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 and her Son
By Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)
From ‘Anna Karénina’: Translation of Nathan Haskell Dole

ANNA’S chief desire on her return to Russia was to see her son. From the day that she left Italy she was filled with this idea; and her joy increased in proportion as she drew near Petersburg. She did not trouble herself with the question how she should manage this meeting, which seemed to her of such importance. It was a simple and natural thing, she thought, to see her child once more, now that she was in the same town with him; but since her arrival she suddenly realized her present relation towards society, and found that the interview was not easy to obtain.  1
  She had been two days now in Petersburg, and never for an instant had she forgotten her son; but she had not seen him.  2
  To go straight to her husband’s house, and risk coming face to face with her husband, seemed to her impossible. They might even refuse to admit her. To write to Alekséi Aleksandrovitch and ask permission of him, seemed to her painful even to think of. She could be calm only when she did not think of her husband; and yet she could not feel contented to see her son at a distance. She had too many kisses, too many caresses, to give him.  3
  Serozha’s old nurse might have been an assistance to her, but she no longer lived with Alekséi Aleksandrovitch.  4
  On the third day, having learned of Alekséi Aleksandrovitch’s relations with the Countess Lidia Ivanovna, Anna decided to write her a letter composed with the greatest care, in which she would tell her frankly that the permission to see her son depended on her. She knew that if her husband found it out, he, in his part of magnanimous man, would not refuse her.  5
  It was a cruel blow to have her messenger return without an answer. She had never felt so wounded, so humiliated; and yet she had to acknowledge that the countess was right. Her grief was all the keener because she had to bear it alone. She could not and did not wish to confide it to Vronsky. She knew that though he was the chief cause of her unhappiness, he would look upon her meeting with her son as of little account; and the mere thought of the unsympathetic tone in which he would speak of it made him seem odious to her. And the fear that she might come to hate him was the worst of all. Therefore she made up her mind to hide from him her action in regard to the child.  6
  She stayed at home all day long, and racked her brain to think of other ways of meeting her son; and finally she decided upon the most painful of all,—to write directly to her husband. Just as she was beginning her letter, Lidia Ivanovna’s reply was brought. She accepted it with silent resignation; but the unfriendliness, the sarcasm, that she read between the lines, pierced deep into her soul.  7
  “What cruelty! What hypocrisy!” she said to herself. “They want to insult me and torment the child. I will not let them do so. She is worse than I am: at least I do not lie.”  8
  She immediately decided to go on the morrow, which was Serozha’s birthday, directly to her husband’s house to see the child, no matter what it cost in fees to the servants; and to put an end to the ugly network of lies with which they were surrounding the innocent child.  9
  She went to a neighboring shop and purchased some toys; and thus she formed her plan of action: She would start early in the morning, before Alekséi Aleksandrovitch was up; she would have the money in her hand all ready to bribe the Swiss and the other servants to let her go up-stairs without raising her veil, under the pretext of laying on Serozha’s bed some presents sent by his godfather. As to what she should say to her son, she could not form the least idea; she could not make any preparation for that.  10
  The next morning, at eight o’clock, Anna got out of her hired carriage and rang the door-bell of her former home.  11
  “Go and see what is wanted. It’s some baruina,” said Kapitonuitch, in overcoat and galoshes, as he looked out of the window and saw a lady closely veiled standing on the porch. The Swiss’s assistant, a young man whom Anna did not know, had scarcely opened the door before Anna thrust a three-ruble note into his hand.  12
  “Serozha—Sergéi Alekseievitch,” she stammered; then she went one or two steps down the hall.  13
  The Swiss’s assistant examined the note, and stopped the visitor at the inner glass door.  14
  “Whom do you wish to see?” he asked.  15
  She did not hear his words, and made no reply.  16
  Kapitonuitch, noticing the stranger’s confusion, came out from his office and asked her what she wanted.  17
  “I come from Prince Skorodumof to see Sergéi Alekseievitch.”  18
  “He is not up yet,” replied the Swiss, looking sharply at the veiled lady.  19
  Anna had never dreamed that she should be so troubled by the sight of this house, where she had lived nine years. One after another, sweet and cruel memories arose in her mind, and for a moment she forgot why she was there.  20
  “Will you wait?” asked the Swiss, helping her to take off her shubka. When he saw her face, he recognized her, and bowed profoundly. “Will your Ladyship be pleased to enter?” he said to her.  21
  She tried to speak; but her voice failed her, and with an entreating look at the old servant she rapidly flew up the stairs. Kapitonuitch tried to overtake her, and followed after her, catching his galoshes at every step.  22
  “Perhaps his tutor is not dressed yet: I will speak to him.”  23
