan Arkadyevitch at this avowal made her smile.

In such daydreams she reached the turning of the highroad that
led to Vozdvizhenskoe.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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