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.
“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
“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.
“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.