READ STUDY GUIDE: Part Three, Chapters I–XVIII
Part Three, Chapter XV
Though Anna had obstinately and with exasperation contradicted Vronsky when he told her their position was impossible, at the bottom of her heart she regarded her own position as false and dishonorable, and she longed with her whole soul to change it. On the way home from the races she had told her husband the truth in a moment of excitement, and in spite of the agony she had suffered in doing so, she was glad of it. After her husband had left her, she told herself that she was glad, that now everything was made clear, and at least there would be no more lying and deception. It seemed to her beyond doubt that her position was now made clear forever. It might be bad, this new position, but it would be clear; there would be no indefiniteness or falsehood about it. The pain she had caused herself and her husband in uttering those words would be rewarded now by everything being made clear, she thought. That evening she saw Vronsky, but she did not tell him of what had passed between her and her husband, though, to make the position definite, it was necessary to tell him.
When she woke up next morning the first thing that rose to her mind was what she had said to her husband, and those words seemed to her so awful that she could not conceive now how she could have brought herself to utter those strange, coarse words, and could not imagine what would come of it. But the words were spoken, and Alexey Alexandrovitch had gone away without saying anything. "I saw Vronsky and did not tell him. At the very instant he was going away I would have turned him back and told him, but I changed my mind, because it was strange that I had not told him the first minute. Why was it I wanted to tell him and did not tell him?" And in answer to this question a burning blush of shame spread over her face. She knew what had kept her from it, she knew that she had been ashamed. Her position, which had seemed to her simplified the night before, suddenly struck her now as not only not simple, but as absolutely hopeless. She felt terrified at the disgrace, of which she had not ever thought before. Directly she thought of what her husband would do, the most terrible ideas came to her mind. She had a vision of being turned out of the house, of her shame being proclaimed to all the world. She asked herself where she should go when she was turned out of the house, and she could not find an answer.
When she thought of Vronsky, it seemed to her that he did not love her, that he was already beginning to be tired of her, that she could not offer herself to him, and she felt bitter against him for it. It seemed to her that the words that she had spoken to her husband, and had continually repeated in her imagination, she had said to everyone, and everyone had heard them. She could not bring herself to look those of her own household in the face. She could not bring herself to call her maid, and still less go downstairs and see her son and his governess.
The maid, who had been listening at her door for a long while, came into her room of her own accord. Anna glanced inquiringly into her face, and blushed with a scared look. The maid begged her pardon for coming in, saying that she had fancied the bell rang. She brought her clothes and a note. The note was from Betsy. Betsy reminded her that Liza Merkalova and Baroness Shtoltz were coming to play croquet with her that morning with their adorers, Kaluzhsky and old Stremov. "Come, if only as a study in morals. I shall expect you," she finished.
Anna read the note and heaved a deep sigh.
"Nothing, I need nothing," she said to Annushka, who was rearranging the bottles and brushes on the dressing table. "You can go. I'll dress at once and come down. I need nothing."
Annushka went out, but Anna did not begin dressing, and sat in the same position, her head and hands hanging listlessly, and every now and then she shivered all over, seemed as though she would make some gesture, utter some word, and sank back into lifelessness again. She repeated continually, "My God! my God!" But neither "God" nor "my" had any meaning to her. The idea of seeking help in her difficulty in religion was as remote from her as seeking help from Alexey Alexandrovitch himself, although she had never had doubts of the faith in which she had been brought up. She knew that the support of religion was possible only upon condition of renouncing what made up for her the whole meaning of life. She was not simply miserable, she began to feel alarm at the new spiritual condition, never experienced before, in which she found herself. She felt as though everything were beginning to be double in her soul, just as objects sometimes appear double to over-tired eyes. She hardly knew at times what it was she feared, and what she hoped for. Whether she feared or desired what had happened, or what was going to happen, and exactly what she longed for, she could not have said.
"Ah, what am I doing!" she said to herself, feeling a sudden thrill of pain in both sides of her head. When she came to herself, she saw that she was holding her hair in both hands, each side of her temples, and pulling it. She jumped up, and began walking about.
"The coffee is ready, and mademoiselle and Seryozha are waiting," said Annushka, coming back again and finding Anna in the same position.
"Seryozha? What about Seryozha?" Anna asked, with sudden eagerness, recollecting her son's existence for the first time that morning.
"He's been naughty, I think," answered Annushka with a smile.
"In what way?"
"Some peaches were lying on the table in the corner room. I think he slipped in and ate one of them on the sly."
