Alexey Alexandrovitch bowed frigidly, and kissing his wife’s hand, asked how she was.
“Better, I think,” she said, avoiding his eyes.
“But you’ve rather a feverish-looking color,” he said, laying stress on the word “feverish.”
“We’ve been talking too much,” said Betsy. “I feel it’s selfishness on my part, and I am going away.”
She got up, but Anna, suddenly flushing, quickly caught at her hand.
“No, wait a minute, please. I must tell you...no, you.” she turned to Alexey Alexandrovitch, and her neck and brow were suffused with crimson. “I won’t and can’t keep anything secret from you,” she said.
Alexey Alexandrovitch cracked his fingers and bowed his head.
“Betsy’s been telling me that Count Vronsky wants to come here to say good-bye before his departure for Tashkend.” She did not look at her husband, and was evidently in haste to have everything out, however hard it might be for her. “I told her I could not receive him.”
“You said, my dear, that it would depend on Alexey Alexandrovitch,” Betsy corrected her.
“Oh, no, I can’t receive him; and what object would there....” She stopped suddenly, and glanced inquiringly at her husband (he did not look at her). “In short, I don’t wish it....”
Alexey Alexandrovitch advanced and would have taken her hand.
Her first impulse was to jerk back her hand from the damp hand with big swollen veins that sought hers, but with an obvious effort to control herself she pressed his hand.
“I am very grateful to you for your confidence, but...” he said, feeling with confusion and annoyance that what he could decide easily and clearly by himself, he could not discuss before Princess Tverskaya, who to him stood for the incarnation of that brute force which would inevitably control him in the life he led in the eyes of the world, and hinder him from giving way to his feeling of love and forgiveness. He stopped short, looking at Princess Tverskaya.
“Well, good-bye, my darling,” said Betsy, getting up. She kissed Anna, and went out. Alexey Alexandrovitch escorted her out.
“Alexey Alexandrovitch! I know you are a truly magnanimous man,” said Betsy, stopping in the little drawing-room, and with special warmth shaking hands with him once more. “I am an outsider, but I so love her and respect you that I venture to advise. Receive him. Alexey Vronsky is the soul of honor, and he is going away to Tashkend.”
“Thank you, princess, for your sympathy and advice. But the question of whether my wife can or cannot see anyone she must decide herself.”
He said this from habit, lifting his brows with dignity, and reflected immediately that whatever his words might be, there could be no dignity in his position. And he saw this by the suppressed, malicious, and ironical smile with which Betsy glanced at him after this phrase.