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Anna Karenina, Page 2

graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 2

  Stepan Arkadyevitch was a truthful man in his relations with himself. Hewas incapable of deceiving himself and persuading himself that herepented of his conduct. He could not at this date repent of the factthat he, a handsome, susceptible man of thirty-four, was not in lovewith his wife, the mother of five living and two dead children, and onlya year younger than himself. All he repented of was that he had notsucceeded better in hiding it from his wife. But he felt all thedifficulty of his position and was sorry for his wife, his children, andhimself. Possibly he might have managed to conceal his sins better fromhis wife if he had anticipated that the knowledge of them would have hadsuch an effect on her. He had never clearly thought out the subject, buthe had vaguely conceived that his wife must long ago have suspected himof being unfaithful to her, and shut her eyes to the fact. He had evensupposed that she, a worn-out woman no longer young or good-looking, andin no way remarkable or interesting, merely a good mother, ought from asense of fairness to take an indulgent view. It had turned out quite theother way.

  "Oh, it's awful! oh dear, oh dear! awful!" Stepan Arkadyevitch keptrepeating to himself, and he could think of nothing to be done. "And howwell things were going up till now! how well we got on! She wascontented and happy in her children; I never interfered with her inanything; I let her manage the children and the house just as she liked.It's true it's bad _her_ having been a governess in our house. That'sbad! There's something common, vulgar, in flirting with one's governess.But what a governess!" (He vividly recalled the roguish black eyes ofMlle. Roland and her smile.) "But after all, while she was in the house,I kept myself in hand. And the worst of it all is that she's already seems as if ill-luck would have it so! Oh, oh! But what, what is tobe done?"

  There was no solution, but that universal solution which life gives toall questions, even the most complex and insoluble. That answer is: onemust live in the needs of the day--that is, forget oneself. To forgethimself in sleep was impossible now, at least till nighttime; he couldnot go back now to the music sung by the decanter-women; so he mustforget himself in the dream of daily life.

  "Then we shall see," Stepan Arkadyevitch said to himself, and getting uphe put on a gray dressing-gown lined with blue silk, tied the tassels ina knot, and, drawing a deep breath of air into his broad, bare chest, hewalked to the window with his usual confident step, turning out his feetthat carried his full frame so easily. He pulled up the blind and rangthe bell loudly. It was at once answered by the appearance of an oldfriend, his valet, Matvey, carrying his clothes, his boots, and atelegram. Matvey was followed by the barber with all the necessaries forshaving.

  "Are there any papers from the office?" asked Stepan Arkadyevitch,taking the telegram and seating himself at the looking-glass.

  "On the table," replied Matvey, glancing with inquiring sympathy at hismaster; and, after a short pause, he added with a sly smile, "They'vesent from the carriage-jobbers."

  Stepan Arkadyevitch made no reply, he merely glanced at Matvey in thelooking-glass. In the glance, in which their eyes met in thelooking-glass, it was clear that they understood one another. StepanArkadyevitch's eyes asked: "Why do you tell me that? don't you know?"

  Matvey put his hands in his jacket pockets, thrust out one leg, andgazed silently, good-humoredly, with a faint smile, at his master.

  "I told them to come on Sunday, and till then not to trouble you orthemselves for nothing," he said. He had obviously prepared the sentencebeforehand.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch saw Matvey wanted to make a joke and attractattention to himself. Tearing open the telegram, he read it through,guessing at the words, misspelt as they always are in telegrams, and hisface brightened.

  "Matvey, my sister Anna Arkadyevna will be here tomorrow," he said,checking for a minute the sleek, plump hand of the barber, cutting apink path through his long, curly whiskers.

  "Thank God!" said Matvey, showing by this response that he, like hismaster, realized the significance of this arrival--that is, that AnnaArkadyevna, the sister he was so fond of, might bring about areconciliation between husband and wife.

  "Alone, or with her husband?" inquired Matvey.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch could not answer, as the barber was at work on hisupper lip, and he raised one finger. Matvey nodded at the looking-glass.

  "Alone. Is the room to be got ready upstairs?"

  "Inform Darya Alexandrovna: where she orders."

  "Darya Alexandrovna?" Matvey repeated, as though in doubt.

  "Yes, inform her. Here, take the telegram; give it to her, and then dowhat she tells you."

  "You want to try it on," Matvey understood, but he only said, "Yes sir."

  Stepan Arkadyevitch was already washed and combed and ready to bedressed, when Matvey, stepping deliberately in his creaky boots, cameback into the room with the telegram in his hand. The barber had gone.

  "Darya Alexandrovna told me to inform you that she is going away. Lethim do--that is you--do as he likes," he said, laughing only with hiseyes, and putting his hands in his pockets, he watched his master withhis head on one side. Stepan Arkadyevitch was silent a minute. Then agood-humored and rather pitiful smile showed itself on his handsomeface.

  "Eh, Matvey?" he said, shaking his head.

  "It's all right, sir; she will come round," said Matvey.

  "Come round?"

  "Yes, sir."

  "Do you think so? Who's there?" asked Stepan Arkadyevitch, hearing therustle of a woman's dress at the door.

  "It's I," said a firm, pleasant, woman's voice, and the stern,pockmarked face of Matrona Philimonovna, the nurse, was thrust in at thedoorway.

  "Well, what is it, Matrona?" queried Stepan Arkadyevitch, going up toher at the door.

  Although Stepan Arkadyevitch was completely in the wrong as regards hiswife, and was conscious of this himself, almost every one in the house(even the nurse, Darya Alexandrovna's chief ally) was on his side.

  "Well, what now?" he asked disconsolately.

  "Go to her, sir; own your fault again. Maybe God will aid you. She issuffering so, it's sad to see her; and besides, everything in the houseis topsy-turvy. You must have pity, sir, on the children. Beg herforgiveness, sir. There's no help for it! One must take theconsequences..."

  "But she won't see me."

  "You do your part. God is merciful; pray to God, sir, pray to God."

  "Come, that'll do, you can go," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, blushingsuddenly. "Well now, do dress me." He turned to Matvey and threw off hisdressing-gown decisively.

  Matvey was already holding up the shirt like a horse's collar, and,blowing off some invisible speck, he slipped it with obvious pleasureover the well-groomed body of his master.