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Chapter 13

None but those who were most intimate with Alexey Alexandrovitch
knew that, while on the surface the coldest and most reasonable
of men, he had one weakness quite opposed to the general trend of
his character. Alexey Alexandrovitch could not hear or see a
child or woman crying without being moved. The sight of tears
threw him into a state of nervous agitation, and he utterly lost
all power of reflection. The chief secretary of his department
and his private secretary were aware of this, and used to warn
women who came with petitions on no account to give way to tears,
if they did not want to ruin their chances. "He will get angry,
and will not listen to you," they used to say. And as a fact, in
such cases the emotional disturbance set up in Alexey
Alexandrovitch by the sight of tears found expression in hasty
anger. "I can do nothing. Kindly leave the room!" he would
commonly cry in such cases.

When returning from the races Anna had informed him of her
relations with Vronsky, and immediately afterwards had burst into
tears, hiding her face in her hands, Alexey Alexandrovitch, for
all the fury aroused in him against her, was aware at the same
time of a rush of that emotional disturbance always produced in
him by tears. Conscious of it, and conscious that any expression
of his feelings at that minute would be out of keeping with the
position, he tried to suppress every manifestation of life in
himself, and so neither stirred nor looked at her. This was what
had caused that strange expression of deathlike rigidity in his
face which had so impressed Anna.

When they reached the house he helped her to get out of the
carriage, and making an effort to master himself, took leave of
her with his usual urbanity, and uttered that phrase that bound
him to nothing; he said that tomorrow he would let her know his

His wife's words, confirming his worst suspicions, had sent a
cruel pang to the heart of Alexey Alexandrovitch. That pang was
intensified by the strange feeling of physical pity for her set
up by her tears. But when he was all alone in the carriage
Alexey Alexandrovitch, to his surprise and delight, felt complete
relief both from this pity and from the doubts and agonies of

He experienced the sensations of a man who has had a tooth out
after suffering long from toothache. After a fearful agony and a
sense of something huge, bigger than the head itself, being torn
out of his jaw, the sufferer, hardly able to believe in his own
good luck, feels all at once that what has so long poisoned his
existence and enchained his attention, exists no longer, and that
he can live and think again, and take interest in other things
besides his tooth. This feeling Alexey Alexandrovitch was
experiencing. The agony had been strange and terrible, but now
it was over; he felt that he could live again and think of
something other than his wife.

"No honor, no heart, no religion; a corrupt woman. I always
knew it and always saw it, though I tried to deceive myself to
spare her," he said to himself. And it actually seemed to him
that he always had seen it: he recalled incidents of their past
life, in which he had never seen anything wrong before--now
these incidents proved clearly that she had always been a corrupt
woman. "I made a mistake in linking my life to hers; but there
was nothing wrong in my mistake, and so I cannot be unhappy.
It's not I that am to blame," he told himself, "but she. But I
have nothing to do with her. She does not exist for me..."

Everything relating to her and her son, towards whom his
sentiments were as much changed as towards her, ceased to
interest him. The only thing that interested him now was the
question of in what way he could best, with most propriety and
comfort for himself, and thus with most justice, extricate
himself from the mud with which she had spattered him in her
fall, and then proceed along his path of active, honorable, and
useful existence.

"I cannot be made unhappy by the fact that a contemptible woman
has committed a crime. I have only to find the best way out of
the difficult position in which she has placed me. And I shall
find it," he said to himself, frowning more and more. "I'm not
the first nor the last." And to say nothing of historical
instances dating from the "Fair Helen" of Menelaus, recently
revived in the memory of all, a whole list of contemporary
examples of husbands with unfaithful wives in the highest society
rose before Alexey Alexandrovitch's imagination. "Daryalov,
Poltavsky, Prince Karibanov, Count Paskudin, Dram.... Yes, even
Dram, such an honest, capable fellow...Semyonov, Tchagin,
Sigonin," Alexey Alexandrovitch remembered. "Admitting that a
certain quite irrational ridicule falls to the lot of these men,
yet I never saw anything but a misfortune in it, and always felt
sympathy for it," Alexey Alexandrovitch said to himself, though
indeed this was not the fact, and he had never felt sympathy for
misfortunes of that kind, but the more frequently he had heard of
instances of unfaithful wives betraying their husbands, the more
highly he had thought of himself. "It is a misfortune which may
befall anyone. And this misfortune has befallen me. The only
thing to be done is to make the best of the position."

