“Yes, but what’s to be done in that case? how explain, how find out her wishes?”
“If you will allow me to give my opinion, I think that it lies with you to point out directly the steps you consider necessary to end the position.”
“So you consider it must be ended?” Alexey Alexandrovitch interrupted him. “But how?” he added, with a gesture of his hands before his eyes not usual with him. “I see no possible way out of it.”
“There is some way of getting out of every position,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, standing up and becoming more cheerful. “There was a time when you thought of breaking off.... If you are convinced now that you cannot make each other happy...”
“Happiness may be variously understood. But suppose that I agree to everything, that I want nothing: what way is there of getting out of our position?”
“If you care to know my opinion,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with the same smile of softening, almond-oil tenderness with which he had been talking to Anna. His kindly smile was so winning that Alexey Alexandrovitch, feeling his own weakness and unconsciously swayed by it, was ready to believe what Stepan Arkadyevitch was saying.
“She will never speak out about it. But one thing is possible, one thing she might desire,” he went on, “that is the cessation of your relations and all memories associated with them. To my thinking, in your position what’s essential is the formation of a new attitude to one another. And that can only rest on a basis of freedom on both sides.”
“Divorce,” Alexey Alexandrovitch interrupted, in a tone of aversion.
“Yes, I imagine that divorce—yes, divorce,” Stepan Arkadyevitch repeated, reddening. “That is from every point of view the most rational course for married people who find themselves in the position you are in. What can be done if married people find that life is impossible for them together? That may always happen.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch sighed heavily and closed his eyes.
“There’s only one point to be considered: is either of the parties desirous of forming new ties? If not, it is very simple,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, feeling more and more free from constraint.
Alexey Alexandrovitch, scowling with emotion, muttered something to himself, and made no answer. All that seemed so simple to Stepan Arkadyevitch, Alexey Alexandrovitch had thought over thousands of times. And, so far from being simple, it all seemed to him utterly impossible. Divorce, the details of which he knew by this time, seemed to him now out of the question, because the sense of his own dignity and respect for religion forbade his taking upon himself a fictitious charge of adultery, and still more suffering his wife, pardoned and beloved by him, to be caught in the fact and put to public shame. Divorce appeared to him impossible also on other still more weighty grounds.