“Not at all,” he said. “Listen to me. You can’t see your own position as I can. Let me tell you candidly my opinion.” Again he smiled discreetly his almond-oil smile. “I’ll begin from the beginning. You married a man twenty years older than yourself. You married him without love and not knowing what love was. It was a mistake, let’s admit.”
“A fearful mistake!” said Anna.
“But I repeat, it’s an accomplished fact. Then you had, let us say, the misfortune to love a man not your husband. That was a misfortune; but that, too, is an accomplished fact. And your husband knew it and forgave it.” He stopped at each sentence, waiting for her to object, but she made no answer. “That’s so. Now the question is: can you go on living with your husband? Do you wish it? Does he wish it?”
“I know nothing, nothing.”
“But you said yourself that you can’t endure him.”
“No, I didn’t say so. I deny it. I can’t tell, I don’t know anything about it.”
“Yes, but let...”
“You can’t understand. I feel I’m lying head downwards in a sort of pit, but I ought not to save myself. And I can’t . . .”
“Never mind, we’ll slip something under and pull you out. I understand you: I understand that you can’t take it on yourself to express your wishes, your feelings.”
“There’s nothing, nothing I wish...except for it to be all over.”
“But he sees this and knows it. And do you suppose it weighs on him any less than on you? You’re wretched, he’s wretched, and what good can come of it? while divorce would solve the difficulty completely.” With some effort Stepan Arkadyevitch brought out his central idea, and looked significantly at her.
She said nothing, and shook her cropped head in dissent. But from the look in her face, that suddenly brightened into its old beauty, he saw that if she did not desire this, it was simply because it seemed to her unattainable happiness.
“I’m awfully sorry for you! And how happy I should be if I could arrange things!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling more boldly. “Don’t speak, don’t say a word! God grant only that I may speak as I feel. I’m going to him.”
Anna looked at him with dreamy, shining eyes, and said nothing.
Stepan Arkadyevitch, with the same somewhat solemn expression with which he used to take his presidential chair at his board, walked into Alexey Alexandrovitch’s room. Alexey Alexandrovitch was walking about his room with his hands behind his back, thinking of just what Stepan Arkadyevitch had been discussing with his wife.
“I’m not interrupting you?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, on the sight of his brother-in-law becoming suddenly aware of a sense of embarrassment unusual with him. To conceal this embarrassment he took out a cigarette case he had just bought that opened in a new way, and sniffing the leather, took a cigarette out of it.