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Chapter 24


"Then there is all the more reason for you to legalize your
position, if possible," said Dolly.

"Yes, if possible," said Anna, speaking all at once in an utterly
different tone, subdued and mournful.

"Surely you don't mean a divorce is impossible? I was told your
husband had consented to it."

"Dolly, I don't want to talk about that."

"Oh, we won't then," Darya Alexandrovna hastened to say, noticing
the expression of suffering on Anna's face. "All I see is that
you take too gloomy a view of things."

"I? Not at all! I'm always bright and happy. You see, je fais
des passions. Veslovsky..."

"Yes, to tell the truth, I don't like Veslovsky's tone," said
Darya Alexandrovna, anxious to change the subject.

"Oh, that's nonsense! It amuses Alexey, and that's all; but he's
a boy, and quite under my control. You know, I turn him as I
please. It's just as it might be with your Grisha.... Dolly!"--
she suddenly changed the subject--"you say I take too gloomy a
view of things. You can't understand. It's too awful! I try not
to take any view of it at all."

"But I think you ought to. You ought to do all you can."

"But what can I do? Nothing. You tell me to marry Alexey, and
say I don't think about it. I don't think about it!" she
repeated, and a flush rose into her face. She got up,
straightening her chest, and sighed heavily. With her light step
she began pacing up and down the room, stopping now and then. "I
don't think of it? Not a day, not an hour passes that I don't
think of it, and blame myself for thinking of it...because
thinking of that may drive me mad. Drive me mad!" she repeated.
"When I think of it, I can't sleep without morphine. But never
mind. Let us talk quietly. They tell me, divorce. In the first
place, he won't give me a divorce. He's under the influence of
Countess Lidia Ivanovna now."

Darya Alexandrovna, sitting erect on a chair, turned her head,
following Anna with a face of sympathetic suffering.

"You ought to make the attempt," she said softly.

"Suppose I make the attempt. What does it mean?" she said,
evidently giving utterance to a thought, a thousand times thought
over and learned by heart. "It means that I, hating him, but
still recognizing that I have wronged him--and I consider him
magnanimous--that I humiliate myself to write to him.... Well,
suppose I make the effort; I do it. Either I receive a
humiliating refusal or consent.... Well, I have received his
consent, say..." Anna was at that moment at the furthest end
of the room, and she stopped there, doing something to the
curtain at the window. "I receive his consent, but my...my
son? They won't give him up to me. He will grow up despising
me, with his father, whom I've abandoned. Do you see, I love...
equally, I think, but both more than myself--two creatures,
Seryozha and Alexey."

She came out into the middle of the room and stood facing Dolly,
with her arms pressed tightly across her chest. I her white
dressing gown her figure seemed more than usually grand and
broad. She bent her head, and with shining, wet eyes looked from
under her brows at Dolly, a thin little pitiful figure in her
patched dressing jacket and nightcap, shaking all over with
emotion.

"It is only those two creatures that I love, and one excludes the
other. I can't have them together, and that's the only thing I
want. And since I can't have that, I don't care about the rest.
I don't care about anything, anything. And it will end one way
or another, and so I can't, I don't like to talk of it. So don't
blame me, don't judge me for anything. You can't with your pure
heart understand all that I'm suffering." She went up, sat down
beside Dolly, and with a guilty look, peeped into her face and
took her hand.

"What are you thinking? What are you thinking about me? Don't
despise me. I don't deserve contempt. I'm simply unhappy. If
anyone is unhappy, I am," she articulated, and turning away, she
burst into tears.

Left alone, Darya Alexandrovna said her prayers and went to bed.
She had felt for Anna with all her heart while she was speaking
to her, but now she could not force herself to think of her. The
memories of home and of her children rose up in her imagination
with a peculiar charm quite new to her, with a sort of new
brilliance. That world of her own seemed to her now so sweet and
precious that she would not on any account spend an extra day
outside it, and she made up her mind that she would certainly go
back next day.

Anna meantime went back to her boudoir, took a wine glass and
dropped into it several drops of a medicine, of which the
principal ingredient was morphine. After drinking it off and
sitting still a little while, she went into her bedroom in a
soothed and more cheerful frame of mind.

When she went into the bedroom, Vronsky looked intently at her.
He was looking for traces of the conversation which he knew that,
staying so long in Dolly's room, she must have had with her. But
in her expression of restrained excitement, and of a sort of
reserve, he could find nothing but the beauty that always
bewitched him afresh though he was used to it, the consciousness
of it, and the desire that it should affect him. He did not want
to ask her what they had been talking of, but he hoped that she
would tell him something of her own accord. But she only said:

"I am so glad you like Dolly. You do, don't you?"

"Oh, I've known her a long while, you know. She's very
good-hearted, I suppose, mais excessivement terre-a-terre.
Still, I'm very glad to see her."

He took Anna's hand and looked inquiringly into her eyes.

Misinterpreting the look, she smiled to him. Next morning, in
spite of the protests of her hosts, Darya Alexandrovna prepared
for her homeward journey. Levin's coachman, in his by no means
new coat and shabby hat, with his ill-matched horses and his
coach with the patched mud-guards, drove with gloomy
determination into the covered gravel approach.

Darya Alexandrovna disliked taking leave of Princess Varvara and
the gentlemen of the party. After a day spent together, both she
and her hosts were distinctly aware that they did not get on
together, and that it was better for them not to meet. Only Anna
was sad. She knew that now, from Dolly's departure, no one again
would stir up within her soul the feelings that had been roused
by their conversation. It hurt her to stir up these feelings,
but yet she knew that that was the best part of her soul, and
that that part of her soul would quickly be smothered in the life
she was leading.

As she drove out into the open country, Darya Alexandrovna had a
delightful sense of relief, and she felt tempted to ask the two
men how they had liked being at Vronsky's, when suddenly the
coachman, Philip, expressed himself unasked:

"Rolling in wealth they may be, but three pots of oats was all
they gave us. Everything cleared up till there wasn't a grain
left by cockcrow. What are three pots? A mere mouthful! And
oats now down to forty-five kopecks. At our place, no fear, all
comers may have as much as they can eat."

"The master's a screw," put in the counting house clerk.

"Well, did you like their horses?" asked Dolly.

"The horses!--there's no two opinions about them. And the food
was good. But it seemed to me sort of dreary there, Darya
Alexandrovna. I don't know what you thought," he said, turning
his handsome, good-natured face to her.

"I thought so too. Well, shall we get home by evening?"

"Eh, we must!"

On reaching home and finding everyone entirely satisfactory and
particularly charming, Darya Alexandrovna began with great
liveliness telling them how she had arrived, how warmly they had
received her, of the luxury and good taste in which the Vronskys
lived, and of their recreations, and she would not allow a word
to be said against them.

"One has to know Anna and Vronsky--I have got to know him better
now--to see how nice they are, and how touching," she said,
speaking now with perfect sincerity, and forgetting the vague
feeling of dissatisfaction and awkwardness she had experienced
there.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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