"If he hadn't been going away, I could have understood your answer and his too. But your husband ought to be above that," Betsy was saying.
"It's not for my husband; for myself I don't wish it. Don't say that!" answered Anna's excited voice.
"Yes, but you must care to say good-bye to a man who has shot himself on your account...."
"That's just why I don't want to."
With a dismayed and guilty expression, Alexey Alexandrovitch stopped and would have gone back unobserved. But reflecting that this would be undignified, he turned back again, and clearing his throat, he went up to the bedroom. The voices were silent, and he went in.
Anna, in a gray dressing gown, with a crop of short clustering black curls on her round head, was sitting on a settee. The eagerness died out of her face, as it always did, at the sight of her husband; she dropped her head and looked round uneasily at Betsy. Betsy, dressed in the height of the latest fashion, in a hat that towered somewhere over her head like a shade on a lamp, in a blue dress with violet crossway stripes slanting one way on the bodice and the other way on the skirt, was sitting beside Anna, her tall flat figure held erect. Bowing her head, she greeted Alexey Alexandrovitch with an ironical smile.
"Ah!" she said, as though surprised. "I'm very glad you're at home. You never put in an appearance anywhere, and I haven't seen you ever since Anna has been ill. I have heard all about it—your anxiety. Yes, you're a wonderful husband!" she said, with a meaning and affable air, as though she were bestowing an order of magnanimity on him for his conduct to his wife.
Alexey Alexandrovitch bowed frigidly, and kissing his wife's hand, asked how she was.
"Better, I think," she said, avoiding his eyes.
"But you've rather a feverish-looking color," he said, laying stress on the word "feverish."
"We've been talking too much," said Betsy. "I feel it's selfishness on my part, and I am going away."
She got up, but Anna, suddenly flushing, quickly caught at her hand.
"No, wait a minute, please. I must tell you...no, you." she turned to Alexey Alexandrovitch, and her neck and brow were suffused with crimson. "I won't and can't keep anything secret from you," she said.
Alexey Alexandrovitch cracked his fingers and bowed his head.
"Betsy's been telling me that Count Vronsky wants to come here to say good-bye before his departure for Tashkend." She did not look at her husband, and was evidently in haste to have everything out, however hard it might be for her. "I told her I could not receive him."
"You said, my dear, that it would depend on Alexey Alexandrovitch," Betsy corrected her.
"Oh, no, I can't receive him; and what object would there...." She stopped suddenly, and glanced inquiringly at her husband (he did not look at her). "In short, I don't wish it...."
Alexey Alexandrovitch advanced and would have taken her hand.
Her first impulse was to jerk back her hand from the damp hand with big swollen veins that sought hers, but with an obvious effort to control herself she pressed his hand.
"I am very grateful to you for your confidence, but..." he said, feeling with confusion and annoyance that what he could decide easily and clearly by himself, he could not discuss before Princess Tverskaya, who to him stood for the incarnation of that brute force which would inevitably control him in the life he led in the eyes of the world, and hinder him from giving way to his feeling of love and forgiveness. He stopped short, looking at Princess Tverskaya.
"Well, good-bye, my darling," said Betsy, getting up. She kissed Anna, and went out. Alexey Alexandrovitch escorted her out.
"Alexey Alexandrovitch! I know you are a truly magnanimous man," said Betsy, stopping in the little drawing-room, and with special warmth shaking hands with him once more. "I am an outsider, but I so love her and respect you that I venture to advise. Receive him. Alexey Vronsky is the soul of honor, and he is going away to Tashkend."
"Thank you, princess, for your sympathy and advice. But the question of whether my wife can or cannot see anyone she must decide herself."
He said this from habit, lifting his brows with dignity, and reflected immediately that whatever his words might be, there could be no dignity in his position. And he saw this by the suppressed, malicious, and ironical smile with which Betsy glanced at him after this phrase.
Alexey Alexandrovitch took leave of Betsy in the drawing room, and went to his wife. She was lying down, but hearing his steps she sat up hastily in her former attitude, and looked in a scared way at him. He saw she had been crying.
"I am very grateful for your confidence in me." He repeated gently in Russian the phrase he had said in Betsy's presence in French, and sat down beside her. When he spoke to her in Russian, using the Russian "thou" of intimacy and affection, it was insufferably irritating to Anna. "And I am very grateful for your decision. I, too, imagine that since he is going away, there is no sort of necessity for Count Vronsky to come here. However, if..."
"But I've said so already, so why repeat it?" Anna suddenly interrupted him with an irritation she could not succeed in repressing. "No sort of necessity," she thought, "for a man to come and say good-bye to the woman he loves, for whom he was ready to ruin himself, and has ruined himself, and who cannot live without him. No sort of necessity!" she compressed her lips, and dropped her burning eyes to his hands with their swollen veins. They were rubbing each other.
"Let us never speak of it," she added more calmly.
"I have left this question to you to decide, and I am very glad to see..." Alexey Alexandrovitch was beginning.
"That my wish coincides with your own," she finished quickly, exasperated at his talking so slowly while she knew beforehand all he would say.
"Yes," he assented; "and Princess Tverskaya's interference in the most difficult private affairs is utterly uncalled for. She especially..."
"I don't believe a word of what's said about her," said Anna quickly. "I know she really cares for me."
Alexey Alexandrovitch sighed and said nothing. She played nervously with the tassel of her dressing-gown, glancing at him with that torturing sensation of physical repulsion for which she blamed herself, though she could not control it. Her only desire now was to be rid of his oppressive presence.
"I have just sent for the doctor," said Alexey Alexandrovitch.
"I am very well; what do I want the doctor for?"
"No, the little one cries, and they say the nurse hasn't enough milk."
"Why didn't you let me nurse her, when I begged to? Anyway" (Alexey Alexandrovitch knew what was meant by that "anyway"), "she's a baby, and they're killing her." She rang the bell and ordered the baby to be brought her. "I begged to nurse her, I wasn't allowed to, and now I'm blamed for it."
"I don't blame..."
"Yes, you do blame me! My God! why didn't I die!" And she broke into sobs. "Forgive me, I'm nervous, I'm unjust," she said, controlling herself, "but do go away..."
"No, it can't go on like this," Alexey Alexandrovitch said to himself decidedly as he left his wife's room.
Never had the impossibility of his position in the world's eyes, and his wife's hatred of him, and altogether the might of that mysterious brutal force that guided his life against his spiritual inclinations, and exacted conformity with its decrees and change in his attitude to his wife, been presented to him with such distinctness as that day. He saw clearly that all the world and his wife expected of him something, but what exactly, he could not make out. He felt that this was rousing in his soul a feeling of anger destructive of his peace of mind and of all the good of his achievement. He believed that for Anna herself it would be better to break off all relations with Vronsky; but if they all thought this out of the question, he was even ready to allow these relations to be renewed, so long as the children were not disgraced, and he was not deprived of them nor forced to change his position. Bad as this might be, it was anyway better than a rupture, which would put her in a hopeless and shameful position, and deprive him of everything he cared for. But he felt helpless; he knew beforehand that every one was against him, and that he would not be allowed to do what seemed to him now so natural and right, but would be forced to do what was wrong, though it seemed the proper thing to them.
Before Betsy had time to walk out of the drawing-room, she was met in the doorway by Stepan Arkadyevitch, who had just come from Yeliseev's, where a consignment of fresh oysters had been received.
"Ah! princess! what a delightful meeting!" he began. "I've been to see you."
"A meeting for one minute, for I'm going," said Betsy, smiling and putting on her glove.
"Don't put on your glove yet, princess; let me kiss your hand. There's nothing I'm so thankful to the revival of the old fashions for as the kissing the hand." He kissed Betsy's hand. "When shall we see each other?"
"You don't deserve it," answered Betsy, smiling.
"Oh, yes, I deserve a great deal, for I've become a most serious person. I don't only manage my own affairs, but other people's too," he said, with a significant expression.
"Oh, I'm so glad!" answered Betsy, at once understanding that he was speaking of Anna. And going back into the drawing room, they stood in a corner. "He's killing her," said Betsy in a whisper full of meaning. "It's impossible, impossible..."
"I'm so glad you think so," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, shaking his head with a serious and sympathetically distressed expression, "that's what I've come to Petersburg for."
"The whole town's talking of it," she said. "It's an impossible position. She pines and pines away. He doesn't understand that she's one of those women who can't trifle with their feelings. One of two things: either let him take her away, act with energy, or give her a divorce. This is stifling her."
"Yes, yes...just so..." Oblonsky said, sighing. "That's what I've come for. At least not solely for that...I've been made a Kammerherr; of course, one has to say thank you. But the chief thing was having to settle this."
"Well, God help you!" said Betsy.
After accompanying Betsy to the outside hall, once more kissing her hand above the glove, at the point where the pulse beats, and murmuring to her such unseemly nonsense that she did not know whether to laugh or be angry, Stepan Arkadyevitch went to his sister. He found her in tears.
Although he happened to be bubbling over with good spirits, Stepan Arkadyevitch immediately and quite naturally fell into the sympathetic, poetically emotional tone which harmonized with her mood. He asked her how she was, and how she had spent the morning.
"Very, very miserably. Today and this morning and all past days and days to come," she said.
"I think you're giving way to pessimism. You must rouse yourself, you must look life in the face. I know it's hard, but..."
"I have heard it said that women love men even for their vices," Anna began suddenly, "but I hate him for his virtues. I can't live with him. Do you understand? the sight of him has a physical effect on me, it makes me beside myself. I can't, I can't live with him. What am I to do? I have been unhappy, and used to think one couldn't be more unhappy, but the awful state of things I am going through now, I could never have conceived. Would you believe it, that knowing he's a good man, a splendid man, that I'm not worth his little finger, still I hate him. I hate him for his generosity. And there's nothing left for me but..."
She would have said death, but Stepan Arkadyevitch would not let her finish.
