She was glad of this appeal for tenderness. But some strange force of evil would not let her give herself up to her feelings, as though the rules of warfare would not permit her to surrender.
“Of course you wanted to stay, and you stayed. You do everything you want to. But what do you tell me that for? With what object?” she said, getting more and more excited. “Does anyone contest your rights? But you want to be right, and you’re welcome to be right.”
His hand closed, he turned away, and his face wore a still more obstinate expression.
“For you it’s a matter of obstinacy,” she said, watching him intently and suddenly finding the right word for that expression that irritated her, “simply obstinacy. For you it’s a question of whether you keep the upper hand of me, while for me....” Again she felt sorry for herself, and she almost burst into tears. “If you knew what it is for me! When I feel as I do now that you are hostile, yes, hostile to me, if you knew what this means for me! If you knew how I feel on the brink of calamity at this instant, how afraid I am of myself!” And she turned away, hiding her sobs.
“But what are you talking about?” he said, horrified at her expression of despair, and again bending over her, he took her hand and kissed it. “What is it for? Do I seek amusements outside our home? Don’t I avoid the society of women?”
“Well, yes! If that were all!” she said.
“Come, tell me what I ought to do to give you peace of mind? I am ready to do anything to make you happy,” he said, touched by her expression of despair; “what wouldn’t I do to save you from distress of any sort, as now, Anna!” he said.
“It’s nothing, nothing!” she said. “I don’t know myself whether it’s the solitary life, my nerves.... Come, don’t let us talk of it. What about the race? You haven’t told me!” she inquired, trying to conceal her triumph at the victory, which had anyway been on her side.
He asked for supper, and began telling her about the races; but in his tone, in his eyes, which became more and more cold, she saw that he did not forgive her for her victory, that the feeling of obstinacy with which she had been struggling had asserted itself again in him. He was colder to her than before, as though he were regretting his surrender. And she, remembering the words that had given her the victory, “how I feel on the brink of calamity, how afraid I am of myself,” saw that this weapon was a dangerous one, and that it could not be used a second time. And she felt that beside the love that bound them together there had grown up between them some evil spirit of strife, which she could not exorcise from his, and still less from her own heart.