“Dolly,” she said, “he has told me.”
Dolly looked coldly at Anna; she was waiting now for phrases of conventional sympathy, but Anna said nothing of the sort.
“Dolly, dear,” she said, “I don’t want to speak for him to you, nor to try to comfort you; that’s impossible. But, darling, I’m simply sorry, sorry from my heart for you!”
Under the thick lashes of her shining eyes tears suddenly glittered. She moved nearer to her sister-in-law and took her hand in her vigorous little hand. Dolly did not shrink away, but her face did not lose its frigid expression. She said:
“To comfort me’s impossible. Everything’s lost after what has happened, everything’s over!”
And directly she had said this, her face suddenly softened. Anna lifted the wasted, thin hand of Dolly, kissed it and said:
“But, Dolly, what’s to be done, what’s to be done? How is it best to act in this awful position—that’s what you must think of.”
“All’s over, and there’s nothing more,” said Dolly. “And the worst of all is, you see, that I can’t cast him off: there are the children, I am tied. And I can’t live with him! it’s a torture to me to see him.”
“Dolly, darling, he has spoken to me, but I want to hear it from you: tell me about it.”
Dolly looked at her inquiringly.
Sympathy and love unfeigned were visible on Anna’s face.
“Very well,” she said all at once. “But I will tell you it from the beginning. You know how I was married. With the education mamma gave us I was more than innocent, I was stupid. I knew nothing. I know they say men tell their wives of their former lives, but Stiva”—she corrected herself—“Stepan Arkadyevitch told me nothing. You’ll hardly believe it, but till now I imagined that I was the only woman he had known. So I lived eight years. You must understand that I was so far from suspecting infidelity, I regarded it as impossible, and then— try to imagine it—with such ideas, to find out suddenly all the horror, all the loathsomeness.... You must try and understand me. To be fully convinced of one’s happiness, and all at once...” continued Dolly, holding back her sobs, “to get a letter...his letter to his mistress, my governess. No, it’s too awful!” She hastily pulled out her handkerchief and hid her face in it. “I can understand being carried away by feeling,” she went on after a brief silence, “but deliberately, slyly deceiving me...and with whom?... To go on being my husband together with her...it’s awful! You can’t understand...”
“Oh, yes, I understand! I understand! Dolly, dearest, I do understand,” said Anna, pressing her hand.
“And do you imagine he realizes all the awfulness of my position?” Dolly resumed. “Not the slightest! He’s happy and contented.”
“Oh, no!” Anna interposed quickly. “He’s to be pitied, he’s weighed down by remorse...”