"You are ill and overwrought," he said; "believe me, you're exaggerating dreadfully. There's nothing so terrible in it."
And Stepan Arkadyevitch smiled. No one else in Stepan Arkadyevitch's place, having to do with such despair, would have ventured to smile (the smile would have seemed brutal); but in his smile there was so much of sweetness and almost feminine tenderness that his smile did not wound, but softened and soothed. His gentle, soothing words and smiles were as soothing and softening as almond oil. And Anna soon felt this.
"No, Stiva," she said, "I'm lost, lost! worse than lost! I can't say yet that all is over; on the contrary, I feel that it's not over. I'm an overstrained string that must snap. But it's not ended yet...and it will have a fearful end."
"No matter, we must let the string be loosened, little by little. There's no position from which there is no way of escape."
"I have thought, and thought. Only one..."
Again he knew from her terrified eyes that this one way of escape in her thought was death, and he would not let her say it.
"Not at all," he said. "Listen to me. You can't see your own position as I can. Let me tell you candidly my opinion." Again he smiled discreetly his almond-oil smile. "I'll begin from the beginning. You married a man twenty years older than yourself. You married him without love and not knowing what love was. It was a mistake, let's admit."
"A fearful mistake!" said Anna.
"But I repeat, it's an accomplished fact. Then you had, let us say, the misfortune to love a man not your husband. That was a misfortune; but that, too, is an accomplished fact. And your husband knew it and forgave it." He stopped at each sentence, waiting for her to object, but she made no answer. "That's so. Now the question is: can you go on living with your husband? Do you wish it? Does he wish it?"
"I know nothing, nothing."
"But you said yourself that you can't endure him."
"No, I didn't say so. I deny it. I can't tell, I don't know anything about it."
"Yes, but let..."
"You can't understand. I feel I'm lying head downwards in a sort of pit, but I ought not to save myself. And I can't . . ."
"Never mind, we'll slip something under and pull you out. I understand you: I understand that you can't take it on yourself to express your wishes, your feelings."
"There's nothing, nothing I wish...except for it to be all over."
"But he sees this and knows it. And do you suppose it weighs on him any less than on you? You're wretched, he's wretched, and what good can come of it? while divorce would solve the difficulty completely." With some effort Stepan Arkadyevitch brought out his central idea, and looked significantly at her.
She said nothing, and shook her cropped head in dissent. But from the look in her face, that suddenly brightened into its old beauty, he saw that if she did not desire this, it was simply because it seemed to her unattainable happiness.
"I'm awfully sorry for you! And how happy I should be if I could arrange things!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling more boldly. "Don't speak, don't say a word! God grant only that I may speak as I feel. I'm going to him."
Anna looked at him with dreamy, shining eyes, and said nothing.
Stepan Arkadyevitch, with the same somewhat solemn expression with which he used to take his presidential chair at his board, walked into Alexey Alexandrovitch's room. Alexey Alexandrovitch was walking about his room with his hands behind his back, thinking of just what Stepan Arkadyevitch had been discussing with his wife.
"I'm not interrupting you?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, on the sight of his brother-in-law becoming suddenly aware of a sense of embarrassment unusual with him. To conceal this embarrassment he took out a cigarette case he had just bought that opened in a new way, and sniffing the leather, took a cigarette out of it.
"No. Do you want anything?" Alexey Alexandrovitch asked without eagerness.
"Yes, I wished...I wanted...yes, I wanted to talk to you," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, with surprise aware of an unaccustomed timidity.
This feeling was so unexpected and so strange that he did not believe it was the voice of conscience telling him that what he was meaning to do was wrong.
Stepan Arkadyevitch made an effort and struggled with the timidity that had come over him.
"I hope you believe in my love for my sister and my sincere affection and respect for you," he said, reddening.
Alexey Alexandrovitch stood still and said nothing, but his face struck Stepan Arkadyevitch by its expression of an unresisting sacrifice.
"I intended...I wanted to have a little talk with you about my sister and your mutual position," he said, still struggling with an unaccustomed constraint.
Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled mournfully, looked at his brother-in-law, and without answering went up to the table, took from it an unfinished letter, and handed it to his brother-in-law.
"I think unceasingly of the same thing. And here is what I had begun writing, thinking I could say it better by letter, and that my presence irritates her," he said, as he gave him the letter.
Stepan Arkadyevitch took the letter, looked with incredulous surprise at the lusterless eyes fixed so immovably on him, and began to read.
"I see that my presence is irksome to you. Painful as it is to me to believe it, I see that it is so, and cannot be otherwise. I don't blame you, and God is my witness that on seeing you at the time of your illness I resolved with my whole heart to forget all that had passed between us and to begin a new life. I do not regret, and shall never regret, what I have done; but I have desired one thing—your good, the good of your soul—and now I see I have not attained that. Tell me yourself what will give you true happiness and peace to your soul. I put myself entirely in your hands, and trust to your feeling of what's right."
Stepan Arkadyevitch handed back the letter, and with the same surprise continued looking at his brother-in-law, not knowing what to say. This silence was so awkward for both of them that Stepan Arkadyevitch's lips began twitching nervously, while he still gazed without speaking at Karenin's face.
"That's what I wanted to say to her," said Alexey Alexandrovitch, turning away.
"Yes, yes..." said Stepan Arkadyevitch, not able to answer for the tears that were choking him.
"Yes, yes, I understand you," he brought out at last.
"I want to know what she would like," said Alexey Alexandrovitch.
"I am afraid she does not understand her own position. She is not a judge," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, recovering himself. "She is crushed, simply crushed by your generosity. If she were to read this letter, she would be incapable of saying anything, she would only hang her head lower than ever."
"Yes, but what's to be done in that case? how explain, how find out her wishes?"
"If you will allow me to give my opinion, I think that it lies with you to point out directly the steps you consider necessary to end the position."
"So you consider it must be ended?" Alexey Alexandrovitch interrupted him. "But how?" he added, with a gesture of his hands before his eyes not usual with him. "I see no possible way out of it."
"There is some way of getting out of every position," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, standing up and becoming more cheerful. "There was a time when you thought of breaking off.... If you are convinced now that you cannot make each other happy..."
"Happiness may be variously understood. But suppose that I agree to everything, that I want nothing: what way is there of getting out of our position?"
"If you care to know my opinion," said Stepan Arkadyevitch with the same smile of softening, almond-oil tenderness with which he had been talking to Anna. His kindly smile was so winning that Alexey Alexandrovitch, feeling his own weakness and unconsciously swayed by it, was ready to believe what Stepan Arkadyevitch was saying.
"She will never speak out about it. But one thing is possible, one thing she might desire," he went on, "that is the cessation of your relations and all memories associated with them. To my thinking, in your position what's essential is the formation of a new attitude to one another. And that can only rest on a basis of freedom on both sides."
"Divorce," Alexey Alexandrovitch interrupted, in a tone of aversion.
"Yes, I imagine that divorce—yes, divorce," Stepan Arkadyevitch repeated, reddening. "That is from every point of view the most rational course for married people who find themselves in the position you are in. What can be done if married people find that life is impossible for them together? That may always happen."
Alexey Alexandrovitch sighed heavily and closed his eyes.
"There's only one point to be considered: is either of the parties desirous of forming new ties? If not, it is very simple," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, feeling more and more free from constraint.
Alexey Alexandrovitch, scowling with emotion, muttered something to himself, and made no answer. All that seemed so simple to Stepan Arkadyevitch, Alexey Alexandrovitch had thought over thousands of times. And, so far from being simple, it all seemed to him utterly impossible. Divorce, the details of which he knew by this time, seemed to him now out of the question, because the sense of his own dignity and respect for religion forbade his taking upon himself a fictitious charge of adultery, and still more suffering his wife, pardoned and beloved by him, to be caught in the fact and put to public shame. Divorce appeared to him impossible also on other still more weighty grounds.
What would become of his son in case of a divorce? To leave him with his mother was out of the question. The divorced mother would have her own illegitimate family, in which his position as a stepson and his education would not be good. Keep him with him? He knew that would be an act of vengeance on his part, and that he did not want. But apart from this, what more than all made divorce seem impossible to Alexey Alexandrovitch was, that by consenting to a divorce he would be completely ruining Anna. The saying of Darya Alexandrovna at Moscow, that in deciding on a divorce he was thinking of himself, and not considering that by this he would be ruining her irrevocably, had sunk into his heart. And connecting this saying with his forgiveness of her, with his devotion to the children, he understood it now in his own way. To consent to a divorce, to give her her freedom, meant in his thoughts to take from himself the last tie that bound him to life—the children whom he loved; and to take from her the last prop that stayed her on the path of right, to thrust her down to her ruin. If she were divorced, he knew she would join her life to Vronsky's, and their tie would be an illegitimate and criminal one, since a wife, by the interpretation of the ecclesiastical law, could not marry while her husband was living. "She will join him, and in a year or two he will throw her over, or she will form a new tie," thought Alexey Alexandrovitch. "And I, by agreeing to an unlawful divorce, shall be to blame for her ruin." He had thought it all over hundreds of times, and was convinced that a divorce was not at all simple, as Stepan Arkadyevitch had said, but was utterly impossible. He did not believe a single word Stepan Arkadyevitch said to him; to every word he had a thousand objections to make, but he listened to him, feeling that his words were the expression of that mighty brutal force which controlled his life and to which he would have to submit.
"The only question is on what terms you agree to give her a divorce. She does not want anything, does not dare ask you for anything, she leaves it all to your generosity."
"My God, my God! what for?" thought Alexey Alexandrovitch, remembering the details of divorce proceedings in which the husband took the blame on himself, and with just the same gesture with which Vronsky had done the same, he hid his face for shame in his hands.
"You are distressed, I understand that. But if you think it over..."
"Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any man take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also," thought Alexey Alexandrovitch.
