The Karenins, husband and wife, continued living in the same house, met every day, but were complete strangers to one another. Alexey Alexandrovitch made it a rule to see his wife every day, so that the servants might have no grounds for suppositions, but avoided dining at home. Vronsky was never at Alexey Alexandrovitch’s house, but Anna saw him away from home, and her husband was aware of it.
The position was one of misery for all three; and not one of them would have been equal to enduring this position for a single day, if it had not been for the expectation that it would change, that it was merely a temporary painful ordeal which would pass over. Alexey Alexandrovitch hoped that this passion would pass, as everything does pass, that everyone would forget about it, and his name would remain unsullied. Anna, on whom the position depended, and for whom it was more miserable than for anyone, endured it because she not merely hoped, but firmly believed, that it would all very soon be settled and come right. She had not the least idea what would settle the position, but she firmly believed that something would very soon turn up now. Vronsky, against his own will or wishes, followed her lead, hoped too that something, apart from his own action, would be sure to solve all difficulties.
In the middle of the winter Vronsky spent a very tiresome week. A foreign prince, who had come on a visit to Petersburg, was put under his charge, and he had to show him the sights worth seeing. Vronsky was of distinguished appearance; he possessed, moreover, the art of behaving with respectful dignity, and was used to having to do with such grand personages—that was how he came to be put in charge of the prince. But he felt his duties very irksome. The prince was anxious to miss nothing of which he would be asked at home, had he seen that in Russia? And on his own account he was anxious to enjoy to the utmost all Russian forms of amusement. Vronsky was obliged to be his guide in satisfying both these inclinations. The mornings they spent driving to look at places of interest; the evenings they passed enjoying the national entertainments. The prince rejoiced in health exceptional even among princes. By gymnastics and careful attention to his health he had brought himself to such a point that in spite of his excess in pleasure he looked as fresh as a big glossy green Dutch cucumber. The prince had traveled a great deal, and considered one of the chief advantages of modern facilities of communication was the accessibility of the pleasures of all nations.
He had been in Spain, and there had indulged in serenades and had made friends with a Spanish girl who played the mandolin. In Switzerland he had killed chamois. In England he had galloped in a red coat over hedges and killed two hundred pheasants for a bet. In Turkey he had got into a harem; in India he had hunted on an elephant, and now in Russia he wished to taste all the specially Russian forms of pleasure.
Vronsky, who was, as it were, chief master of the ceremonies to him, was at great pains to arrange all the Russian amusements suggested by various persons to the prince. They had race horses, and Russian pancakes and bear hunts and three-horse sledges, and gypsies and drinking feasts, with the Russian accompaniment of broken crockery. And the prince with surprising ease fell in with the Russian spirit, smashed trays full of crockery, sat with a gypsy girl on his knee, and seemed to be asking—what more, and does the whole Russian spirit consist in just this?
In reality, of all the Russian entertainments the prince liked best French actresses and ballet dancers and white-seal champagne. Vronsky was used to princes, but, either because he had himself changed of late, or that he was in too close proximity to the prince, that week seemed fearfully wearisome to him. The whole of that week he experienced a sensation such as a man might have set in charge of a dangerous madman, afraid of the madman, and at the same time, from being with him, fearing for his own reason. Vronsky was continually conscious of the necessity of never for a second relaxing the tone of stern official respectfulness, that he might not himself be insulted. The prince’s manner of treating the very people who, to Vronsky’s surprise, were ready to descend to any depths to provide him with Russian amusements, was contemptuous. His criticisms of Russian women, whom he wished to study, more than once made Vronsky crimson with indignation. The chief reason why the prince was so particularly disagreeable to Vronsky was that he could not help seeing himself in him. And what he saw in this mirror did not gratify his self-esteem. He was a very stupid and very self-satisfied and very healthy and very well-washed man, and nothing else. He was a gentleman—that was true, and Vronsky could not deny it. He was equable and not cringing with his superiors, was free and ingratiating in his behavior with his equals, and was contemptuously indulgent with his inferiors. Vronsky was himself the same, and regarded it as a great merit to be so. But for this prince he was an inferior, and his contemptuous and indulgent attitude to him revolted him.
“Brainless beef! can I be like that?” he thought.
Be that as it might, when, on the seventh day, he parted from the prince, who was starting for Moscow, and received his thanks, he was happy to be rid of his uncomfortable position and the unpleasant reflection of himself. He said good-bye to him at the station on their return from a bear hunt, at which they had had a display of Russian prowess kept up all night.
When he got home, Vronsky found there a note from Anna. She wrote, “I am ill and unhappy. I cannot come out, but I cannot go on longer without seeing you. Come in this evening. Alexey Alexandrovitch goes to the council at seven and will be there till ten.” Thinking for an instant of the strangeness of her bidding him come straight to her, in spite of her husband’s insisting on her not receiving him, he decided to go.
Vronsky had that winter got his promotion, was now a colonel, had left the regimental quarters, and was living alone. After having some lunch, he lay down on the sofa immediately, and in five minutes memories of the hideous scenes he had witnessed during the last few days were confused together and joined on to a mental image of Anna and of the peasant who had played an important part in the bear hunt, and Vronsky fell asleep. He waked up in the dark, trembling with horror, and made haste to light a candle. “What was it? What? What was the dreadful thing I dreamed? Yes, yes; I think a little dirty man with a disheveled beard was stooping down doing something, and all of a sudden he began saying some strange words in French. Yes, there was nothing else in the dream,” he said to himself. “But why was it so awful?” He vividly recalled the peasant again and those incomprehensible French words the peasant had uttered, and a chill of horror ran down his spine.
“What nonsense!” thought Vronsky, and glanced at his watch.
It was half-past eight already. He rang up his servant, dressed in haste, and went out onto the steps, completely forgetting the dream and only worried at being late. As he drove up to the Karenins’ entrance he looked at his watch and saw it was ten minutes to nine. A high, narrow carriage with a pair of grays was standing at the entrance. He recognized Anna’s carriage. “She is coming to me,” thought Vronsky, “and better she should. I don’t like going into that house. But no matter; I can’t hide myself,” he thought, and with that manner peculiar to him from childhood, as of a man who has nothing to be ashamed of, Vronsky got out of his sledge and went to the door. The door opened, and the hall-porter with a rug on his arm called the carriage. Vronsky, though he did not usually notice details, noticed at this moment the amazed expression with which the porter glanced at him. In the very doorway Vronsky almost ran up against Alexey Alexandrovitch. The gas jet threw its full light on the bloodless, sunken face under the black hat and on the white cravat, brilliant against the beaver of the coat. Karenin’s fixed, dull eyes were fastened upon Vronsky’s face. Vronsky bowed, and Alexey Alexandrovitch, chewing his lips, lifted his hand to his hat and went on. Vronsky saw him without looking round get into the carriage, pick up the rug and the opera-glass at the window and disappear. Vronsky went into the hall. His brows were scowling, and his eyes gleamed with a proud and angry light in them.
“What a position!” he thought. “If he would fight, would stand up for his honor, I could act, could express my feelings; but this weakness or baseness.... He puts me in the position of playing false, which I never meant and never mean to do.”
Vronsky’s ideas had changed since the day of his conversation with Anna in the Vrede garden. Unconsciously yielding to the weakness of Anna—who had surrendered herself up to him utterly, and simply looked to him to decide her fate, ready to submit to anything—he had long ceased to think that their tie might end as he had thought then. His ambitious plans had retreated into the background again, and feeling that he had got out of that circle of activity in which everything was definite, he had given himself entirely to his passion, and that passion was binding him more and more closely to her.
He was still in the hall when he caught the sound of her retreating footsteps. He knew she had been expecting him, had listened for him, and was now going back to the drawing-room.
“No,” she cried, on seeing him, and at the first sound of her voice the tears came into her eyes. “No; if things are to go on like this, the end will come much, much too soon.”
“What is it, dear one?”
“What? I’ve been waiting in agony for an hour, two hours ... No, I won’t ... I can’t quarrel with you. Of course you couldn’t come. No, I won’t.” She laid her two hands on his shoulders, and looked a long while at him with a profound, passionate, and at the same time searching look. She was studying his face to make up for the time she had not seen him. She was, every time she saw him, making the picture of him in her imagination (incomparably superior, impossible in reality) fit with him as he really was.
“You met him?” she asked, when they had sat down at the table in the lamplight. “You’re punished, you see, for being late.”
“Yes; but how was it? Wasn’t he to be at the council?”
“He had been and come back, and was going out somewhere again. But that’s no matter. Don’t talk about it. Where have you been? With the prince still?”
She knew every detail of his existence. He was going to say that he had been up all night and had dropped asleep, but looking at her thrilled and rapturous face, he was ashamed. And he said he had had to go to report on the prince’s departure.
“But it’s over now? He is gone?”
“Thank God it’s over! You wouldn’t believe how insufferable it’s been for me.”
“Why so? Isn’t it the life all of you, all young men, always lead?” she said, knitting her brows; and taking up the crochet work that was lying on the table, she began drawing the hook out of it, without looking at Vronsky.
“I gave that life up long ago,” said he, wondering at the change in her face, and trying to divine its meaning. “And I confess,” he said, with a smile, showing his thick, white teeth, “this week I’ve been, as it were, looking at myself in a glass, seeing that life, and I didn’t like it.”
She held the work in her hands, but did not crochet, and looked at him with strange, shining, and hostile eyes.
“This morning Liza came to see me—they’re not afraid to call on me, in spite of the Countess Lidia Ivanovna,” she put in—“and she told me about your Athenian evening. How loathsome!”
“I was just going to say....”
She interrupted him. “It was that Thérèse you used to know?”
“I was just saying....”
“How disgusting you are, you men! How is it you can’t understand that a woman can never forget that,” she said, getting more and more angry, and so letting him see the cause of her irritation, “especially a woman who cannot know your life? What do I know? What have I ever known?” she said, “what you tell me. And how do I know whether you tell me the truth?...”
“Anna, you hurt me. Don’t you trust me? Haven’t I told you that I haven’t a thought I wouldn’t lay bare to you?”
“Yes, yes,” she said, evidently trying to suppress her jealous thoughts. “But if only you knew how wretched I am! I believe you, I believe you.... What were you saying?”
