“But, for heaven’s sake, don’t get hot!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, touching his brother-in-law’s knee. “The matter is not ended. If you will allow me to recapitulate, it was like this: when you parted, you were as magnanimous as could possibly be; you were ready to give her everything—freedom, divorce even. She appreciated that. No, don’t think that. She did appreciate it—to such a degree that at the first moment, feeling how she had wronged you, she did not consider and could not consider everything. She gave up everything. But experience, time, have shown that her position is unbearable, impossible.”
“The life of Anna Arkadyevna can have no interest for me,” Alexey Alexandrovitch put in, lifting his eyebrows.
“Allow me to disbelieve that,” Stepan Arkadyevitch replied gently. “Her position is intolerable for her, and of no benefit to anyone whatever. She has deserved it, you will say. She knows that and asks you for nothing; she says plainly that she dare not ask you. But I, all of us, her relatives, all who love her, beg you, entreat you. Why should she suffer? Who is any the better for it?”
“Excuse me, you seem to put me in the position of the guilty party,” observed Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“Oh, no, oh, no, not at all! please understand me,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, touching his hand again, as though feeling sure this physical contact would soften his brother-in-law. “All I say is this: her position is intolerable, and it might be alleviated by you, and you will lose nothing by it. I will arrange it all for you, so that you’ll not notice it. You did promise it, you know.”
“The promise was given before. And I had supposed that the question of my son had settled the matter. Besides, I had hoped that Anna Arkadyevna had enough generosity...” Alexey Alexandrovitch articulated with difficulty, his lips twitching and his face white.
“She leaves it all to your generosity. She begs, she implores one thing of you—to extricate her from the impossible position in which she is placed. She does not ask for her son now. Alexey Alexandrovitch, you are a good man. Put yourself in her position for a minute. The question of divorce for her in her position is a question of life and death. If you had not promised it once, she would have reconciled herself to her position, she would have gone on living in the country. But you promised it, and she wrote to you, and moved to Moscow. And here she’s been for six months in Moscow, where every chance meeting cuts her to the heart, every day expecting an answer. Why, it’s like keeping a condemned criminal for six months with the rope round his neck, promising him perhaps death, perhaps mercy. Have pity on her, and I will undertake to arrange everything. Vos scrupules...”
“I am not talking about that, about that...” Alexey Alexandrovitch interrupted with disgust. “But, perhaps, I promised what I had no right to promise.”