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Chapter 21


"No, I think the princess is tired, and horses don't interest
her," Vronsky said to Anna, who wanted to go on to the stables,
where Sviazhsky wished to see the new stallion. "You go on,
while I escort the princess home, and we'll have a little talk,"
he said, "if you would like that?" he added, turning to her.

"I know nothing about horses, and I shall be delighted,"
answered Darya Alexandrovna, rather astonished.

She saw by Vronsky's face that he wanted something from her. She
was not mistaken. As soon as they had passed through the little
gate back into the garden, he looked in the direction Anna had
taken, and having made sure that she could neither hear nor see
them, he began:

"You guess that I have something I want to say to you," he said,
looking at her with laughing eyes. "I am not wrong in believing
you to be a friend of Anna's." He took off his hat, and taking
out his handkerchief, wiped his head, which was growing bald.

Darya Alexandrovna made no answer, and merely stared at him with
dismay. When she was left alone with him, she suddenly felt
afraid; his laughing eyes and stern expression scared her.

The most diverse suppositions as to what he was about to speak of
to her flashed into her brain. "He is going to beg me to come to
stay with them with the children, and I shall have to refuse; or
to create a set will receive Anna in Moscow.... Or isn't it
Vassenka Veslovsky and his relations with Anna? Or perhaps about
Kitty, that he feels he was to blame?" All her conjectures were
unpleasant, but she did not guess what he really wanted to talk
about to her.

"You have so much influence with Anna, she is so fond of you," he
said; "do help me."

Darya Alexandrovna looked with timid inquiry into his energetic
face, which under the lime-trees was continually being lighted up
in patches by the sunshine, and then passing into complete shadow
again. She waited for him to say more, but he walked in silence
beside her, scratching with his cane in the gravel.

"You have come to see us, you, the only woman of Anna's former
friends--I don't count Princess Varvara--but I know that you have
done this not because you regard our position as normal, but
because, understanding all the difficulty of the position, you
still love her and want to be a help to her. Have I understood
you rightly?" he asked, looking round at her.

"Oh, yes," answered Darya Alexandrovna, putting down her
sunshade, "but..."

"No," he broke in, and unconsciously, oblivious of the awkward
position into which he was putting his companion, he stopped
abruptly, so that she had to stop short too. "No one feels more
deeply and intensely than I do all the difficulty of Anna's
position; and that you may well understand, if you do me the
honor of supposing I have any heart. I am to blame for that
position, and that is why I feel it."

"I understand," said Darya Alexandrovna, involuntarily admiring
the sincerity and firmness with which he said this. "But just
because you feel yourself responsible, you exaggerate it, I am
afraid," she said. "Her position in the world is difficult, I
can well understand."

"In the world it is hell!" he brought out quickly, frowning
darkly. "You can't imagine moral sufferings greater than what
she went through in Petersburg in that fortnight...and I beg you
to believe it."

"Yes, but here, so long as neither Anna...nor you miss
society..."

"Society!" he said contemptuously, "how could I miss society?"

"So far--and it may be so always--you are happy and at peace. I
see in Anna that she is happy, perfectly happy, she has had time
to tell me so much already," said Darya Alexandrovna, smiling;
and involuntarily, as she said this, at the same moment a doubt
entered her mind whether Anna really were happy.

But Vronsky, it appeared, had no doubts on that score.

"Yes, yes," he said, "I know that she has revived after all her
sufferings; she is happy. She is happy in the present. But
I?... I am afraid of what is before us...I beg your pardon, you
would like to walk on?"

"No, I don't mind."

"Well, then, let us sit here."

Darya Alexandrovna sat down on a garden seat in a corner of the
avenue. He stood up facing her.

