Chapter 13

None but those who were most intimate with Alexei Alexandrovich knew that, while on the surface the coldest and most rational of men, he had one weakness quite opposed to the general trend of his character. Alexei Alexandrovich could not hear or see a child or woman crying without being moved. The sight of tears threw him into a state of nervous agitation, and he utterly lost all power of reflection. The head clerk of his board and the secretary were aware of this, and used to warn women who came with petitions on no account to give way to tears, if they did not want to ruin their chances. `He will get angry, and will not listen to you,' they used to say. And, as a fact, in such cases the emotional disturbance set up in Alexei Alexandrovich by the sight of tears found expression in hasty anger. `I can do nothing. Kindly leave the room!' he would usually shout in such cases.

When, returning from the races, Anna had informed him of her relations with Vronsky, and immediately afterward had burst into tears, hiding her face in her hands, Alexei Alexandrovich, for all the fury aroused in him against her, was aware at the same time of a rush of that emotional disturbance always produced in him by tears. Conscious of it, and conscious that any expression of his feelings at that minute would be out of keeping with the situation, he tried to suppress every manifestation of life in himself, and so neither stirred nor looked at her. This was what had caused that strange expression of deathlike rigidity in his face which had so impressed Anna.

When they reached the house he helped her to get out of the carriage, and, making an effort to master himself, took leave of her with his usual urbanity, and uttered that phrase that bound him to nothing; he said that tomorrow he would let her know his decision.

His wife's words, confirming his worst suspicions, had sent a cruel pang to the heart of Alexei Alexandrovich. That pang was intensified by the strange feeling of physical pity for her engendered by her tears. But when he was all alone in the carriage Alexei Alexandrovich, to his surprise and delight, felt complete relief both from this pity and from the doubts and agonies of jealousy.

He experienced the sensations of a man who has had a tooth out after suffering long from toothache. After a fearful agony and a sense of something huge, bigger than the head itself, being torn out of his jaw, the sufferer, hardly able to believe in his own good luck, feels all at once that what has so long envenomed his existence and enchained his attention, exists no longer, and that he can live and think again, and take an interest in other things besides his tooth. This feeling Alexei Alexandrovich was experiencing. The agony had been strange and terrible, but now it was over; he felt that he could live again and think of something other than his wife.

`No honor, no heart, no religion; a corrupt woman. I always knew it and always saw it, though I tried to deceive myself to spare her,' he said to himself. And it actually seemed to him that he always had seen it: he recalled incidents of their past life, in which he had never seen anything wrong before - now these incidents proved clearly that she had always been a corrupt woman. `I made a mistake in linking my life to hers; but there was nothing wrong in my mistake, and so I cannot be unhappy. It's not I who am to blame,' he told himself, `but she. But I have nothing to do with her. She does not exist for me.'

All that would befall her and her son, toward whom his sentiments were as much changed as toward her, ceased to interest him. The only thing that interested him now was the question in what way he could best, with most propriety and comfort for himself, and so with most justice, shake clear the mud with which she had spattered him in her fall, and then proceed along his path of active, honorable, and useful existence.

`I cannot be made unhappy by the fact that a contemptible woman has committed a crime. I have only to find the best way out of the difficult position in which she has placed me. And I shall find it,' he said to himself, frowning more and more. `I'm neither the first nor the last.' And to say nothing of historical instances dating from Menelaus, recently revived in the memory of all by La Belle Hélène, a whole list of contemporary examples of husbands with unfaithful wives in the highest society rose before Alexei Alexandrovich's imagination. `Daryalov, Poltavsky, Prince Karibanov, Count Paskudin, Dram... Yes, even

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