But he could not at once recall what he had been going to say. These fits of jealousy, which of late had been more and more frequent with her, horrified him, and however much he tried to disguise the fact, made him feel cold to her, although he knew the cause of her jealousy was her love for him. How often he had told himself that her love was happiness; and now she loved him as a woman can love when love has outweighed for her all the good things of life—and he was much further from happiness than when he had followed her from Moscow. Then he had thought himself unhappy, but happiness was before him; now he felt that the best happiness was already left behind. She was utterly unlike what she had been when he first saw her. Both morally and physically she had changed for the worse. She had broadened out all over, and in her face at the time when she was speaking of the actress there was an evil expression of hatred that distorted it. He looked at her as a man looks at a faded flower he has gathered, with difficulty recognizing in it the beauty for which he picked and ruined it. And in spite of this he felt that then, when his love was stronger, he could, if he had greatly wished it, have torn that love out of his heart; but now, when as at that moment it seemed to him he felt no love for her, he knew that what bound him to her could not be broken.
“Well, well, what was it you were going to say about the prince? I have driven away the fiend,” she added. The fiend was the name they had given her jealousy. “What did you begin to tell me about the prince? Why did you find it so tiresome?”
“Oh, it was intolerable!” he said, trying to pick up the thread of his interrupted thought. “He does not improve on closer acquaintance. If you want him defined, here he is: a prime, well-fed beast such as takes medals at the cattle shows, and nothing more,” he said, with a tone of vexation that interested her.
“No; how so?” she replied. “He’s seen a great deal, anyway; he’s cultured?”
“It’s an utterly different culture—their culture. He’s cultivated, one sees, simply to be able to despise culture, as they despise everything but animal pleasures.”
“But don’t you all care for these animal pleasures?” she said, and again he noticed a dark look in her eyes that avoided him.
“How is it you’re defending him?” he said, smiling.
“I’m not defending him, it’s nothing to me; but I imagine, if you had not cared for those pleasures yourself, you might have got out of them. But if it affords you satisfaction to gaze at Thérèse in the attire of Eve....”
“Again, the devil again,” Vronsky said, taking the hand she had laid on the table and kissing it.
“Yes; but I can’t help it. You don’t know what I have suffered waiting for you. I believe I’m not jealous. I’m not jealous: I believe you when you’re here; but when you’re away somewhere leading your life, so incomprehensible to me....”
She turned away from him, pulled the hook at last out of the crochet work, and rapidly, with the help of her forefinger, began working loop after loop of the wool that was dazzling white in the lamplight, while the slender wrist moved swiftly, nervously in the embroidered cuff.
“How was it, then? Where did you meet Alexey Alexandrovitch?” Her voice sounded in an unnatural and jarring tone.
“We ran up against each other in the doorway.”
“And he bowed to you like this?”
She drew a long face, and half-closing her eyes, quickly transformed her expression, folded her hands, and Vronsky suddenly saw in her beautiful face the very expression with which Alexey Alexandrovitch had bowed to him. He smiled, while she laughed gaily, with that sweet, deep laugh, which was one of her greatest charms.
“I don’t understand him in the least,” said Vronsky. “If after your avowal to him at your country house he had broken with you, if he had called me out—but this I can’t understand. How can he put up with such a position? He feels it, that’s evident.”
“He?” she said sneeringly. “He’s perfectly satisfied.”
“What are we all miserable for, when everything might be so happy?”
“Only not he. Don’t I know him, the falsity in which he’s utterly steeped?... Could one, with any feeling, live as he is living with me? He understands nothing, and feels nothing. Could a man of any feeling live in the same house with his unfaithful wife? Could he talk to her, call her ‘my dear’?”
And again she could not help mimicking him: “‘Anna, ma chère; Anna, dear!’”
“He’s not a man, not a human being—he’s a doll! No one knows him; but I know him. Oh, if I’d been in his place, I’d long ago have killed, have torn to pieces a wife like me. I wouldn’t have said, ‘Anna, ma chère’! He’s not a man, he’s an official machine. He doesn’t understand that I’m your wife, that he’s outside, that he’s superfluous.... Don’t let’s talk of him!...”
“You’re unfair, very unfair, dearest,” said Vronsky, trying to soothe her. “But never mind, don’t let’s talk of him. Tell me what you’ve been doing? What is the matter? What has been wrong with you, and what did the doctor say?”
She looked at him with mocking amusement. Evidently she had hit on other absurd and grotesque aspects in her husband and was awaiting the moment to give expression to them.
But he went on:
“I imagine that it’s not illness, but your condition. When will it be?”
The ironical light died away in her eyes, but a different smile, a consciousness of something, he did not know what, and of quiet melancholy, came over her face.
“Soon, soon. You say that our position is miserable, that we must put an end to it. If you knew how terrible it is to me, what I would give to be able to love you freely and boldly! I should not torture myself and torture you with my jealousy.... And it will come soon, but not as we expect.”
And at the thought of how it would come, she seemed so pitiable to herself that tears came into her eyes, and she could not go on. She laid her hand on his sleeve, dazzling and white with its rings in the lamplight.
“It won’t come as we suppose. I didn’t mean to say this to you, but you’ve made me. Soon, soon, all will be over, and we shall all, all be at peace, and suffer no more.”
“I don’t understand,” he said, understanding her.
“You asked when? Soon. And I shan’t live through it. Don’t interrupt me!” and she made haste to speak. “I know it; I know for certain. I shall die; and I’m very glad I shall die, and release myself and you.”
Tears dropped from her eyes; he bent down over her hand and began kissing it, trying to hide his emotion, which, he knew, had no sort of grounds, though he could not control it.
“Yes, it’s better so,” she said, tightly gripping his hand. “That’s the only way, the only way left us.”
He had recovered himself, and lifted his head.
“How absurd! What absurd nonsense you are talking!”
“No, it’s the truth.”
“What, what’s the truth?”
“That I shall die. I have had a dream.”
“A dream?” repeated Vronsky, and instantly he recalled the peasant of his dream.
“Yes, a dream,” she said. “It’s a long while since I dreamed it. I dreamed that I ran into my bedroom, that I had to get something there, to find out something; you know how it is in dreams,” she said, her eyes wide with horror; “and in the bedroom, in the corner, stood something.”
“Oh, what nonsense! How can you believe....”
But she would not let him interrupt her. What she was saying was too important to her.
“And the something turned round, and I saw it was a peasant with a disheveled beard, little, and dreadful looking. I wanted to run away, but he bent down over a sack, and was fumbling there with his hands....”
She showed how he had moved his hands. There was terror in her face. And Vronsky, remembering his dream, felt the same terror filling his soul.
“He was fumbling and kept talking quickly, quickly in French, you know: Il faut le battre, le fer, le broyer, le pétrir.... And in my horror I tried to wake up, and woke up ... but woke up in the dream. And I began asking myself what it meant. And Korney said to me: ‘In childbirth you’ll die, ma’am, you’ll die....’ And I woke up.”
“What nonsense, what nonsense!” said Vronsky; but he felt himself that there was no conviction in his voice.
“But don’t let’s talk of it. Ring the bell, I’ll have tea. And stay a little now; it’s not long I shall....”
But all at once she stopped. The expression of her face instantaneously changed. Horror and excitement were suddenly replaced by a look of soft, solemn, blissful attention. He could not comprehend the meaning of the change. She was listening to the stirring of the new life within her.
Alexey Alexandrovitch, after meeting Vronsky on his own steps, drove, as he had intended, to the Italian opera. He sat through two acts there, and saw everyone he had wanted to see. On returning home, he carefully scrutinized the hat stand, and noticing that there was not a military overcoat there, he went, as usual, to his own room. But, contrary to his usual habit, he did not go to bed, he walked up and down his study till three o’clock in the morning. The feeling of furious anger with his wife, who would not observe the proprieties and keep to the one stipulation he had laid on her, not to receive her lover in her own home, gave him no peace. She had not complied with his request, and he was bound to punish her and carry out his threat—obtain a divorce and take away his son. He knew all the difficulties connected with this course, but he had said he would do it, and now he must carry out his threat. Countess Lidia Ivanovna had hinted that this was the best way out of his position, and of late the obtaining of divorces had been brought to such perfection that Alexey Alexandrovitch saw a possibility of overcoming the formal difficulties. Misfortunes never come singly, and the affairs of the reorganization of the native tribes, and of the irrigation of the lands of the Zaraisky province, had brought such official worries upon Alexey Alexandrovitch that he had been of late in a continual condition of extreme irritability.
He did not sleep the whole night, and his fury, growing in a sort of vast, arithmetical progression, reached its highest limits in the morning. He dressed in haste, and as though carrying his cup full of wrath, and fearing to spill any over, fearing to lose with his wrath the energy necessary for the interview with his wife, he went into her room directly he heard she was up.
Anna, who had thought she knew her husband so well, was amazed at his appearance when he went in to her. His brow was lowering, and his eyes stared darkly before him, avoiding her eyes; his mouth was tightly and contemptuously shut. In his walk, in his gestures, in the sound of his voice there was a determination and firmness such as his wife had never seen in him. He went into her room, and without greeting her, walked straight up to her writing-table, and taking her keys, opened a drawer.
“What do you want?” she cried.
“Your lover’s letters,” he said.
“They’re not here,” she said, shutting the drawer; but from that action he saw he had guessed right, and roughly pushing away her hand, he quickly snatched a portfolio in which he knew she used to put her most important papers. She tried to pull the portfolio away, but he pushed her back.
“Sit down! I have to speak to you,” he said, putting the portfolio under his arm, and squeezing it so tightly with his elbow that his shoulder stood up. Amazed and intimidated, she gazed at him in silence.
“I told you that I would not allow you to receive your lover in this house.”
“I had to see him to....”
She stopped, not finding a reason.
“I do not enter into the details of why a woman wants to see her lover.”
“I meant, I only....” she said, flushing hotly. This coarseness of his angered her, and gave her courage. “Surely you must feel how easy it is for you to insult me?” she said.
“An honest man and an honest woman may be insulted, but to tell a thief he’s a thief is simply la constatation d’un fait.”
“This cruelty is something new I did not know in you.”
“You call it cruelty for a husband to give his wife liberty, giving her the honorable protection of his name, simply on the condition of observing the proprieties: is that cruelty?”