"Yes, yes!" he cried in a shrill voice. "I will take the disgrace on myself, I will give up even my son, but...but wouldn't it be better to let it alone? Still you may do as you like..."
And turning away so that his brother-in-law could not see him, he sat down on a chair at the window. There was bitterness, there was shame in his heart, but with bitterness and shame he felt joy and emotion at the height of his own meekness.
Stepan Arkadyevitch was touched. He was silent for a space.
"Alexey Alexandrovitch, believe me, she appreciates your generosity," he said. "But it seems it was the will of God," he added, and as he said it felt how foolish a remark it was, and with difficulty repressed a smile at his own foolishness.
Alexey Alexandrovitch would have made some reply, but tears stopped him.
"This is an unhappy fatality, and one must accept it as such. I accept the calamity as an accomplished fact, and am doing my best to help both her and you," said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
When he went out of his brother-in-law's room he was touched, but that did not prevent him from being glad he had successfully brought the matter to a conclusion, for he felt certain Alexey Alexandrovitch would not go back on his words. To this satisfaction was added the fact that an idea had just struck him for a riddle turning on his successful achievement, that when the affair was over he would ask his wife and most intimate friends. He put this riddle into two or three different ways. "But I'll work it out better than that," he said to himself with a smile.
Vronsky's wound had been a dangerous one, though it did not touch the heart, and for several days he had lain between life and death. The first time he was able to speak, Varya, his brother's wife, was alone in the room.
"Varya," he said, looking sternly at her, "I shot myself by accident. And please never speak of it, and tell everyone so. Or else it's too ridiculous."
Without answering his words, Varya bent over him, and with a delighted smile gazed into his face. His eyes were clear, not feverish; but their expression was stern.
"Thank God!" she said. "You're not in pain?"
"A little here." He pointed to his breast.
"Then let me change your bandages."
In silence, stiffening his broad jaws, he looked at her while she bandaged him up. When she had finished he said:
"I'm not delirious. Please manage that there may be no talk of my having shot myself on purpose."
"No one does say so. Only I hope you won't shoot yourself by accident any more," she said, with a questioning smile.
"Of course I won't, but it would have been better..."
And he smiled gloomily.
In spite of these words and this smile, which so frightened Varya, when the inflammation was over and he began to recover, he felt that he was completely free from one part of his misery. By his action he had, as it were, washed away the shame and humiliation he had felt before. He could now think calmly of Alexey Alexandrovitch. He recognized all his magnanimity, but he did not now feel himself humiliated by it. Besides, he got back again into the beaten track of his life. He saw the possibility of looking men in the face again without shame, and he could live in accordance with his own habits. One thing he could not pluck out of his heart, though he never ceased struggling with it, was the regret, amounting to despair, that he had lost her forever. That now, having expiated his sin against the husband, he was bound to renounce her, and never in future to stand between her with her repentance and her husband, he had firmly decided in his heart; but he could not tear out of his heart his regret at the loss of her love, he could not erase from his memory those moments of happiness that he had so little prized at the time, and that haunted him in all their charm.
Serpuhovskoy had planned his appointment at Tashkend, and Vronsky agreed to the proposition without the slightest hesitation. But the nearer the time of departure came, the bitterer was the sacrifice he was making to what he thought his duty.
His wound had healed, and he was driving about making preparations for his departure for Tashkend.
"To see her once and then to bury myself, to die," he thought, and as he was paying farewell visits, he uttered this thought to Betsy. Charged with this commission, Betsy had gone to Anna, and brought him back a negative reply.
"So much the better," thought Vronsky, when he received the news. "It was a weakness, which would have shattered what strength I have left."
Next day Betsy herself came to him in the morning, and announced that she had heard through Oblonsky as a positive fact that Alexey Alexandrovitch had agreed to a divorce, and that therefore Vronsky could see Anna.
Without even troubling himself to see Betsy out of his flat, forgetting all his resolutions, without asking when he could see her, where her husband was, Vronsky drove straight to the Karenins'. He ran up the stairs seeing no one and nothing, and with a rapid step, almost breaking into a run, he went into her room. And without considering, without noticing whether there was anyone in the room or not, he flung his arms round her, and began to cover her face, her hands, her neck with kisses.
Anna had been preparing herself for this meeting, had thought what she would say to him, but she did not succeed in saying anything of it; his passion mastered her. She tried to calm him, to calm herself, but it was too late. His feeling infected her. Her lips trembled so that for a long while she could say nothing.
"Yes, you have conquered me, and I am yours," she said at last, pressing his hands to her bosom.
"So it had to be," he said. "So long as we live, it must be so. I know it now."
"That's true," she said, getting whiter and whiter, and embracing his head. "Still there is something terrible in it after all that has happened."
"It will all pass, it will all pass; we shall be so happy. Our love, if it could be stronger, will be strengthened by there being something terrible in it," he said, lifting his head and parting his strong teeth in a smile.
And she could not but respond with a smile—not to his words, but to the love in his eyes. She took his hand and stroked her chilled cheeks and cropped head with it.
"I don't know you with this short hair. You've grown so pretty. A boy. But how pale you are!"
"Yes, I'm very weak," she said, smiling. And her lips began trembling again.
"We'll go to Italy; you will get strong," he said.
"Can it be possible we could be like husband and wife, alone, your family with you?" she said, looking close into his eyes.
"It only seems strange to me that it can ever have been otherwise."
"Stiva says that he has agreed to everything, but I can't accept his generosity," she said, looking dreamily past Vronsky's face. "I don't want a divorce; it's all the same to me now. Only I don't know what he will decide about Seryozha."
He could not conceive how at this moment of their meeting she could remember and think of her son, of divorce. What did it all matter?
"Don't speak of that, don't think of it," he said, turning her hand in his, and trying to draw her attention to him; but still she did not look at him.
"Oh, why didn't I die! it would have been better," she said, and silent tears flowed down both her cheeks; but she tried to smile, so as not to wound him.
To decline the flattering and dangerous appointment at Tashkend would have been, Vronsky had till then considered, disgraceful and impossible. But now, without an instant's consideration, he declined it, and observing dissatisfaction in the most exalted quarters at this step, he immediately retired from the army.
A month later Alexey Alexandrovitch was left alone with his son in his house at Petersburg, while Anna and Vronsky had gone abroad, not having obtained a divorce, but having absolutely declined all idea of one.
Princess Shtcherbatskaya considered that it was out of the question for the wedding to take place before Lent, just five weeks off, since not half the trousseau could possibly be ready by that time. But she could not but agree with Levin that to fix it for after Lent would be putting it off too late, as an old aunt of Prince Shtcherbatsky's was seriously ill and might die, and then the mourning would delay the wedding still longer. And therefore, deciding to divide the trousseau into two parts—a larger and smaller trousseau—the princess consented to have the wedding before Lent. She determined that she would get the smaller part of the trousseau all ready now, and the larger part should be made later, and she was much vexed with Levin because he was incapable of giving her a serious answer to the question whether he agreed to this arrangement or not. The arrangement was the more suitable as, immediately after the wedding, the young people were to go to the country, where the more important part of the trousseau would not be wanted.
Levin still continued in the same delirious condition in which it seemed to him that he and his happiness constituted the chief and sole aim of all existence, and that he need not now think or care about anything, that everything was being done and would be done for him by others. He had not even plans and aims for the future, he left its arrangement to others, knowing that everything would be delightful. His brother Sergey Ivanovitch, Stepan Arkadyevitch, and the princess guided him in doing what he had to do. All he did was to agree entirely with everything suggested to him. His brother raised money for him, the princess advised him to leave Moscow after the wedding. Stepan Arkadyevitch advised him to go abroad. He agreed to everything. "Do what you choose, if it amuses you. I'm happy, and my happiness can be no greater and no less for anything you do," he thought. When he told Kitty of Stepan Arkadyevitch's advice that they should go abroad, he was much surprised that she did not agree to this, and had some definite requirements of her own in regard to their future. She knew Levin had work he loved in the country. She did not, as he saw, understand this work, she did not even care to understand it. But that did not prevent her from regarding it as a matter of great importance. And then she knew their home would be in the country, and she wanted to go, not abroad where she was not going to live, but to the place where their home would be. This definitely expressed purpose astonished Levin. But since he did not care either way, he immediately asked Stepan Arkadyevitch, as though it were his duty, to go down to the country and to arrange everything there to the best of his ability with the taste of which he had so much.
"But I say," Stepan Arkadyevitch said to him one day after he had come back from the country, where he had got everything ready for the young people's arrival, "have you a certificate of having been at confession?"
"No. But what of it?"
"You can't be married without it."
"Aie, aie, aie!" cried Levin. "Why, I believe it's nine years since I've taken the sacrament! I never thought of it."
"You're a pretty fellow!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch laughing, "and you call me a Nihilist! But this won't do, you know. You must take the sacrament."
"When? There are four days left now."
Stepan Arkadyevitch arranged this also, and Levin had to go to confession. To Levin, as to any unbeliever who respects the beliefs of others, it was exceedingly disagreeable to be present at and take part in church ceremonies. At this moment, in his present softened state of feeling, sensitive to everything, this inevitable act of hypocrisy was not merely painful to Levin, it seemed to him utterly impossible. Now, in the heyday of his highest glory, his fullest flower, he would have to be a liar or a scoffer. He felt incapable of being either. But though he repeatedly plied Stepan Arkadyevitch with questions as to the possibility of obtaining a certificate without actually communicating, Stepan Arkadyevitch maintained that it was out of the question.
"Besides, what is it to you—two days? And he's an awfully nice clever old fellow. He'll pull the tooth out for you so gently, you won't notice it."
Standing at the first litany, Levin attempted to revive in himself his youthful recollections of the intense religious emotion he had passed through between the ages of sixteen and seventeen.
