Home  »  Anna Karenin  »  Chapter XXXI

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

Part I

Chapter XXXI

VRONSKY had not even tried to sleep all that night. He sat in his armchair, looking straight before him or scanning the people who got in and out. If he had indeed on previous occasions struck and impressed people who did not know him by his air of unhesitating composure, he seemed now more haughty and self-possessed than ever. He looked at people as if they were things. A nervous young man, a clerk in a law-court, sitting opposite him, hated him for that look. The young man asked him for a light, and entered into conversation with him, and even pushed against him, to make him feel that he was not a thing, but a person. But Vronsky gazed at him exactly as he did at the lamp, and the young man made a wry face, feeling that he was losing self-possession under the oppression of this refusal to recognise him as a person.

Vronsky saw nothing and no one. He felt himself a king, not because he believed that he had made an impression on Anna—he did not yet believe that,—but because the impression she had made on him gave him happiness and pride.

What would come of it all he did not know, he did not even think. He felt that all his forces, hitherto dissipated, wasted, were centred on one thing, and bent with fearful energy on one blissful goal. And he was happy at it. He knew only that he had told her the truth, that he had come where she was, that all the happiness of his life, the only meaning in life for him, now lay in seeing and hearing her. And when he got out of the carriage at Bologova to get some seltzer water, and caught sight of Anna, involuntarily his first word had told her just what he thought. And he was glad he had told her it, that she knew it now and was thinking of it. He did not sleep all night. When he was back in the carriage, he kept unceasingly going over every position in which he had seen her, every word she had uttered, and before his fancy, making his heart faint with emotion, floated pictures of a possible future.

When he got out of the train at Petersburg, he felt after his sleepless night as keen and fresh as after a cold bath. He paused near his compartment, waiting for her to get out. ‘Once more,’ he said to himself, smiling unconsciously, ‘once more I shall see her walk, her face; she will say something, turn her head, glance, smile may be.’ But before he caught sight of her, he saw her husband, whom the stationmaster was deferentially escorting through the crowd. ‘Ah, yes! The husband.’ Only now for the first time did Vronsky realise clearly the fact that there was a person attached to her, a husband. He knew that she had a husband, but had hardly believed in his existence, and only now fully believed in him, with his head and shoulders, and his legs clad in black trousers; especially when he saw this husband calmly take her arm with a sense of property.

Seeing Alexey Alexandrovitch with his Petersburg face and severely self-confident figure, in his round hat, with his rather prominent spine, he believed in him, and was aware of a disagreeable sensation, such as a man might feel tortured by thirst, who, on reaching a spring, should find a dog, a sheep, or a pig who has drunk of it and muddied the water. Alexey Alexandrovitch’s manner of walking with a swing of the hips and flat feet, particularly annoyed Vronsky. He could recognise in no one but himself an indubitable right to love her. But she was still the same, and the sight of her affected him the same way, physically reviving him, stirring him, and filling his soul with rapture. He told his German valet, who ran up to him from the second-class, to take his things and go on, and he himself went up to her. He saw the first meeting between the husband and wife, and noted with a lover’s insight the signs of slight reserve with which she spoke to her husband. ‘No, she does not love him and cannot love him,’ he decided to himself.

At the moment when he was approaching Anna Arkadyevna he noticed too with joy that she was conscious of his being near, and looked round, and seeing him, turned again to her husband.

‘Have you had a good night?’ he said, bowing to her and to her husband together, and leaving it to Alexey Alexandrovitch to accept the bow on his own account, and to recognise it or not, as he might see fit.

‘Thank you, very good,’ she answered.

Her face looked weary, and there was not that play of eagerness in it, peeping out in her smile and her eyes; but for a single instant, as she glanced at him, there was a flash of something in her eyes, and although the flash died away at once, he was happy for that moment. She glanced at her husband to find out whether he knew Vronsky. Alexey Alexandrovitch looked at Vronsky with displeasure, vaguely recalling who this was. Vronsky’s composure and self-confidence here struck, like a scythe against a stone, upon the cold self-confidence of Alexey Alexandrovitch.

‘Count Vronsky,’ said Anna.

‘Ah! We are acquainted, I believe,’ said Alexey Alexandrovitch indifferently, giving his hand.

‘You set off with the mother and you return with the son,’ he said, articulating each syllable, as though each were a separate favour he was bestowing.

‘You’re back from leave, I suppose?’ he said, and without waiting for a reply, he turned to his wife in his jesting tone: ‘Well, were a great many tears shed at Moscow at parting?’

By addressing his wife like this he gave Vronsky to understand that he wished to be left alone, and, turning slightly towards him, he touched his hat; but Vronsky turned to Anna Arkadyevna.

‘I hope I may have the honour of calling on you,’ he said.

Alexey Alexandrovitch glanced with his weary eyes at Vronsky.

‘Delighted,’ he said coldly. ‘On Mondays we’re at home. Most fortunate,’ he said to his wife, dismissing Vronsky altogether, ‘that I should just have half an hour to meet you, so that I can prove my devotion,’ he went on in the same jesting tone.

‘You lay too much stress on your devotion for me to value it much,’ she responded in the same jesting tone, involuntarily listening to the sound of Vronsky’s steps behind them. ‘But what has it to do with me?’ she said to herself, and she began asking her husband how Seryozha had got on without her.

‘Oh, capitally! Mariette says he has been very good, and … I must disappoint you … but he has not missed you as your husband has. But once more merci, my dear, for giving me a day. Our dear Samovar will be delighted.’ (He used to call the Countess Lidia Ivanovna, well known in society, a samovar, because she was always bubbling over with excitement.) ‘She has been continually asking after you. And, do you know, if I may venture to advise you, you should go and see her to-day. You know how she takes everything to heart. Just now, with all her own cares, she’s anxious about the Oblonskys being brought together.’

The Countess Lidia Ivanovna was a friend of her husband’s, and the centre of that one of the coteries of the Petersburg world with which Anna was, through her husband, in the closest relations.

‘But you know I wrote to her?’

‘Still she’ll want to hear details. Go and see her, if you’re not too tired, my dear. Well, Kondraty will take you in the carriage, while I go to my committee. I shall not be alone at dinner again,’ Alexey Alexandrovitch went on, no longer in a sarcastic tone. ‘You wouldn’t believe how I’ve missed…’ And with a long pressure of her hand and a meaning smile, he put her in her carriage.