The recollection of her son suddenly roused Anna from the helpless condition in which she found herself. She recalled the partly sincere, though greatly exaggerated, role of the mother living for her child, which she had taken up of late years, and she felt with joy that in the plight in which she found herself she had a support, quite apart from her relation to her husband or to Vronsky. This support was her son. In whatever position she might be placed, she could not lose her son. Her husband might put her to shame and turn her out, Vronsky might grow cold to her and go on living his own life apart (she thought of him again with bitterness and reproach); she could not leave her son. She had an aim in life. And she must act; act to secure this relation to her son, so that he might not be taken from her. Quickly indeed, as quickly as possible, she must take action before he was taken from her. She must take her son and go away. Here was the one thing she had to do now. She needed consolation. She must be calm, and get out of this insufferable position. The thought of immediate action binding her to her son, of going away somewhere with him, gave her this consolation.
She dressed quickly, went downstairs, and with resolute steps walked into the drawing room, where she found, as usual, waiting for her, the coffee, Seryozha, and his governess. Seryozha, all in white, with his back and head bent, was standing at a table under a looking-glass, and with an expression of intense concentration which she knew well, and in which he resembled his father, he was doing something to the flowers he carried.
The governess had a particularly severe expression. Seryozha screamed shrilly, as he often did, "Ah, mamma!" and stopped, hesitating whether to go to greet his mother and put down the flowers, or to finish making the wreath and go with the flowers.
The governess, after saying good-morning, began a long and detailed account of Seryozha's naughtiness, but Anna did not hear her; she was considering whether she would take her with her or not. "No, I won't take her," she decided. "I'll go alone with my child."
"Yes, it's very wrong," said Anna, and taking her son by the shoulder she looked at him, not severely, but with a timid glance that bewildered and delighted the boy, and she kissed him. "Leave him to me," she said to the astonished governess, and not letting go of her son, she sat down at the table, where coffee was set ready for her.
"Mamma! I...I...didn't..." he said, trying to make out from her expression what was in store for him in regard to the peaches.
"Seryozha," she said, as soon as the governess had left the room, "that was wrong, but you'll never do it again, will you?... You love me?"
She felt that the tears were coming into her eyes. "Can I help loving him?" she said to herself, looking deeply into his scared and at the same time delighted eyes. "And can he ever join his father in punishing me? Is it possible he will not feel for me?" Tears were already flowing down her face, and to hide them she got up abruptly and almost ran out on to the terrace.
After the thunder showers of the last few days, cold, bright weather had set in. The air was cold in the bright sun that filtered through the freshly washed leaves.
She shivered, both from the cold and from the inward horror which had clutched her with fresh force in the open air.
"Run along, run along to Mariette," she said to Seryozha, who had followed her out, and she began walking up and down on the straw matting of the terrace. "Can it be that they won't forgive me, won't understand how it all couldn't be helped?" she said to herself.
Standing still, and looking at the tops of the aspen trees waving in the wind, with their freshly washed, brightly shining leaves in the cold sunshine, she knew that they would not forgive her, that everyone and everything would be merciless to her now as was that sky, that green. And again she felt that everything was split in two in her soul. "I mustn't, mustn't think," she said to herself. "I must get ready. To go where? When? Whom to take with me? Yes, to Moscow by the evening train. Annushka and Seryozha, and only the most necessary things. But first I must write to them both." She went quickly indoors into her boudoir, sat down at the table, and wrote to her husband:—"After what has happened, I cannot remain any longer in your house. I am going away, and taking my son with me. I don't know the law, and so I don't know with which of the parents the son should remain; but I take him with me because I cannot live without him. Be generous, leave him to me."
Up to this point she wrote rapidly and naturally, but the appeal to his generosity, a quality she did not recognize in him, and the necessity of winding up the letter with something touching, pulled her up. "Of my fault and my remorse I cannot speak, because..."
She stopped again, finding no connection in her ideas."No," she said to herself, "there's no need of anything," and tearing up the letter, she wrote it again, leaving out the allusion to generosity, and sealed it up.
Another letter had to be written to Vronsky. "I have told my husband," she wrote, and she sat a long while unable to write more. It was so coarse, so unfeminine. "And what more am I to write him?" she said to herself. Again a flush of shame spread over her face; she recalled his composure, and a feeling of anger against him impelled her to tear the sheet with the phrase she had written into tiny bits. "No need of anything," she said to herself, and closing her blotting-case she went upstairs, told the governess and the servants that she was going that day to Moscow, and at once set to work to pack up her things.