“And this complete transformation in you all came about in the course of two or three weeks, after five years’ friendship. I don’t know you, Ivan Mihalovitch!”
Sofya Petrovna stole a glance at her companion. Screwing up his eyes, he was looking intently at the fluffy clouds. His face looked angry, ill-humoured, and preoccupied, like that of a man in pain forced to listen to nonsense.
“I wonder you don’t see it yourself,” Madame Lubyantsev went on, shrugging her shoulders. “You ought to realize that it’s not a very nice part you are playing. I am married; I love and respect my husband. . . . I have a daughter . . . . Can you think all that means nothing? Besides, as an old friend you know my attitude to family life and my views as to the sanctity of marriage.”
Ilyin cleared his throat angrily and heaved a sigh.
“Sanctity of marriage . . .” he muttered. “Oh, Lord!”
“Yes, yes. . . . I love my husband, I respect him; and in any case I value the peace of my home. I would rather let myself be killed than be a cause of unhappiness to Andrey and his daughter. . . . And I beg you, Ivan Mihalovitch, for God’s sake, leave me in peace! Let us be as good, true friends as we used to be, and give up these sighs and groans, which really don’t suit you. It’s settled and over! Not a word more about it. Let us talk of something else.”
Sofya Petrovna again stole a glance at Ilyin’s face. Ilyin was looking up; he was pale, and was angrily biting his quivering lips. She could not understand why he was angry and why he was indignant, but his pallor touched her.
“Don’t be angry; let us be friends,” she said affectionately. “Agreed? Here’s my hand.”
Ilyin took her plump little hand in both of his, squeezed it, and slowly raised it to his lips.
“I am not a schoolboy,” he muttered. “I am not in the least tempted by friendship with the woman I love.”
“Enough, enough! It’s settled and done with. We have reached the seat; let us sit down.”
Sofya Petrovna’s soul was filled with a sweet sense of relief: the most difficult and delicate thing had been said, the painful question was settled and done with. Now she could breathe freely and look Ilyin straight in the face. She looked at him, and the egoistic feeling of the superiority of the woman over the man who loves her, agreeably flattered her. It pleased her to see this huge, strong man, with his manly, angry face and his big black beard—clever, cultivated, and, people said, talented—sit down obediently beside her and bow his head dejectedly. For two or three minutes they sat without speaking.
“Nothing is settled or done with,” began Ilyin. “You repeat copy-book maxims to me. ’I love and respect my husband . . . the sanctity of marriage. . . .’ I know all that without your help, and I could tell you more, too. I tell you truthfully and honestly that I consider the way I am behaving as criminal and immoral. What more can one say than that? But what’s the good of saying what everybody knows? Instead of feeding nightingales with paltry words, you had much better tell me what I am to do.”