But he was at once convinced that it was utterly impossible to him. He attempted to look at it all as an empty custom, having no sort of meaning, like the custom of paying calls. But he felt that he could not do that either. Levin found himself, like the majority of his contemporaries, in the vaguest position in regard to religion. Believe he could not, and at the same time he had no firm conviction that it was all wrong. And consequently, not being able to believe in the significance of what he was doing nor to regard it with indifference as an empty formality, during the whole period of preparing for the sacrament he was conscious of a feeling of discomfort and shame at doing what he did not himself understand, and what, as an inner voice told him, was therefore false and wrong.
During the service he would first listen to the prayers, trying to attach some meaning to them not discordant with his own views; then feeling that he could not understand and must condemn them, he tried not to listen to them, but to attend to the thoughts, observations, and memories which floated through his brain with extreme vividness during this idle time of standing in church.
He had stood through the litany, the evening service and the midnight service, and the next day he got up earlier than usual, and without having tea went at eight o'clock in the morning to the church for the morning service and the confession.
There was no one in the church but a beggar soldier, two old women, and the church officials. A young deacon, whose long back showed in two distinct halves through his thin undercassock, met him, and at once going to a little table at the wall read the exhortation. During the reading, especially at the frequent and rapid repetition of the same words, "Lord, have mercy on us!" which resounded with an echo, Levin felt that thought was shut and sealed up, and that it must not be touched or stirred now or confusion would be the result; and so standing behind the deacon he went on thinking of his own affairs, neither listening nor examining what was said. "It's wonderful what expression there is in her hand," he thought, remembering how they had been sitting the day before at a corner table. They had nothing to talk about, as was almost always the case at this time, and laying her hand on the table she kept opening and shutting it, and laughed herself as she watched her action. He remembered how he had kissed it and then had examined the lines on the pink palm. "Have mercy on us again!" thought Levin, crossing himself, bowing, and looking at the supple spring of the deacon's back bowing before him. "She took my hand then and examined the lines 'You've got a splendid hand,' she said." And he looked at his own hand and the short hand of the deacon. "Yes, now it will soon be over," he thought. "No, it seems to be beginning again," he thought, listening to the prayers. "No, it's just ending: there he is bowing down to the ground. That's always at the end."
The deacon's hand in a plush cuff accepted a three-rouble note unobtrusively, and the deacon said he would put it down in the register, and his new boots creaking jauntily over the flagstones of the empty church, he went to the altar. A moment later he peeped out thence and beckoned to Levin. Thought, till then locked up, began to stir in Levin's head, but he made haste to drive it away. "It will come right somehow," he thought, and went towards the altar-rails. He went up the steps, and turning to the right saw the priest. The priest, a little old man with a scanty grizzled beard and weary, good-natured eyes, was standing at the altar-rails, turning over the pages of a missal. With a slight bow to Levin he began immediately reading prayers in the official voice. When he had finished them he bowed down to the ground and turned, facing Levin.
"Christ is present here unseen, receiving your confession," he said, pointing to the crucifix. "Do you believe in all the doctrines of the Holy Apostolic Church?" the priest went on, turning his eyes away from Levin's face and folding his hands under his stole.
"I have doubted, I doubt everything," said Levin in a voice that jarred on himself, and he ceased speaking.
The priest waited a few seconds to see if he would not say more, and closing his eyes he said quickly, with a broad, Vladimirsky accent:
"Doubt is natural to the weakness of mankind, but we must pray that God in His mercy will strengthen us. What are your special sins?" he added, without the slightest interval, as though anxious not to waste time.
"My chief sin is doubt. I have doubts of everything, and for the most part I am in doubt."
"Doubt is natural to the weakness of mankind," the priest repeated the same words. "What do you doubt about principally?"
"I doubt of everything. I sometimes even have doubts of the existence of God," Levin could not help saying, and he was horrified at the impropriety of what he was saying. But Levin's words did not, it seemed, make much impression on the priest.
"What sort of doubt can there be of the existence of God?" he said hurriedly, with a just perceptible smile.
Levin did not speak.
"What doubt can you have of the Creator when you behold His creation?" the priest went on in the rapid customary jargon. "Who has decked the heavenly firmament with its lights? Who has clothed the earth in its beauty? How explain it without the Creator?" he said, looking inquiringly at Levin.
Levin felt that it would be improper to enter upon a metaphysical discussion with the priest, and so he said in reply merely what was a direct answer to the question.
"I don't know," he said.
"You don't know! Then how can you doubt that God created all?" the priest said, with good-humored perplexity.
"I don't understand it at all," said Levin, blushing, and feeling that his words were stupid, and that they could not be anything but stupid in such a position.
"Pray to God and beseech Him. Even the holy fathers had doubts, and prayed to God to strengthen their faith. The devil has great power, and we must resist him. Pray to God, beseech Him. Pray to God," he repeated hurriedly.
The priest paused for some time, as though meditating.
"You're about, I hear, to marry the daughter of my parishioner and son in the spirit, Prince Shtcherbatsky?" he resumed, with a smile. "An excellent young lady."
"Yes," answered Levin, blushing for the priest. "What does he want to ask me about this at confession for?" he thought.
And, as though answering his thought, the priest said to him:
"You are about to enter into holy matrimony, and God may bless you with offspring. Well, what sort of bringing-up can you give your babes if you do not overcome the temptation of the devil, enticing you to infidelity?" he said, with gentle reproachfulness. "If you love your child as a good father, you will not desire only wealth, luxury, honor for your infant; you will be anxious for his salvation, his spiritual enlightenment with the light of truth. Eh? What answer will you make him when the innocent babe asks you: 'Papa! who made all that enchants me in this world—the earth, the waters, the sun, the flowers, the grass?' Can you say to him: 'I don't know'? You cannot but know, since the Lord God in His infinite mercy has revealed it to us. Or your child will ask you: 'What awaits me in the life beyond the tomb?' What will you say to him when you know nothing? How will you answer him? Will you leave him to the allurements of the world and the devil? That's not right," he said, and he stopped, putting his head on one side and looking at Levin with his kindly, gentle eyes.
Levin made no answer this time, not because he did not want to enter upon a discussion with the priest, but because, so far, no one had ever asked him such questions, and when his babes did ask him those questions, it would be time enough to think about answering them.
"You are entering upon a time of life," pursued the priest, "when you must choose your path and keep to it. Pray to God that He may in His mercy aid you and have mercy on you!" he concluded. "Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, in the abundance and riches of His lovingkindness, forgives this child..." and, finishing the prayer of absolution, the priest blessed him and dismissed him.
On getting home that day, Levin had a delightful sense of relief at the awkward position being over and having been got through without his having to tell a lie. Apart from this, there remained a vague memory that what the kind, nice old fellow had said had not been at all so stupid as he had fancied at first, and that there was something in it that must be cleared up.
"Of course, not now," thought Levin, "but some day later on." Levin felt more than ever now that there was something not clear and not clean in his soul, and that, in regard to religion, he was in the same position which he perceived so clearly and disliked in others, and for which he blamed his friend Sviazhsky.
Levin spent that evening with his betrothed at Dolly's, and was in very high spirits. To explain to Stepan Arkadyevitch the state of excitement in which he found himself, he said that he was happy like a dog being trained to jump through a hoop, who, having at last caught the idea, and done what was required of him, whines and wags its tail, and jumps up to the table and the windows in its delight.
On the day of the wedding, according to the Russian custom (the princess and Darya Alexandrovna insisted on strictly keeping all the customs), Levin did not see his betrothed, and dined at his hotel with three bachelor friends, casually brought together at his rooms. These were Sergey Ivanovitch, Katavasov, a university friend, now professor of natural science, whom Levin had met in the street and insisted on taking home with him, and Tchirikov, his best man, a Moscow conciliation-board judge, Levin's companion in his bear-hunts. The dinner was a very merry one: Sergey Ivanovitch was in his happiest mood, and was much amused by Katavasov's originality. Katavasov, feeling his originality was appreciated and understood, made the most of it. Tchirikov always gave a lively and good-humored support to conversation of any sort.
"See, now," said Katavasov, drawling his words from a habit acquired in the lecture-room, "what a capable fellow was our friend Konstantin Dmitrievitch. I'm not speaking of present company, for he's absent. At the time he left the university he was fond of science, took an interest in humanity; now one-half of his abilities is devoted to deceiving himself, and the other to justifying the deceit."
"A more determined enemy of matrimony than you I never saw," said Sergey Ivanovitch.
"Oh, no, I'm not an enemy of matrimony. I'm in favor of division of labor. People who can do nothing else ought to rear people while the rest work for their happiness and enlightenment. That's how I look at it. To muddle up two trades is the error of the amateur; I'm not one of their number."
"How happy I shall be when I hear that you're in love!" said Levin. "Please invite me to the wedding."
"I'm in love now."
"Yes, with a cuttlefish! You know," Levin turned to his brother, "Mihail Semyonovitch is writing a work on the digestive organs of the..."
"Now, make a muddle of it! It doesn't matter what about. And the fact is, I certainly do love cuttlefish."
"But that's no hindrance to your loving your wife."
"The cuttlefish is no hindrance. The wife is the hindrance."
"Oh, you'll see! You care about farming, hunting,—well, you'd better look out!"
"Arhip was here today; he said there were a lot of elks in Prudno, and two bears," said Tchirikov.
"Well, you must go and get them without me."
"Ah, that's the truth," said Sergey Ivanovitch. "And you may say good-bye to bear-hunting for the future—your wife won't allow it!"
Levin smiled. The picture of his wife not letting him go was so pleasant that he was ready to renounce the delights of looking upon bears forever.
"Still, it's a pity they should get those two bears without you. Do you remember last time at Hapilovo? That was a delightful hunt!" said Tchirikov.
Levin had not the heart to disillusion him of the notion that there could be something delightful apart from her, and so said nothing.
