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Chapter 31


A bell rang, some young men, ugly and impudent, and at the same
time careful of the impression they were making, hurried by.
Pyotr, too, crossed the room in his livery and top-boots, with
his dull, animal face, and came up to her to take her to the
train. Some noisy men were quiet as she passed them on the
platform, and one whispered something about her to another--
something vile, no doubt. She stepped up on the high step, and
sat down in a carriage by herself on a dirty seat that had been
white. Her bag lay beside her, shaken up and down by the
springiness of the seat. With a foolish smile Pyotr raised his
hat, with its colored band, at the window, in token of farewell;
an impudent conductor slammed the door and the latch. A
grotesque-looking lady wearing a bustle (Anna mentally undressed
the woman, and was appalled at her hideousness), and a little
girl laughing affectedly ran down the platform.

"Katerina Andreevna, she's got them all, ma tante!" cried the
girl.

"Even the child's hideous and affected," thought Anna. To avoid
seeing anyone, she got up quickly and seated herself at the
opposite window of the empty carriage. A misshapen-looking
peasant covered with dirt, in a cap from which his tangled hair
stuck out all round, passed by that window, stooping down to the
carriage wheels. "There's something familiar about that hideous
peasant," thought Anna. And remembering her dream, she moved
away to the opposite door, shaking with terror. The conductor
opened the door and let in a man and his wife.

"Do you wish to get out?"

Anna made no answer. The conductor and her two fellow-passengers
did not notice under her veil her panic-stricken face. She went
back to her corner and sat down. The couple seated themselves on
the opposite side, and intently but surreptitiously scrutinized
her clothes. Both husband and wife seemed repulsive to Anna.
The husband asked, would she allow him to smoke, obviously not
with a view to smoking but to getting into conversation with her.
Receiving her assent, he said to his wife in French something
about caring less to smoke than to talk. They made inane and
affected remarks to one another, entirely for her benefit. Anna
saw clearly that they were sick of each other, and hated each
other. And no one could have helped hating such miserable
monstrosities.

A second bell sounded, and was followed by moving of luggage,
noise, shouting and laughter. It was so clear to Anna that there
was nothing for anyone to be glad of, that this laughter
irritated her agonizingly, and she would have liked to stop up
her ears not to hear it. At last the third bell rang, there was
a whistle and a hiss of steam, and a clank of chains, and the man
in her carriage crossed himself. "It would be interesting to ask
him what meaning he attaches to that," thought Anna, looking
angrily at him. She looked past the lady out of the window at
the people who seemed whirling by as they ran beside the train or
stood on the platform. The train, jerking at regular intervals
at the junctions of the rails, rolled by the platform, past a
stone wall, a signal-box, past other trains; the wheels, moving
more smoothly and evenly, resounded with a slight clang on the
rails. The window was lighted up by the bright evening sun, and
a slight breeze fluttered the curtain. Anna forgot her fellow
passengers, and to the light swaying of the train she fell to
thinking again, as she breathed the fresh air.

"Yes, what did I stop at? That I couldn't conceive a position in
which life would not be a misery, that we are all created to be
miserable, and that we all know it, and all invent means of
deceiving each other. And when one sees the truth, what is one
to do?"

"That's what reason is given man for, to escape from what worries
him," said the lady in French, lisping affectedly, and obviously
pleased with her phrase.

The words seemed an answer to Anna's thoughts.

"To escape from what worries him," repeated Anna. And glancing
at the red-checked husband and the thin wife, she saw that the
sickly wife considered herself misunderstood, and the husband
deceived her and encouraged her in that idea of herself. Anna
seemed to see all their history and all the crannies of their
souls, as it were turning a light upon them. But there was
nothing interesting in them, and she pursued her thought.

"Yes, I'm very much worried, and that's what reason was given me
for, to escape; so then one must escape: why not put out the
light when there's nothing more to look at, when it's sickening
to look at it all? But how? Why did the conductor run along the
footboard, why are they shrieking, those young men in that train?
why are they talking, why are they laughing? It's all falsehood,
all lying, all humbug, all cruelty!..."