And he began passing in review the methods of proceeding of men
who had been in the same position that he was in.

"Daryalov fought a duel...."

The duel had particularly fascinated the thoughts of Alexey
Alexandrovitch in his youth, just because he was physically a
coward, and was himself well aware of the fact. Alexey
Alexandrovitch could not without horror contemplate the idea of a
pistol aimed at himself, and never made use of any weapon in his
life. This horror had in his youth set him pondering on dueling,
and picturing himself in a position in which he would have to
expose his life to danger. Having attained success and an
established position in the world, he had long ago forgotten this
feeling; but the habitual bent of feeling reasserted itself, and
dread of his own cowardice proved even now so strong that Alexey
Alexandrovitch spent a long while thinking over the question of
dueling in all its aspects, and hugging the idea of a duel,
though he was fully aware beforehand that he would never under
any circumstances fight one.

"There's no doubt our society is still so barbarous (it's not the
same in England) that very many"--and among these were those
whose opinion Alexey Alexandrovitch particularly valued--"look
favorably on the duel; but what result is attained by it? Suppose
I call him out," Alexey Alexandrovitch went on to himself, and
vividly picturing the night he would spend after the challenge,
and the pistol aimed at him, he shuddered, and knew that he never
would do it--"suppose I call him out. Suppose I am taught," he
went on musing, "to shoot; I press the trigger," he said to
himself, closing his eyes, "and it turns out I have killed him,"
Alexey Alexandrovitch said to himself, and he shook his head as
though to dispel such silly ideas. "What sense is there in
murdering a man in order to define one's relation to a guilty
wife and son? I should still just as much have to decide what I
ought to do with her. But what is more probable and what would
doubtless occur--I should be killed or wounded. I, the
innocent person, should be the victim--killed or wounded. It's
even more senseless. But apart from that, a challenge to fight
would be an act hardly honest on my side. Don't I know perfectly
well that my friends would never allow me to fight a duel--would
never allow the life of a statesman, needed by Russia, to be
exposed to danger? Knowing perfectly well beforehand that the
matter would never come to real danger, it would amount to my
simply trying to gain a certain sham reputation by such a
challenge. That would be dishonest, that would be false, that
would be deceiving myself and others. A duel is quite
irrational, and no one expects it of me. My aim is simply to
safeguard my reputation, which is essential for the uninterrupted
pursuit of my public duties." Official duties, which had always
been of great consequence in Alexey Alexandrovitch's eyes, seemed
of special importance to his mind at this moment. Considering
and rejecting the duel, Alexey Alexandrovitch turned to
divorce--another solution selected by several of the husbands he
remembered. Passing in mental review all the instances he knew
of divorces (there were plenty of them in the very highest
society with which he was very familiar), Alexey Alexandrovitch
could not find a single example in which the object of divorce
was that which he had in view. In all these instances the
husband had practically ceded or sold his unfaithful wife, and
the very party which, being in fault, had not the right to
contract a fresh marriage, had formed counterfeit,
pseudo-matrimonial ties with a self-styled husband. In his own
case, Alexey Alexandrovitch saw that a legal divorce, that is to
say, one in which only the guilty wife would be repudiated, was
impossible of attainment. He saw that the complex conditions of
the life they led made the coarse proofs of his wife's guilt,
required by the law, out of the question; he saw that a certain
refinement in that life would not admit of such proofs being
brought forward, even if he had them, and that to bring forward
such proofs would damage him in the public estimation more than
it would her.

