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Chapter 27


Anna was upstairs, standing before the looking glass, and, with
Annushka's assistance, pinning the last ribbon on her gown when
she heard carriage wheels crunching the gravel at the entrance.

"It's too early for Betsy," she thought, and glancing out of the
window she caught sight of the carriage and the black hat of
Alexey Alexandrovitch, and the ears that she knew so well
sticking up each side of it. "How unlucky! Can he be going to
stay the night?" she wondered, and the thought of all that might
come of such a chance struck her as so awful and terrible that,
without dwelling on it for a moment, she went down to meet him
with a bright and radiant face; and conscious of the presence of
that spirit of falsehood and deceit in herself that she had come
to know of late, she abandoned herself to that spirit and began
talking, hardly knowing what she was saying.

"Ah, how nice of you!" she said, giving her husband her hand, and
greeting Sludin, who was like one of the family, with a smile.
"You're staying the night, I hope?" was the first word the spirit
of falsehood prompted her to utter; "and now we'll go together.
Only it's a pity I've promised Betsy. She's coming for me."

Alexey Alexandrovitch knit his brows at Betsy's name.

"Oh, I'm not going to separate the inseparables," he said in his
usual bantering tone. "I'm going with Mihail Vassilievitch. I'm
ordered exercise by the doctors too. I'll walk, and fancy myself
at the springs again."

"There's no hurry," said Anna. "Would you like tea?"

She rang.

"Bring in tea, and tell Seryozha that Alexey Alexandrovitch is
here. Well, tell me, how have you been? Mihail Vassilievitch,
you've not been to see me before. Look how lovely it is out on
the terrace," she said, turning first to one and then to the
other.

She spoke very simply and naturally, but too much and too fast.
She was the more aware of this from noticing in the inquisitive
look Mihail Vassilievitch turned on her that he was, as it were,
keeping watch on her.

Mihail Vassilievitch promptly went out on the terrace.

She sat down beside her husband.

"You don't look quite well," she said.

"Yes," he said; "the doctor's been with me today and wasted an
hour of my time. I feel that some one of our friends must have
sent him: my health's so precious, it seems."

"No; what did he say?"

she questioned him about his health and what he had been doing,
and tried to persuade him to take a rest and come out to her.

All this she said brightly, rapidly, and with a peculiar
brilliance in her eyes. But Alexey Alexandrovitch did not now
attach any special significance to this tone of hers. He heard
only her words and gave them only the direct sense they bore.
And he answered simply, though jestingly. There was nothing
remarkable in all this conversation, but never after could Anna
recall this brief scene without an agonizing pang of shame.

Seryozha came in preceded by his governess. If Alexey
Alexandrovitch had allowed himself to observe he would have
noticed the timid and bewildered eyes with which Seryozha glanced
first at his father and then at his mother. But he would not see
anything, and he did not see it.

"Ah, the young man! He's grown. Really, he's getting quite a
man. How are you, young man?"

And he gave his hand to the scared child. Seryozha had been shy
of his father before, and now, ever since Alexey Alexandrovitch
had taken to calling him young man, and since that insoluble
question had occurred to him whether Vronsky were a friend or a
foe, he avoided his father. He looked round towards his mother
as though seeking shelter. It was only with his mother that he
was at ease. Meanwhile, Alexey Alexandrovitch was holding his
son by the shoulder while he was speaking to the governess, and
Seryozha was so miserably uncomfortable that Anna saw he was on
the point of tears.

Anna, who had flushed a little the instant her son came in,
noticing that Seryozha was uncomfortable, got up hurriedly, took
Alexey Alexandrovitch's hand from her son's shoulder, and kissing
the boy, led him out onto the terrace, and quickly came back.

"It's time to start, though," said she, glancing at her watch.
"How is it Betsy doesn't come?..."

"Yes," said Alexey Alexandrovitch, and getting up, he folded his
hands and cracked his fingers. "I've come to bring you some
money, too, for nightingales, we know, can't live on fairy
tales," he said. "You want it, I expect?"

"No, I don't...yes, I do," she said, not looking at him, and
crimsoning to the roots of her hair. "But you'll come back here
after the races, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes!" answered Alexey Alexandrovitch. "And here's the glory
of Peterhof, Princess Tverskaya," he added, looking out of the
window at the elegant English carriage with the tiny seats placed
extremely high. "What elegance! Charming! Well, let us be
starting too, then."

Princess Tverskaya did not get out of her carriage, but her
groom, in high boots, a cape, and block hat, darted out at the
entrance.

"I'm going; good-bye!" said Anna, and kissing her son, she went
up to Alexey Alexandrovitch and held out her hand to him. "It
was ever so nice of you to come."

Alexey Alexandrovitch kissed her hand.

"Well, au revoir, then! You'll come back for some tea; that's
delightful!" she said, and went out, gay and radiant. But as
soon as she no longer saw him, she was aware of the spot on her
hand that his lips had touched, and she shuddered with repulsion.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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