"There's some sense in this custom of saying good-bye to bachelor life," said Sergey Ivanovitch. "However happy you may be, you must regret your freedom."
"And confess there is a feeling that you want to jump out of the window, like Gogol's bridegroom?"
"Of course there is, but it isn't confessed," said Katavasov, and he broke into loud laughter.
"Oh, well, the window's open. Let's start off this instant to Tver! There's a big she-bear; one can go right up to the lair. Seriously, let's go by the five o'clock! And here let them do what they like," said Tchirikov, smiling.
"Well, now, on my honor," said Levin, smiling, "I can't find in my heart that feeling of regret for my freedom."
"Yes, there's such a chaos in your heart just now that you can't find anything there," said Katavasov. "Wait a bit, when you set it to rights a little, you'll find it!"
"No; if so, I should have felt a little, apart from my feeling" (he could not say love before them) "and happiness, a certain regret at losing my freedom.... On the contrary, I am glad at the very loss of my freedom."
"Awful! It's a hopeless case!" said Katavasov. "Well, let's drink to his recovery, or wish that a hundredth part of his dreams may be realized—and that would be happiness such as never has been seen on earth!"
Soon after dinner the guests went away to be in time to be dressed for the wedding.
When he was left alone, and recalled the conversation of these bachelor friends, Levin asked himself: had he in his heart that regret for his freedom of which they had spoken? He smiled at the question. "Freedom! What is freedom for? Happiness is only in loving and wishing her wishes, thinking her thoughts, that is to say, not freedom at all—that's happiness!"
"But do I know her ideas, her wishes, her feelings?" some voice suddenly whispered to him. The smile died away from his face, and he grew thoughtful. And suddenly a strange feeling came upon him. There came over him a dread and doubt—doubt of everything.
"What if she does not love me? What if she's marrying me simply to be married? What if she doesn't see herself what she's doing?" he asked himself. "She may come to her senses, and only when she is being married realize that she does not and cannot love me." And strange, most evil thoughts of her began to come to him. He was jealous of Vronsky, as he had been a year ago, as though the evening he had seen her with Vronsky had been yesterday. He suspected she had not told him everything.
He jumped up quickly. "No, this can't go on!" he said to himself in despair. "I'll go to her; I'll ask her; I'll say for the last time: we are free, and hadn't we better stay so? Anything's better than endless misery, disgrace, unfaithfulness!" With despair in his heart and bitter anger against all men, against himself, against her, he went out of the hotel and drove to her house.
He found her in one of the back rooms. She was sitting on a chest and making some arrangements with her maid, sorting over heaps of dresses of different colors, spread on the backs of chairs and on the floor.
"Ah!" she cried, seeing him, and beaming with delight. "Kostya! Konstantin Dmitrievitch!" (These latter days she used these names almost alternately.) "I didn't expect you! I'm going through my wardrobe to see what's for whom..."
"Oh! that's very nice!" he said gloomily, looking at the maid.
"You can go, Dunyasha, I'll call you presently," said Kitty. "Kostya, what's the matter?" she asked, definitely adopting this familiar name as soon as the maid had gone out. She noticed his strange face, agitated and gloomy, and a panic came over her.
"Kitty! I'm in torture. I can't suffer alone," he said with despair in his voice, standing before her and looking imploringly into her eyes. He saw already from her loving, truthful face, that nothing could come of what he had meant to say, but yet he wanted her to reassure him herself. "I've come to say that there's still time. This can all be stopped and set right."
"What? I don't understand. What is the matter?"
"What I have said a thousand times over, and can't help thinking ...that I'm not worthy of you. You couldn't consent to marry me. Think a little. You've made a mistake. Think it over thoroughly. You can't love me.... If...better say so," he said, not looking at her. "I shall be wretched. Let people say what they like; anything's better than misery.... Far better now while there's still time...."
"I don't understand," she answered, panic-stricken; "you mean you want to give it up...don't want it?"
"Yes, if you don't love me."
"You're out of your mind!" she cried, turning crimson with vexation. But his face was so piteous, that she restrained her vexation, and flinging some clothes off an arm-chair, she sat down beside him. "What are you thinking? tell me all."
"I am thinking you can't love me. What can you love me for?"
"My God! what can I do?..." she said, and burst into tears.
"Oh! what have I done?" he cried, and kneeling before her, he fell to kissing her hands.
When the princess came into the room five minutes later, she found them completely reconciled. Kitty had not simply assured him that she loved him, but had gone so far—in answer to his question, what she loved him for—as to explain what for. She told him that she loved him because she understood him completely, because she knew what he would like, and because everything he liked was good. And this seemed to him perfectly clear. When the princess came to them, they were sitting side by side on the chest, sorting the dresses and disputing over Kitty's wanting to give Dunyasha the brown dress she had been wearing when Levin proposed to her, while he insisted that that dress must never be given away, but Dunyasha must have the blue one.
"How is it you don't see? She's a brunette, and it won't suit her.... I've worked it all out."
Hearing why he had come, the princess was half humorously, half seriously angry with him, and sent him home to dress and not to hinder Kitty's hair-dressing, as Charles the hair-dresser was just coming.
"As it is, she's been eating nothing lately and is losing her looks, and then you must come and upset her with your nonsense," she said to him. "Get along with you, my dear!"
Levin, guilty and shamefaced, but pacified, went back to his hotel. His brother, Darya Alexandrovna, and Stepan Arkadyevitch, all in full dress, were waiting for him to bless him with the holy picture. There was no time to lose. Darya Alexandrovna had to drive home again to fetch her curled and pomaded son, who was to carry the holy pictures after the bride. Then a carriage had to be sent for the best man, and another that would take Sergey Ivanovitch away would have to be sent back.... Altogether there were a great many most complicated matters to be considered and arranged. One thing was unmistakable, that there must be no delay, as it was already half-past six.
Nothing special happened at the ceremony of benediction with the holy picture. Stepan Arkadyevitch stood in a comically solemn pose beside his wife, took the holy picture, and telling Levin to bow down to the ground, he blessed him with his kindly, ironical smile, and kissed him three times; Darya Alexandrovna did the same, and immediately was in a hurry to get off, and again plunged into the intricate question of the destinations of the various carriages.
"Come, I'll tell you how we'll manage: you drive in our carriage to fetch him, and Sergey Ivanovitch, if he'll be so good, will drive there and then send his carriage."
"Of course; I shall be delighted."
"We'll come on directly with him. Are your things sent off?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
"Yes," answered Levin, and he told Kouzma to put out his clothes for him to dress.
A crowd of people, principally women, was thronging round the church lighted up for the wedding. Those who had not succeeded in getting into the main entrance were crowding about the windows, pushing, wrangling, and peeping through the gratings.
More than twenty carriages had already been drawn up in ranks along the street by the police. A police officer, regardless of the frost, stood at the entrance, gorgeous in his uniform. More carriages were continually driving up, and ladies wearing flowers and carrying their trains, and men taking off their helmets or black hats kept walking into the church. Inside the church both lusters were already lighted, and all the candles before the holy pictures. The gilt on the red ground of the holy picture-stand, and the gilt relief on the pictures, and the silver of the lusters and candlesticks, and the stones of the floor, and the rugs, and the banners above in the choir, and the steps of the altar, and the old blackened books, and the cassocks and surplices—all were flooded with light. On the right side of the warm church, in the crowd of frock coats and white ties, uniforms and broadcloth, velvet, satin, hair and flowers, bare shoulders and arms and long gloves, there was discreet but lively conversation that echoed strangely in the high cupola. Every time there was heard the creak of the opened door the conversation in the crowd died away, and everybody looked round expecting to see the bride and bridegroom come in. But the door had opened more than ten times, and each time it was either a belated guest or guests, who joined the circle of the invited on the right, or a spectator, who had eluded or softened the police officer, and went to join the crowd of outsiders on the left. Both the guests and the outside public had by now passed through all the phases of anticipation.
At first they imagined that the bride and bridegroom would arrive immediately, and attached no importance at all to their being late. Then they began to look more and more often towards the door, and to talk of whether anything could have happened. Then the long delay began to be positively discomforting, and relations and guests tried to look as if they were not thinking of the bridegroom but were engrossed in conversation.
The head deacon, as though to remind them of the value of his time, coughed impatiently, making the window-panes quiver in their frames. In the choir the bored choristers could be heard trying their voices and blowing their noses. The priest was continually sending first the beadle and then the deacon to find out whether the bridegroom had not come, more and more often he went himself, in a lilac vestment and an embroidered sash, to the side door, expecting to see the bridegroom. At last one of the ladies, glancing at her watch, said, "It really is strange, though!" and all the guests became uneasy and began loudly expressing their wonder and dissatisfaction. One of the bridegroom's best men went to find out what had happened. Kitty meanwhile had long ago been quite ready, and in her white dress and long veil and wreath of orange blossoms she was standing in the drawing-room of the Shtcherbatskys' house with her sister, Madame Lvova, who was her bridal-mother. She was looking out of the window, and had been for over half an hour anxiously expecting to hear from the best man that her bridegroom was at the church.
Levin meanwhile, in his trousers, but without his coat and waistcoat, was walking to and fro in his room at the hotel, continually putting his head out of the door and looking up and down the corridor. But in the corridor there was no sign of the person he was looking for and he came back in despair, and frantically waving his hands addressed Stepan Arkadyevitch, who was smoking serenely.
"Was ever a man in such a fearful fool's position?" he said.
"Yes, it is stupid," Stepan Arkadyevitch assented, smiling soothingly. "But don't worry, it'll be brought directly."
"No, what is to be done!" said Levin, with smothered fury. "And these fools of open waistcoats! Out of the question!" he said, looking at the crumpled front of his shirt. "And what if the things have been taken on to the railway station!" he roared in desperation.
"Then you must put on mine."
"I ought to have done so long ago, if at all."
"It's not nice to look ridiculous.... Wait a bit! it will come round."
