That which for Vronsky had been almost
a whole year the one absorbing desire of his life,
replacing all his old desires; that which for Anna
had been an impossible, terrible, and even for that
reason more entrancing dream of bliss, that desire
had been fulfilled. He stood before her, pale,
his lower jaw quivering, and besought her to be calm,
not knowing how or why.
“Anna! Anna!” he
said with a choking voice, “Anna, for pity’s
But the louder he spoke, the lower
she dropped her once proud and gay, now shame-stricken
head, and she bowed down and sank from the sofa where
she was sitting, down on the floor, at his feet; she
would have fallen on the carpet if he had not held
“My God! Forgive me!”
she said, sobbing, pressing his hands to her bosom.
She felt so sinful, so guilty, that
nothing was left her but to humiliate herself and
beg forgiveness; and as now there was no one in her
life but him, to him she addressed her prayer for
forgiveness. Looking at him, she had a physical
sense of her humiliation, and she could say nothing
more. He felt what a murderer must feel, when
he sees the body he has robbed of life. That
body, robbed by him of life, was their love, the first
stage of their love. There was something awful
and revolting in the memory of what had been bought
at this fearful price of shame. Shame at their
spiritual nakedness crushed her and infected him.
But in spite of all the murderer’s horror before
the body of his victim, he must hack it to pieces,
hide the body, must use what he has gained by his
And with fury, as it were with passion,
the murderer falls on the body, and drags it and hacks
at it; so he covered her face and shoulders with kisses.
She held his hand, and did not stir. “Yes,
these kisses that is what has been bought
by this shame. Yes, and one hand, which will
always be mine the hand of my accomplice.”
She lifted up that hand and kissed it. He sank
on his knees and tried to see her face; but she hid
it, and said nothing. At last, as though making
an effort over herself, she got up and pushed him
away. Her face was still as beautiful, but it
was only the more pitiful for that.
“All is over,” she said;
“I have nothing but you. Remember that.”
“I can never forget what is
my whole life. For one instant of this happiness…”
“Happiness!” she said
with horror and loathing and her horror unconsciously
infected him. “For pity’s sake, not
a word, not a word more.”
She rose quickly and moved away from him.
“Not a word more,” she
repeated, and with a look of chill despair, incomprehensible
to him, she parted from him. She felt that at
that moment she could not put into words the sense
of shame, of rapture, and of horror at this stepping
into a new life, and she did not want to speak of
it, to vulgarize this feeling by inappropriate words.
But later too, and the next day and the third day,
she still found no words in which she could express
the complexity of her feelings; indeed, she could not
even find thoughts in which she could clearly think
out all that was in her soul.
She said to herself: “No,
just now I can’t think of it, later on, when
I am calmer.” But this calm for thought
never came; every time the thought rose of what she
had done and what would happen to her, and what she
ought to do, a horror came over her and she drove
those thoughts away.
“Later, later,” she said “when
I am calmer.”
But in dreams, when she had no control
over her thoughts, her position presented itself to
her in all its hideous nakedness. One dream haunted
her almost every night. She dreamed that both
were her husbands at once, that both were lavishing
caresses on her. Alexey Alexandrovitch was weeping,
kissing her hands, and saying, “How happy we
are now!” And Alexey Vronsky was there too,
and he too was her husband. And she was marveling
that it had once seemed impossible to her, was explaining
to them, laughing, that this was ever so much simpler,
and that now both of them were happy and contented.
But this dream weighed on her like a nightmare, and
she awoke from it in terror.