"I see that she is happy," he repeated, and the doubt whether she
were happy sank more deeply into Darya Alexandrovna's mind. "But
can it last? Whether we have acted rightly or wrongly is another
question, but the die is cast," he said, passing from Russian to
French, "and we are bound together for life. We are united by
all the ties of love that we hold most sacred. We have a child,
we may have other children. But the law and all the conditions
of our position are such that thousands of complications arise
which she does not see and does not want to see. And that one
can well understand. But I can't help seeing them. My daughter
is by law not my daughter, but Karenin's. I cannot bear this
falsity!" he said, with a vigorous gesture of refusal, and he
looked with gloomy inquiry towards Darya Alexandrovna.

She made no answer, but simply gazed at him. He went on:

"One day a son may be born, my son, and he will be legally a
Karenin; he will not be the heir of my name nor of my property,
and however happy we may be in our home life and however many
children we may have, there will be no real tie between us. They
will be Karenins. You can understand the bitterness and horror
of this position! I have tried to speak of this to Anna. It
irritates her. She does not understand, and to her I cannot
speak plainly of all this. Now look at another side. I am
happy, happy in her love, but I must have occupation. I have
found occupation, and am proud of what I am doing and consider it
nobler than the pursuits of my former companions at court and in
the army. And most certainly I would not change the work I am
doing for theirs. I am working here, settled in my own place,
and I am happy and contented, and we need nothing more to make us
happy. I love my work here. Ce n'est pas un pis-aller, on the
contrary..."

Darya Alexandrovna noticed that at this point in his explanation
he grew confused, and she did not quite understand this
digression, but she felt that having once begun to speak of
matters near his heart, of which he could not speak to Anna, he
was now making a clean breast of everything, and that the
question of his pursuits in the country fell into the same
category of matters near his heart, as the question of his
relations with Anna.

"Well, I will go on," he said, collecting himself. "The great
thing is that as I work I want to have a conviction that what I
am doing will not die with me, that I shall have heirs to come
after me,--and this I have not. Conceive the position of a man
who knows that his children, the children of the woman he loves,
will not be his, but will belong to someone who hates them and
cares nothing about them! It is awful!"

He paused, evidently much moved.

"Yes, indeed, I see that. But what can Anna do?" queried Darya
Alexandrovna.

"Yes, that brings me to the object of my conversation," he said,
calming himself with an effort. "Anna can, it depends on
her.... Even to petition the Tsar for legitimization, a divorce
is essential. And that depends on Anna. Her husband agreed to a
divorce--at that time your husband had arranged it completely.
And now, I know, he would not refuse it. It is only a matter of
writing to him. He said plainly at that time that if she
expressed the desire, he would not refuse. Of course," he said
gloomily, "it is one of those Pharisaical cruelties of which only
such heartless men are capable. He knows what agony any
recollection of him must give her, and knowing her, he must have
a letter from her. I can understand that it is agony to her.
But the matter is of such importance, that one must passer
par-dessus toutes ces finesses de sentiment. Il y va du bonheur
et de l'existence d'Anne et de ses enfants. I won't speak of
myself, though it's hard for me, very hard," he said, with an
expression as though he were threatening someone for its being
hard for him. "And so it is, princess, that I am shamelessly
clutching at you as an anchor of salvation. Help me to persuade
her to write to him and ask for a divorce."

"Yes, of course," Darya Alexandrovna said dreamily, as she
vividly recalled her last interview with Alexey Alexandrovitch.
"Yes, of course," she repeated with decision, thinking of Anna.

"Use your influence with her, make her write. I don't like--I'm
almost unable to speak about this to her."

"Very well, I will talk to her. But how is it she does not
think of it herself?" said Darya Alexandrovna, and for some
reason she suddenly at that point recalled Anna's strange new
habit of half-closing her eyes. And she remembered that Anna
drooped her eyelids just when the deeper questions of life were
touched upon. "Just as though she half-shut her eyes to her own
life, so as not to see everything," thought Dolly. "Yes, indeed,
for my own sake and for hers I will talk to her," Dolly said in
reply to his look of gratitude.

They got up and walked to the house.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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