  Anna kept on up the stairs which she knew so well; but she did not hear what the old man said.  24
  “This way. Excuse it if all is in disorder. He sleeps in the front room now,” said the Swiss, out of breath. “Will your Ladyship be good enough to wait a moment? I will go and see.” And opening the high door he disappeared.  25
  Anna stopped and waited.  26
  “He has just waked up,” said the Swiss, coming back through the same door.  27
  And as he spoke, Anna heard the sound of a child yawning; and merely by the sound of the yawn she recognized her son, and seemed to see him alive before her.  28
  “Let me go in—let me!” she stammered, and hurriedly pushed through the door.  29
  At the right of the door was a bed, and on the bed a child was sitting up in his little open nightgown; his little body was leaning forward, and he was just finishing a yawn and stretching himself. His lips were just closing into a sleepy smile, and he fell back upon his pillow still smiling.  30
  “Serozha!” she murmured, as she went towards him.  31
  Every time since their separation that she had felt an access of love for the absent son, Anna looked upon him as still a child of four,—the age when he had been most charming. Now he no longer bore any resemblance to him whom she had left; he had grown tall and thin. How long his face seemed! How short his hair! What long arms! How he had changed! But it was still the same,—the shape of his head, his lips, little slender neck, and his broad shoulders.  32
  “Serozha!” she whispered in the child’s ear.  33
  He raised himself on his elbow, turned his frowzy head around, and trying to put things together, opened wide his eyes. For several seconds he looked with an inquiring face at his mother, who stood motionless before him. Then he suddenly smiled with joy; and with his eyes still half closed in sleep, he threw himself, not back upon his pillow, but into his mother’s arms.  34
  “Serozha, my dear little boy!” she stammered, choking with tears, and throwing her arms around his little body.  35
  “Mamma!” he whispered, cuddling into his mother’s arms, so as to feel their encircling pressure. Smiling sleepily, he took his hand from the head of the bed and put it on his mother’s shoulder, and climbed into her lap,—having that warm breath of sleep peculiar to children,—and pressed his face to his mother’s neck and shoulders.  36
  “I knew,” he said, opening his eyes: “to-day is my birthday; I knew that you would come. I am going to get up now.”  37
  And as he spoke he fell asleep again. Anna devoured him with her eyes. She saw how he had changed during her absence. She would scarcely have known his long legs coming below his nightgown, his hollow cheeks, his short hair curled in the neck where she had so often kissed it. She pressed him to her heart, and the tears prevented her from speaking.  38
  “What are you crying for, mamma?” he asked, now entirely awake. “What makes you cry?” he repeated, ready to weep himself.  39
  “I? I will not cry any more; it is for joy. It is all over now,” said she, drying her tears and turning around. “Nu! go and get dressed,” she added, after she had grown a little calmer, but still holding Serozha’s hand. She sat down near the bed, on a chair which held the child’s clothing. “How do you dress without me? How—” she wanted to speak simply and gayly, but she could not; and again she turned her head away.  40
  “I don’t wash in cold water any more,—papa has forbidden it; but you have not seen Vasíli Lukitch? Here he comes. But you are sitting on my things.” And Serozha laughed heartily. She looked at him and smiled.  41
  “Mamma! dúshenka, goldútchika!” [dear little soul, darling] he cried again, throwing himself into her arms, as though he now better understood what had happened to him, as he saw her smile.  42
  “Take it off,” said he, pulling off her hat. And seeing her head bare, he began to kiss her again.  43
  “What did you think of me? Did you believe that I was dead?”  44
  “I never believed it.”  45
  “You believed me alive, my precious?”  46
  “I knew it! I knew it!” he replied, repeating his favorite phrase; and seizing the hand which was smoothing his hair, he pressed the palm of it to his little mouth, and began to kiss it.  47
  Vasíli Lukitch, meantime, not at first knowing who this lady was, but learning from their conversation that it was Serozha’s mother,—the woman who had deserted her husband, and whom he did not know, as he had not come into the house till after her departure,—was in great perplexity. Ought he to tell Alekséi Aleksandrovitch? On mature reflection he came to the conclusion that his duty consisted in going to dress Serozha at the usual hour, without paying any attention to a third person—his mother or any one else. But as he reached the door and opened it, the sight of the caresses between the mother and child—the sound of their voices and their words—made him change his mind. He shook his head, sighed, and quietly closed the door. “I will wait ten minutes longer,” he said to himself, coughing slightly, and wiping his eyes.  48
  There was great excitement among the servants: they all knew that the baruina had come, and that Kapitonuitch had let her in, and that she was in the child’s room; they knew too that their master was in the habit of going to Serozha every morning at nine o’clock: each one felt that the husband and wife ought not to meet,—that it must be prevented.  49
