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Chapter 7


Steps were heard at the door, and Princess Betsy, knowing it was
Madame Karenina, glanced at Vronsky. He was looking towards the
door, and his face wore a strange new expression. Joyfully,
intently, and at the same time timidly, he gazed at the
approaching figure, and slowly he rose to his feet. Anna walked
into the drawing room. Holding herself extremely erect, as
always, looking straight before her, and moving with her swift,
resolute, and light step, that distinguished her from all other
society women, she crossed the short space to her hostess, shook
hands with her, smiled, and with the same smile looked around at
Vronsky. Vronsky bowed low and pushed a chair up for her.

She acknowledged this only by a slight nod, flushed a little, and
frowned. But immediately, while rapidly greeting her
acquaintances, and shaking the hands proffered to her, she
addressed Princess Betsy:

"I have been at Countess Lidia's, and meant to have come here
earlier, but I stayed on. Sir John was there. He's very
interesting."

"Oh, that's this missionary?"

"Yes; he told us about the life in India, most interesting
things."

The conversation, interrupted by her coming in, flickered up
again like the light of a lamp being blown out.

"Sir John! Yes, Sir John; I've seen him. He speaks well. The
Vlassieva girl's quite in love with him."

"And is it true the younger Vlassieva girl's to marry Topov?"

"Yes, they say it's quite a settled thing."

"I wonder at the parents! They say it's a marriage for love."

"For love? What antediluvian notions you have! Can one talk of
love in these days?" said the ambassador's wife.

"What's to be done? It's a foolish old fashion that's kept up
still," said Vronsky.

"So much the worse for those who keep up the fashion. The only
happy marriages I know are marriages of prudence."

"Yes, but then how often the happiness of these prudent marriages
flies away like dust just because that passion turns up that they
have refused to recognize," said Vronsky.

"But by marriages of prudence we mean those in which both parties
have sown their wild oats already. That's like scarlatina--one
has to go through it and get it over."

"Then they ought to find out how to vaccinate for love, like
smallpox."

"I was in love in my young days with a deacon," said the Princess
Myakaya. "I don't know that it did me any good."

"No; I imagine, joking apart, that to know love, one must make
mistakes and then correct them," said Princess Betsy.

"Even after marriage?" aid the ambassador's wife playfully.

"'It's never too late to mend.'" The attache repeated the
English proverb.

"Just so," Betsy agreed; "one must make mistakes and correct
them. What do you think about it?" she turned to Anna, who, with
a faintly perceptible resolute smile on her lips, was listening
in silence to the conversation.

"I think," said Anna, playing with the glove she had taken off,
"I think...if so many men, so many minds, certainly so many
hearts, so many kinds of love."

Vronsky was gazing at Anna, and with a fainting heart waiting for
what she would say. He sighed as after a danger escaped when she
uttered these words.

Anna suddenly turned to him.

"Oh, I have had a letter from Moscow. They write me that Kitty
Shtcherbatskaya's very ill."

"Really?" said Vronsky, knitting his brows.

Anna looked sternly at him.

"That doesn't interest you?"

"On the contrary, it does, very much. What was it exactly they
told you, if I may know?" he questioned.

Anna got up and went to Betsy.

"Give me a cup of tea," she said, standing at her table.

While Betsy was pouring out the tea, Vronsky went up to Anna.

"What is it they write to you?" he repeated.

"I often think men have no understanding of what's not honorable
though they're always talking of it," said Anna, without
answering him. "I've wanted to tell you so a long while," she
added, and moving a few steps away, she sat down at a table in a
corner covered with albums.

"I don't quite understand the meaning of your words," he said,
handing her the cup.

she glanced towards the sofa beside her, and he instantly sat
down.

"Yes, I have been wanting to tell you," she said, not looking at
him. "You behaved wrongly, very wrongly."

"Do you suppose I don't know that I've acted wrongly? But who
was the cause of my doing so?"

"What do you say that to me for?" she said, glancing severely at
him.

"You know what for," he answered boldly and joyfully, meeting her
glance and not dropping his eyes.

Not he, but she, was confused.

"That only shows you have no heart," she said. But her eyes said
that she knew he had a heat, and that was why she was afraid of
him.

"What you spoke of just now was a mistake, and not love."

"Remember that I have forbidden you to utter that word, that
hateful word," said Anna, with a shudder. But at once she felt
that by that very word "forbidden" she had shown that she
acknowledged certain rights over him, and by that very fact was
encouraging him to speak of love. "I have long meant to tell you
this," she went on, looking resolutely into his eyes, and hot all
over from the burning flush on her cheeks. "I've come on purpose
this evening, knowing I should meet you. I have come to tell you
that this must end. I have never blushed before anyone, and you
force me to feel to blame for something."

