Connected with the conversation that had sprung up on the rights
of women there were certain questions as to the inequality of
rights in marriage improper to discuss before the ladies.
Pestsov had several times during dinner touched upon these
questions, but Sergey Ivanovitch and Stepan Arkadyevitch
carefully drew him off them.
When they rose from the table and the ladies had gone out,
Pestsov did not follow them, but addressing Alexey
Alexandrovitch, began to expound the chief ground of inequality.
The inequality in marriage, in his opinion, lay in the fact that
the infidelity of the wife and infidelity of the husband are
punished unequally, both by the law and by public opinion.
Stepan Arkadyevitch went hurriedly up to Alexey Alexandrovitch
and offered him a cigar.
"No, I don't smoke," Alexey Alexandrovitch answered calmly, and
as though purposely wishing to show that he was not afraid of the
subject, he turned to Pestsov with a chilly smile.
"I imagine that such a view has a foundation in the very nature
of things," he said, and would have gone on to the drawing room.
But at this point Turovtsin broke suddenly and unexpectedly into
the conversation, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch.
"You heard, perhaps, about Pryatchnikov?" said Turovtsin, warmed
up by the champagne he had drunk, and long waiting for an
opportunity to break the silence that had weighed on him. "Vasya
Pryatchnikov," he said, with a good-natured smile on his damp,
red lips, addressing himself principally to the most important
guest, Alexey Alexandrovitch, "they told me today he fought a
duel with Kvitsky at Tver, and has killed him."
Just as it always seems that one bruises oneself on a sore place,
so Stepan Arkadyevitch felt now that the conversation would by
ill luck fall every moment on Alexey Alexandrovitch's sore spot.
He would again have got his brother-in-law away, but Alexey
Alexandrovitch himself inquired, with curiosity:
"What did Pryatchnikov fight about?"
"His wife. Acted like a man, he did! Called him out and shot
"Ah!" said Alexey Alexandrovitch indifferently, and lifting his
eyebrows, he went into the drawing room.
"How glad I am you have come," Dolly said with a frightened
smile, meeting him in the outer drawing room. "I must talk to
you. Let's sit here."
Alexey Alexandrovitch, with the same expression of indifference,
given him by his lifted eyebrows, sat down beside Darya
Alexandrovna, and smiled affectedly.
"It's fortunate," said he, "especially as I was meaning to ask
you to excuse me, and to be taking leave. I have to start
Darya Alexandrovna was firmly convinced of Anna's innocence, and
she felt herself growing pale and her lips quivering with anger
at this frigid, unfeeling man, who was so calmly intending to
ruin her innocent friend.
"Alexey Alexandrovitch," she said, with desperate resolution
looking him in the face, "I asked you about Anna, you made me no
answer. How is she?"
"She is, I believe, quite well, Darya Alexandrovna," replied
Alexey Alexandrovitch, not looking at her.
"Alexey Alexandrovitch, forgive me, I have no right...but I
love Anna as a sister, and esteem her; I beg, I beseech you to
tell me what is wrong between you? what fault do you find with
Alexey Alexandrovitch frowned, and almost closing his eyes,
dropped his head.
"I presume that your husband has told you the grounds on which I
consider it necessary to change my attitude to Anna Arkadyevna?"
he said, not looking her in the face, but eyeing with displeasure
Shtcherbatsky, who was walking across the drawing room.
"I don't believe it, I don't believe it, I can't believe it!"
Dolly said, clasping her bony hands before her with a vigorous
gesture. She rose quickly, and laid her hand on Alexey
Alexandrovitch's sleeve. "We shall be disturbed here. Come this
Dolly's agitation had an effect on Alexey Alexandrovitch. He got
up and submissively followed her to the schoolroom. They sat
down to a table covered with an oilcloth cut in slits by
"I don't, I don't believe it!" Dolly said, trying to catch his
glance that avoided her.
"One cannot disbelieve facts, Darya Alexandrovna," said he, with
an emphasis on the word "facts."
"But what has she done?" said Darya Alexandrovna. "What
precisely has she done?"
"She has forsaken her duty, and deceived her husband. That's
what she has done," said he.
