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Chapter 33


Alexey Alexandrovitch came back from the meeting of the ministers
at four o'clock, but as often happened, he had not time no come
in to her. He went into his study to see the people waiting for
him with petitions, and to sign some papers brought him by his
chief secretary. At dinner time (there were always a few people
dining with the Karenins) there arrived an old lady, a cousin of
Alexey Alexandrovitch, the chief secretary of the department and
his wife, and a young man who had been recommended to Alexey
Alexandrovitch for the service. Anna went into the drawing room
to receive these guests. Precisely at five o'clock, before the
bronze Peter the First clock had struck the fifth stroke, Alexey
Alexandrovitch came in, wearing a white tie and evening coat with
two stars, as he had to go out directly after dinner. Every
minute of Alexey Alexandrovitch's life was portioned out and
occupied. And to make time to get through all that lay before
him every day, he adhered to the strictest punctuality.
"Unhasting and unresting," was his motto. He came into the
dining hall, greeted everyone, and hurriedly sat down, smiling to
his wife.

"Yes, my solitude is over. You wouldn't believe how
uncomfortable" (he laid stress on the word uncomfortable) "it is
to dine alone."

At dinner he talked a little to his wife about Moscow matters,
and, with a sarcastic smile, asked her after Stepan Arkadyevitch;
but the conversation was for the most part general, dealing with
Petersburg official and public news. After dinner he spent half
an hour with his guests, and again, with a smile, pressed his
wife's hand, withdrew, and drove off to the council. Anna did
not go out that evening either to the Princess Betsy Tverskaya,
who, hearing of her return, had invited her, nor to the theater,
where she had a box for that evening. She did not go out
principally because the dress she had reckoned upon was not
ready. Altogether, Anna, on turning, after the departure of her
guests, to the consideration of her attire, was very much
annoyed. She was generally a mistress of the art of dressing
well without great expense, and before leaving Moscow she had
given her dressmaker three dresses to transform. The dresses had
to be altered so that they could not be recognized, and they
ought to have been ready three days before. It appeared that two
dresses had not been done at all, while the other one had not
been altered as Anna had intended. The dressmaker came to
explain, declaring that it would be better as she had done it,
and Anna was so furious that she felt ashamed when she thought of
it afterwards. To regain her serenity completely she went into
the nursery, and spent the whole evening with her son, put him to
bed herself, signed him with the cross, and tucked him up. She
was glad she had not gone out anywhere, and had spent the evening
so well. She felt so light-hearted and serene, she saw so
clearly that all that had seemed to her so important on her
railway journey was only one of the common trivial incidents of
fashionable life, and that she had no reason to feel ashamed
before anyone else or before herself. Anna sat down at the
hearth with an English novel and waited for her husband. Exactly
at half-past nine she heard his ring, and he came into the room.

"Here you are at last!" she observed, holding out her hand to
him.

He kissed her hand and sat down beside her.

"Altogether then, I see your visit was a success," he said to
her.

"Oh, yes," she said, and she began telling him about everything
from the beginning: her journey with Countess Vronskaya, her
arrival, the accident at the station. Then she described the
pity she had felt, first for her brother, and afterwards for
Dolly.

"I imagine one cannot exonerate such a man from blame, though he
is your brother," said Alexey Alexandrovitch severely.

Anna smiled. She knew that he said that simply to show that
family considerations could not prevent him from expressing his
genuine opinion. She knew that characteristic in her husband,
and liked it.

"I am glad it has all ended so satisfactorily, And that you are
back again," he went on. "Come, what do they say about the new
act I have got passed in the council?"

Anna had heard nothing of this act, And she felt
conscience-stricken at having been able so readily to forget what
was to him of such importance.

"Here, on the other hand, it has made a great sensation," he
said, with a complacent smile.

She saw that Alexey Alexandrovitch wanted to tell her something
pleasant to him about it, and she brought him by questions to
telling it. With the same complacent smile he told her of the
ovations he had received in consequence of the act the had
passed.

"I was very, very glad. It shows that at last a reasonable and
steady view of the matter is becoming prevalent among us."

Having drunk his second cup of tea with cream, and bread, Alexey
Alexandrovitch got up, and was going towards his study.

"And you've not been anywhere this evening? You've been dull, I
expect?" he said.

"Oh, no!" she answered, getting up after him and accompanying him
across the room to his study. "What are you reading now?" she
asked.

"Just now I'm reading Duc de Likke, Poesie des Enfers," he
answered. "A very remarkable book."

Anna smiled, as people smile at the weaknesses of those they
love, and, putting her hand under his, she escorted him to the
door of the study. She knew his habit, that had grown into a
necessity, of reading in the evening. She knew, too, that in
spite of his official duties, which swallowed up almost the whole
of his time, he considered it his duty to keep up with everything
of note that appeared in the intellectual world. She knew, too,
that he was really interested in books dealing with politics,
philosophy, and theology, that art was utterly foreign to his
nature; but, in spite of this, or rather, in consequence of it,
Alexey Alexandrovitch never passed over anything in the world of
art, but made it his duty to read everything. She knew that in
politics, in philosophy, in theology, Alexey Alexandrovitch often
had doubts, and made investigations; but on questions of art and
poetry, and, above all, of music, of which he was totally devoid
of understanding, he had the most distinct and decided opinions.
He was fond of talking about Shakespeare, Raphael, Beethoven, of
the significance of new schools of poetry and music, all of which
were classified by him with very conspicuous consistency.

"Well, God be with you," she said at the door of the study, where
a shaded candle and a decanter of water were already put by his
armchair. "And I'll write to Moscow."

He pressed her hand, and again kissed it.

"All the same he's a good man; truthful, good-hearted, and
remarkable in his own line," Anna said to herself going back to
her room, as though she were defending him to someone who had
attacked him and said that one could not love him. "But why is
it his ears stick out so strangely? Or has he had his hair cut?"

Precisely at twelve o'clock, when Anna was still sitting at her
writing table, finishing a letter to Dolly, she heard the sound
of measured steps in slippers, and Alexey Alexandrovitch, freshly
washed and combed, with a book under his arm, came in to her.

"It's time, it's time," said he, with a meaning smile, And he
went into their bedroom.

"And what right had he to look at him like that?" thought Anna,
recalling Vronsky's glance at Alexey Alexandrovitch.

Undressing, she went into the bedroom; but her face had none of
the eagerness which, during her stay in Moscow, had fairly
flashed from her eyes and her smile; on the contrary, now the
fire seemed quenched in her, hidden somewhere far away.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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