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Chapter 16

All the rooms of the summer villa were full of porters,
gardeners, and footmen going to and fro carrying out things.
Cupboards and chests were open; twice they had sent to the shop
for cord; pieces of newspaper were tossing about on the floor.
Two trunks, some bags and strapped-up rugs, had been carried down
into the hall. The carriage and two hired cabs were waiting at
the steps. Anna, forgetting her inward agitation in the work of
packing, was standing at a table in her boudoir, packing her
traveling bag, when Annushka called her attention to the rattle
of some carriage driving up. Anna looked out of the window and
saw Alexey Alexandrovitch's courier on the steps, ringing at the
front door bell.

"Run and find out what it is," she said, and with a calm sense of
being prepared for anything, she sat down in a low chair, folding
her hands on her knees. A footman brought in a thick packet
directed in Alexey Alexandrovitch's hand.

"The courier had orders to wait for an answer," he said.

"Very well," she said, and as soon as he had left the room she
tore open the letter with trembling fingers. A roll of unfolded
notes done up in a wrapper fell out of it. She disengaged the
letter and began reading it at the end. "Preparations shall be
made for your arrival here...I attach particular significance to
compliance..." she read. She ran on, then back, read it all
through, and once more read the letter all through again from the
beginning. When she had finished, she felt that she was cold all
over, and that a fearful calamity, such as she had not expected,
had burst upon her.

In the morning she had regretted that she had spoken to her
husband, and wished for nothing so much as that those words could
be unspoken. And here this letter regarded them as unspoken, and
gave her what she had wanted. But now this letter seemed to her
more awful than anything she had been able to conceive.

"He's right!" she said; "of course, he's always right; he's a
Christian, he's generous! Yes, vile, base creature! And no one
understands it except me, and no one ever will; and I can't
explain it. They say he's so religious, so high-principled, so
upright, so clever; but they don't see what I've seen. They
don't know how he has crushed my life for eight years, crushed
everything that was living in me--he has not once even thought
that I'm a live woman who must have love. They don't know how at
every step he's humiliated me, and been just as pleased with
himself. Haven't I striven, striven with all my strength, to
find something to give meaning to my life? Haven't I struggled
to love him, to love my son when I could not love my husband?
But the time came when I knew that I couldn't cheat myself any
longer, that I was alive, that I was not to blame, that God has
made me so that I must love and live. And now what does he do?
If he'd killed me, if he'd killed him, I could have borne
anything, I could have forgiven anything; but, no, he.... How
was it I didn't guess what he would do? He's doing just what's
characteristic of his mean character. He'll keep himself in the
right, while me, in my ruin, he'll drive still lower to worse
ruin yet..."

She recalled the words from the letter. "You can conjecture what
awaits you and your son...." "That's a threat to take away my
child, and most likely by their stupid law he can. But I know
very well why he says it. He doesn't believe even in my love for
my child, or he despises it (just as he always used to ridicule
it). He despises that feeling in me, but he knows that I won't
abandon my child, that I can't abandon my child, that there
could be no life for me without my child, even with him whom I
love; but that if I abandoned my child and ran away from him, I
should be acting like the most infamous, basest of women. He
knows that, and knows that I am incapable of doing that."

She recalled another sentence in the letter. "Our life must go
on as it has done in the past...." "That life was miserable
enough in the old days; it has been awful of late. What will it
be now? And he knows all that; he knows that I can't repent that
I breathe, that I love; he knows that it can lead to nothing but
lying and deceit; but he wants to go on torturing me. I know
him; I know that he's at home and is happy in deceit, like a fish
swimming in the water. No, I won't give him that happiness.
I'll break through the spiderweb of lies in which he wants to
catch me, come what may. Anything's better than lying and

"But how? My God! my God! Was ever a woman so miserable as I

"No; I will break through it, I will break through it!" she
cried, jumping up and keeping back her tears. And she went to
the writing table to write him another letter. But at the bottom
of her heart she felt that she was not strong enough to break
through anything, that she was not strong enough to get out of
her old position, however false and dishonorable it might be.

She sat down at the writing table, but instead of writing she
clasped her hands on the table, and, laying her head on them,
burst into tears, with sobs and heaving breast like a child
crying. She was weeping that her dream of her position being
made clear and definite had been annihilated forever. She knew
beforehand that everything would go on in the old way, and far
worse, indeed, than in the old way. She felt that the position
in the world that she enjoyed, and that had seemed to her of so
little consequence in the morning, that this position was
precious to her, that she would not have the strength to exchange
it for the shameful position of a woman who has abandoned husband
and child to join her lover; that however much she might
struggle, she could not be stronger than herself. She would
never know freedom in love, but would remain forever a guilty
wife, with the menace of detection hanging over her at every
instant; deceiving her husband for the sake of a shameful
connection with a man living apart and away from her, whose life
she could never share. She knew that this was how it would be,
and at the same time it was so awful that she could not even
conceive what it would end in. And she cried without restraint,
as children cry when they are punished.

The sound of the footman's steps forced her to rouse herself, and
hiding her face from him, she pretended to be writing.

"The courier asks if there's an answer," the footman announced.

"An answer? Yes," said Anna. "Let him wait. I'll ring."

"What can I write?" she thought. "What can I decide upon
alone? What do I know? What do I want? What is there I care
for?" Again she felt that her soul was beginning to be split in
two. She was terrified again at this feeling, and clutched at
the first pretext for doing something which might divert her
thoughts from herself. "I ought to see Alexey" (so she called
Vronsky in her thoughts); "no one but he can tell me what I ought
to do. I'll go to Betsy's, perhaps I shall see him there," she
said to herself, completely forgetting that when she had told him
the day before that she was not going to Princess Tverskaya's, he
had said that in that case he should not go either. She went up
to the table, wrote to her husband, "I have received your letter.
--A."; and, ringing the bell, gave it to the footman.

"We are not going," she said to Annushka, as she came in.

"Not going at all?"

"No; don't unpack till tomorrow, and let the carriage wait. I'm
going to the princess's."

"Which dress am I to get ready?"

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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