An attempt at divorce could lead to nothing but a public scandal,
which would be a perfect godsend to his enemies for calumny and
attacks on his high position in society. His chief object, to
define the position with the least amount of disturbance
possible, would not be attained by divorce either. Moreover, in
the event of divorce, or even of an attempt to obtain a divorce,
it was obvious that the wife broke off all relations with the
husband and threw in her lot with the lover. And in spite of the
complete, as he supposed, contempt and indifference he now felt
for his wife, at the bottom of his heart, Alexey Alexandrovitch
still had one feeling left in regard to her--a disinclination to
see her free to throw in her lot with Vronsky, so that her crime
would be to her advantage. The mere notion of this so
exasperated Alexey Alexandrovitch, that directly it rose to his
mind he groaned with inward agony, and got up and changed his
place in the carriage, and for a long while after, he sat with
scowling brows, wrapping his numbed and bony legs in the fleecy

"Apart from formal divorce, One might still do like Karibanov,
Paskudin, and that good fellow Dram--that is, separate from
one's wife," he went on thinking, when he had regained his
composure. But this step too presented the same drawback of
public scandal as a divorce, and what was more, a separation,
quite as much as a regular divorce, flung his wife into the arms
of Vronsky. "No, it's out of the question, out of the question!"
he said again, twisting his rug about him again. "I cannot be
unhappy, but neither she nor he ought to be happy."

The feeling of jealousy, which had tortured him during the period
of uncertainty, had passed away at the instant when the tooth had
been with agony extracted by his wife's words. But that feeling
had been replaced by another, the desire, not merely that she
should not be triumphant, but that she should get due punishment
for her crime. He did not acknowledge this feeling, but at the
bottom of his heart he longed for her to suffer for having
destroyed his peace of mind--his honor. And going once again
over the conditions inseparable from a duel, a divorce, a
separation, and once again rejecting them, Alexey Alexandrovitch
felt convinced that there was only one solution,--to keep her
with him, concealing what had happened from the world, and using
every measure in his power to break off the intrigue, and still
more--though this he did not admit to himself--to punish her.
"I must inform her of my conclusion, that thinking over the
terrible position in which she has placed her family, all other
solutions will be worse for both sides than an external status
quo, and that such I agree to retain, on the strict condition of
obedience on her part to my wishes, that is to say, cessation of
all intercourse with her lover." When this decision had been
finally adopted, another weighty consideration occurred to Alexey

Alexandrovitch in support of it. "By such a course only shall I
be acting in accordance with the dictates of religion," he told
himself. "In adopting this course, I am not casting off a
guilty wife, but giving her a chance of amendment; and, indeed,
difficult as the task will be to me, I shall devote part of my
energies to her reformation and salvation."

Though Alexey Alexandrovitch was perfectly aware that he could
not exert any moral influence over his wife, that such an attempt
at reformation could lead to nothing but falsity; though in
passing through these difficult moments he had not once thought
of seeking guidance in religion, yet now, when his conclusion
corresponded, as it seemed to him, with the requirements of
religion, this religious sanction to his decision gave him
complete satisfaction, and to some extent restored his peace of
mind. He was pleased to think that, even in such an important
crisis in life, no one would be able to say that he had not acted
in accordance with the principles of that religion whose banner
he had always held aloft amid the general coolness and
indifference. As he pondered over subsequent developments,
Alexey Alexandrovitch did not see, indeed, why his relations with
his wife should not remain practically the same as before. No
doubt, she could never regain his esteem, but there was not, and
there could not be, any sort of reason that his existence should
be troubled, and that he should suffer because she was a bad and
faithless wife. "Yes, time will pass; time, which arranges all
things, and the old relations will be reestablished," Alexey
Alexandrovitch told himself; "so far reestablished, that is, that
I shall not be sensible of a break in the continuity of my life.
She is bound to be unhappy, but I am not to blame, and so I
cannot be unhappy."

Chapter 14

As he neared Petersburg, Alexey Alexandrovitch not only adhered
entirely to his decision, but was even composing in his head the
letter he would write to his wife. Going into the porter's room,
Alexey Alexandrovitch glanced at the letters and papers brought
from his office, and directed that they should be brought to him
in his study.