  Kornéi, the valet, went down to the Swiss to ask why Anna had been let in; and finding that Kapitonuitch had taken her up-stairs, he reprimanded him severely. The Swiss maintained an obstinate silence till the valet declared that he deserved to lose his place, when the old man jumped at him, and shaking his fist in his face, said:—  50
  “Da! Vot, you would not have let her in yourself? You’ve served here ten years, and had nothing but kindness from her, but you would have said, ‘Now go away from here!’ You know what policy is, you sly dog. What you don’t forget is to rob your master, and to carry off his raccoon-skin shubas!”  51
  “Soldier!” replied Kornéi scornfully, and he turned towards the nurse, who was coming in just at this moment. “What do you think, Marya Yefimovna? He has let in Anna Arkadyevna, without saying anything to anybody, and just when Alekséi Aleksandrovitch, as soon as he is up, will be going to the nursery.”  52
  “What a scrape! what a scrape!” said the nurse. “But, Kornéi Vasilyevitch, find some way to keep your master, while I run to warn her and get her out of the way. What a scrape!”  53
  When the nurse went into the child’s room, Serozha was telling his mother how Nádenka and he had fallen when sliding down a hill of ice, and turned three somersaults. Anna was listening to the sound of her son’s voice, looking at his face, watching the play of his features, feeling his little arms, but not hearing a word that he said. She must go away, she must leave him: this alone she understood and felt. She had heard Vasíli Lukitch’s steps, and his little discreet cough, as he came to the door—and now she heard the nurse coming in; but unable to move or to speak, she remained as fixed as a statue.  54
  “Baruina! Golúbtchika!” [mistress, darling] said the nurse, coming up to Anna, and kissing her hands and her shoulders. “God sent this joy for our birthday celebration! You are not changed at all.”  55
  “Ach! nyanya [nurse], my dear: I did not know that you were in the house,” said Anna, coming to herself.  56
  “I don’t live here; I live with my daughter. I came to give my best wishes to Serozha, Anna Arkadyevna, golúbtchika.”  57
  The nurse suddenly began to weep, and to kiss Anna’s hand.  58
  Serozha, with bright, joyful eyes, and holding his mother with one hand and his nurse with the other, was dancing in his little bare feet on the carpet. His old nurse’s tenderness towards his mother was delightful to him.  59
  “Mamma, she often comes to see me; and when she comes—” he began, but he stopped short when he perceived that the nurse whispered something in his mother’s ear, and that his mother’s face assumed an expression of fear, and at the same time of shame.  60
  Anna went to him.  61
  “My precious!” she said.  62
  She could not say the word “farewell” [proshcháï]; but the expression of her face said it, and he understood.  63
  “My precious, precious Kutik!” she said, calling him by a pet name which she used when he was a baby. “You will not forget me; you—” but she could not say another word.  64
  Only then she began to remember the words which she wanted to say to him; but now it was impossible to say them. Serozha, however, understood all that she would have said: he understood that she was unhappy, and that she loved him. He even understood what the nurse whispered in her ear: he heard the words “always at nine o’clock”; and he knew that they referred to his father, and that his mother must not meet him. He understood this, but one thing he could not understand: why did her face express fear and shame?… She was not to blame, but she was afraid of him, and seemed ashamed of something. He wanted to ask a question which would have explained this circumstance, but he did not dare: he saw that she was in sorrow, and he pitied her. He silently clung close to her, and then he whispered, “Don’t go yet! He will not come yet awhile.”  65
  His mother pushed him away from her a little, in order to see if he understood the meaning of what he had said; and in the frightened expression of his face she perceived that he not only spoke of his father, but seemed to ask her how he ought to think about him.  66
  “Serozha, my dear,” she said, “love him: he is better than I am; and I have been wicked to him. When you have grown up, you will understand.”  67
  “No one is better than you,” cried the child, with sobs of despair; and clinging to his mother’s shoulders, he squeezed her with all the force of his little trembling arms.  68
  “Dúshenka, my darling!” stammered Anna; and bursting into tears, she sobbed like a child, even as he sobbed.  69
  At this moment the door opened, and Vasíli Lukitch came in. Steps were heard at the other door; and in a frightened whisper he exclaimed, “He is coming,” and gave Anna her hat.  70
  Serozha threw himself on the bed, sobbing, and covered his face with his hands. Anna took them away to kiss yet once again his tear-stained cheeks; and then with quick steps hurried from the room. Alekséi Aleksandrovitch met her at the door. When he saw her he stopped and bowed his head.  71
  Though she had declared a moment before that he was better than she, the swift glance that she gave him—taking in his whole person—awoke in her only a feeling of hatred and scorn for him, and jealousy on account of her son. She hurriedly lowered her veil, and quickening her step, almost ran from the room. She had entirely forgotten in her haste the playthings which, on the evening before, she had bought with so much love and sadness; and she took them back with her to the hotel.  72

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.