The Kreutzer Sonata, by Leo Tolstoy

Chapter XXVIII.

“Strange thing! Again, when I had left my study, and was passing through the familiar rooms, again the hope came to me that nothing had happened. But the odor of the drugs, iodoform and phenic acid, brought me back to a sense of reality.

“‘No, everything has happened.’

“In passing through the hall, beside the children’s chamber, I saw little Lise. She was looking at me, with eyes that were full of fear. I even thought that all the children were looking at me. As I approached the door of our sleeping-room, a servant opened it from within, and came out. The first thing that I noticed was HER light gray dress upon a chair, all dark with blood. On our common bed she was stretched, with knees drawn up.

She lay very high, upon pillows, with her chemise half open. Linen had been placed upon the wound. A heavy smell of iodoform filled the room. Before, and more than anything else, I was astonished at her face, which was swollen and bruised under the eyes and over a part of the nose. This was the result of the blow that I had struck her with my elbow, when she had tried to hold me back. Of beauty there was no trace left. I saw something hideous in her. I stopped upon the threshold.

“‘Approach, approach her,’ said her sister.

“‘Yes, probably she repents,’ thought I; ‘shall I forgive her? Yes, she is dying, I must forgive her,’ I added, trying to be generous.

“I approached the bedside. With difficulty she raised her eyes, one of which was swollen, and uttered these words haltingly:

“‘You have accomplished what you desired. You have killed me.’

“And in her face, through the physical sufferings, in spite of the approach of death, was expressed the same old hatred, so familiar to me.

“‘The children . . . I will not give them to you . . . all the same. . . . She (her sister) shall take them.’ . . .

“But of that which I considered essential, of her fault, of her treason, one would have said that she did not think it necessary to say even a word.

“‘Yes, revel in what you have done.’

“And she sobbed.

“At the door stood her sister with the children.

“‘Yes, see what you have done!’

“I cast a glance at the children, and then at her bruised and swollen face, and for the first time I forgot myself (my rights, my pride), and for the first time I saw in her a human being, a sister.

“And all that which a moment before had been so offensive to me now seemed to me so petty — all this jealousy — and, on the contrary, what I had done seemed to me so important that I felt like bending over, approaching my face to her hand, and saying:

“‘Forgive me!’

“But I did not dare. She was silent, with eyelids lowered, evidently having no strength to speak further. Then her deformed face began to tremble and shrivel, and she feebly pushed me back.

“‘Why has all this happened? Why?’

“‘Forgive me,’ said I.

“‘Yes, if you had not killed me,’ she cried suddenly, and her eyes shone feverishly. ‘Forgiveness — that is nothing. . . . If I only do not die! Ah, you have accomplished what you desired! I hate you!’

“Then she grew delirious. She was frightened, and cried:

“‘Fire, I do not fear . . . but strike them all . . . He has gone. . . . He has gone.’ . . .

“The delirium continued. She no longer recognized the children, not even little Lise, who had approached. Toward noon she died. As for me, I was arrested before her death, at eight o’clock in the morning. They took me to the police station, and then to prison, and there, during eleven months, awaiting the verdict, I reflected upon myself, and upon my past, and I understood it. Yes, I began to understand from the third day. The third day they took me to the house.” . . .

Posdnicheff seemed to wish to add something, but, no longer having the strength to repress his sobs, he stopped. After a few minutes, having recovered his calmness, he resumed:

“I began to understand only when I saw her in the coffin.” . . .

He uttered a sob, and then immediately continued, with haste:

“Then only, when I saw her dead face, did I understand all that I had done. I understood that it was I, I, who had killed her. I understood that I was the cause of the fact that she, who had been a moving, living, palpitating being, had now become motionless and cold, and that there was no way of repairing this thing. He who has not lived through that cannot understand it.”


We remained silent a long time. Posdnicheff sobbed and trembled before me. His face had become delicate and long, and his mouth had grown larger.

“Yes,” said he suddenly, “if I had known what I now know, I should never have married her, never, not for anything.”

Again we remained silent for a long time.

“Yes, that is what I have done, that is my experience, We must understand the real meaning of the words of the Gospel — Matthew, V. 28 — ‘that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery’; and these words relate to the wife, to the sister, and not only to the wife of another, but especially to one’s own wife.”

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