Alexey Alexandrovitch paused, and rubbed his forehead and his eyes. He saw that instead of doing as he had intended—that is to say, warning his wife against a mistake in the eyes of the world—he had unconsciously become agitated over what was the affair of her conscience, and was struggling against the barrier he fancied between them.
“This is what I meant to say to you,” he went on coldly and composedly, “and I beg you to listen to it. I consider jealousy, as you know, a humiliating and degrading feeling, and I shall never allow myself to be influenced by it; but there are certain rules of decorum which cannot be disregarded with impunity. This evening it was not I observed it, but judging by the impression made on the company, everyone observed that your conduct and deportment were not altogether what could be desired.”
“I positively don’t understand,” said Anna, shrugging her shoulders—“He doesn’t care,” she thought. “But other people noticed it, and that’s what upsets him.”—“You’re not well, Alexey Alexandrovitch,” she added, and she got up, and would have gone towards the door; but he moved forward as though he would stop her.
His face was ugly and forbidding, as Anna had never seen him. She stopped, and bending her head back and on one side, began with her rapid hand taking out her hairpins.
“Well, I’m listening to what’s to come,” she said, calmly and ironically; “and indeed I listen with interest, for I should like to understand what’s the matter.”
She spoke, and marveled at the confident, calm, and natural tone in which she was speaking, and the choice of the words she used.
“To enter into all the details of your feelings I have no right, and besides, I regard that as useless and even harmful,” began Alexey Alexandrovitch. “Ferreting in one’s soul, one often ferrets out something that might have lain there unnoticed. Your feelings are an affair of your own conscience; but I am in duty bound to you, to myself, and to God, to point out to you your duties. Our life has been joined, not by man, but by God. That union can only be severed by a crime, and a crime of that nature brings its own chastisement.”
“I don’t understand a word. And, oh dear! how sleepy I am, unluckily,” she said, rapidly passing her hand through her hair, feeling for the remaining hairpins.
“Anna, for God’s sake don’t speak like that!” he said gently. “Perhaps I am mistaken, but believe me, what I say, I say as much for myself as for you. I am your husband, and I love you.”
For an instant her face fell, and the mocking gleam in her eyes died away; but the word love threw her into revolt again. She thought: “Love? Can he love? If he hadn’t heard there was such a thing as love, he would never have used the word. He doesn’t even know what love is.”
“Alexey Alexandrovitch, really I don’t understand,” she said. “Define what it is you find...”