When he got home, Vronsky found there
a note from Anna. She wrote, “I am ill
and unhappy. I cannot come out, but I cannot
go on longer without seeing you. Come in this
evening. Alexey Alexandrovitch goes to the council
at seven and will be there till ten.”
Thinking for an instant of the strangeness of her
bidding him come straight to her, in spite of her husband’s
insisting on her not receiving him, he decided to go.
Vronsky had that winter got his promotion,
was now a colonel, had left the regimental quarters,
and was living alone. After having some lunch,
he lay down on the sofa immediately, and in five minutes
memories of the hideous scenes he had witnessed during
the last few days were confused together and joined
on to a mental image of Anna and of the peasant who
had played an important part in the bear hunt, and
Vronsky fell asleep. He waked up in the dark,
trembling with horror, and made haste to light a candle.
“What was it? What? What was the
dreadful thing I dreamed? Yes, yes; I think
a little dirty man with a disheveled beard was stooping
down doing something, and all of a sudden he began
saying some strange words in French. Yes, there
was nothing else in the dream,” he said to himself.
“But why was it so awful?” He vividly
recalled the peasant again and those incomprehensible
French words the peasant had uttered, and a chill
of horror ran down his spine.
“What nonsense!” thought
Vronsky, and glanced at his watch.
It was half-past eight already.
He rang up his servant, dressed in haste, and went
out onto the steps, completely forgetting the dream
and only worried at being late. As he drove up
to the Karenins’ entrance he looked at his watch
and saw it was ten minutes to nine. A high,
narrow carriage with a pair of grays was standing
at the entrance. He recognized Anna’s carriage.
“She is coming to me,” thought Vronsky,
“and better she should. I don’t like
going into that house. But no matter; I can’t
hide myself,” he thought, and with that manner
peculiar to him from childhood, as of a man who has
nothing to be ashamed of, Vronsky got out of his sledge
and went to the door. The door opened, and the
hall porter with a rug on his arm called the carriage.
Vronsky, though he did not usually notice details,
noticed at this moment the amazed expression with
which the porter glanced at him. In the very
doorway Vronsky almost ran up against Alexey Alexandrovitch.
The gas jet threw its full light on the bloodless,
sunken face under the black hat and on the white cravat,
brilliant against the beaver of the coat. Karenin’s
fixed, dull eyes were fastened upon Vronsky’s
face. Vronsky bowed, and Alexey Alexandrovitch,
chewing his lips, lifted his hand to his hat and went
on. Vronsky saw him without looking round get
into the carriage, pick up the rug and the opera-glass
at the window and disappear. Vronsky went into
the hall. His brows were scowling, and his eyes
gleamed with a proud and angry light in them.
“What a position!” he
thought. “If he would fight, would stand
up for his honor, I could act, could express my feelings;
but this weakness or baseness…. He puts me
in the position of playing false, which I never meant
and never mean to do.”
Vronsky’s ideas had changed
since the day of his conversation with Anna in the
Vrede garden. Unconsciously yielding to the
weakness of Anna who had surrendered herself
up to him utterly, and simply looked to him to decide
her fate, ready to submit to anything he
had long ceased to think that their tie might end
as he had thought then. His ambitious plans had
retreated into the background again, and feeling that
he had got out of that circle of activity in which
everything was definite, he had given himself entirely
to his passion, and that passion was binding him more
and more closely to her.
He was still in the hall when he caught
the sound of her retreating footsteps. He knew
she had been expecting him, had listened for him,
and was now going back to the drawing room.
“No,” she cried, on seeing
him, and at the first sound of her voice the tears
came into her eyes. “No; if things are
to go on like this, the end will come much, much too
“What is it, dear one?”
“What? I’ve been
waiting in agony for an hour, two hours…No, I won’t…I
can’t quarrel with you. Of course you couldn’t
come. No, I won’t.” She laid
her two hands on his shoulders, and looked a long
while at him with a profound, passionate, and at the
same time searching look. She was studying his
face to make up for the time she had not seen him.
She was, every time she saw him, making the picture
of him in her imagination (incomparably superior,
impossible in reality) fit with him as he really was.