“It’s worse than cruel—it’s base, if you want to know!” Anna cried, in a rush of hatred, and getting up, she was going away.
“No!” he shrieked, in his shrill voice, which pitched a note higher than usual even, and his big hands clutching her by the arm so violently that red marks were left from the bracelet he was squeezing, he forcibly sat her down in her place.
“Base! If you care to use that word, what is base is to forsake husband and child for a lover, while you eat your husband’s bread!”
She bowed her head. She did not say what she had said the evening before to her lover, that he was her husband, and her husband was superfluous; she did not even think that. She felt all the justice of his words, and only said softly:
“You cannot describe my position as worse than I feel it to be myself; but what are you saying all this for?”
“What am I saying it for? what for?” he went on, as angrily. “That you may know that since you have not carried out my wishes in regard to observing outward decorum, I will take measures to put an end to this state of things.”
“Soon, very soon, it will end, anyway,” she said; and again, at the thought of death near at hand and now desired, tears came into her eyes.
“It will end sooner than you and your lover have planned! If you must have the satisfaction of animal passion....”
“Alexey Alexandrovitch! I won’t say it’s not generous, but it’s not like a gentleman to strike anyone who’s down.”
“Yes, you only think of yourself! But the sufferings of a man who was your husband have no interest for you. You don’t care that his whole life is ruined, that he is thuff ... thuff....”
Alexey Alexandrovitch was speaking so quickly that he stammered, and was utterly unable to articulate the word “suffering.” In the end he pronounced it “thuffering.” She wanted to laugh, and was immediately ashamed that anything could amuse her at such a moment. And for the first time, for an instant, she felt for him, put herself in his place, and was sorry for him. But what could she say or do? Her head sank, and she sat silent. He too was silent for some time, and then began speaking in a frigid, less shrill voice, emphasizing random words that had no special significance.
“I came to tell you....” he said.
She glanced at him. “No, it was my fancy,” she thought, recalling the expression of his face when he stumbled over the word “suffering.” “No; can a man with those dull eyes, with that self-satisfied complacency, feel anything?”
“I cannot change anything,” she whispered.
“I have come to tell you that I am going tomorrow to Moscow, and shall not return again to this house, and you will receive notice of what I decide through the lawyer into whose hands I shall intrust the task of getting a divorce. My son is going to my sister’s,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, with an effort recalling what he had meant to say about his son.
“You take Seryozha to hurt me,” she said, looking at him from under her brows. “You do not love him.... Leave me Seryozha!”
“Yes, I have lost even my affection for my son, because he is associated with the repulsion I feel for you. But still I shall take him. Good-bye!”
And he was going away, but now she detained him.
“Alexey Alexandrovitch, leave me Seryozha!” she whispered once more. “I have nothing else to say. Leave Seryozha till my ... I shall soon be confined; leave him!”
Alexey Alexandrovitch flew into a rage, and, snatching his hand from her, he went out of the room without a word.
The waiting-room of the celebrated Petersburg lawyer was full when Alexey Alexandrovitch entered it. Three ladies—an old lady, a young lady, and a merchant’s wife—and three gentlemen—one a German banker with a ring on his finger, the second a merchant with a beard, and the third a wrathful-looking government clerk in official uniform, with a cross on his neck—had obviously been waiting a long while already. Two clerks were writing at tables with scratching pens. The appurtenances of the writing-tables, about which Alexey Alexandrovitch was himself very fastidious, were exceptionally good. He could not help observing this. One of the clerks, without getting up, turned wrathfully to Alexey Alexandrovitch, half closing his eyes. “What are you wanting?”
He replied that he had to see the lawyer on some business.
“He is engaged,” the clerk responded severely, and he pointed with his pen at the persons waiting, and went on writing.
“Can’t he spare time to see me?” said Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“He has no time free; he is always busy. Kindly wait your turn.”
“Then I must trouble you to give him my card,” Alexey Alexandrovitch said with dignity, seeing the impossibility of preserving his incognito.
The clerk took the card and, obviously not approving of what he read on it, went to the door.
Alexey Alexandrovitch was in principle in favor of the publicity of legal proceedings, though for some higher official considerations he disliked the application of the principle in Russia, and disapproved of it, as far as he could disapprove of anything instituted by authority of the Emperor. His whole life had been spent in administrative work, and consequently, when he did not approve of anything, his disapproval was softened by the recognition of the inevitability of mistakes and the possibility of reform in every department. In the new public law courts he disliked the restrictions laid on the lawyers conducting cases. But till then he had had nothing to do with the law courts, and so had disapproved of their publicity simply in theory; now his disapprobation was strengthened by the unpleasant impression made on him in the lawyer’s waiting room.
“Coming immediately,” said the clerk; and two minutes later there did actually appear in the doorway the large figure of an old solicitor who had been consulting with the lawyer himself.
The lawyer was a little, squat, bald man, with a dark, reddish beard, light-colored long eyebrows, and an overhanging brow. He was attired as though for a wedding, from his cravat to his double watch-chain and varnished boots. His face was clever and manly, but his dress was dandified and in bad taste.
“Pray walk in,” said the lawyer, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch; and, gloomily ushering Karenin in before him, he closed the door.
“Won’t you sit down?” He indicated an armchair at a writing-table covered with papers. He sat down himself, and, rubbing his little hands with short fingers covered with white hairs, he bent his head on one side. But as soon as he was settled in this position a moth flew over the table. The lawyer, with a swiftness that could never have been expected of him, opened his hands, caught the moth, and resumed his former attitude.
“Before beginning to speak of my business,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, following the lawyer’s movements with wondering eyes, “I ought to observe that the business about which I have to speak to you is to be strictly private.”
The lawyer’s overhanging reddish mustaches were parted in a scarcely perceptible smile.
“I should not be a lawyer if I could not keep the secrets confided to me. But if you would like proof....”
Alexey Alexandrovitch glanced at his face, and saw that the shrewd, gray eyes were laughing, and seemed to know all about it already.
“You know my name?” Alexey Alexandrovitch resumed.
“I know you and the good”—again he caught a moth—“work you are doing, like every Russian,” said the lawyer, bowing.
Alexey Alexandrovitch sighed, plucking up his courage. But having once made up his mind he went on in his shrill voice, without timidity—or hesitation, accentuating here and there a word.
“I have the misfortune,” Alexey Alexandrovitch began, “to have been deceived in my married life, and I desire to break off all relations with my wife by legal means—that is, to be divorced, but to do this so that my son may not remain with his mother.”
The lawyer’s gray eyes tried not to laugh, but they were dancing with irrepressible glee, and Alexey Alexandrovitch saw that it was not simply the delight of a man who has just got a profitable job: there was triumph and joy, there was a gleam like the malignant gleam he saw in his wife’s eyes.
“You desire my assistance in securing a divorce?”
“Yes, precisely so; but I ought to warn you that I may be wasting your time and attention. I have come simply to consult you as a preliminary step. I want a divorce, but the form in which it is possible is of great consequence to me. It is very possible that if that form does not correspond with my requirements I may give up a legal divorce.”
“Oh, that’s always the case,” said the lawyer, “and that’s always for you to decide.”
He let his eyes rest on Alexey Alexandrovitch’s feet, feeling that he might offend his client by the sight of his irrepressible amusement. He looked at a moth that flew before his nose, and moved his hands, but did not catch it from regard for Alexey Alexandrovitch’s position.
“Though in their general features our laws on this subject are known to me,” pursued Alexey Alexandrovitch, “I should be glad to have an idea of the forms in which such things are done in practice.”
“You would be glad,” the lawyer, without lifting his eyes, responded, adopting, with a certain satisfaction, the tone of his client’s remarks, “for me to lay before you all the methods by which you could secure what you desire?”
And on receiving an assuring nod from Alexey Alexandrovitch, he went on, stealing a glance now and then at Alexey Alexandrovitch’s face, which was growing red in patches.
“Divorce by our laws,” he said, with a slight shade of disapprobation of our laws, “is possible, as you are aware, in the following cases.... Wait a little!” he called to a clerk who put his head in at the door, but he got up all the same, said a few words to him, and sat down again. “... In the following cases: physical defect in the married parties, desertion without communication for five years,” he said, crooking a short finger covered with hair, “adultery” (this word he pronounced with obvious satisfaction), “subdivided as follows” (he continued to crook his fat fingers, though the three cases and their subdivisions could obviously not be classified together): “physical defect of the husband or of the wife, adultery of the husband or of the wife.” As by now all his fingers were used up, he uncrooked all his fingers and went on: “This is the theoretical view; but I imagine you have done me the honor to apply to me in order to learn its application in practice. And therefore, guided by precedents, I must inform you that in practice cases of divorce may all be reduced to the following—there’s no physical defect, I may assume, nor desertion?...”
Alexey Alexandrovitch bowed his head in assent.
“—May be reduced to the following: adultery of one of the married parties, and the detection in the fact of the guilty party by mutual agreement, and failing such agreement, accidental detection. It must be admitted that the latter case is rarely met with in practice,” said the lawyer, and stealing a glance at Alexey Alexandrovitch he paused, as a man selling pistols, after enlarging on the advantages of each weapon, might await his customer’s choice. But Alexey Alexandrovitch said nothing, and therefore the lawyer went on: “The most usual and simple, the sensible course, I consider, is adultery by mutual consent. I should not permit myself to express it so, speaking with a man of no education,” he said, “but I imagine that to you this is comprehensible.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch was, however, so perturbed that he did not immediately comprehend all the good sense of adultery by mutual consent, and his eyes expressed this uncertainty; but the lawyer promptly came to his assistance.
“People cannot go on living together—here you have a fact. And if both are agreed about it, the details and formalities become a matter of no importance. And at the same time this is the simplest and most certain method.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch fully understood now. But he had religious scruples, which hindered the execution of such a plan.
“That is out of the question in the present case,” he said. “Only one alternative is possible: undesigned detection, supported by letters which I have.”
At the mention of letters the lawyer pursed up his lips, and gave utterance to a thin little compassionate and contemptuous sound.
“Kindly consider,” he began, “cases of that kind are, as you are aware, under ecclesiastical jurisdiction; the reverend fathers are fond of going into the minutest details in cases of that kind,” he said with a smile, which betrayed his sympathy with the reverend fathers’ taste. “Letters may, of course, be a partial confirmation; but detection in the fact there must be of the most direct kind, that is, by eyewitnesses. In fact, if you do me the honor to intrust your confidence to me, you will do well to leave me the choice of the measures to be employed. If one wants the result, one must admit the means.”
