Chapter 26

The external relations of Alexei Alexandrovich and his wife had remained unchanged. The sole difference lay in the fact that he was more busily occupied than ever. As in former years, at the beginning of the spring he had gone to a foreign watering place for the sake of his health, being deranged every year with his strenuous winter work. And just as always he returned in July and at once fell to his usual work with increased energy. Just as always, too, his wife had moved for the summer to a villa out of town, while he remained in Peterburg.

From the date of their conversation after the party at Princess Tverskaia's he had never spoken again to Anna of his suspicions and his jealousies, and that habitual tone of his of bantering mimicry was the most convenient tone possible for his present attitude to his wife. He was a little colder to his wife. He simply seemed to be slightly displeased with her for that first midnight conversation, which she had repelled. In his attitude to her there was a shade of vexation, but nothing more. `You would not be open with me,' he seemed to say, mentally addressing her; `so much the worse for you. Now you may beg as you please, but I won't be open with you. So much the worse for you!' he said mentally, like a man who, after vainly attempting to extinguish a fire, should fly in a rage with his vain efforts and say, `Oh, very well then! You shall burn for this!'

This man, so subtle and astute in official life, did not realize all the insanity of such an attitude to his wife. He did not realize it, because it was too terrible to him to realize his actual position, and he shut down and locked and sealed up in his heart that secret place where lay hid his feelings toward his family - that is, his wife and son. He who had been such a considerate father, had from the end of that winter become peculiarly frigid to his son, and adopted to him just the same bantering tone as he used with his wife. `Aha, young man!' was the greeting with which he met him.

Alexei Alexandrovich asserted, and believed, that he had never in any previous year had so much official business as that year. But he was not aware that he sought work for himself that year, that this was one of the means for keeping shut that secret place where lay hid his feelings toward his wife and son, and his thoughts about them, which became more terrible the longer they lay there. If anyone had had the right to ask Alexei Alexandrovich what he thought of his wife's behavior, the mild and peaceable Alexei Alexandrovich would have made no answer, but he would have been greatly angered with any man who should question him on that subject. It was precisely for this reason that there came into Alexei Alexandrovich's face a look of haughtiness and severity whenever anyone inquired after his wife's health. Alexei Alexandrovich did not want to think at all about his wife's behavior and feelings, and he actually succeeded in not thinking about them at all.

Alexei Alexandrovich's permanent summer villa was in Peterhof, and the Countess Lidia Ivanovna used to spend the summer there, close to Anna, and constantly seeing her. That year Countess Lidia Ivanovna declined to settle in Peterhof, did not call once at Anna Arkadyevna's, and had hinted to Alexei Alexandrovich about the unsuitability of Anna's close intimacy with Betsy and Vronsky. Alexei Alexandrovich had sternly cut her short, roundly declaring his wife to be above suspicion, and from that time began to avoid Countess Lidia Ivanovna. He did not want to see, and did not see, that many people in society cast dubious glances on his wife; he did not want to understand, and did not understand, why his wife had so particularly insisted on staying at Tsarskoe, where Betsy was staying, and not far from the camp of Vronsky's regiment. He did not allow himself to think about it, and he did not think about it; but, all the same, though he never admitted it to himself, and had no proofs, nor even suspicious evidence, at the bottom of his heart he knew beyond all doubt that he was a deceived husband, and he was profoundly miserable about it.

How often during those eight years of happy life with his wife had Alexei Alexandrovich looked at other men's faithless wives and other deceived husbands and asked himself: `How can people descend to that? How is it they don't put an end to such a hideous situation?' But now, when the misfortune had come upon himself, he was so far from thinking of putting an end to the situation that he would not recognize it at all - would not recognize it just because it was too awful, too unnatural.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.