The point was that when Levin asked for his evening suit, Kouzma, his old servant, had brought him the coat, waistcoat, and everything that was wanted.
"But the shirt!" cried Levin.
"You've got a shirt on," Kouzma answered, with a placid smile.
Kouzma had not thought of leaving out a clean shirt, and on receiving instructions to pack up everything and send it round to the Shtcherbatskys' house, from which the young people were to set out the same evening, he had done so, packing everything but the dress suit. The shirt worn since the morning was crumpled and out of the question with the fashionable open waistcoat. It was a long way to send to the Shtcherbatskys'. They sent out to buy a shirt. The servant came back; everything was shut up—it was Sunday. They sent to Stepan Arkadyevitch's and brought a shirt—it was impossibly wide and short. They sent finally to the Shtcherbatskys' to unpack the things. The bridegroom was expected at the church while he was pacing up and down his room like a wild beast in a cage, peeping out into the corridor, and with horror and despair recalling what absurd things he had said to Kitty and what she might be thinking now.
At last the guilty Kouzma flew panting into the room with the shirt.
"Only just in time. They were just lifting it into the van," said Kouzma.
Three minutes later Levin ran full speed into the corridor, not looking at his watch for fear of aggravating his sufferings.
"You won't help matters like this," said Stepan Arkadyevitch with a smile, hurrying with more deliberation after him. "It will come round, it will come round...I tell you."
"They've come!" "Here he is!" "Which one?" "Rather young, eh?" "Why, my dear soul, she looks more dead than alive!" were the comments in the crowd, when Levin, meeting his bride in the entrance, walked with her into the church.
Stepan Arkadyevitch told his wife the cause of the delay, and the guests were whispering it with smiles to one another. Levin saw nothing and no one; he did not take his eyes off his bride.
Everyone said she had lost her looks dreadfully of late, and was not nearly so pretty on her wedding day as usual; but Levin did not think so. He looked at her hair done up high, with the long white veil and white flowers and the high, stand-up, scalloped collar, that in such a maidenly fashion hid her long neck at the sides and only showed it in front, her strikingly slender figure, and it seemed to him that she looked better than ever—not because these flowers, this veil, this gown from Paris added anything to her beauty; but because, in spite of the elaborate sumptuousness of her attire, the expression of her sweet face, of her eyes, of her lips was still her own characteristic expression of guileless truthfulness.
"I was beginning to think you meant to run away," she said, and smiled to him.
"It's so stupid, what happened to me, I'm ashamed to speak of it!" he said, reddening, and he was obliged to turn to Sergey Ivanovitch, who came up to him.
"This is a pretty story of yours about the shirt!" said Sergey Ivanovitch, shaking his head and smiling.
"Yes, yes!" answered Levin, without an idea of what they were talking about.
"Now, Kostya, you have to decide," said Stepan Arkadyevitch with an air of mock dismay, "a weighty question. You are at this moment just in the humor to appreciate all its gravity. They ask me, are they to light the candles that have been lighted before or candles that have never been lighted? It's a matter of ten roubles," he added, relaxing his lips into a smile. "I have decided, but I was afraid you might not agree."
Levin saw it was a joke, but he could not smile.
"Well, how's it to be then?—unlighted or lighted candles? that's the question."
"Yes, yes, unlighted."
"Oh, I'm very glad. The question's decided!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling. "How silly men are, though, in this position," he said to Tchirikov, when Levin, after looking absently at him, had moved back to his bride.
"Kitty, mind you're the first to step on the carpet," said Countess Nordston, coming up. "You're a nice person!" she said to Levin.
"Aren't you frightened, eh?" said Marya Dmitrievna, an old aunt.
"Are you cold? You're pale. Stop a minute, stoop down," said Kitty's sister, Madame Lvova, and with her plump, handsome arms she smilingly set straight the flowers on her head.
Dolly came up, tried to say something, but could not speak, cried, and then laughed unnaturally.
Kitty looked at all of them with the same absent eyes as Levin.
Meanwhile the officiating clergy had got into their vestments, and the priest and deacon came out to the lectern, which stood in the forepart of the church. The priest turned to Levin saying something. Levin did not hear what the priest said.
"Take the bride's hand and lead her up," the best man said to Levin.
It was a long while before Levin could make out what was expected of him. For a long time they tried to set him right and made him begin again—because he kept taking Kitty by the wrong arm or with the wrong arm—till he understood at last that what he had to do was, without changing his position, to take her right hand in his right hand. When at last he had taken the bride's hand in the correct way, the priest walked a few paces in front of them and stopped at the lectern. The crowd of friends and relations moved after them, with a buzz of talk and a rustle of skirts. Someone stooped down and pulled out the bride's train. The church became so still that the drops of wax could be heard falling from the candles.
The little old priest in his ecclesiastical cap, with his long silvery-gray locks of hair parted behind his ears, was fumbling with something at the lectern, putting out his little old hands from under the heavy silver vestment with the gold cross on the back of it.
Stepan Arkadyevitch approached him cautiously, whispered something, and making a sign to Levin, walked back again.
The priest lighted two candles, wreathed with flowers, and holding them sideways so that the wax dropped slowly from them he turned, facing the bridal pair. The priest was the same old man that had confessed Levin. He looked with weary and melancholy eyes at the bride and bridegroom, sighed, and putting his right hand out from his vestment, blessed the bridegroom with it, and also with a shade of solicitous tenderness laid the crossed fingers on the bowed head of Kitty. Then he gave them the candles, and taking the censer, moved slowly away from them.
"Can it be true?" thought Levin, and he looked round at his bride. Looking down at her he saw her face in profile, and from the scarcely perceptible quiver of her lips and eyelashes he knew she was aware of his eyes upon her. She did not look round, but the high scalloped collar, that reached her little pink ear, trembled faintly. He saw that a sigh was held back in her throat, and the little hand in the long glove shook as it held the candle.
All the fuss of the shirt, of being late, all the talk of friends and relations, their annoyance, his ludicrous position—all suddenly passed away and he was filled with joy and dread.
The handsome, stately head-deacon wearing a silver robe and his curly locks standing out at each side of his head, stepped smartly forward, and lifting his stole on two fingers, stood opposite the priest.
"Blessed be the name of the Lord," the solemn syllables rang out slowly one after another, setting the air quivering with waves of sound.
"Blessed is the name of our God, from the beginning, is now, and ever shall be," the little old priest answered in a submissive, piping voice, still fingering something at the lectern. And the full chorus of the unseen choir rose up, filling the whole church, from the windows to the vaulted roof, with broad waves of melody. It grew stronger, rested for an instant, and slowly died away.
They prayed, as they always do, for peace from on high and for salvation, for the Holy Synod, and for the Tsar; they prayed, too, for the servants of God, Konstantin and Ekaterina, now plighting their troth.
"Vouchsafe to them love made perfect, peace and help, O Lord, we beseech Thee," the whole church seemed to breathe with the voice of the head deacon.
Levin heard the words, and they impressed him. "How did they guess that it is help, just help that one wants?" he thought, recalling all his fears and doubts of late. "What do I know? what can I do in this fearful business," he thought, "without help? Yes, it is help I want now."
When the deacon had finished the prayer for the Imperial family, the priest turned to the bridal pair with a book: "Eternal God, that joinest together in love them that were separate," he read in a gentle, piping voice: "who hast ordained the union of holy wedlock that cannot be set asunder, Thou who didst bless Isaac and Rebecca and their descendants, according to Thy Holy Covenant; bless Thy servants, Konstantin and Ekaterina, leading them in the path of all good works. For gracious and merciful art Thou, our Lord, and glory be to Thee, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, now and ever shall be."
"Amen!" the unseen choir sent rolling again upon the air.
"'Joinest together in love them that were separate.' What deep meaning in those words, and how they correspond with what one feels at this moment," thought Levin. "Is she feeling the same as I?"
And looking round, he met her eyes, and from their expression he concluded that she was understanding it just as he was. But this was a mistake; she almost completely missed the meaning of the words of the service; she had not heard them, in fact. She could not listen to them and take them in, so strong was the one feeling that filled her breast and grew stronger and stronger. That feeling was joy at the completion of the process that for the last month and a half had been going on in her soul, and had during those six weeks been a joy and a torture to her. On the day when in the drawing room of the house in Arbaty Street she had gone up to him in her brown dress, and given herself to him without a word—on that day, at that hour, there took place in her heart a complete severance from all her old life, and a quite different, new, utterly strange life had begun for her, while the old life was actually going on as before. Those six weeks had for her been a time of the utmost bliss and the utmost misery. All her life, all her desires and hopes were concentrated on this one man, still uncomprehended by her, to whom she was bound by a feeling of alternate attraction and repulsion, even less comprehended than the man himself, and all the while she was going on living in the outward conditions of her old life. Living the old life, she was horrified at herself, at her utter insurmountable callousness to all her own past, to things, to habits, to the people she had loved, who loved her—to her mother, who was wounded by her indifference, to her kind, tender father, till then dearer than all the world. At one moment she was horrified at this indifference, at another she rejoiced at what had brought her to this indifference. She could not frame a thought, not a wish apart from life with this man; but this new life was not yet, and she could not even picture it clearly to herself. There was only anticipation, the dread and joy of the new and the unknown. And now behold—anticipation and uncertainty and remorse at the abandonment of the old life—all was ending, and the new was beginning. This new life could not but have terrors for her inexperience; but, terrible or not, the change had been wrought six weeks before in her soul, and this was merely the final sanction of what had long been completed in her heart.
Turning again to the lectern, the priest with some difficulty took Kitty's little ring, and asking Levin for his hand, put it on the first joint of his finger. "The servant of God, Konstantin, plights his troth to the servant of God, Ekaterina." And putting his big ring on Kitty's touchingly weak, pink little finger, the priest said the same thing.