"The horses can be taken out and I will see no one," he said in
answer to the porter, with a certain pleasure, indicative of his
agreeable frame of mind, emphasizing the words, "see no one."

In his study Alexey Alexandrovitch walked up and down twice, and
stopped at an immense writing-table, on which six candles had
already been lighted by the valet who had preceded him. He
cracked his knuckles and sat down, sorting out his writing
appurtenances. Putting his elbows on the table, he bent his head
on one side, thought a minute, and began to write, without
pausing for a second. He wrote without using any form of address
to her, and wrote in French, making use of the plural "vous,"
which has not the same note of coldness as the corresponding
Russian form.

"At our last conversation, I notified you of my intention to
communicate to you my decision in regard to the subject of that
conversation. Having carefully considered everything, I am
writing now with the object of fulfilling that promise. My
decision is as follows. Whatever your conduct may have been, I
do not consider myself justified in breaking the ties in which we
are bound by a Higher Power. The family cannot be broken up by a
whim, a caprice, or even by the sin of one of the partners in the
marriage, and our life must go on as it has done in the past.
This is essential for me, for you, and for our son. I am fully
persuaded that you have repented and do repent of what has called
forth the present letter, and that you will cooperate with me in
eradicating the cause of our estrangement, and forgetting the
past. In the contrary event, you can conjecture what awaits you
and your son. All this I hope to discuss more in detail in a
personal interview. As the season is drawing to a close, I
would beg you to return to Petersburg as quickly as possible, not
later than Tuesday. All necessary preparations shall be made for
your arrival here. I beg you to note that I attach particular
significance to compliance with this request.

A. Karenin

"P.S.--I enclose the money which may be needed for your

He read the letter through and felt pleased with it, and
especially that he had remembered to enclose money: there was not
a harsh word, not a reproach in it, nor was there undue
indulgence. Most of all, it was a golden bridge for return.
Folding the letter and smoothing it with a massive ivory knife,
and putting it in an envelope with the money, he rang the bell
with the gratification it always afforded him to use the
well arranged appointments of his writing-table.

"Give this to the courier to be delivered to Anna Arkadyevna
tomorrow at the summer villa," he said, getting up.

"Certainly, your excellency; tea to be served in the study?"

