FictionForest

PART FOUR : Chapter 12

Leo TolstoyAug 24, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Connected with the conversation that
had sprung up on the rights of women there were certain
questions as to the inequality of rights in marriage
improper to discuss before the ladies.  Pestsov
had several times during dinner touched upon these
questions, but Sergey Ivanovitch and Stepan Arkadyevitch
carefully drew him off them.

When they rose from the table and
the ladies had gone out, Pestsov did not follow them,
but addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch, began to expound
the chief ground of inequality.  The inequality
in marriage, in his opinion, lay in the fact that
the infidelity of the wife and the infidelity of the
husband are punished unequally, both by the law and
by public opinion.  Stepan Arkadyevitch went hurriedly
up to Alexey Alexandrovitch and offered him a cigar.

“No, I don’t smoke,”
Alexey Alexandrovitch answered calmly, and as though
purposely wishing to show that he was not afraid of
the subject, he turned to Pestsov with a chilly smile.

“I imagine that such a view
has a foundation in the very nature of things,”
he said, and would have gone on to the drawing room. 
But at this point Turovtsin broke suddenly and unexpectedly
into the conversation, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch.

“You heard, perhaps, about Pryatchnikov?”
said Turovtsin, warmed up by the champagne he had
drunk, and long waiting for an opportunity to break
the silence that had weighed on him.  “Vasya
Pryatchnikov,” he said, with a good-natured smile
on his damp, red lips, addressing himself principally
to the most important guest, Alexey Alexandrovitch,
“they told me today he fought a duel with Kvitsky
at Tver, and has killed him.”

Just as it always seems that one bruises
oneself on a sore place, so Stepan Arkadyevitch felt
now that the conversation would by ill luck fall every
moment on Alexey Alexandrovitch’s sore spot. 
He would again have got his brother-in-law away, but
Alexey Alexandrovitch himself inquired, with curiosity: 

“What did Pryatchnikov fight about?”

“His wife.  Acted like
a man, he did!  Called him out and shot him!”

“Ah!” said Alexey Alexandrovitch
indifferently, and lifting his eyebrows, he went into
the drawing room.

“How glad I am you have come,”
Dolly said with a frightened smile, meeting him in
the outer drawing room.  “I must talk to
you.  Let’s sit here.”

Alexey Alexandrovitch, with the same
expression of indifference, given him by his lifted
eyebrows, sat down beside Darya Alexandrovna, and
smiled affectedly.

“It’s fortunate,”
said he, “especially as I was meaning to ask
you to excuse me, and to be taking leave.  I have
to start tomorrow.”

Darya Alexandrovna was firmly convinced
of Anna’s innocence, and she felt herself growing
pale and her lips quivering with anger at this frigid,
unfeeling man, who was so calmly intending to ruin
her innocent friend.

“Alexey Alexandrovitch,”
she said, with desperate resolution looking him in
the face, “I asked you about Anna, you made me
no answer.  How is she?”

“She is, I believe, quite well,
Darya Alexandrovna,” replied Alexey Alexandrovitch,
not looking at her.

“Alexey Alexandrovitch, forgive
me, I have no right…but I love Anna as a sister,
and esteem her; I beg, I beseech you to tell me what
is wrong between you? what fault do you find with
her?”

Alexey Alexandrovitch frowned, and
almost closing his eyes, dropped his head.

“I presume that your husband
has told you the grounds on which I consider it necessary
to change my attitude to Anna Arkadyevna?” he
said, not looking her in the face, but eyeing with
displeasure Shtcherbatsky, who was walking across
the drawing room.

“I don’t believe it, I
don’t believe it, I can’t believe it!”
Dolly said, clasping her bony hands before her with
a vigorous gesture.  She rose quickly, and laid
her hand on Alexey Alexandrovitch’s sleeve. 
“We shall be disturbed here.  Come this
way, please.”

Dolly’s agitation had an effect
on Alexey Alexandrovitch.  He got up and submissively
followed her to the schoolroom.  They sat down
to a table covered with an oilcloth cut in slits by
penknives.

