The Kreutzer Sonata, by Leo Tolstoy

Chapter XXII.

“All that day I did not speak to my wife. I could not. Her proximity excited such hatred that I feared myself. At the table she asked me, in presence of the children, when I was to start upon a journey. I was to go the following week to an assembly of the Zemstvo, in a neighboring locality. I named the date. She asked me if I would need anything for the journey. I did not answer. I sat silent at the table, and silently I retired to my study. In those last days she never entered my study, especially at that hour. Suddenly I heard her steps, her walk, and then a terribly base idea entered my head that, like the wife of Uri, she wished to conceal a fault already committed, and that it was for this reason that she came to see me at this unseasonable hour. ‘Is it possible,’ thought I, ‘that she is coming to see me?’ On hearing her step as it approached: ‘If it is to see me that she is coming, then I am right.’

“An inexpressible hatred invaded my soul. The steps drew nearer, and nearer, and nearer yet. Would she pass by and go on to the other room? No, the hinges creaked, and at the door her tall, graceful, languid figure appeared. In her face, in her eyes, a timidity, an insinuating expression, which she tried to hide, but which I saw, and of which I understood the meaning. I came near suffocating, such were my efforts to hold my breath, and, continuing to look at her, I took my cigarette, and lighted it.

“‘What does this mean? One comes to talk with you, and you go to smoking.’

“And she sat down beside me on the sofa, resting against my shoulder. I recoiled, that I might not touch her.

“‘I see that you are displeased with what I wish to play on Sunday,’ said she.

“‘I am not at all displeased,’ said I.

“‘Can I not see?’

“‘Well, I congratulate you on your clairvoyance. Only to you every baseness is agreeable, and I abhor it.’

“‘If you are going to swear like a trooper, I am going away.’

“‘Then go away. Only know that, if the honor of the family is nothing to you, to me it is dear. As for you, the devil take you!’

“‘What! What is the matter?’

“‘Go away, in the name of God.’

“But she did not go away. Was she pretending not to understand, or did she really not understand what I meant? But she was offended and became angry.

“‘You have become absolutely impossible,’ she began, or some such phrase as that regarding my character, trying, as usual, to give me as much pain as possible. ‘After what you have done to my sister (she referred to an incident with her sister, in which, beside myself, I had uttered brutalities; she knew that that tortured me, and tried to touch me in that tender spot) nothing will astonish me.’

“‘Yes, offended, humiliated, and dishonored, and after that to hold me still responsible,’ thought I, and suddenly a rage, such a hatred invaded me as I do not remember to have ever felt before. For the first time I desired to express this hatred physically. I leaped upon her, but at the same moment I understood my condition, and I asked myself whether it would be well for me to abandon myself to my fury. And I answered myself that it would be well, that it would frighten her, and, instead of resisting, I lashed and spurred myself on, and was glad to feel my anger boiling more and more fiercely.

“‘Go away, or I will kill you!’ I cried, purposely, with a frightful voice, and I grasped her by the arm. She did not go away. Then I twisted her arm, and pushed her away violently.

“‘What is the matter with you? Come to your senses!’ she shrieked.

“‘Go away,’ roared I, louder than ever, rolling my eyes wildly. ‘It takes you to put me in such a fury. I do not answer for myself! Go away!’

“In abandoning myself to my anger, I became steeped in it, and I wanted to commit some violent act to show the force of my fury. I felt a terrible desire to beat her, to kill her, but I realized that that could not be, and I restrained myself. I drew back from her, rushed to the table, grasped the paper-weight, and threw it on the floor by her side. I took care to aim a little to one side, and, before she disappeared (I did it so that she could see it), I grasped a candlestick, which I also hurled, and then took down the barometer, continuing to shout:

“‘Go away! I do not answer for myself!’

“She disappeared, and I immediately ceased my demonstrations. An hour later the old servant came to me and said that my wife was in a fit of hysterics. I went to see her. She sobbed and laughed, incapable of expressing anything, her whole body in a tremble. She was not shamming, she was really sick. We sent for the doctor, and all night long I cared for her. Toward daylight she grew calmer, and we became reconciled under the influence of that feeling which we called ‘love.’ The next morning, when, after the reconciliation, I confessed to her that I was jealous of Troukhatchevsky, she was not at all embarrassed, and began to laugh in the most natural way, so strange did the possibility of being led astray by such a man appear to her.

“‘With such a man can an honest woman entertain any feeling beyond the pleasure of enjoying music with him? But if you like, I am ready to never see him again, even on Sunday, although everybody has been invited. Write him that I am indisposed, and that will end the matter. Only one thing annoys me — that any one could have thought him dangerous. I am too proud not to detest such thoughts.’

“And she did not lie. She believed what she said. She hoped by her words to provoke in herself a contempt for him, and thereby to defend herself. But she did not succeed. Everything was directed against her, especially that abominable music. So ended the quarrel, and on Sunday our guests came, and Troukhatchevsky and my wife again played together.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04