“If it is so....” Alexey Alexandrovitch began, suddenly turning white; but at that moment the lawyer rose and again went to the door to speak to the intruding clerk.
“Tell her we don’t haggle over fees!” he said, and returned to Alexey Alexandrovitch.
On his way back he caught unobserved another moth. “Nice state my rep curtains will be in by the summer!” he thought, frowning.
“And so you were saying?...” he said.
“I will communicate my decision to you by letter,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, getting up, and he clutched at the table. After standing a moment in silence, he said: “From your words I may consequently conclude that a divorce may be obtained? I would ask you to let me know what are your terms.”
“It may be obtained if you give me complete liberty of action,” said the lawyer, not answering his question. “When can I reckon on receiving information from you?” he asked, moving towards the door, his eyes and his varnished boots shining.
“In a week’s time. Your answer as to whether you will undertake to conduct the case, and on what terms, you will be so good as to communicate to me.”
The lawyer bowed respectfully, let his client out of the door, and, left alone, gave himself up to his sense of amusement. He felt so mirthful that, contrary to his rules, he made a reduction in his terms to the haggling lady, and gave up catching moths, finally deciding that next winter he must have the furniture covered with velvet, like Sigonin’s.
Alexey Alexandrovitch had gained a brilliant victory at the sitting of the Commission of the 17th of August, but in the sequel this victory cut the ground from under his feet. The new commission for the inquiry into the condition of the native tribes in all its branches had been formed and despatched to its destination with an unusual speed and energy inspired by Alexey Alexandrovitch. Within three months a report was presented. The condition of the native tribes was investigated in its political, administrative, economic, ethnographic, material, and religious aspects. To all these questions there were answers admirably stated, and answers admitting no shade of doubt, since they were not a product of human thought, always liable to error, but were all the product of official activity. The answers were all based on official data furnished by governors and heads of churches, and founded on the reports of district magistrates and ecclesiastical superintendents, founded in their turn on the reports of parochial overseers and parish priests; and so all of these answers were unhesitating and certain. All such questions as, for instance, of the cause of failure of crops, of the adherence of certain tribes to their ancient beliefs, etc.—questions which, but for the convenient intervention of the official machine, are not, and cannot be solved for ages—received full, unhesitating solution. And this solution was in favor of Alexey Alexandrovitch’s contention. But Stremov, who had felt stung to the quick at the last sitting, had, on the reception of the commission’s report, resorted to tactics which Alexey Alexandrovitch had not anticipated. Stremov, carrying with him several members, went over to Alexey Alexandrovitch’s side, and not contenting himself with warmly defending the measure proposed by Karenin, proposed other more extreme measures in the same direction. These measures, still further exaggerated in opposition to what was Alexey Alexandrovitch’s fundamental idea, were passed by the commission, and then the aim of Stremov’s tactics became apparent. Carried to an extreme, the measures seemed at once to be so absurd that the highest authorities, and public opinion, and intellectual ladies, and the newspapers, all at the same time fell foul of them, expressing their indignation both with the measures and their nominal father, Alexey Alexandrovitch. Stremov drew back, affecting to have blindly followed Karenin, and to be astounded and distressed at what had been done. This meant the defeat of Alexey Alexandrovitch. But in spite of failing health, in spite of his domestic griefs, he did not give in. There was a split in the commission. Some members, with Stremov at their head, justified their mistake on the ground that they had put faith in the commission of revision, instituted by Alexey Alexandrovitch, and maintained that the report of the commission was rubbish, and simply so much waste paper. Alexey Alexandrovitch, with a following of those who saw the danger of so revolutionary an attitude to official documents, persisted in upholding the statements obtained by the revising commission. In consequence of this, in the higher spheres, and even in society, all was chaos, and although everyone was interested, no one could tell whether the native tribes really were becoming impoverished and ruined, or whether they were in a flourishing condition. The position of Alexey Alexandrovitch, owing to this, and partly owing to the contempt lavished on him for his wife’s infidelity, became very precarious. And in this position he took an important resolution. To the astonishment of the commission, he announced that he should ask permission to go himself to investigate the question on the spot. And having obtained permission, Alexey Alexandrovitch prepared to set off to these remote provinces.
Alexey Alexandrovitch’s departure made a great sensation, the more so as just before he started he officially returned the posting-fares allowed him for twelve horses, to drive to his destination.
“I think it very noble,” Betsy said about this to the Princess Myakaya. “Why take money for posting-horses when everyone knows that there are railways everywhere now?”
But Princess Myakaya did not agree, and the Princess Tverskaya’s opinion annoyed her indeed.
“It’s all very well for you to talk,” said she, “when you have I don’t know how many millions; but I am very glad when my husband goes on a revising tour in the summer. It’s very good for him and pleasant traveling about, and it’s a settled arrangement for me to keep a carriage and coachman on the money.”
On his way to the remote provinces Alexey Alexandrovitch stopped for three days at Moscow.
The day after his arrival he was driving back from calling on the governor-general. At the crossroads by Gazetoy Place, where there are always crowds of carriages and sledges, Alexey Alexandrovitch suddenly heard his name called out in such a loud and cheerful voice that he could not help looking round. At the corner of the pavement, in a short, stylish overcoat and a low-crowned fashionable hat, jauntily askew, with a smile that showed a gleam of white teeth and red lips, stood Stepan Arkadyevitch, radiant, young, and beaming. He called him vigorously and urgently, and insisted on his stopping. He had one arm on the window of a carriage that was stopping at the corner, and out of the window were thrust the heads of a lady in a velvet hat, and two children. Stepan Arkadyevitch was smiling and beckoning to his brother-in-law. The lady smiled a kindly smile too, and she too waved her hand to Alexey Alexandrovitch. It was Dolly with her children.
Alexey Alexandrovitch did not want to see anyone in Moscow, and least of all his wife’s brother. He raised his hat and would have driven on, but Stepan Arkadyevitch told his coachman to stop, and ran across the snow to him.
“Well, what a shame not to have let us know! Been here long? I was at Dussots’ yesterday and saw ‘Karenin’ on the visitors’ list, but it never entered my head that it was you,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, sticking his head in at the window of the carriage, “or I should have looked you up. I am glad to see you!” he said, knocking one foot against the other to shake the snow off. “What a shame of you not to let us know!” he repeated.
“I had no time; I am very busy,” Alexey Alexandrovitch responded dryly.
“Come to my wife, she does so want to see you.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch unfolded the rug in which his frozen feet were wrapped, and getting out of his carriage made his way over the snow to Darya Alexandrovna.
“Why, Alexey Alexandrovitch, what are you cutting us like this for?” said Dolly, smiling.
“I was very busy. Delighted to see you!” he said in a tone clearly indicating that he was annoyed by it. “How are you?”
“Tell me, how is my darling Anna?”
Alexey Alexandrovitch mumbled something and would have gone on. But Stepan Arkadyevitch stopped him.
“I tell you what we’ll do tomorrow. Dolly, ask him to dinner. We’ll ask Koznishev and Pestsov, so as to entertain him with our Moscow celebrities.”
“Yes, please, do come,” said Dolly; “we will expect you at five, or six o’clock, if you like. How is my darling Anna? How long....”
“She is quite well,” Alexey Alexandrovitch mumbled, frowning. “Delighted!” and he moved away towards his carriage.
“You will come?” Dolly called after him.
Alexey Alexandrovitch said something which Dolly could not catch in the noise of the moving carriages.
“I shall come round tomorrow!” Stepan Arkadyevitch shouted to him.
Alexey Alexandrovitch got into his carriage, and buried himself in it so as neither to see nor be seen.
“Queer fish!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch to his wife, and glancing at his watch, he made a motion of his hand before his face, indicating a caress to his wife and children, and walked jauntily along the pavement.
“Stiva! Stiva!” Dolly called, reddening.
He turned round.
“I must get coats, you know, for Grisha and Tanya. Give me the money.”
“Never mind; you tell them I’ll pay the bill!” and he vanished, nodding genially to an acquaintance who drove by.
The next day was Sunday. Stepan Arkadyevitch went to the Grand Theater to a rehearsal of the ballet, and gave Masha Tchibisova, a pretty dancing-girl whom he had just taken under his protection, the coral necklace he had promised her the evening before, and behind the scenes in the dim daylight of the theater, managed to kiss her pretty little face, radiant over her present. Besides the gift of the necklace he wanted to arrange with her about meeting after the ballet. After explaining that he could not come at the beginning of the ballet, he promised he would come for the last act and take her to supper. From the theater Stepan Arkadyevitch drove to Ohotny Row, selected himself the fish and asparagus for dinner, and by twelve o’clock was at Dussots’, where he had to see three people, luckily all staying at the same hotel: Levin, who had recently come back from abroad and was staying there; the new head of his department, who had just been promoted to that position, and had come on a tour of revision to Moscow; and his brother-in-law, Karenin, whom he must see, so as to be sure of bringing him to dinner.
Stepan Arkadyevitch liked dining, but still better he liked to give a dinner, small, but very choice, both as regards the food and drink and as regards the selection of guests. He particularly liked the program of that day’s dinner. There would be fresh perch, asparagus, and la pièce de resistance—first-rate, but quite plain, roast beef, and wines to suit: so much for the eating and drinking. Kitty and Levin would be of the party, and that this might not be obtrusively evident, there would be a girl cousin too, and young Shtcherbatsky, and la pièce de resistance among the guests—Sergey Koznishev and Alexey Alexandrovitch. Sergey Ivanovitch was a Moscow man, and a philosopher; Alexey Alexandrovitch a Petersburger, and a practical politician. He was asking, too, the well-known eccentric enthusiast, Pestsov, a liberal, a great talker, a musician, an historian, and the most delightfully youthful person of fifty, who would be a sauce or garnish for Koznishev and Karenin. He would provoke them and set them off.
