Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Anna’s Illness
By Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)
From ‘Anna Karénina’: Translation of Nathan Haskell Dole

WHEN he returned to his lonely room, Alekséi Aleksandrovitch involuntarily recalled, little by little, the conversations that had taken place at the dinner and in the evening. Dolly’s words had only succeeded in arousing his vexation. His situation was too difficult to allow him to apply the precepts of the New Testament; besides, he had already considered this question, and decided it in the negative. Of all that had been said that day, the remark of that honest fool Turovtsuin had made the liveliest impression on his mind:—  1
  “He did bravely; for he challenged his rival and killed him.”  2
  Evidently this conduct was approved by all; and if they had not said so openly, it was out of pure politeness.  3
  “But what good would it do to think about it? Had he not resolved what to do?” And Alekséi Aleksandrovitch gave no more thought to anything except the preparations for his departure, and his tour of inspection.  4
  He took a cup of tea, opened a railway guide, and looked for the departure of trains—to arrange for his journey.  5
  At this moment the servant brought him two dispatches. Alekséi Aleksandrovitch opened them. The first announced the nomination of Stremof to the place for which he had been ambitious.  6
  Karénin threw down the telegram, and began to walk up and down the room. “Quos vult perdere Jupiter dementat,” 1 said he, applying quos to all those who had taken part in this nomination. He was less disturbed by the fact that he himself had not been nominated, than to see Stremof—that babbler, that speechifier—filling the place. Couldn’t they understand that they were ruining themselves, that they were destroying their prestige, by such a choice?  7
  “Some more news of the same sort,” he thought with bitterness as he opened the second telegram. It was from his wife: her name, “Anna,” in blue pencil, stood out before his eyes.  8
  “I am dying. I beg you to come: I shall die easier if I have your forgiveness.”  9
  He read these words with scorn, and threw the paper on the floor. “Some new scheme,” was his first thought. “There is no deceitfulness of which she is not capable. She must be on the eve of her confinement, and there is something amiss. But what can be her object? To compromise me? to prevent the divorce? The dispatch says, ‘I am dying.’” He re-read the telegram, and suddenly realized its full meaning. “If it were true,—if the suffering, the approach of death, had caused her to repent sincerely, and if I should call this pretense, and refuse to go to her, that would not only be cruel, but foolish; and all would blame me.”  10
  “Piotr, order a carriage: I am going to Petersburg!” he cried to the servant.  11
  Karénin decided to go to his wife, and be ready to return at once if her illness was a pretense: on the other hand, if she were really repentant, and wanted to see him before she died, he would forgive her; and if he reached her too late, he could at least pay his last respects to her.  12
  Having made up his mind to do this, he gave it no more thought during the journey. Alekséi Aleksandrovitch, tired and dusty with his night of traveling, reached Petersburg in the early morning. He crossed the still deserted Nevsky Perspective, looking straight before him through the morning mist, without wishing to think of what was awaiting him at home. He did not wish to think about it, because he couldn’t help feeling that his wife’s death would put a speedy end to all the difficulties of his situation. The bakers, the night izvoshchiks, the dvorniks sweeping the sidewalks, the closed shops,—all passed like a flash before his eyes; he noticed everything, and tried to stifle the hope that he reproached himself for entertaining. When he reached his house he saw an izvoshchik, and a carriage with a coachman asleep, standing before the door. On the steps Alekséi Aleksandrovitch made another effort to come to a decision,—wrested, it seemed to him, from the most hidden recess of his brain, and which was something like this: “If she has deceived me, I will be calm, and go away again; but if she has told the truth, I will do what is proper.”  13
  The Swiss opened the door even before Karénin rang the bell; the Swiss presented a strange appearance, without any necktie, dressed in an old coat and slippers.  14
  “How is the baruina?”  15
  “She is as comfortable as could be expected.”  16
  Alekséi Aleksandrovitch turned very pale: he realized how deeply he had hoped for her death.  17
  Kornéi, the servant in morning-dress, came quickly down the stairs.  18
  “Madame is very low,” he said. “There was a consultation yesterday, and the doctor is here now.”  19
  “Take my things,” said Alekséi Aleksandrovitch, a little comforted to learn that all hope of death was not lost; and he went into the reception-room.  20