"No, no, it can't be! No, for God's sake, you are mistaken,"
said Dolly, putting her hands to her temples and closing her
Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled coldly, with his lips alone, meaning
to signify to her and himself the firmness of his conviction; but
this warm defense, though it could not shake him, reopened his
wound. He began to speak with greater heat.
"It is extremely difficult to be mistaken when a wife herself
informs her husband of the fact--informs him that eight years of
her life, and a son, all that's a mistake, and that she wants to
begin life again," he said angrily, with a snort.
"Anna and sin--I cannot connect them, I cannot believe it!"
"Darya Alexandrovna," he said, now looking straight into Dolly's
kindly, troubled face, and feeling that his tongue was being
loosened in spite of himself, "I would give a great deal for
doubt to be still possible. When I doubted, I was miserable, but
it was better than now. When I doubted, I had hope; but now
there is no hope, and still I doubt of everything. I am in such
doubt of everything that I even hate my son, and sometimes do not
believe he is my son. I am very unhappy."
He had no need to say that. Darya Alexandrovna had seen that as
soon as he glanced into her face; and she felt sorry for him, and
her faith in the innocence of her friend began to totter.
"Oh, this is awful, awful! But can it be true that you are
resolved on a divorce?"
"I am resolved on extreme measures. There is nothing else for me
"Nothing else to do, nothing else to do..." she replied, with
tears in her eyes. "Oh no, don't say nothing else to do!" she
"What is horrible in a trouble of this kind is that one cannot,
as in any other--in loss, in death--bear one's trouble in peace,
but that one must act," said he, as though guessing her thought.
"One must get out of the humiliating position in which one is
placed; one can't live a trois."
"I understand, I quite understand that," said Dolly, and her head
sank. She was silent for a little, thinking of herself, of her
own grief in her family, and all at once, with an impulsive
movement, she raised her head and clasped her hands with an
imploring gesture. "But wait a little! You are a Christian.
Think of her! What will become of her, if you cast her off?"
"I have thought, Darya Alexandrovna, I have thought a great
deal," said Alexey Alexandrovitch. His face turned red in
patches, and his dim eyes looked straight before him. Darya
Alexandrovna at that moment pitied him with all her heart. "That
was what I did indeed when she herself made known to me my
humiliation; I left everything as of old. I gave her a chance to
reform, I tried to save her. And with what result? She would
not regard the slightest request--that she should observe
decorum," he said, getting heated. "One may save anyone who does
not want to be ruined; but if the whole nature is so corrupt, so
depraved, that ruin itself seems to be her salvation, what's to
"Anything, only not divorce!" answered Darya Alexandrovna
"But what is anything?"
"No, it is awful! She will be no one's wife, she will be lost!"
"What can I do?" said Alexey Alexandrovitch, raising his
shoulders and his eyebrows. The recollection of his wife's last
act had so incensed him that he had become frigid, as at the
beginning of the conversation. "I am very grateful for your
sympathy, but I must be going," he said, getting up.
"No, wait a minute. You must not ruin her. Wait a little; I
will tell you about myself. I was married, and my husband
deceived me; in anger and jealousy, I would have thrown up
everything, I would myself.... But I came to myself again; and
who did it? Anna saved me. And here I am living on. The
children are growing up, my husband has come back to his family,
and feels his fault, is growing purer, better, and I live on....
I have forgiven it, and you ought to forgive!"
Alexey Alexandrovitch heard her, but her words had no effect on
him now. All the hatred of that day when he had resolved on a
divorce had sprung up again in his soul. He shook himself, and
said in a shrill, loud voice:
"Forgive I cannot, and do not wish to, and I regard it as wrong.
I have done everything for this woman, and she has trodden it all
in the mud to which she is akin. I am not a spiteful man, I have
never hated anyone, but I hate her with my whole soul, and I
cannot even forgive her, because I hate her too much for all the
wrong she has done me!" he said, with tones of hatred in his
"Love those that hate you...." Darya Alexandrovna whispered
Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled contemptuously. That he knew long
ago, but it could not be applied to his case.
"Love those that hate you, but to love those one hates is
impossible. Forgive me for having troubled you. Everyone has
enough to bear in his own grief!" And regaining his
self-possession, Alexey Alexandrovitch quietly took leave and