The second installment for the forest had been received from the merchant and was not yet exhausted; Dolly had been very amiable and good-humored of late, and the idea of the dinner pleased Stepan Arkadyevitch from every point of view. He was in the most light-hearted mood. There were two circumstances a little unpleasant, but these two circumstances were drowned in the sea of good-humored gaiety which flooded the soul of Stepan Arkadyevitch. These two circumstances were: first, that on meeting Alexey Alexandrovitch the day before in the street he had noticed that he was cold and reserved with him, and putting the expression of Alexey Alexandrovitch’s face and the fact that he had not come to see them or let them know of his arrival with the rumors he had heard about Anna and Vronsky, Stepan Arkadyevitch guessed that something was wrong between the husband and wife.
That was one disagreeable thing. The other slightly disagreeable fact was that the new head of his department, like all new heads, had the reputation already of a terrible person, who got up at six o’clock in the morning, worked like a horse, and insisted on his subordinates working in the same way. Moreover, this new head had the further reputation of being a bear in his manners, and was, according to all reports, a man of a class in all respects the opposite of that to which his predecessor had belonged, and to which Stepan Arkadyevitch had hitherto belonged himself. On the previous day Stepan Arkadyevitch had appeared at the office in a uniform, and the new chief had been very affable and had talked to him as to an acquaintance. Consequently Stepan Arkadyevitch deemed it his duty to call upon him in his non-official dress. The thought that the new chief might not tender him a warm reception was the other unpleasant thing. But Stepan Arkadyevitch instinctively felt that everything would come round all right. “They’re all people, all men, like us poor sinners; why be nasty and quarrelsome?” he thought as he went into the hotel.
“Good-day, Vassily,” he said, walking into the corridor with his hat cocked on one side, and addressing a footman he knew; “why, you’ve let your whiskers grow! Levin, number seven, eh? Take me up, please. And find out whether Count Anitchkin” (this was the new head) “is receiving.”
“Yes, sir,” Vassily responded, smiling. “You’ve not been to see us for a long while.”
“I was here yesterday, but at the other entrance. Is this number seven?”
Levin was standing with a peasant from Tver in the middle of the room, measuring a fresh bearskin, when Stepan Arkadyevitch went in.
“What! you killed him?” cried Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Well done! A she-bear? How are you, Arhip!”
He shook hands with the peasant and sat down on the edge of a chair, without taking off his coat and hat.
“Come, take off your coat and stay a little,” said Levin, taking his hat.
“No, I haven’t time; I’ve only looked in for a tiny second,” answered Stepan Arkadyevitch. He threw open his coat, but afterwards did take it off, and sat on for a whole hour, talking to Levin about hunting and the most intimate subjects.
“Come, tell me, please, what you did abroad? Where have you been?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, when the peasant had gone.
“Oh, I stayed in Germany, in Prussia, in France, and in England—not in the capitals, but in the manufacturing towns, and saw a great deal that was new to me. And I’m glad I went.”
“Yes, I knew your idea of the solution of the labor question.”
“Not a bit: in Russia there can be no labor question. In Russia the question is that of the relation of the working people to the land; though the question exists there too—but there it’s a matter of repairing what’s been ruined, while with us....”
Stepan Arkadyevitch listened attentively to Levin.
“Yes, yes!” he said, “it’s very possible you’re right. But I’m glad you’re in good spirits, and are hunting bears, and working, and interested. Shtcherbatsky told me another story—he met you—that you were in such a depressed state, talking of nothing but death....”
“Well, what of it? I’ve not given up thinking of death,” said Levin. “It’s true that it’s high time I was dead; and that all this is nonsense. It’s the truth I’m telling you. I do value my idea and my work awfully; but in reality only consider this: all this world of ours is nothing but a speck of mildew, which has grown up on a tiny planet. And for us to suppose we can have something great—ideas, work—it’s all dust and ashes.”
“But all that’s as old as the hills, my boy!”
“It is old; but do you know, when you grasp this fully, then somehow everything becomes of no consequence. When you understand that you will die tomorrow, if not today, and nothing will be left, then everything is so unimportant! And I consider my idea very important, but it turns out really to be as unimportant too, even if it were carried out, as doing for that bear. So one goes on living, amusing oneself with hunting, with work—anything so as not to think of death!”
Stepan Arkadyevitch smiled a subtle affectionate smile as he listened to Levin.
“Well, of course! Here you’ve come round to my point. Do you remember you attacked me for seeking enjoyment in life? Don’t be so severe, O moralist!”
“No; all the same, what’s fine in life is....” Levin hesitated—“oh, I don’t know. All I know is that we shall soon be dead.”
“Why so soon?”
“And do you know, there’s less charm in life, when one thinks of death, but there’s more peace.”
“On the contrary, the finish is always the best. But I must be going,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting up for the tenth time.
“Oh, no, stay a bit!” said Levin, keeping him. “Now, when shall we see each other again? I’m going tomorrow.”
“I’m a nice person! Why, that’s just what I came for! You simply must come to dinner with us today. Your brother’s coming, and Karenin, my brother-in-law.”
“You don’t mean to say he’s here?” said Levin, and he wanted to inquire about Kitty. He had heard at the beginning of the winter that she was at Petersburg with her sister, the wife of the diplomat, and he did not know whether she had come back or not; but he changed his mind and did not ask. “Whether she’s coming or not, I don’t care,” he said to himself.
“So you’ll come?”
“At five o’clock, then, and not evening dress.”
And Stepan Arkadyevitch got up and went down below to the new head of his department. Instinct had not misled Stepan Arkadyevitch. The terrible new head turned out to be an extremely amenable person, and Stepan Arkadyevitch lunched with him and stayed on, so that it was four o’clock before he got to Alexey Alexandrovitch.
Alexey Alexandrovitch, on coming back from church service, had spent the whole morning indoors. He had two pieces of business before him that morning; first, to receive and send on a deputation from the native tribes which was on its way to Petersburg, and now at Moscow; secondly, to write the promised letter to the lawyer. The deputation, though it had been summoned at Alexey Alexandrovitch’s instigation, was not without its discomforting and even dangerous aspect, and he was glad he had found it in Moscow. The members of this deputation had not the slightest conception of their duty and the part they were to play. They naïvely believed that it was their business to lay before the commission their needs and the actual condition of things, and to ask assistance of the government, and utterly failed to grasp that some of their statements and requests supported the contention of the enemy’s side, and so spoiled the whole business. Alexey Alexandrovitch was busily engaged with them for a long while, drew up a program for them from which they were not to depart, and on dismissing them wrote a letter to Petersburg for the guidance of the deputation. He had his chief support in this affair in the Countess Lidia Ivanovna. She was a specialist in the matter of deputations, and no one knew better than she how to manage them, and put them in the way they should go. Having completed this task, Alexey Alexandrovitch wrote the letter to the lawyer. Without the slightest hesitation he gave him permission to act as he might judge best. In the letter he enclosed three of Vronsky’s notes to Anna, which were in the portfolio he had taken away.
Since Alexey Alexandrovitch had left home with the intention of not returning to his family again, and since he had been at the lawyer’s and had spoken, though only to one man, of his intention, since especially he had translated the matter from the world of real life to the world of ink and paper, he had grown more and more used to his own intention, and by now distinctly perceived the feasibility of its execution.
He was sealing the envelope to the lawyer, when he heard the loud tones of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s voice. Stepan Arkadyevitch was disputing with Alexey Alexandrovitch’s servant, and insisting on being announced.
“No matter,” thought Alexey Alexandrovitch, “so much the better. I will inform him at once of my position in regard to his sister, and explain why it is I can’t dine with him.”
“Come in!” he said aloud, collecting his papers, and putting them in the blotting-paper.
“There, you see, you’re talking nonsense, and he’s at home!” responded Stepan Arkadyevitch’s voice, addressing the servant, who had refused to let him in, and taking off his coat as he went, Oblonsky walked into the room. “Well, I’m awfully glad I’ve found you! So I hope....” Stepan Arkadyevitch began cheerfully.
“I cannot come,” Alexey Alexandrovitch said coldly, standing and not asking his visitor to sit down.
Alexey Alexandrovitch had thought to pass at once into those frigid relations in which he ought to stand with the brother of a wife against whom he was beginning a suit for divorce. But he had not taken into account the ocean of kindliness brimming over in the heart of Stepan Arkadyevitch.
Stepan Arkadyevitch opened wide his clear, shining eyes.
“Why can’t you? What do you mean?” he asked in perplexity, speaking in French. “Oh, but it’s a promise. And we’re all counting on you.”
“I want to tell you that I can’t dine at your house, because the terms of relationship which have existed between us must cease.”
“How? How do you mean? What for?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with a smile.
“Because I am beginning an action for divorce against your sister, my wife. I ought to have....”
But, before Alexey Alexandrovitch had time to finish his sentence, Stepan Arkadyevitch was behaving not at all as he had expected. He groaned and sank into an armchair.
“No, Alexey Alexandrovitch! What are you saying?” cried Oblonsky, and his suffering was apparent in his face.
“It is so.”
“Excuse me, I can’t, I can’t believe it!”
Alexey Alexandrovitch sat down, feeling that his words had not had the effect he anticipated, and that it would be unavoidable for him to explain his position, and that, whatever explanations he might make, his relations with his brother-in-law would remain unchanged.
“Yes, I am brought to the painful necessity of seeking a divorce,” he said.
“I will say one thing, Alexey Alexandrovitch. I know you for an excellent, upright man; I know Anna—excuse me, I can’t change my opinion of her—for a good, an excellent woman; and so, excuse me, I cannot believe it. There is some misunderstanding,” said he.
“Oh, if it were merely a misunderstanding!...”
“Pardon, I understand,” interposed Stepan Arkadyevitch. “But of course.... One thing: you must not act in haste. You must not, you must not act in haste!”
“I am not acting in haste,” Alexey Alexandrovitch said coldly, “but one cannot ask advice of anyone in such a matter. I have quite made up my mind.”
“This is awful!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “I would do one thing, Alexey Alexandrovitch. I beseech you, do it!” he said. “No action has yet been taken, if I understand rightly. Before you take advice, see my wife, talk to her. She loves Anna like a sister, she loves you, and she’s a wonderful woman. For God’s sake, talk to her! Do me that favor, I beseech you!”
Alexey Alexandrovitch pondered, and Stepan Arkadyevitch looked at him sympathetically, without interrupting his silence.
“You will go to see her?”
“I don’t know. That was just why I have not been to see you. I imagine our relations must change.”
