Vronsky's wound had been a dangerous one, though it did not
touch the heart, and for several days he had lain between life
and death. The first time he was able to speak, Varya, his
brother's wife, was alone in the room.
"Varya," he said, looking sternly at her, "I shot myself by
accident. And please never speak of it, and tell everyone so.
Or else it's too ridiculous."
Without answering his words, Varya bent over him, and with a
delighted smile gazed into his face. His eyes were clear, not
feverish; but their expression was stern.
"Thank God!" she said. "You're not in pain?"
"A little here." He pointed to his breast.
"Then let me change your bandages."
In silence, stiffening his broad jaws, he looked at her while she
bandaged him up. When she had finished he said:
"I'm not delirious. Please manage that there may be no talk of
my having shot myself on purpose."
"No one does say so. Only I hope you won't shoot yourself by
accident any more," she said, with a questioning smile.
"Of course I won't, but it would have been better..."
And he smiled gloomily.
In spite of these words and this smile, which so frightened
Varya, when the inflammation was over and he began to recover, he
felt that he was completely free from one part of his misery. By
his action he had, as it were, washed away the shame and
humiliation he had felt before. He could now think calmly of
Alexey Alexandrovitch. He recognized all his magnanimity, but he
did not now feel himself humiliated by it. Besides, he got back
again into the beaten track of his life. He saw the possibility
of looking men in the face again without shame, and he could live
in accordance with his own habits. One thing he could not pluck
out of his heart, though he never ceased struggling with it, was
the regret, amounting to despair, that he had lost her forever.
That now, having expiated his sin against the husband, he was
bound to renounce her, and never in future to stand between her
with her repentance and her husband, he had firmly decided in his
heart; but he could not tear out of his heart his regret at the
loss of her love, he could not erase from his memory those
moments of happiness that he had so little prized at the time,
and that haunted him in all their charm.