  A uniform overcoat hung in the hall. Alekséi Aleksandrovitch noticed it, and asked:—  21
  “Who is here?”  22
  “The doctor, the nurse, and Count Vronsky.”  23
  Karénin went into the drawing-room. There was nobody there; but the sound of his steps brought the nurse, in a cap with lilac ribbons, out of the boudoir. She came to Alekséi Aleksandrovitch, and taking him by the hand with the familiarity that the approach of death permits, led him into the sleeping-room.  24
  “Thank the Lord that you have come! She talks of nothing but you; always of you,” she said.  25
  “Bring some ice quick!” said the imperative voice of the doctor from the chamber.  26
  In the boudoir, sitting on a little low chair, Alekséi Aleksandrovitch saw Vronsky weeping, his face covered with his hands. He started at the sound of the doctor’s voice, uncovered his face, and found himself in the presence of Karénin. The sight of him disturbed him so much that he sank down in his chair, as if he wanted to disappear out of sight; then making a great effort, he rose, and said:—  27
  “She is dying: the doctors say that there is no hope. I am in your power. Only allow me to remain here. I will conform to your wishes in every other respect. I”—  28
  When he saw Vronsky in tears, Alekséi Aleksandrovitch felt the involuntary tenderness that the sufferings of others always caused him: he turned away his head without replying, and went to the door.  29
  Anna’s voice could be heard from the sleeping-room,—lively, gay, and articulating clearly. Alekséi Aleksandrovitch went in, and approached her bed.  30
  Her face was turned towards him. Her cheeks were bright, her eyes brilliant: her little white hands, coming out of the sleeves of her night-dress, were playing with the corner of the coverlet. Not only did she seem fresh and well, but in the happiest frame of mind; she talked fast and loud, accenting her words with precision and nicety.  31
  “For Alekséi. I am speaking of Alekséi Aleksandrovitch—strange, isn’t it, and cruel, that both should be named Alekséi? Alekséi would not have refused me: I should have forgotten. He would have forgiven— Da! why does he not come? He is good; he himself does not know how good he is. Ach! Bozhe moï! what agony! Give me some water quick! Ach! but that is not good for her,—my little daughter. Nu! then very well; give her to the nurse. I am willing; that will be even better. Nu! when he comes, she will be hateful in his sight; take her away.”  32
  “Anna Arkadyevna, he has come; here he is,” said the nurse, trying to draw her attention to Alekséi Aleksandrovitch.  33
  “Ach! what nonsense!” continued Anna, without seeing her husband. “Da! give the little one to me, give her to me! He hasn’t come yet. You pretend that he will not forgive me, because you do not know him. Nobody knows him. I alone— His eyes, one must know them. Serozha’s are very like them; that is why I can no longer look at them. Has Serozha had his dinner? I know he will be forgotten. Oh, do not forget him! Let Serozha be brought into the corner chamber, and let Mariette sleep near him.”  34
  Suddenly she was silent; she looked frightened, and raised her arms above her head as if to ward off a blow. She had recognized her husband.  35
  “No, no,” she said quickly, “I am not afraid of him; I am afraid of dying. Alekséi, come here. I am in a hurry, because there is no time to be lost. I have only a few minutes to live; the fever will be upon me again, and I shall know nothing more. Now I am conscious: I understand everything and I see everything.”  36
  Alekséi Aleksandrovitch’s wrinkled face expressed acute suffering: he wanted to speak, but his lower lip trembled so that he could not utter a word, and his emotion hardly allowed him to glance at the dying woman. He took her hand and held it between his own. Every time that he turned his head towards her, he saw her eyes fixed on him with a sweetness and a humility that he had never seen there before.  37
  “Wait! you do not know—wait, wait!” She stopped to collect her thoughts. “Yes,” she began again, “yes, yes, yes; this is what I want to say. Do not be astonished. I am always the same; but there is another being within me whom I fear: it is she who loved him, him, and hated you; and I could not forget what I had once been. Now I am myself,—entirely, really myself, and not another. I am dying, I know that I am dying; ask him if I am not. I feel it now; there are those terrible weights on my hand and my feet and on my fingers. My fingers! they are enormous; but all that will soon be over. One thing only is indispensable to me: forgive me, forgive me wholly! I am a sinner; but Serozha’s nurse told me that there was a holy martyr—what was her name?—who was worse than I. I will go to Rome; there is a desert there. I shall not trouble anybody there. I will only take Serozha and my little daughter. No, you cannot forgive me; I know very well that it is impossible. Go away, go away! you are too perfect!”  38