“Why so? I don’t see that. Allow me to believe that apart from our connection you have for me, at least in part, the same friendly feeling I have always had for you ... and sincere esteem,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, pressing his hand. “Even if your worst suppositions were correct, I don’t—and never would—take on myself to judge either side, and I see no reason why our relations should be affected. But now, do this, come and see my wife.”
“Well, we look at the matter differently,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch coldly. “However, we won’t discuss it.”
“No; why shouldn’t you come today to dine, anyway? My wife’s expecting you. Please, do come. And, above all, talk it over with her. She’s a wonderful woman. For God’s sake, on my knees, I implore you!”
“If you so much wish it, I will come,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, sighing.
And, anxious to change the conversation, he inquired about what interested them both—the new head of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s department, a man not yet old, who had suddenly been promoted to so high a position.
Alexey Alexandrovitch had previously felt no liking for Count Anitchkin, and had always differed from him in his opinions. But now, from a feeling readily comprehensible to officials—that hatred felt by one who has suffered a defeat in the service for one who has received a promotion, he could not endure him.
“Well, have you seen him?” said Alexey Alexandrovitch with a malignant smile.
“Of course; he was at our sitting yesterday. He seems to know his work capitally, and to be very energetic.”
“Yes, but what is his energy directed to?” said Alexey Alexandrovitch. “Is he aiming at doing anything, or simply undoing what’s been done? It’s the great misfortune of our government—this paper administration, of which he’s a worthy representative.”
“Really, I don’t know what fault one could find with him. His policy I don’t know, but one thing—he’s a very nice fellow,” answered Stepan Arkadyevitch. “I’ve just been seeing him, and he’s really a capital fellow. We lunched together, and I taught him how to make, you know that drink, wine and oranges. It’s so cooling. And it’s a wonder he didn’t know it. He liked it awfully. No, really he’s a capital fellow.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch glanced at his watch.
“Why, good heavens, it’s four already, and I’ve still to go to Dolgovushin’s! So please come round to dinner. You can’t imagine how you will grieve my wife and me.”
The way in which Alexey Alexandrovitch saw his brother-in-law out was very different from the manner in which he had met him.
“I’ve promised, and I’ll come,” he answered wearily.
“Believe me, I appreciate it, and I hope you won’t regret it,” answered Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling.
And, putting on his coat as he went, he patted the footman on the head, chuckled, and went out.
“At five o’clock, and not evening dress, please,” he shouted once more, turning at the door.
It was past five, and several guests had already arrived, before the host himself got home. He went in together with Sergey Ivanovitch Koznishev and Pestsov, who had reached the street door at the same moment. These were the two leading representatives of the Moscow intellectuals, as Oblonsky had called them. Both were men respected for their character and their intelligence. They respected each other, but were in complete and hopeless disagreement upon almost every subject, not because they belonged to opposite parties, but precisely because they were of the same party (their enemies refused to see any distinction between their views); but, in that party, each had his own special shade of opinion. And since no difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions, they never agreed in any opinion, and had long, indeed, been accustomed to jeer without anger, each at the other’s incorrigible aberrations.
They were just going in at the door, talking of the weather, when Stepan Arkadyevitch overtook them. In the drawing-room there were already sitting Prince Alexander Dmitrievitch Shtcherbatsky, young Shtcherbatsky, Turovtsin, Kitty, and Karenin.
Stepan Arkadyevitch saw immediately that things were not going well in the drawing-room without him. Darya Alexandrovna, in her best gray silk gown, obviously worried about the children, who were to have their dinner by themselves in the nursery, and by her husband’s absence, was not equal to the task of making the party mix without him. All were sitting like so many priests’ wives on a visit (so the old prince expressed it), obviously wondering why they were there, and pumping up remarks simply to avoid being silent. Turovtsin—good, simple man—felt unmistakably a fish out of water, and the smile with which his thick lips greeted Stepan Arkadyevitch said, as plainly as words: “Well, old boy, you have popped me down in a learned set! A drinking party now, or the Château des Fleurs, would be more in my line!” The old prince sat in silence, his bright little eyes watching Karenin from one side, and Stepan Arkadyevitch saw that he had already formed a phrase to sum up that politician of whom guests were invited to partake as though he were a sturgeon. Kitty was looking at the door, calling up all her energies to keep her from blushing at the entrance of Konstantin Levin. Young Shtcherbatsky, who had not been introduced to Karenin, was trying to look as though he were not in the least conscious of it. Karenin himself had followed the Petersburg fashion for a dinner with ladies and was wearing evening dress and a white tie. Stepan Arkadyevitch saw by his face that he had come simply to keep his promise, and was performing a disagreeable duty in being present at this gathering. He was indeed the person chiefly responsible for the chill benumbing all the guests before Stepan Arkadyevitch came in.
On entering the drawing-room Stepan Arkadyevitch apologized, explaining that he had been detained by that prince, who was always the scapegoat for all his absences and unpunctualities, and in one moment he had made all the guests acquainted with each other, and, bringing together Alexey Alexandrovitch and Sergey Koznishev, started them on a discussion of the Russification of Poland, into which they immediately plunged with Pestsov. Slapping Turovtsin on the shoulder, he whispered something comic in his ear, and set him down by his wife and the old prince. Then he told Kitty she was looking very pretty that evening, and presented Shtcherbatsky to Karenin. In a moment he had so kneaded together the social dough that the drawing-room became very lively, and there was a merry buzz of voices. Konstantin Levin was the only person who had not arrived. But this was so much the better, as going into the dining-room, Stepan Arkadyevitch found to his horror that the port and sherry had been procured from Depré, and not from Levy, and, directing that the coachman should be sent off as speedily as possible to Levy’s, he was going back to the drawing-room.
In the dining-room he was met by Konstantin Levin.
“I’m not late?”
“You can never help being late!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, taking his arm.
“Have you a lot of people? Who’s here?” asked Levin, unable to help blushing, as he knocked the snow off his cap with his glove.
“All our own set. Kitty’s here. Come along, I’ll introduce you to Karenin.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch, for all his liberal views, was well aware that to meet Karenin was sure to be felt a flattering distinction, and so treated his best friends to this honor. But at that instant Konstantin Levin was not in a condition to feel all the gratification of making such an acquaintance. He had not seen Kitty since that memorable evening when he met Vronsky, not counting, that is, the moment when he had had a glimpse of her on the highroad. He had known at the bottom of his heart that he would see her here today. But to keep his thoughts free, he had tried to persuade himself that he did not know it. Now when he heard that she was here, he was suddenly conscious of such delight, and at the same time of such dread, that his breath failed him and he could not utter what he wanted to say.
“What is she like, what is she like? Like what she used to be, or like what she was in the carriage? What if Darya Alexandrovna told the truth? Why shouldn’t it be the truth?” he thought.
“Oh, please, introduce me to Karenin,” he brought out with an effort, and with a desperately determined step he walked into the drawing-room and beheld her.
She was not the same as she used to be, nor was she as she had been in the carriage; she was quite different.
She was scared, shy, shame-faced, and still more charming from it. She saw him the very instant he walked into the room. She had been expecting him. She was delighted, and so confused at her own delight that there was a moment, the moment when he went up to her sister and glanced again at her, when she, and he, and Dolly, who saw it all, thought she would break down and would begin to cry. She crimsoned, turned white, crimsoned again, and grew faint, waiting with quivering lips for him to come to her. He went up to her, bowed, and held out his hand without speaking. Except for the slight quiver of her lips and the moisture in her eyes that made them brighter, her smile was almost calm as she said:
“How long it is since we’ve seen each other!” and with desperate determination she pressed his hand with her cold hand.
“You’ve not seen me, but I’ve seen you,” said Levin, with a radiant smile of happiness. “I saw you when you were driving from the railway station to Ergushovo.”
“When?” she asked, wondering.
“You were driving to Ergushovo,” said Levin, feeling as if he would sob with the rapture that was flooding his heart. “And how dared I associate a thought of anything not innocent with this touching creature? And, yes, I do believe it’s true what Darya Alexandrovna told me,” he thought.
Stepan Arkadyevitch took him by the arm and led him away to Karenin.
“Let me introduce you.” He mentioned their names.
“Very glad to meet you again,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch coldly, shaking hands with Levin.
“You are acquainted?” Stepan Arkadyevitch asked in surprise.
“We spent three hours together in the train,” said Levin smiling, “but got out, just as in a masquerade, quite mystified—at least I was.”
“Nonsense! Come along, please,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, pointing in the direction of the dining-room.
The men went into the dining-room and went up to a table, laid with six sorts of spirits and as many kinds of cheese, some with little silver spades and some without, caviar, herrings, preserves of various kinds, and plates with slices of French bread.
The men stood round the strong-smelling spirits and salt delicacies, and the discussion of the Russification of Poland between Koznishev, Karenin, and Pestsov died down in anticipation of dinner.
Sergey Ivanovitch was unequaled in his skill in winding up the most heated and serious argument by some unexpected pinch of Attic salt that changed the disposition of his opponent. He did this now.
Alexey Alexandrovitch had been maintaining that the Russification of Poland could only be accomplished as a result of larger measures which ought to be introduced by the Russian government.
Pestsov insisted that one country can only absorb another when it is the more densely populated.
Koznishev admitted both points, but with limitations. As they were going out of the drawing-room to conclude the argument, Koznishev said, smiling:
“So, then, for the Russification of our foreign populations there is but one method—to bring up as many children as one can. My brother and I are terribly in fault, I see. You married men, especially you, Stepan Arkadyevitch, are the real patriots: what number have you reached?” he said, smiling genially at their host and holding out a tiny wine-glass to him.
Everyone laughed, and Stepan Arkadyevitch with particular good humor.
“Oh, yes, that’s the best method!” he said, munching cheese and filling the wine-glass with a special sort of spirit. The conversation dropped at the jest.
“This cheese is not bad. Shall I give you some?” said the master of the house. “Why, have you been going in for gymnastics again?” he asked Levin, pinching his muscle with his left hand. Levin smiled, bent his arm, and under Stepan Arkadyevitch’s fingers the muscles swelled up like a sound cheese, hard as a knob of iron, through the fine cloth of the coat.
“What biceps! A perfect Samson!”
“I imagine great strength is needed for hunting bears,” observed Alexey Alexandrovitch, who had the mistiest notions about the chase. He cut off and spread with cheese a wafer of bread fine as a spider-web.