When the train came into the station, Anna got out into the crowd
of passengers, and moving apart from them as if they were lepers,
she stood on the platform, trying to think what she had come here
for, and what she meant to do. Everything that had seemed to her
possible before was now so difficult to consider, especially in
this noisy crowd of hideous people who would not leave her alone.
One moment porters ran up to her proffering their services, then
young men, clacking their heels on the planks of the platform and
talking loudly, stared at her; people meeting her dodged past on
the wrong side. Remembering that she had meant to go on further
if there were no answer, she stopped a porter and asked if her
coachman were not here with a note from Count Vronsky.

"Count Vronsky? They sent up here from the Vronskys just this
minute, to meet Princess Sorokina and her daughter. And what is
the coachman like?"

Just as she was talking to the porter, the coachman Mihail, red
and cheerful in his smart blue coat and chain, evidently proud of
having so successfully performed his commission, came up to her
and gave her a letter. She broke it open, and her heart ached
before she had read it.

"I am very sorry your note did not reach me. I will be home at
ten," Vronsky had written carelessly....

"Yes, that's what I expected!" she said to herself with an evil
smile.

"Very good, you can go home then," she said softly, addressing
Mihail. She spoke softly because the rapidity of her heart's
beating hindered her breathing. "No, I won't let you make me
miserable," she thought menacingly, addressing not him, not
herself, but the power that made her suffer, and she walked along
the platform.

Two maidservants walking along the platform turned their heads,
staring at her and making some remarks about her dress. "Real,"
they said of the lace she was wearing. The young men would not
leave her in peace. Again they passed by, peering into her face,
and with a laugh shouting something in an unnatural voice. The
station-master coming up asked her whether she was going by
train. A boy selling kvas never took his eyes off her. "My God!
where am I to go?" she thought, going farther and farther along
the platform. At the end she stopped. Some ladies and children,
who had come to meet a gentleman in spectacles, paused in their
loud laughter and talking, and stared at her as she reached them.
She quickened her pace and walked away from them to the edge of
the platform. A luggage train was coming in. The platform began
to sway, and she fancied she was in the train again.

And all at once she thought of the man crushed by the train the
day she had first met Vronsky, and she knew what she had to do.
With a rapid, light step she went down the steps that led from
the tank to the rails and stopped quite near the approaching
train.

She looked at the lower part of the carriages, at the screws and
chains and the tall cast-iron wheel of the first carriage slowly
moving up, and trying to measure the middle between the front and
back wheels, and the very minute when that middle point would be
opposite her.

"There," she said to herself, looking into the shadow of the
carriage, at the sand and coal dust which covered the sleepers--
"there, in the very middle, and I will punish him and escape
from everyone and from myself."

She tried to fling herself below the wheels of the first carriage
as it reached her; but the red bag which she tried to drop out of
her hand delayed her, and she was too late; she missed the
moment. She had to wait for the next carriage. A feeling such
as she had known when about to take the first plunge in bathing
came upon her, and she crossed herself. That familiar gesture
brought back into her soul a whole series of girlish and childish
memories, and suddenly the darkness that had covered everything
for her was torn apart, and life rose up before her for an
instant with all its bright past joys. But she did not take her
eyes from the wheels of the second carriage. And exactly at the
moment when the space between the wheels came opposite her, she
dropped the red bag, and drawing her head back into her
shoulders, fell on her hands under the carriage, and lightly, as
though she would rise again at once, dropped on to her knees.
And at the same instant she was terror-stricken at what she was
doing. "Where am I? What am I doing? What for?" she tried to
get up, to drop backwards; but something huge and merciless
struck her on the head and rolled her on her back. "Lord,
forgive me all!" she said, feeling it impossible to struggle. A
peasant muttering something was working at the iron above her.
And the light by which she had read the book filled with
troubles, falsehoods, sorrow, and evil, flared up more brightly
than ever before, lighted up for her all that had been in
darkness, flickered, began to grow dim, and was quenched forever.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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