  She held him with one of her burning hands, and pushed him away with the other.  39
  Alekséi Aleksandrovitch’s emotion became so great that he could no longer control himself. He suddenly felt his emotions change to a moral reconciliation, which seemed like a new and unknown happiness. He had not believed that the Christian law, which he had taken for a guide in life, ordered him to forgive and love his enemies; and yet his soul was filled with love and forgiveness. Kneeling beside the bed, he laid his forehead on her arm,—the fever of which burned through the sleeve,—and sobbed like a child. She bent towards him, placed her arm around her husband’s bald head, and raised her eyes defiantly.  40
  “There, I knew that it would be so. Now farewell, farewell to all! They are coming back again. Why don’t they go away? Da! take off all these furs from me!”  41
  The doctor laid her back gently on her pillows, and drew the covering over her arms. Anna made no resistance, looking all the while straight before her with shining eyes.  42
  “Remember that I have only asked your pardon: I ask nothing more. Why doesn’t he come?” she said, suddenly looking towards the door, towards Vronsky. “Come! come here, and give him your hand.”  43
  Vronsky came to the side of the bed, and when he saw Anna he hid his face in his hands.  44
  “Uncover your face: look at him,—he is a saint,” said she. “Uncover your face! look at him!” she repeated in an irritated manner. “Alekséi Aleksandrovitch, uncover his face: I want to see him.”  45
  Alekséi Aleksandrovitch took Vronsky’s hands and uncovered his face, disfigured by suffering and humiliation.  46
  “Give him your hand; forgive him.”  47
  Alekséi Aleksandrovitch held out his hand to him, without trying to keep back the tears.  48
  “Thank the Lord! thank the Lord!” said she; “now everything is right. I will stretch out my feet a little, like that; that is better. How ugly those flowers are! they do not look like violets,” she said, pointing to the hangings in her room. “Bozhe moï! Bozhe moï! when will this be over? Give me some morphine, doctor; some morphine. Bozhe moï! Bozhe moï!” And she tossed about on the bed.  49
  The doctors said that in this fever there was not one chance in a hundred of her living. She passed the day delirious and unconscious. Towards midnight her pulse became very low: the end was expected every moment.  50
  Vronsky went home, but he came back the next morning to learn how she was. Alekséi Aleksandrovitch came to meet him in the reception-room, and said to him, “Stay here: perhaps she will ask for you.” Then he took him to his wife’s boudoir himself. In the morning the restlessness, the rapidity of thought and speech, returned; but soon unconsciousness intervened again. The third day was much the same, and the doctors began to hope. On this day Alekséi Aleksandrovitch went into the boudoir where Vronsky was, closed the door, and sat down in front of him.  51
  “Alekséi Aleksandrovitch,” said Vronsky, feeling that an explanation was to be made, “I cannot speak,—I cannot think. Have pity on me! Whatever may be your suffering, believe that mine is still more terrible.”  52
  He was going to rise; but Alekséi Aleksandrovitch prevented him, and said, “Pray listen to me: it is unavoidable. I am forced to explain to you the feelings that guide me, that you may avoid making any mistake in regard to me. You know that I had decided on a divorce, and that I had taken the preliminary steps to obtain one? I will not deny that at first I was undecided; I was in torment. I confess that I wanted to avenge myself. When I received the telegram, and came home, I felt the same desire. I will say more: I hoped that she would die. But”—he was silent for a moment, considering whether he would wholly reveal his thoughts—“but I have seen her: I have forgiven her absolutely. The happiness I feel at being able to forgive, clearly shows me my duty. I offer the other cheek to the smiter: I give my last cloak to him who has robbed me. I only ask one thing of God,—that he will not take away from me this joy of forgiving.”  53
  Tears filled his eyes. Vronsky was amazed at the calm, luminous face.  54
  “These are my feelings. You may drag me in the dust, and make me the laughing-stock of creation; but I will not give up Anna for that, nor will I utter a word of reproach to you,” continued Alekséi Aleksandrovitch. “My duty seems clear and plain to me: I must remain with her; I shall remain with her. If she wishes to see you, I shall inform you of it; but now I think it will be better for you to go away.”  55
  Karénin rose: sobs choked his voice. Vronsky rose too, and standing with bowed head and humble attitude, looked up at Karénin, without a word to say. He was incapable of understanding Alekséi Aleksandrovitch’s feelings; but he felt that such magnanimity was above him, and irreconcilable with his conception of life.  56
Note 1. “Whom Jupiter wishes to destroy he makes mad.” [back]

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