Alexey Alexandrovitch ordered tea to be brought to the study, and
playing with the massive paper-knife, he moved to his easy chair,
near which there had been placed ready for him a lamp and the
French work on Egyptian hieroglyphics that he had begun. Over
the easy chair there hung in a gold frame an oval portrait of
Anna, a fine painting by a celebrated artist. Alexey
Alexandrovitch glanced at it. The unfathomable eyes gazed
ironically and insolently at him. Insufferably insolent and
challenging was the effect in Alexey Alexandrovitch's eyes of the
black lace about the head, admirably touched in by the painter,
the black hair and handsome white hand with one finger lifted,
covered with rings. After looking at the portrait for a minute,
Alexey Alexandrovitch shuddered so that his lips quivered and he
uttered the sound "brrr," and turned away. He made haste to sit
down in his easy chair and opened the book. He tried to read,
but he could not revive the very vivid interest he had felt
before in Egyptian hieroglyphics. He looked at the book and
thought of something else. He thought not of his wife, but of a
complication that had arisen in his official life, which at the
time constituted the chief interest of it. He felt that he had
penetrated more deeply than ever before into this intricate
affair, and that he had originated a leading idea--he could say
it without self-flattery--calculated to clear up the whole
business, to strengthen him in his official career, to discomfit
his enemies, and thereby to be of the greatest benefit to the
government. Directly the servant had set the tea and left the
room, Alexey Alexandrovitch got up and went to the writing-table.
Moving into the middle of the table a portfolio of papers, with a
scarcely perceptible smile of self-satisfaction, he took a pencil
from a rack and plunged into the perusal of a complex report
relating to the present complication. The complication was of
this nature: Alexey Alexandrovitch's characteristic quality as a
politician, that special individual qualification that every
rising functionary possesses, the qualification that with his
unflagging ambition, his reserve, his honesty, and with his
self-confidence had made his career, was his contempt for red
tape, his cutting down of correspondence, his direct contact,
wherever possible, with the living fact, and his economy. It
happened that the famous Commission of the 2nd of June had set on
foot an inquiry into the irrigation of lands in the Zaraisky
province, which fell under Alexey Alexandrovitch's department,
and was a glaring example of fruitless expenditure and paper
reforms. Alexey Alexandrovitch was aware of the truth of this.
The irrigation of these lands in the Zaraisky province had been
initiated by the predecessor of Alexey Alexandrovitch's
predecessor. And vast sums of money had actually been spent and
were still being spent on this business, and utterly
unproductively, and the whole business could obviously lead to
nothing whatever. Alexey Alexandrovitch had perceived this at
once on entering office, and would have liked to lay hands on the
Board of Irrigation. But at first, when he did not yet feel
secure in his position, he knew it would affect too many
interests, and would be injudicious. Later on he had been
engrossed in other questions, and had simply forgotten the Board
of Irrigation. It went of itself, like all such boards, by the
mere force of inertia. (Many people gained their livelihood by
the Board of Irrigation, especially one highly conscientious and
musical family: all the daughters played on stringed instruments,
and Alexey Alexandrovitch knew the family and had stood godfather
to one of the elder daughters.) The raising of this question by a
hostile department was in Alexey Alexandrovitch's opinion a
dishonorable proceeding, seeing that in every department there
were things similar and worse, which no one inquired into, for
well-known reasons of official etiquette. However, now that the
glove had been thrown down to him, he had boldly picked it up and
demanded the appointment of a special commission to investigate
and verify the working of the Board of Irrigation of the lands in
the Zaraisky province. But in compensation he gave no quarter to
the enemy either. He demanded the appointment of another special
commission to inquire into the question of the Native Tribes
Organization Committee. The question of the Native Tribes had
been brought up incidentally in the Commission of the 2nd of
June, and had been pressed forward actively by Alexey
Alexandrovitch as one admitting of no delay on account of the
deplorable condition bf the native tribes. In the commission
this question had been a ground of contention between several
departments. The department hostile to Alexey Alexandrovitch
proved that the condition of the native tribes was exceedingly
flourishing, that the proposed reconstruction might be the ruin
of their prosperity, and that if there were anything wrong, it
arose mainly from the failure on the part of Alexey
Alexandrovitch's department to carry out the measures prescribed
by law. Now Alexey Alexandrovitch intended to demand: First,
that a new commission should be formed which should be empowered
to investigate the condition of the native tribes on the spot;
secondly, if it should appear that the condition of the native
tribes actually was such as it appeared to be from the official
documents in the hands of the committee, that another new
scientific commission should be appointed to investigate the
deplorable condition of the native tribes from the--(1)
political, (2) administrative, (3) economic, (4) ethnographical,
(5) material, and (6) religious points of view; thirdly, that
evidence should be required from the rival department of the
measures that had been taken during the last ten years by that
department for averting the disastrous conditions in which the
native tribes were now placed; and fourthly and finally, that
that department explain why it had, as appeared from the evidence
before the committee, from No. 17,015 and 18,038, from December
5, 1863, and June 7, 1864, acted in direct contravention of the
intent of the law T...Act 18, and the note to Act 36. A flash
of eagerness suffused the face of Alexey Alexandrovitch as he
rapidly wrote out a synopsis of these ideas for his own benefit.
Having filled a sheet of paper, he got up, rang, and sent a note
to the chief secretary of his department to look up certain
necessary facts for him. Getting up and walking about the room,
he glanced again at the portrait, frowned, and smiled
contemptuously. After reading a little more of the book on
Egyptian hieroglyphics, and renewing his interest in it, Alexey
Alexandrovitch went to bed at eleven o'clock, and recollecting as
he lay in bed the incident with his wife, he saw it now in by no
means such a gloomy light.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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