And the bridal pair tried several times to understand what they had to do, and each time made some mistake and were corrected by the priest in a whisper. At last, having duly performed the ceremony, having signed the rings with the cross, the priest handed Kitty the big ring, and Levin the little one. Again they were puzzled, and passed the rings from hand to hand, still without doing what was expected.
Dolly, Tchirikov, and Stepan Arkadyevitch stepped forward to set them right. There was an interval of hesitation, whispering, and smiles; but the expression of solemn emotion on the faces of the betrothed pair did not change: on the contrary, in their perplexity over their hands they looked more grave and deeply moved than before, and the smile with which Stepan Arkadyevitch whispered to them that now they would each put on their own ring died away on his lips. He had a feeling that any smile would jar on them.
"Thou who didst from the beginning create male and female," the priest read after the exchange of rings, "from Thee woman was given to man to be a helpmeet to him, and for the procreation of children. O Lord, our God, who hast poured down the blessings of Thy Truth according to Thy Holy Covenant upon Thy chosen servants, our fathers, from generation to generation, bless Thy servants Konstantin and Ekaterina, and make their troth fast in faith, and union of hearts, and truth, and love...."
Levin felt more and more that all his ideas of marriage, all his dreams of how he would order his life, were mere childishness, and that it was something he had not understood hitherto, and now understood less than ever, though it was being performed upon him. The lump in his throat rose higher and higher, tears that would not be checked came into his eyes.
In the church there was all Moscow, all the friends and relations; and during the ceremony of plighting troth, in the brilliantly lighted church, there was an incessant flow of discreetly subdued talk in the circle of gaily dressed women and girls, and men in white ties, frockcoats, and uniforms. The talk was principally kept up by the men, while the women were absorbed in watching every detail of the ceremony, which always means so much to them.
In the little group nearest to the bride were her two sisters: Dolly, and the other one, the self-possessed beauty, Madame Lvova, who had just arrived from abroad.
"Why is it Marie's in lilac, as bad as black, at a wedding?" said Madame Korsunskaya.
"With her complexion, it's the one salvation," responded Madame Trubetskaya. "I wonder why they had the wedding in the evening? It's like shop-people..."
"So much prettier. I was married in the evening too..." answered Madame Korsunskaya, and she sighed, remembering how charming she had been that day, and how absurdly in love her husband was, and how different it all was now.
"They say if anyone's best man more than ten times, he'll never be married. I wanted to be for the tenth time, but the post was taken," said Count Siniavin to the pretty Princess Tcharskaya, who had designs on him.
Princess Tcharskaya only answered with a smile. She looked at Kitty, thinking how and when she would stand with Count Siniavin in Kitty's place, and how she would remind him then of his joke today.
Shtcherbatsky told the old maid of honor, Madame Nikolaeva, that he meant to put the crown on Kitty's chignon for luck.
"She ought not to have worn a chignon," answered Madame Nikolaeva, who had long ago made up her mind that if the elderly widower she was angling for married her, the wedding should be of the simplest. "I don't like such grandeur."
Sergey Ivanovitch was talking to Darya Dmitrievna, jestingly assuring her that the custom of going away after the wedding was becoming common because newly married people always felt a little ashamed of themselves.
"Your brother may feel proud of himself. She's a marvel of sweetness. I believe you're envious."
"Oh, I've got over that, Darya Dmitrievna," he answered, and a melancholy and serious expression suddenly came over his face.
Stepan Arkadyevitch was telling his sister-in-law his joke about divorce.
"The wreath wants setting straight," she answered, not hearing him.
"What a pity she's lost her looks so," Countess Nordston said to Madame Lvova. "Still he's not worth her little finger, is he?"
"Oh, I like him so—not because he's my future beau-frere," answered Madame Lvova. "And how well he's behaving! It's so difficult, too, to look well in such a position, not to be ridiculous. And he's not ridiculous, and not affected; one can see he's moved."
"You expected it, I suppose?"
"Almost. She always cared for him."
"Well, we shall see which of them will step on the rug first. I warned Kitty."
"It will make no difference," said Madame Lvova; "we're all obedient wives; it's in our family."
"Oh, I stepped on the rug before Vassily on purpose. And you, Dolly?"
Dolly stood beside them; she heard them, but she did not answer. She was deeply moved. The tears stood in her eyes, and she could not have spoken without crying. She was rejoicing over Kitty and Levin; going back in thought to her own wedding, she glanced at the radiant figure of Stepan Arkadyevitch, forgot all the present, and remembered only her own innocent love. She recalled not herself only, but all her women-friends and acquaintances. She thought of them on the one day of their triumph, when they had stood like Kitty under the wedding crown, with love and hope and dread in their hearts, renouncing the past, and stepping forward into the mysterious future. Among the brides that came back to her memory, she thought too of her darling Anna, of whose proposed divorce she had just been hearing. And she had stood just as innocent in orange flowers and bridal veil. And now? "It's terribly strange," she said to herself. It was not merely the sisters, the women-friends and female relations of the bride who were following every detail of the ceremony. Women who were quite strangers, mere spectators, were watching it excitedly, holding their breath, in fear of losing a single movement or expression of the bride and bridegroom, and angrily not answering, often not hearing, the remarks of the callous men, who kept making joking or irrelevant observations.
"Why has she been crying? Is she being married against her will?"
"Against her will to a fine fellow like that? A prince, isn't he?"
"Is that her sister in the white satin? Just listen how the deacon booms out, 'And fearing her husband.'"
"Are the choristers from Tchudovo?"
"No, from the Synod."
"I asked the footman. He says he's going to take her home to his country place at once. Awfully rich, they say. That's why she's being married to him."
"No, they're a well-matched pair."
"I say, Marya Vassilievna, you were making out those fly-away crinolines were not being worn. Just look at her in the puce dress—an ambassador's wife they say she is—how her skirt bounces out from side to side!"
"What a pretty dear the bride is—like a lamb decked with flowers! Well, say what you will, we women feel for our sister."
Such were the comments in the crowd of gazing women who had succeeded in slipping in at the church doors.
When the ceremony of plighting troth was over, the beadle spread before the lectern in the middle of the church a piece of pink silken stuff, the choir sang a complicated and elaborate psalm, in which the bass and tenor sang responses to one another, and the priest turning round pointed the bridal pair to the pink silk rug. Though both had often heard a great deal about the saying that the one who steps first on the rug will be the head of the house, neither Levin nor Kitty were capable of recollecting it, as they took the few steps towards it. They did not hear the loud remarks and disputes that followed, some maintaining he had stepped on first, and others that both had stepped on together.
After the customary questions, whether they desired to enter upon matrimony, and whether they were pledged to anyone else, and their answers, which sounded strange to themselves, a new ceremony began. Kitty listened to the words of the prayer, trying to make out their meaning, but she could not. The feeling of triumph and radiant happiness flooded her soul more and more as the ceremony went on, and deprived her of all power of attention.
They prayed: "Endow them with continence and fruitfulness, and vouchsafe that their hearts may rejoice looking upon their sons and daughters." They alluded to God's creation of a wife from Adam's rib "and for this cause a man shall leave father and mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh," and that "this is a great mystery"; they prayed that God would make them fruitful and bless them, like Isaac and Rebecca, Joseph, Moses and Zipporah, and that they might look upon their children's children. "That's all splendid," thought Kitty, catching the words, "all that's just as it should be," and a smile of happiness, unconsciously reflected in everyone who looked at her, beamed on her radiant face.
"Put it on quite," voices were heard urging when the priest had put on the wedding crowns and Shtcherbatsky, his hand shaking in its three-button glove, held the crown high above her head.
"Put it on!" she whispered, smiling.
Levin looked round at her, and was struck by the joyful radiance on her face, and unconsciously her feeling infected him. He too, like her felt glad and happy.
They enjoyed hearing the epistle read, and the roll of the head deacon's voice at the last verse, awaited with such impatience by the outside public. They enjoyed drinking out of the shallow cup of warm red wine and water, and they were still more pleased when the priest, flinging back his stole and taking both their hands in his, led them round the lectern to the accompaniment of bass voices chanting "Glory to God."
Shtcherbatsky and Tchirikov, supporting the crowns and stumbling over the bride's train, smiling too and seeming delighted at something, were at one moment left behind, at the next treading on the bridal pair as the priest came to a halt. The spark of joy kindled in Kitty seemed to have infected everyone in the church. It seemed to Levin that the priest and the deacon too wanted to smile just as he did.
Taking the crowns off their heads the priest read the last prayer and congratulated the young people. Levin looked at Kitty, and he had never before seen her look as she did. She was charming with the new radiance of happiness in her face. Levin longed to say something to her, but he did not know whether it was all over. The priest got him out of his difficulty. He smiled his kindly smile and said gently, "Kiss your wife, and you kiss your husband," and took the candles out of their hands.
Levin kissed her smiling lips with timid care, gave her his arm, and with a new strange sense of closeness, walked out of the church. He did not believe, he could not believe, that it was true. It was only when their wondering and timid eyes met that he believed in it, because he felt that they were one.
After supper, the same night, the young people left for the country.
Vronsky and Anna had been traveling for three months together in Europe. They had visited Venice, Rome, and Naples, and had just arrived at a small Italian town where they meant to stay some time. A handsome head waiter, with thick pomaded hair parted from the neck upwards, an evening coat, a broad white cambric shirt front, and a bunch of trinkets hanging above his rounded stomach, stood with his hands in the full curve of his pockets, looking contemptuously from under his eyelids while he gave some frigid reply to a gentleman who had stopped him. Catching the sound of footsteps coming from the other side of the entry towards the staircase, the head waiter turned round, and seeing the Russian count, who had taken their best rooms, he took his hands out of his pockets deferentially, and with a bow informed him that a courier had been, and that the business about the palazzo had been arranged. The steward was prepared to sign the agreement.
"Ah! I'm glad to hear it," said Vronsky. "Is madame at home or not?"
