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Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910). Anna Karenin.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

Part IV

Chapter XX

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 Tverskoy’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 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.