Chapter 17

Unconsciously going over in his memory the conversations that had taken place during and after dinner, Alexei Alexandrovich returned to his solitary room. Darya Alexandrovna's words about forgiveness had aroused in him nothing but annoyance. The applicability or nonapplicability of the Christian precept to his own case was too difficult a question to be discussed lightly, and this question had long ago been answered by Alexei Alexandrovich in the negative. Of all that had been said, what stuck most in his memory was the phrase of stupid, good-natured Turovtsin: `Acted like a man, he did! Called him out and shot him!' Everyone had apparently shared this feeling, though from politeness they had not expressed it.

`But the matter is settled; it's useless thinking about it,' Alexei Alexandrovich told himself. And thinking of nothing but the journey before him, and the revision work he had to do, he went into his room and asked the porter who escorted him where his man was; the porter said that the man had just gone out. Alexei Alexandrovich ordered tea to be sent him, sat down to the table, and, taking the schedule, began considering the route of his journey.

`Two telegrams,' said his valet, coming into the room. `I beg your pardon, Your Excellency; I'd just stepped out this very minute.'

Alexei Alexandrovich took the telegrams and opened them. The first telegram was the announcement of Stremov's appointment to the very post Karenin had coveted. Alexei Alexandrovich flung the telegram down, and, flushing, got up and began to pace up and down the room. `Quos vult perdere dementat,' he said, meaning by quos the persons responsible for this appointment. He was not so much annoyed at not receiving the post, as at having been so conspicuously passed over; but it was incomprehensible, amazing to him that they did not see that the wordy phrasemonger Stremov was the last man fit for it. How could they fail to see they were ruining themselves, lowering their prestige by this appointment?

`Something else in the same line,' he said to himself bitterly, opening the second telegram. The telegram was from his wife. Her name, written in blue pencil, `Anna,' was the first thing that caught his eye. `I am dying; I beg, I implore you to come. I shall die easier with your forgiveness,' he read. He smiled contemptuously, and flung down the telegram. That this was a trick and a fraud, of that - he thought for the first minute - there could be no doubt.

`There is no deceit she would stick at. She was near her confinement. Perhaps it is the confinement. But what can be their aim? To legitimize the child, to compromise me, and prevent a divorce,' he thought. `But something was said in it: I am dying...' He read the telegram again, and suddenly the plain meaning of what was said in it struck him. `And if it is true?' he said to himself. `If it is true that in the moment of agony and nearness to death she is genuinely penitent, and I, taking it for a trick, refuse to go? That would not only be cruel, and everyone would blame me, but it would be stupid on my part.'

`Piotr, call a coach; I am going to Peterburg,' he said to his servant.

Alexei Alexandrovich decided that he would go to Peterburg and see his wife. If her illness was a trick, he would say nothing and go away again. If she were really in danger, and wished to see him before her death, he would forgive her if he found her alive, and pay her the last duties if he came too late.

All the way he thought no more of what he ought to do.

With a sense of weariness and uncleanness from the night spent in the train, in the early fog of Peterburg, Alexei Alexandrovich drove through the deserted Nevsky Prospect, and stared straight before him, without thinking of what was awaiting him. He could not think about it, because in picturing what would happen, he could not drive away the reflection that her death would at once remove all the difficulty of his position. Bakers, closed shops, night cabmen, street sweepers sweeping the pavements flashed past his eyes, and he watched it all, trying to smother the thought of what was awaiting him, and what he dared not hope for, and yet was hoping for. He drove up to the steps. A hackney sleigh, and a coach with its coachman asleep, stood at the entrance. As he went into the entry, Alexei Alexandrovich seemed to get out his

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