eBooks Cube
Chapter 9

Anna came in with hanging head, playing with the tassels of her
hood. Her face was brilliant and glowing; but this glow was not
one of brightness; it suggested the fearful glow of a
conflagration in the midst of a dark night. On seeing her
husband, Anna raised her head and smiled, as though she had just
waked up.

"You're not in bed? What a wonder!" she said, letting fall her
hood, and without stopping, she went on into the dressing room.
"It's late, Alexey Alexandrovitch," she said, when she had gone
through the doorway.

"Anna, it's necessary for me to have a talk with you."

"With me?" she said, wonderingly. She came out from behind the
door of the dressing room, and looked at him. "Why, what is it?
What about?" she asked, sitting down. "Well, let's talk, if it's
so necessary. But it would be better to get to sleep."

Anna said what came to her lips, and marveled, hearing herself,
at her own capacity for lying. How simple and natural were her
words, and how likely that she was simply sleepy! She felt
herself clad in an impenetrable armor of falsehood. She felt
that some unseen force had come to her aid and was supporting

"Anna, I must warn you," he began.

"Warn me?" she said. "Of what?"

She looked at him so simply, so brightly, that anyone who did
not know her as her husband knew her could not have noticed
anything unnatural, either in the sound or the sense of her
words. But to him, knowing her, knowing that whenever he went to
bed five minutes later than usual, she noticed it, and asked him
the reason; to him, knowing that every joy, every pleasure and
pain that she felt she communicated to him at once; to him, now
to see that she did not care to notice his state of mind, that
she did not care to say a word about herself, meant a great deal.
He saw that the inmost recesses of her soul, that had always
hitherto lain open before him, were closed against him. More
than that, he saw from her tone that she was not even perturbed
at that, but as it were said straight out to him: "Yes, it's shut
up, and so it must be, and will be in future." Now he
experienced a feeling such as a man might have, returning home
and finding his own house locked up. "But perhaps the key may
yet be found," thought Alexey Alexandrovitch.

"I want to warn you," he said in a low voice, "that through
thoughtlessness and lack of caution you may cause yourself to be
talked about in society. Your too animated conversation this
evening with Count Vronsky" (he enunciated the name firmly and
with deliberate emphasis) "attracted attention."

He talked and looked at her laughing eyes, which frightened him
now with their impenetrable look, and, as he talked, he felt all
the uselessness and idleness of his words.

"You're always like that," she answered as though completely
misapprehending him, and of all he had said only taking in the
last phrase. "One time you don't like my being dull, and another
time you don't like my being lively. I wasn't dull. Does that
offend you?"

Alexey Alexandrovitch shivered, and bent his hands to make the
joints crack.

"Oh, please, don't do that, I do so dislike it," she said.

"Anna, is this you?" said Alexey Alexandrovitch, quietly making
an effort over himself, and restraining the motion of his

"But what is it all about?" she said, with such genuine and droll
wonder. "What do you want of me?"

Alexey Alexandrovitch paused, and rubbed his forehead and his
eyes. He saw that instead of doing as he had intended--that is
to say, warning his wife against a mistake in the eyes of the
world--he had unconsciously become agitated over what was the
affair of her conscience, and was struggling against the barrier
he fancied between them.

"This is what I meant to say to you," he went on coldly and
composedly, "and I beg you to listen to it. I consider jealousy,
as you know, a humiliating and degrading feeling, and I shall
never allow myself to be influenced by it; but there are certain
rules of decorum which cannot be disregarded with impunity. This
evening it was not I observed it, but judging by the impression
made on the company, everyone observed that your conduct and
deportment were not altogether what could be desired."

"I positively don't understand," said Anna, shrugging her
shoulders--"He doesn't care," she thought. "But other people
noticed it, and that's what upsets him."--"You're not well,
Alexey Alexandrovitch," she added, and she got up, and would have
gone towards the door; but he moved forward as though he would
stop her.

His face was ugly and forbidding, as Anna had never seen him.
She stopped, and bending her head back and on one side, began
with her rapid hand taking out her hairpins.

"Well, I'm listening to what's to come," she said, calmly and
ironically; "and indeed I listened with interest, for I should
like to understand what's the matter."

She spoke, and marveled at the confident, calm, and natural tone
in which she was speaking, and the choice of the words she used.

"To enter into all the details of your feelings I have no right,
and besides, I regard that as useless and even harmful," began
Alexey Alexandrovitch. "Ferreting in one's soul, one often
ferrets out something that might have lain there unnoticed. Your
feelings are an affair of your own conscience; but I am in duty
bound to you, to myself, and to God, to point out to you your
duties. Our life has been joined, not by man, but by God. That
union can only be severed by a crime, and a crime of that nature
brings its own chastisement."

"I don't understand a word. And, oh dear! how sleepy I am,
unluckily," she said, rapidly passing her hand through her hair,
feeling for the remaining hairpins.

"Anna, for God's sake don't speak like that!" he said gently.
"Perhaps I am mistaken, but believe me, what I say, I say as much
for myself as for you. I am your husband, and I love you."

For an instant her face fell, and the mocking gleam in her eyes
died away; but the word love threw her into revolt again. She
thought: "Love? Can he love? If he hadn't heard there was such
a thing as love, he would never have used the word. He doesn't
even know what love is."

"Alexey Alexandrovitch, really I don't understand," she said.
Define what it is you find..."

"Pardon, let me say all I have to say. I love you. But I am not
speaking of myself; the most important persons in this matter are
our son and yourself. It may very well be, I repeat, that my
words seem to you utterly unnecessary and out of place; it may be
that they are called forth by my mistaken impression. In that
case, I beg you to forgive me. But if you are conscious
yourself of even the smallest foundation for them, then I beg you
to think a little, and if your heart prompts you, to speak out to

Alexey Alexandrovitch was unconsciously saying something utterly
unlike what he had prepared.

"I have nothing to say. And besides," she said hurriedly, with
difficulty repressing a smile, "it's really time to be in bed."

Alexey Alexandrovitch sighed, and, without saying more, went into
the bedroom.

When she came into the bedroom, he was already in bed. His lips
were sternly compressed, and his eyes looked away from her. Anna
got into her bed, and lay expecting every minute that he would
begin to speak to her again. She both feared his speaking and
wished for it. But he was silent. She waited for a long while
without moving, and had forgotten about him. She thought of that
other; she pictured him, and felt how her heart was flooded with
emotion and guilty delight at the thought of him. Suddenly she
heard an even, tranquil snore. For the first instant Alexey
Alexandrovitch seemed, as it were, appalled at his own snoring,
and ceased; but after an interval of two breathings the snore
sounded again, with a new tranquil rhythm.

"It's late, it's late," she whispered with a smile. A long while
she lay, not moving, with open eyes, whose brilliance she almost
fancied she could herself see in the darkness.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
Nabou.com: the big site