“Not at all. Quite the contrary; a child can kill a bear,” he said, with a slight bow moving aside for the ladies, who were approaching the table.
“You have killed a bear, I’ve been told!” said Kitty, trying assiduously to catch with her fork a perverse mushroom that would slip away, and setting the lace quivering over her white arm. “Are there bears on your place?” she added, turning her charming little head to him and smiling.
There was apparently nothing extraordinary in what she said, but what unutterable meaning there was for him in every sound, in every turn of her lips, her eyes, her hand as she said it! There was entreaty for forgiveness, and trust in him, and tenderness—soft, timid tenderness—and promise and hope and love for him, which he could not but believe in and which choked him with happiness.
“No, we’ve been hunting in the Tver province. It was coming back from there that I met your beau-frère in the train, or your beau-frère’s brother-in-law,” he said with a smile. “It was an amusing meeting.”
And he began telling with droll good-humor how, after not sleeping all night, he had, wearing an old fur-lined, full-skirted coat, got into Alexey Alexandrovitch’s compartment.
“The conductor, forgetting the proverb, would have chucked me out on account of my attire; but thereupon I began expressing my feelings in elevated language, and ... you, too,” he said, addressing Karenin and forgetting his name, “at first would have ejected me on the ground of the old coat, but afterwards you took my part, for which I am extremely grateful.”
“The rights of passengers generally to choose their seats are too ill-defined,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, rubbing the tips of his fingers on his handkerchief.
“I saw you were in uncertainty about me,” said Levin, smiling good-naturedly, “but I made haste to plunge into intellectual conversation to smooth over the defects of my attire.” Sergey Ivanovitch, while he kept up a conversation with their hostess, had one ear for his brother, and he glanced askance at him. “What is the matter with him today? Why such a conquering hero?” he thought. He did not know that Levin was feeling as though he had grown wings. Levin knew she was listening to his words and that she was glad to listen to him. And this was the only thing that interested him. Not in that room only, but in the whole world, there existed for him only himself, with enormously increased importance and dignity in his own eyes, and she. He felt himself on a pinnacle that made him giddy, and far away down below were all those nice excellent Karenins, Oblonskys, and all the world.
Quite without attracting notice, without glancing at them, as though there were no other places left, Stepan Arkadyevitch put Levin and Kitty side by side.
“Oh, you may as well sit there,” he said to Levin.
The dinner was as choice as the china, in which Stepan Arkadyevitch was a connoisseur. The soupe Marie-Louise was a splendid success; the tiny pies eaten with it melted in the mouth and were irreproachable. The two footmen and Matvey, in white cravats, did their duty with the dishes and wines unobtrusively, quietly, and swiftly. On the material side the dinner was a success; it was no less so on the immaterial. The conversation, at times general and at times between individuals, never paused, and towards the end the company was so lively that the men rose from the table, without stopping speaking, and even Alexey Alexandrovitch thawed.
Pestsov liked thrashing an argument out to the end, and was not satisfied with Sergey Ivanovitch’s words, especially as he felt the injustice of his view.
“I did not mean,” he said over the soup, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch, “mere density of population alone, but in conjunction with fundamental ideas, and not by means of principles.”
“It seems to me,” Alexey Alexandrovitch said languidly, and with no haste, “that that’s the same thing. In my opinion, influence over another people is only possible to the people which has the higher development, which....”
“But that’s just the question,” Pestsov broke in in his bass. He was always in a hurry to speak, and seemed always to put his whole soul into what he was saying. “In what are we to make higher development consist? The English, the French, the Germans, which is at the highest stage of development? Which of them will nationalize the other? We see the Rhine provinces have been turned French, but the Germans are not at a lower stage!” he shouted. “There is another law at work there.”
“I fancy that the greater influence is always on the side of true civilization,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, slightly lifting his eyebrows.
“But what are we to lay down as the outward signs of true civilization?” said Pestsov.
“I imagine such signs are generally very well known,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“But are they fully known?” Sergey Ivanovitch put in with a subtle smile. “It is the accepted view now that real culture must be purely classical; but we see most intense disputes on each side of the question, and there is no denying that the opposite camp has strong points in its favor.”
“You are for classics, Sergey Ivanovitch. Will you take red wine?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“I am not expressing my own opinion of either form of culture,” Sergey Ivanovitch said, holding out his glass with a smile of condescension, as to a child. “I only say that both sides have strong arguments to support them,” he went on, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch. “My sympathies are classical from education, but in this discussion I am personally unable to arrive at a conclusion. I see no distinct grounds for classical studies being given a preeminence over scientific studies.”
“The natural sciences have just as great an educational value,” put in Pestsov. “Take astronomy, take botany, or zoology with its system of general principles.”
“I cannot quite agree with that,” responded Alexey Alexandrovitch “It seems to me that one must admit that the very process of studying the forms of language has a peculiarly favorable influence on intellectual development. Moreover, it cannot be denied that the influence of the classical authors is in the highest degree moral, while, unfortunately, with the study of the natural sciences are associated the false and noxious doctrines which are the curse of our day.”
Sergey Ivanovitch would have said something, but Pestsov interrupted him in his rich bass. He began warmly contesting the justice of this view. Sergey Ivanovitch waited serenely to speak, obviously with a convincing reply ready.
“But,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, smiling subtly, and addressing Karenin, “One must allow that to weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of classical and scientific studies is a difficult task, and the question which form of education was to be preferred would not have been so quickly and conclusively decided if there had not been in favor of classical education, as you expressed it just now, its moral—disons le mot—anti-nihilist influence.”
“If it had not been for the distinctive property of anti-nihilistic influence on the side of classical studies, we should have considered the subject more, have weighed the arguments on both sides,” said Sergey Ivanovitch with a subtle smile, “we should have given elbow-room to both tendencies. But now we know that these little pills of classical learning possess the medicinal property of anti-nihilism, and we boldly prescribe them to our patients.... But what if they had no such medicinal property?” he wound up humorously.
At Sergey Ivanovitch’s little pills, everyone laughed; Turovtsin in especial roared loudly and jovially, glad at last to have found something to laugh at, all he ever looked for in listening to conversation.
Stepan Arkadyevitch had not made a mistake in inviting Pestsov. With Pestsov intellectual conversation never flagged for an instant. Directly Sergey Ivanovitch had concluded the conversation with his jest, Pestsov promptly started a new one.
“I can’t agree even,” said he, “that the government had that aim. The government obviously is guided by abstract considerations, and remains indifferent to the influence its measures may exercise. The education of women, for instance, would naturally be regarded as likely to be harmful, but the government opens schools and universities for women.”
And the conversation at once passed to the new subject of the education of women.
Alexey Alexandrovitch expressed the idea that the education of women is apt to be confounded with the emancipation of women, and that it is only so that it can be considered dangerous.
“I consider, on the contrary, that the two questions are inseparably connected together,” said Pestsov; “it is a vicious circle. Woman is deprived of rights from lack of education, and the lack of education results from the absence of rights. We must not forget that the subjection of women is so complete, and dates from such ages back that we are often unwilling to recognize the gulf that separates them from us,” said he.
“You said rights,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, waiting till Pestsov had finished, “meaning the right of sitting on juries, of voting, of presiding at official meetings, the right of entering the civil service, of sitting in parliament....”
“But if women, as a rare exception, can occupy such positions, it seems to me you are wrong in using the expression ‘rights.’ It would be more correct to say duties. Every man will agree that in doing the duty of a juryman, a witness, a telegraph clerk, we feel we are performing duties. And therefore it would be correct to say that women are seeking duties, and quite legitimately. And one can but sympathize with this desire to assist in the general labor of man.”
“Quite so,” Alexey Alexandrovitch assented. “The question, I imagine, is simply whether they are fitted for such duties.”
“They will most likely be perfectly fitted,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, “when education has become general among them. We see this....”
“How about the proverb?” said the prince, who had a long while been intent on the conversation, his little comical eyes twinkling. “I can say it before my daughter: her hair is long, because her wit is....”
“Just what they thought of the negroes before their emancipation!” said Pestsov angrily.
“What seems strange to me is that women should seek fresh duties,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, “while we see, unhappily, that men usually try to avoid them.”
“Duties are bound up with rights—power, money, honor; those are what women are seeking,” said Pestsov.
“Just as though I should seek the right to be a wet-nurse and feel injured because women are paid for the work, while no one will take me,” said the old prince.
Turovtsin exploded in a loud roar of laughter and Sergey Ivanovitch regretted that he had not made this comparison. Even Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled.
“Yes, but a man can’t nurse a baby,” said Pestsov, “while a woman....”
“No, there was an Englishman who did suckle his baby on board ship,” said the old prince, feeling this freedom in conversation permissible before his own daughters.
“There are as many such Englishmen as there would be women officials,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.
“Yes, but what is a girl to do who has no family?” put in Stepan Arkadyevitch, thinking of Masha Tchibisova, whom he had had in his mind all along, in sympathizing with Pestsov and supporting him.
“If the story of such a girl were thoroughly sifted, you would find she had abandoned a family—her own or a sister’s, where she might have found a woman’s duties,” Darya Alexandrovna broke in unexpectedly in a tone of exasperation, probably suspecting what sort of girl Stepan Arkadyevitch was thinking of.
“But we take our stand on principle as the ideal,” replied Pestsov in his mellow bass. “Woman desires to have rights, to be independent, educated. She is oppressed, humiliated by the consciousness of her disabilities.”
“And I’m oppressed and humiliated that they won’t engage me at the Foundling,” the old prince said again, to the huge delight of Turovtsin, who in his mirth dropped his asparagus with the thick end in the sauce.
Everyone took part in the conversation except Kitty and Levin. At first, when they were talking of the influence that one people has on another, there rose to Levin’s mind what he had to say on the subject. But these ideas, once of such importance in his eyes, seemed to come into his brain as in a dream, and had now not the slightest interest for him. It even struck him as strange that they should be so eager to talk of what was of no use to anyone. Kitty, too, should, one would have supposed, have been interested in what they were saying of the rights and education of women. How often she had mused on the subject, thinking of her friend abroad, Varenka, of her painful state of dependence, how often she had wondered about herself what would become of her if she did not marry, and how often she had argued with her sister about it! But it did not interest her at all. She and Levin had a conversation of their own, yet not a conversation, but some sort of mysterious communication, which brought them every moment nearer, and stirred in both a sense of glad terror before the unknown into which they were entering.