"Madame has been out for a walk but has returned now," answered the waiter.
Vronsky took off his soft, wide-brimmed hat and passed his handkerchief over his heated brow and hair, which had grown half over his ears, and was brushed back covering the bald patch on his head. And glancing casually at the gentleman, who still stood there gazing intently at him, he would have gone on.
"This gentleman is a Russian, and was inquiring after you," said the head waiter.
With mingled feelings of annoyance at never being able to get away from acquaintances anywhere, and longing to find some sort of diversion from the monotony of his life, Vronsky looked once more at the gentleman, who had retreated and stood still again, and at the same moment a light came into the eyes of both.
It really was Golenishtchev, a comrade of Vronsky's in the Corps of Pages. In the corps Golenishtchev had belonged to the liberal party; he left the corps without entering the army, and had never taken office under the government. Vronsky and he had gone completely different ways on leaving the corps, and had only met once since.
At that meeting Vronsky perceived that Golenishtchev had taken up a sort of lofty, intellectually liberal line, and was consequently disposed to look down upon Vronsky's interests and calling in life. Hence Vronsky had met him with the chilling and haughty manner he so well knew how to assume, the meaning of which was: "You may like or dislike my way of life, that's a matter of the most perfect indifference to me; you will have to treat me with respect if you want to know me." Golenishtchev had been contemptuously indifferent to the tone taken by Vronsky. This second meeting might have been expected, one would have supposed, to estrange them still more. But now they beamed and exclaimed with delight on recognizing one another. Vronsky would never have expected to be so pleased to see Golenishtchev, but probably he was not himself aware how bored he was. He forgot the disagreeable impression of their last meeting, and with a face of frank delight held out his hand to his old comrade. The same expression of delight replaced the look of uneasiness on Golenishtchev's face.
"How glad I am to meet you!" said Vronsky, showing his strong white teeth in a friendly smile.
"I heard the name Vronsky, but I didn't know which one. I'm very, very glad!"
"Let's go in. Come, tell me what you're doing."
"I've been living here for two years. I'm working."
"Ah!" said Vronsky, with sympathy; "let's go in." And with the habit common with Russians, instead of saying in Russian what he wanted to keep from the servants, he began to speak in French.
"Do you know Madame Karenina? We are traveling together. I am going to see her now," he said in French, carefully scrutinizing Golenishtchev's face.
"Ah! I did not know" (though he did know), Golenishtchev answered carelessly. "Have you been here long?" he added.
"Four days," Vronsky answered, once more scrutinizing his friend's face intently.
"Yes, he's a decent fellow, and will look at the thing properly," Vronsky said to himself, catching the significance of Golenishtchev's face and the change of subject. "I can introduce him to Anna, he looks at it properly."
During those three months that Vronsky had spent abroad with Anna, he had always on meeting new people asked himself how the new person would look at his relations with Anna, and for the most part, in men, he had met with the "proper" way of looking at it. But if he had been asked, and those who looked at it "properly" had been asked, exactly how they did look at it, both he and they would have been greatly puzzled to answer.
In reality, those who in Vronsky's opinion had the "proper" view had no sort of view at all, but behaved in general as well-bred persons do behave in regard to all the complex and insoluble problems with which life is encompassed on all sides; they behaved with propriety, avoiding allusions and unpleasant questions. They assumed an air of fully comprehending the import and force of the situation, of accepting and even approving of it, but of considering it superfluous and uncalled for to put all this into words.
Vronsky at once divined that Golenishtchev was of this class, and therefore was doubly pleased to see him. And in fact, Golenishtchev's manner to Madame Karenina, when he was taken to call on her, was all that Vronsky could have desired. Obviously without the slightest effort he steered clear of all subjects which might lead to embarrassment.
He had never met Anna before, and was struck by her beauty, and still more by the frankness with which she accepted her position. She blushed when Vronsky brought in Golenishtchev, and he was extremely charmed by this childish blush overspreading her candid and handsome face. But what he liked particularly was the way in which at once, as though on purpose that there might be no misunderstanding with an outsider, she called Vronsky simply Alexey, and said they were moving into a house they had just taken, what was here called a palazzo. Golenishtchev liked this direct and simple attitude to her own position. Looking at Anna's manner of simple-hearted, spirited gaiety, and knowing Alexey Alexandrovitch and Vronsky, Golenishtchev fancied that he understood her perfectly. He fancied that he understood what she was utterly unable to understand: how it was that, having made her husband wretched, having abandoned him and her son and lost her good name, she yet felt full of spirits, gaiety, and happiness.
"It's in the guide-book," said Golenishtchev, referring to the palazzo Vronsky had taken. "There's a first-rate Tintoretto there. One of his latest period."
"I tell you what: it's a lovely day, let's go and have another look at it," said Vronsky, addressing Anna.
"I shall be very glad to; I'll go and put on my hat. Would you say it's hot?" she said, stopping short in the doorway and looking inquiringly at Vronsky. And again a vivid flush overspread her face.
Vronsky saw from her eyes that she did not know on what terms he cared to be with Golenishtchev, and so was afraid of not behaving as he would wish.
He looked a long, tender look at her.
"No, not very," he said.
And it seemed to her that she understood everything, most of all, that he was pleased with her; and smiling to him, she walked with her rapid step out at the door.
The friends glanced at one another, and a look of hesitation came into both faces, as though Golenishtchev, unmistakably admiring her, would have liked to say something about her, and could not find the right thing to say, while Vronsky desired and dreaded his doing so.
"Well then," Vronsky began to start a conversation of some sort; "so you're settled here? You're still at the same work, then?" he went on, recalling that he had been told Golenishtchev was writing something.
"Yes, I'm writing the second part of the Two Elements," said Golenishtchev, coloring with pleasure at the question—"that is, to be exact, I am not writing it yet; I am preparing, collecting materials. It will be of far wider scope, and will touch on almost all questions. We in Russia refuse to see that we are the heirs of Byzantium," and he launched into a long and heated explanation of his views.
Vronsky at the first moment felt embarrassed at not even knowing of the first part of the Two Elements, of which the author spoke as something well known. But as Golenishtchev began to lay down his opinions and Vronsky was able to follow them even without knowing the Two Elements, he listened to him with some interest, for Golenishtchev spoke well. But Vronsky was startled and annoyed by the nervous irascibility with which Golenishtchev talked of the subject that engrossed him. As he went on talking, his eyes glittered more and more angrily; he was more and more hurried in his replies to imaginary opponents, and his face grew more and more excited and worried. Remembering Golenishtchev, a thin, lively, good-natured and well-bred boy, always at the head of the class, Vronsky could not make out the reason of his irritability, and he did not like it. What he particularly disliked was that Golenishtchev, a man belonging to a good set, should put himself on a level with some scribbling fellows, with whom he was irritated and angry. Was it worth it? Vronsky disliked it, yet he felt that Golenishtchev was unhappy, and was sorry for him. Unhappiness, almost mental derangement, was visible on his mobile, rather handsome face, while without even noticing Anna's coming in, he went on hurriedly and hotly expressing his views.
When Anna came in in her hat and cape, and her lovely hand rapidly swinging her parasol, and stood beside him, it was with a feeling of relief that Vronsky broke away from the plaintive eyes of Golenishtchev which fastened persistently upon him, and with a fresh rush of love looked at his charming companion, full of life and happiness. Golenishtchev recovered himself with an effort, and at first was dejected and gloomy, but Anna, disposed to feel friendly with everyone as she was at that time, soon revived his spirits by her direct and lively manner. After trying various subjects of conversation, she got him upon painting, of which he talked very well, and she listened to him attentively. They walked to the house they had taken, and looked over it.
"I am very glad of one thing," said Anna to Golenishtchev when they were on their way back, "Alexey will have a capital atelier. You must certainly take that room," she said to Vronsky in Russian, using the affectionately familiar form as though she saw that Golenishtchev would become intimate with them in their isolation, and that there was no need of reserve before him.
"Do you paint?" said Golenishtchev, turning round quickly to Vronsky.
"Yes, I used to study long ago, and now I have begun to do a little," said Vronsky, reddening.
"He has great talent," said Anna with a delighted smile. "I'm no judge, of course. But good judges have said the same."
Anna, in that first period of her emancipation and rapid return to health, felt herself unpardonably happy and full of the joy of life. The thought of her husband's unhappiness did not poison her happiness. On one side that memory was too awful to be thought of. On the other side her husband's unhappiness had given her too much happiness to be regretted. The memory of all that had happened after her illness: her reconciliation with her husband, its breakdown, the news of Vronsky's wound, his visit, the preparations for divorce, the departure from her husband's house, the parting from her son—all that seemed to her like a delirious dream, from which she had waked up alone with Vronsky abroad. The thought of the harm caused to her husband aroused in her a feeling like repulsion, and akin to what a drowning man might feel who has shaken off another man clinging to him. That man did drown. It was an evil action, of course, but it was the sole means of escape, and better not to brood over these fearful facts.
One consolatory reflection upon her conduct had occurred to her at the first moment of the final rupture, and when now she recalled all the past, she remembered that one reflection. "I have inevitably made that man wretched," she thought; "but I don't want to profit by his misery. I too am suffering, and shall suffer; I am losing what I prized above everything—I am losing my good name and my son. I have done wrong, and so I don't want happiness, I don't want a divorce, and shall suffer from my shame and the separation from my child." But, however sincerely Anna had meant to suffer, she was not suffering. Shame there was not. With the tact of which both had such a large share, they had succeeded in avoiding Russian ladies abroad, and so had never placed themselves in a false position, and everywhere they had met people who pretended that they perfectly understood their position, far better indeed than they did themselves. Separation from the son she loved—even that did not cause her anguish in these early days. The baby girl—his child—was so sweet, and had so won Anna's heart, since she was all that was left her, that Anna rarely thought of her son.