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 him!”
“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 tomorrow.”
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 her?”
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 way, please.”
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 penknives.
“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.