At first Levin, in answer to Kitty’s question how he could have seen her last year in the carriage, told her how he had been coming home from the mowing along the highroad and had met her.
“It was very, very early in the morning. You were probably only just awake. Your mother was asleep in the corner. It was an exquisite morning. I was walking along wondering who it could be in a four-in-hand? It was a splendid set of four horses with bells, and in a second you flashed by, and I saw you at the window—you were sitting like this, holding the strings of your cap in both hands, and thinking awfully deeply about something,” he said, smiling. “How I should like to know what you were thinking about then! Something important?”
“Wasn’t I dreadfully untidy?” she wondered, but seeing the smile of ecstasy these reminiscences called up, she felt that the impression she had made had been very good. She blushed and laughed with delight; “Really I don’t remember.”
“How nicely Turovtsin laughs!” said Levin, admiring his moist eyes and shaking chest.
“Have you known him long?” asked Kitty.
“Oh, everyone knows him!”
“And I see you think he’s a horrid man?”
“Not horrid, but nothing in him.”
“Oh, you’re wrong! And you must give up thinking so directly!” said Kitty. “I used to have a very poor opinion of him too, but he, he’s an awfully nice and wonderfully good-hearted man. He has a heart of gold.”
“How could you find out what sort of heart he has?”
“We are great friends. I know him very well. Last winter, soon after ... you came to see us,” she said, with a guilty and at the same time confiding smile, “all Dolly’s children had scarlet fever, and he happened to come and see her. And only fancy,” she said in a whisper, “he felt so sorry for her that he stayed and began to help her look after the children. Yes, and for three weeks he stopped with them, and looked after the children like a nurse.”
“I am telling Konstantin Dmitrievitch about Turovtsin in the scarlet fever,” she said, bending over to her sister.
“Yes, it was wonderful, noble!” said Dolly, glancing towards Turovtsin, who had become aware they were talking of him, and smiling gently to him. Levin glanced once more at Turovtsin, and wondered how it was he had not realized all this man’s goodness before.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, and I’ll never think ill of people again!” he said gaily, genuinely expressing what he felt at the moment.
Connected with the conversation that had sprung up on the rights of women there were certain questions as to the inequality of rights in marriage improper to discuss before the ladies. Pestsov had several times during dinner touched upon these questions, but Sergey Ivanovitch and Stepan Arkadyevitch carefully drew him off them.
When they rose from the table and the ladies had gone out, Pestsov did not follow them, but addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch, began to expound the chief ground of inequality. The inequality in marriage, in his opinion, lay in the fact that the infidelity of the wife and the infidelity of the husband are punished unequally, both by the law and by public opinion. Stepan Arkadyevitch went hurriedly up to Alexey Alexandrovitch and offered him a cigar.
“No, I don’t smoke,” Alexey Alexandrovitch answered calmly, and as though purposely wishing to show that he was not afraid of the subject, he turned to Pestsov with a chilly smile.
“I imagine that such a view has a foundation in the very nature of things,” he said, and would have gone on to the drawing-room. But at this point Turovtsin broke suddenly and unexpectedly into the conversation, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“You heard, perhaps, about Pryatchnikov?” said Turovtsin, warmed up by the champagne he had drunk, and long waiting for an opportunity to break the silence that had weighed on him. “Vasya Pryatchnikov,” he said, with a good-natured smile on his damp, red lips, addressing himself principally to the most important guest, Alexey Alexandrovitch, “they told me today he fought a duel with Kvitsky at Tver, and has killed him.”
Just as it always seems that one bruises oneself on a sore place, so Stepan Arkadyevitch felt now that the conversation would by ill luck fall every moment on Alexey Alexandrovitch’s sore spot. He would again have got his brother-in-law away, but Alexey Alexandrovitch himself inquired, with curiosity:
“What did Pryatchnikov fight about?”
“His wife. Acted like a man, he did! Called him out and shot him!”
“Ah!” said Alexey Alexandrovitch indifferently, and lifting his eyebrows, he went into the drawing-room.
“How glad I am you have come,” Dolly said with a frightened smile, meeting him in the outer drawing-room. “I must talk to you. Let’s sit here.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch, with the same expression of indifference, given him by his lifted eyebrows, sat down beside Darya Alexandrovna, and smiled affectedly.
“It’s fortunate,” said he, “especially as I was meaning to ask you to excuse me, and to be taking leave. I have to start tomorrow.”
Darya Alexandrovna was firmly convinced of Anna’s innocence, and she felt herself growing pale and her lips quivering with anger at this frigid, unfeeling man, who was so calmly intending to ruin her innocent friend.
“Alexey Alexandrovitch,” she said, with desperate resolution looking him in the face, “I asked you about Anna, you made me no answer. How is she?”
“She is, I believe, quite well, Darya Alexandrovna,” replied Alexey Alexandrovitch, not looking at her.
“Alexey Alexandrovitch, forgive me, I have no right ... but I love Anna as a sister, and esteem her; I beg, I beseech you to tell me what is wrong between you? what fault do you find with her?”
Alexey Alexandrovitch frowned, and almost closing his eyes, dropped his head.
“I presume that your husband has told you the grounds on which I consider it necessary to change my attitude to Anna Arkadyevna?” he said, not looking her in the face, but eyeing with displeasure Shtcherbatsky, who was walking across the drawing-room.
“I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it, I can’t believe it!” Dolly said, clasping her bony hands before her with a vigorous gesture. She rose quickly, and laid her hand on Alexey Alexandrovitch’s sleeve. “We shall be disturbed here. Come this way, please.”
Dolly’s agitation had an effect on Alexey Alexandrovitch. He got up and submissively followed her to the schoolroom. They sat down to a table covered with an oilcloth cut in slits by penknives.
“I don’t, I don’t believe it!” Dolly said, trying to catch his glance that avoided her.
“One cannot disbelieve facts, Darya Alexandrovna,” said he, with an emphasis on the word “facts.”
“But what has she done?” said Darya Alexandrovna. “What precisely has she done?”
“She has forsaken her duty, and deceived her husband. That’s what she has done,” said he.
“No, no, it can’t be! No, for God’s sake, you are mistaken,” said Dolly, putting her hands to her temples and closing her eyes.
Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled coldly, with his lips alone, meaning to signify to her and to himself the firmness of his conviction; but this warm defense, though it could not shake him, reopened his wound. He began to speak with greater heat.
“It is extremely difficult to be mistaken when a wife herself informs her husband of the fact—informs him that eight years of her life, and a son, all that’s a mistake, and that she wants to begin life again,” he said angrily, with a snort.
“Anna and sin—I cannot connect them, I cannot believe it!”
“Darya Alexandrovna,” he said, now looking straight into Dolly’s kindly, troubled face, and feeling that his tongue was being loosened in spite of himself, “I would give a great deal for doubt to be still possible. When I doubted, I was miserable, but it was better than now. When I doubted, I had hope; but now there is no hope, and still I doubt of everything. I am in such doubt of everything that I even hate my son, and sometimes do not believe he is my son. I am very unhappy.”
He had no need to say that. Darya Alexandrovna had seen that as soon as he glanced into her face; and she felt sorry for him, and her faith in the innocence of her friend began to totter.
“Oh, this is awful, awful! But can it be true that you are resolved on a divorce?”
“I am resolved on extreme measures. There is nothing else for me to do.”
“Nothing else to do, nothing else to do....” she replied, with tears in her eyes. “Oh no, don’t say nothing else to do!” she said.
“What is horrible in a trouble of this kind is that one cannot, as in any other—in loss, in death—bear one’s trouble in peace, but that one must act,” said he, as though guessing her thought. “One must get out of the humiliating position in which one is placed; one can’t live à trois.”
“I understand, I quite understand that,” said Dolly, and her head sank. She was silent for a little, thinking of herself, of her own grief in her family, and all at once, with an impulsive movement, she raised her head and clasped her hands with an imploring gesture. “But wait a little! You are a Christian. Think of her! What will become of her, if you cast her off?”
“I have thought, Darya Alexandrovna, I have thought a great deal,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch. His face turned red in patches, and his dim eyes looked straight before him. Darya Alexandrovna at that moment pitied him with all her heart. “That was what I did indeed when she herself made known to me my humiliation; I left everything as of old. I gave her a chance to reform, I tried to save her. And with what result? She would not regard the slightest request—that she should observe decorum,” he said, getting heated. “One may save anyone who does not want to be ruined; but if the whole nature is so corrupt, so depraved, that ruin itself seems to be her salvation, what’s to be done?”
“Anything, only not divorce!” answered Darya Alexandrovna
“But what is anything?”
“No, it is awful! She will be no one’s wife, she will be lost!”
“What can I do?” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, raising his shoulders and his eyebrows. The recollection of his wife’s last act had so incensed him that he had become frigid, as at the beginning of the conversation. “I am very grateful for your sympathy, but I must be going,” he said, getting up.
“No, wait a minute. You must not ruin her. Wait a little; I will tell you about myself. I was married, and my husband deceived me; in anger and jealousy, I would have thrown up everything, I would myself.... But I came to myself again; and who did it? Anna saved me. And here I am living on. The children are growing up, my husband has come back to his family, and feels his fault, is growing purer, better, and I live on.... I have forgiven it, and you ought to forgive!”
Alexey Alexandrovitch heard her, but her words had no effect on him now. All the hatred of that day when he had resolved on a divorce had sprung up again in his soul. He shook himself, and said in a shrill, loud voice:
“Forgive I cannot, and do not wish to, and I regard it as wrong. I have done everything for this woman, and she has trodden it all in the mud to which she is akin. I am not a spiteful man, I have never hated anyone, but I hate her with my whole soul, and I cannot even forgive her, because I hate her too much for all the wrong she has done me!” he said, with tones of hatred in his voice.
“Love those that hate you....” Darya Alexandrovna whispered timorously.
Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled contemptuously. That he knew long ago, but it could not be applied to his case.
“Love those that hate you, but to love those one hates is impossible. Forgive me for having troubled you. Everyone has enough to bear in his own grief!” And regaining his self-possession, Alexey Alexandrovitch quietly took leave and went away.