“No; he understands, he understood!” Dolly broke in. “But I...you are forgetting me...does it make it easier for me?”
“Wait a minute. When he told me, I will own I did not realize all the awfulness of your position. I saw nothing but him, and that the family was broken up. I felt sorry for him, but after talking to you, I see it, as a woman, quite differently. I see your agony, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am for you! But, Dolly, darling, I fully realize your sufferings, only there is one thing I don’t know; I don’t know...I don’t know how much love there is still in your heart for him. That you know—whether there is enough for you to be able to forgive him. If there is, forgive him!”
“No,” Dolly was beginning, but Anna cut her short, kissing her hand once more.
“I know more of the world than you do,” she said. “I know how men like Stiva look at it. You speak of his talking of you with her. That never happened. Such men are unfaithful, but their home and wife are sacred to them. Somehow or other these women are still looked on with contempt by them, and do not touch on their feeling for their family. They draw a sort of line that can’t be crossed between them and their families. I don’t understand it, but it is so.”
“Yes, but he has kissed her...”
“Dolly, hush, darling. I saw Stiva when he was in love with you. I remember the time when he came to me and cried, talking of you, and all the poetry and loftiness of his feeling for you, and I know that the longer he has lived with you the loftier you have been in his eyes. You know we have sometimes laughed at him for putting in at every word: ‘Dolly’s a marvelous woman.’ You have always been a divinity for him, and you are that still, and this has not been an infidelity of the heart...”
“But if it is repeated?”
“It cannot be, as I understand it...”
“Yes, but could you forgive it?”
“I don’t know, I can’t judge.... Yes, I can,” said Anna, thinking a moment; and grasping the position in her thought and weighing it in her inner balance, she added: “Yes, I can, I can, I can. Yes, I could forgive it. I could not be the same, no; but I could forgive it, and forgive it as though it had never been, never been at all...”
“Oh, of course,” Dolly interposed quickly, as though saying what she had more than once thought, “else it would not be forgiveness. If one forgives, it must be completely, completely. Come, let us go; I’ll take you to your room,” she said, getting up, and on the way she embraced Anna. “My dear, how glad I am you came. It has made things better, ever so much better.”
The whole of that day Anna spent at home, that’s to say at the Oblonskys’, and received no one, though some of her acquaintances had already heard of her arrival, and came to call; the same day. Anna spent the whole morning with Dolly and the children. She merely sent a brief note to her brother to tell him that he must not fail to dine at home. “Come, God is merciful,” she wrote.