“You must ask the doctor to examine the wet-nurse,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch. The smartly dressed and healthy-looking nurse, frightened at the idea of losing her place, muttered something to herself, and covering her bosom, smiled contemptuously at the idea of doubts being cast on her abundance of milk. In that smile, too, Alexey Alexandrovitch saw a sneer at his position.
“Luckless child!” said the nurse, hushing the baby, and still walking up and down with it.
Alexey Alexandrovitch sat down, and with a despondent and suffering face watched the nurse walking to and fro.
When the child at last was still, and had been put in a deep bed, and the nurse, after smoothing the little pillow, had left her, Alexey Alexandrovitch got up, and walking awkwardly on tiptoe, approached the baby. For a minute he was still, and with the same despondent face gazed at the baby; but all at once a smile, that moved his hair and the skin of his forehead, came out on his face, and he went as softly out of the room.
In the dining room he rang the bell, and told the servant who came in to send again for the doctor. He felt vexed with his wife for not being anxious about this exquisite baby, and in this vexed humor he had no wish to go to her; he had no wish, either, to see Princess Betsy. But his wife might wonder why he did not go to her as usual; and so, overcoming his disinclination, he went towards the bedroom. As he walked over the soft rug towards the door, he could not help overhearing a conversation he did not want to hear.
“If he hadn’t been going away, I could have understood your answer and his too. But your husband ought to be above that,” Betsy was saying.
“It’s not for my husband; for myself I don’t wish it. Don’t say that!” answered Anna’s excited voice.
“Yes, but you must care to say good-bye to a man who has shot himself on your account....”
“That’s just why I don’t want to.”
With a dismayed and guilty expression, Alexey Alexandrovitch stopped and would have gone back unobserved. But reflecting that this would be undignified, he turned back again, and clearing his throat, he went up to the bedroom. The voices were silent, and he went in.
Anna, in a gray dressing gown, with a crop of short clustering black curls on her round head, was sitting on a settee. The eagerness died out of her face, as it always did, at the sight of her husband; she dropped her head and looked round uneasily at Betsy. Betsy, dressed in the height of the latest fashion, in a hat that towered somewhere over her head like a shade on a lamp, in a blue dress with violet crossway stripes slanting one way on the bodice and the other way on the skirt, was sitting beside Anna, her tall flat figure held erect. Bowing her head, she greeted Alexey Alexandrovitch with an ironical smile.
“Ah!” she said, as though surprised. “I’m very glad you’re at home. You never put in an appearance anywhere, and I haven’t seen you ever since Anna has been ill. I have heard all about it—your anxiety. Yes, you’re a wonderful husband!” she said, with a meaning and affable air, as though she were bestowing an order of magnanimity on him for his conduct to his wife.