PART SEVEN : Chapter 23

Leo TolstoyAug 25, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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In order to carry through any undertaking
in family life, there must necessarily be either complete
division between the husband and wife, or loving agreement. 
When the relations of a couple are vacillating and
neither one thing nor the other, no sort of enterprise
can be undertaken.

Many families remain for years in
the same place, though both husband and wife are sick
of it, simply because there is neither complete division
nor agreement between them.

Both Vronsky and Anna felt life in
Moscow insupportable in the heat and dust, when the
spring sunshine was followed by the glare of summer,
and all the trees in the boulevards had long since
been in full leaf, and the leaves were covered with
dust.  But they did not go back to Vozdvizhenskoe,
as they had arranged to do long before; they went
on staying in Moscow, though they both loathed it,
because of late there had been no agreement between

The irritability that kept them apart
had no external cause, and all efforts to come to
an understanding intensified it, instead of removing
it.  It was an inner irritation, grounded in her
mind on the conviction that his love had grown less;
in his, on regret that he had put himself for her
sake in a difficult position, which she, instead of
lightening, made still more difficult.  Neither
of them gave full utterance to their sense of grievance,
but they considered each other in the wrong, and tried
on every pretext to prove this to one another.

In her eyes the whole of him, with
all his habits, ideas, desires, with all his spiritual
and physical temperament, was one thing ­love
for women, and that love, she felt, ought to be entirely
concentrated on her alone.  That love was less;
consequently, as she reasoned, he must have transferred
part of his love to other women or to another woman ­and
she was jealous.  She was jealous not of any particular
woman but of the decrease of his love.  Not having
got an object for her jealousy, she was on the lookout
for it.  At the slightest hint she transferred
her jealousy from one object to another.  At
one time she was jealous of those low women with whom
he might so easily renew his old bachelor ties; then
she was jealous of the society women he might meet;
then she was jealous of the imaginary girl whom he
might want to marry, for whose sake he would break
with her.  And this last form of jealousy tortured
her most of all, especially as he had unwarily told
her, in a moment of frankness, that his mother knew
him so little that she had had the audacity to try
and persuade him to marry the young Princess Sorokina.

And being jealous of him, Anna was
indignant against him and found grounds for indignation
in everything.  For everything that was difficult
in her position she blamed him.  The agonizing
condition of suspense she had passed in Moscow, the
tardiness and indecision of Alexey Alexandrovitch,
her solitude ­she put it all down to him. 
If he had loved her he would have seen all the bitterness
of her position, and would have rescued her from it. 
For her being in Moscow and not in the country, he
was to blame too.  He could not live buried in
the country as she would have liked to do.  He
must have society, and he had put her in this awful
position, the bitterness of which he would not see. 
And again, it was his fault that she was forever
separated from her son.

Even the rare moments of tenderness
that came from time to time did not soothe her; in
his tenderness now she saw a shade of complacency,
of self-confidence, which had not been of old, and
which exasperated her.

It was dusk.  Anna was alone,
and waiting for him to come back from a bachelor dinner. 
She walked up and down in his study (the room where
the noise from the street was least heard), and thought
over every detail of their yesterday’s quarrel. 
Going back from the well-remembered, offensive words
of the quarrel to what had been the ground of it,
she arrived at last at its origin.  For a long
while she could hardly believe that their dissension
had arisen from a conversation so inoffensive, of so
little moment to either.  But so it actually had
been.  It all arose from his laughing at the
girls’ high schools, declaring they were useless,
while she defended them.  He had spoken slightingly
of women’s education in general, and had said
that Hannah, Anna’s English protegee, had not
the slightest need to know anything of physics.

This irritated Anna.  She saw
in this a contemptuous reference to her occupations. 
And she bethought her of a phrase to pay him back
for the pain he had given her.  “I don’t
expect you to understand me, my feelings, as anyone
who loved me might, but simple delicacy I did expect,”
she said.

And he had actually flushed with vexation,
and had said something unpleasant.  She could
not recall her answer, but at that point, with an
unmistakable desire to wound her too, he had said: 

“I feel no interest in your
infatuation over this girl, that’s true, because
I see it’s unnatural.”

The cruelty with which he shattered
the world she had built up for herself so laboriously
to enable her to endure her hard life, the injustice
with which he had accused her of affectation, of artificiality,
aroused her.

“I am very sorry that nothing
but what’s coarse and material is comprehensible
and natural to you,” she said and walked out
of the room.

When he had come in to her yesterday
evening, they had not referred to the quarrel, but
both felt that the quarrel had been smoothed over,
but was not at an end.

Today he had not been at home all
day, and she felt so lonely and wretched in being
on bad terms with him that she wanted to forget it
all, to forgive him, and be reconciled with him; she
wanted to throw the blame on herself and to justify

“I am myself to blame. 
I’m irritable, I’m insanely jealous. 
I will make it up with him, and we’ll go away
to the country; there I shall be more at peace.”

“Unnatural!” She suddenly
recalled the word that had stung her most of all,
not so much the word itself as the intent to wound
her with which it was said.  “I know what
he meant; he meant ­ unnatural, not loving
my own daughter, to love another person’s child. 
What does he know of love for children, of my love
for Seryozha, whom I’ve sacrificed for him? 
But that wish to wound me!  No, he loves another
woman, it must be so.”

And perceiving that, while trying
to regain her peace of mind, she had gone round the
same circle that she had been round so often before,
and had come back to her former state of exasperation,
she was horrified at herself.  “Can it be
impossible?  Can it be beyond me to control myself?”
she said to herself, and began again from the beginning. 
“He’s truthful, he’s honest, he
loves me.  I love him, and in a few days the
divorce will come.  What more do I want? 
I want peace of mind and trust, and I will take the
blame on myself.  Yes, now when he comes in,
I will tell him I was wrong, though I was not wrong,
and we will go away tomorrow.”

And to escape thinking any more, and
being overcome by irritability, she rang, and ordered
the boxes to be brought up for packing their things
for the country.

At ten o’clock Vronsky came in.


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