He looked at her and was struck by a new spiritual beauty in her
face.

"What do you wish of me?" he said simply and seriously.

"I want you to go to Moscow and ask for Kitty's forgiveness," she
said.

"You don't wish that?" he said.

He saw she was saying what she forced herself to say, not what
she wanted to say.

"If you love me, as you say," she whispered, "do so that I may
be at peace."

His face grew radiant.

"Don't you know that you're all my life to me? But I know no
peace, and I can't give to you; all myself--and love...yes. I
can't think of you and myself apart. You and I are one to me.
And I see no chance before us of peace for me or for you. I see
a chance of despair, of wretchedness...or I see a chance of
bliss, what bliss!... Can it be there's no chance of it?" he
murmured with his lips; but she heard.

She strained every effort of her mind to say what ought to be
said. But instead of that she let her eyes rest on him, full of
love, and made no answer.

"It's come!" he thought in ecstasy. "When I was beginning to
despair, and it seemed there would be no end--it's come! she
loves me! She owns it!"

"Then do this for me: never say such things to me, and let us be
friends," she said in words; but her eyes spoke quite
differently.

"Friends we shall never be, you know that yourself. Whether we
shall be the happiest or the wretchedest of people--that's in
your hands."

She would have said something, but he interrupted her.

"I ask one thing only: I ask for the right to hope, to suffer as
I do. But if even that cannot be, command me to disappear, and
I disappear. You shall not see me if my presence is distasteful
to you."

"I don't want to drive you away."

"Only don't change anything, leave everything as it is," he said
in a shaky voice. "Here's your husband."

At that instant Alexey Alexandrovitch did in fact walk into the
room with his calm, awkward gait.

Glancing at his wife and Vronsky, he went up to the lady of the
house, and sitting down for a cup of tea, began talking in his
deliberate, always audible voice, in his habitual tone of banter,
ridiculing someone.

"Your Rambouillet is in full conclave," he said, looking round at
all the party; "the graces and the muses."

But Princess Betsy could not endure that tone of his--
"sneering," as she called it, using the English word, and like a
skillful hostess she at once brought him into a serious
conversation on the subject of universal conscription. Alexey
Alexandrovitch was immediately interested in the subject, and
began seriously defending the new imperial decree against
Princess Betsy, who had attacked it.

Vronsky and Anna still sat at the little table.

"This is getting indecorous," whispered one lady, with an
expressive glance at Madame Karenina, Vronsky, and her husband.

"What did I tell you?" said Anna's friend.

But not only those ladies, almost everyone in the room, even the
Princess Myakaya and Betsy herself, looked several times in the
direction of the two who had withdrawn from the general circle,
as though that were a disturbing fact. Alexey Alexandrovitch was
the only person who did not once look in that direction, and was
not diverted from the interesting discussion he had entered upon.

Noticing the disagreeable impression that was being made on
everyone, Princess Betsy slipped someone else into her place to
listen to Alexey Alexandrovitch, and went up to Anna.

"I'm always amazed at the clearness and precision of your
husband's language," she said. "The most transcendental ideas
seem to be within my grasp when he's speaking."

"Oh, yes!" said Anna, radiant with a smile of happiness, and not
understanding a word of what Betsy had said. She crossed over to
the big table and took part in the general conversation.

Alexey Alexandrovitch, after staying half an hour, went up to his
wife and suggested that they should go home together. But she
answered, not looking at him, that she was staying to supper.
Alexey Alexandrovitch made his bows and withdrew.

The fat old Tatar, Madame Karenina's coachman, was with
difficulty holding one of her pair of grays, chilled with the
cold and rearing at the entrance. A footman stood opening the
carriage door. The hall porter stood holding open the great door
of the house. Anna Arkadyevna, with her quick little hand, was
unfastening the lace of her sleeve, caught in the hook of her fur
cloak, and with bent head listening to the words Vronsky murmured
as he escorted her down.

"You've said nothing, of course, and I ask nothing," he was
saying; "but you know that friendship's not what I want: that
there's only one happiness in life for me, that word that you
dislike so...yes, love!..."

"Love," she repeated slowly, in an inner voice, and suddenly, at
the very instant she unhooked the lace, she added, "Why I don't
like the word is that it means too much to me, far more than you
can understand," and she glanced into his face. "Au revoir!"

She gave him her hand, and with her rapid, springy step she
passed by the porter and vanished into the carriage.

Her glance, the touch of her hand, set him aflame. He kissed the
palm of his hand where she had touched it, and went home, happy
in the sense that he had got nearer to the attainment of his aims
that evening than during the last two months.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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