Chapter 19

The mistake made by Alexei Alexandrovich, when preparing to see his wife, in having overlooked the possibility that her repentance might be sincere, and that he might forgive her, and she might not die - this mistake was two months after his return from Moscow brought home to him in all its significance. But the mistake made by him had arisen not simply from his having overlooked that contingency, but also from the fact that, until the day of his interview with his dying wife, he had not known his own heart. At his sick wife's bedside he had for the first time in his life given way to that feeling of sympathetic suffering always roused in him by the sufferings of others, and hitherto looked on by him with shame as a harmful weakness. And pity for her, and remorse for having desired her death, and, most of all, the joy of forgiveness, made him at once conscious, not simply of the relief of his own sufferings, but of a spiritual peace he had never experienced before. He suddenly felt that the very thing that was the source of his sufferings had become the source of his spiritual joy; that what had seemed insolvable while he was judging, blaming, and hating, had become clear and simple when he forgave and loved.

He forgave his wife and pitied her for her sufferings and her remorse. He forgave Vronsky, and pitied him, especially after reports reached him of his despairing action. He felt more for his son than before. And he blamed himself now for having taken too little interest in him. But for the little newborn baby he felt a quite peculiar sentiment, not of pity only, but of tenderness. At first, from a feeling of compassion alone, he had been interested in the delicate little creature, who was not his child, and who was neglected during her mother's illness, and would certainly have died if he had not troubled about her; and he did not himself observe how fond he became of her. He would go into the nursery several times a day, and sit there for a long while, so that the nurse and wet nurses, who were at first afraid of him, got quite used to his presence. Sometimes, for half an hour at a stretch, he would sit silently gazing at the saffron- red, downy, wrinkled face of the sleeping baby, watching the movements of the frowning brows, and the plump little hands with clenched fingers, that rubbed the little eyes and bridge of the nose with the back of their palms. At such moments particularly Alexei Alexandrovich had a sense of perfect peace and inward harmony, and saw nothing extraordinary in his position, nothing that ought to be changed.

But, as time went on, he saw more and more distinctly that however natural the position now seemed to him, he would not long be allowed to remain in it. He felt that besides the blessed spiritual force controlling his soul, there was another, a brutal force, as powerful, or more powerful, which controlled his life, and that this force would not allow him that humble peace he longed for. He felt that everyone was looking at him with inquiring wonder, that he was not understood, and that something was expected of him. Above all, he felt the instability and unnaturalness of his relations with his wife.

When the softening effect of the near approach of death had passed away, Alexei Alexandrovich began to notice that Anna was afraid of him, ill at ease with him, and could not look him straight in the face. She seemed to be wanting, yet not daring, to tell him something; and, as though foreseeing that their present relations could not continue, she seemed to be expecting something from him.

Toward the end of February Anna's baby daughter, who had also been named Anna, happened to fall ill. Alexei Alexandrovich was in the nursery in the morning, and leaving orders for the doctor to be sent for, he went to his office. On finishing his work, he returned home at four. Going into the hall he saw a handsome footman, in a gallooned livery and a bear-fur cape, holding a white fur cloak.

`Who is here?' asked Alexei Alexandrovich.

`Princess Elizaveta Fiodorovna Tverskaia,' the footman answered, and it seemed to Alexei Alexandrovich that the fellow grinned.

During all this difficult time Alexei Alexandrovich had noticed that his worldly acquaintances, especially women, took a peculiar interest in him and his wife. He observed all these acquaintances with difficulty concealing their mirth at something - the same mirth that he had perceived in the lawyer's eyes, and, just now, in the eyes of this footman. Everyone seemed, somehow, hugely delighted, as though just

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