“I don’t, I don’t
believe it!” Dolly said, trying to catch his
glance that avoided her.

“One cannot disbelieve facts,
Darya Alexandrovna,” said he, with an emphasis
on the word “facts.”

“But what has she done?”
said Darya Alexandrovna.  “What precisely
has she done?”

“She has forsaken her duty,
and deceived her husband.  That’s what
she has done,” said he.

“No, no, it can’t be! 
No, for God’s sake, you are mistaken,”
said Dolly, putting her hands to her temples and closing
her eyes.

Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled coldly,
with his lips alone, meaning to signify to her and
to himself the firmness of his conviction; but this
warm defense, though it could not shake him, reopened
his wound.  He began to speak with greater heat.

“It is extremely difficult to
be mistaken when a wife herself informs her husband
of the fact ­informs him that eight years
of her life, and a son, all that’s a mistake,
and that she wants to begin life again,” he
said angrily, with a snort.

“Anna and sin ­I cannot
connect them, I cannot believe it!”

“Darya Alexandrovna,”
he said, now looking straight into Dolly’s kindly,
troubled face, and feeling that his tongue was being
loosened in spite of himself, “I would give a
great deal for doubt to be still possible.  When
I doubted, I was miserable, but it was better than
now.  When I doubted, I had hope; but now there
is no hope, and still I doubt of everything. 
I am in such doubt of everything that I even hate
my son, and sometimes do not believe he is my son. 
I am very unhappy.”

He had no need to say that. 
Darya Alexandrovna had seen that as soon as he glanced
into her face; and she felt sorry for him, and her
faith in the innocence of her friend began to totter.

“Oh, this is awful, awful! 
But can it be true that you are resolved on a divorce?”

“I am resolved on extreme measures. 
There is nothing else for me to do.”

“Nothing else to do, nothing
else to do…” she replied, with tears in her
eyes.  “Oh no, don’t say nothing else
to do!” she said.

“What is horrible in a trouble
of this kind is that one cannot, as in any other ­in
loss, in death ­bear one’s trouble
in peace, but that one must act,” said he, as
though guessing her thought.  “One must
get out of the humiliating position in which one is
placed; one can’t live a trois.”

“I understand, I quite understand
that,” said Dolly, and her head sank. 
She was silent for a little, thinking of herself, of
her own grief in her family, and all at once, with
an impulsive movement, she raised her head and clasped
her hands with an imploring gesture.  “But
wait a little!  You are a Christian.  Think
of her!  What will become of her, if you cast
her off?”

“I have thought, Darya Alexandrovna,
I have thought a great deal,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch. 
His face turned red in patches, and his dim eyes
looked straight before him.  Darya Alexandrovna
at that moment pitied him with all her heart. 
“That was what I did indeed when she herself
made known to me my humiliation; I left everything
as of old.  I gave her a chance to reform, I
tried to save her.  And with what result? 
She would not regard the slightest request ­that
she should observe decorum,” he said, getting
heated.  “One may save anyone who does
not want to be ruined; but if the whole nature is so
corrupt, so depraved, that ruin itself seems to be
her salvation, what’s to be done?”

“Anything, only not divorce!”
answered Darya Alexandrovna

“But what is anything?”

“No, it is awful!  She will be no one’s
wife, she will be lost!”

“What can I do?” said
Alexey Alexandrovitch, raising his shoulders and his
eyebrows.  The recollection of his wife’s
last act had so incensed him that he had become frigid,
as at the beginning of the conversation.  “I
am very grateful for your sympathy, but I must be
going,” he said, getting up.

“No, wait a minute.  You
must not ruin her.  Wait a little; I will tell
you about myself.  I was married, and my husband
deceived me; in anger and jealousy, I would have thrown
up everything, I would myself….  But I came
to myself again; and who did it?  Anna saved
me.  And here I am living on.  The children
are growing up, my husband has come back to his family,
and feels his fault, is growing purer, better, and
I live on….  I have forgiven it, and you ought
to forgive!”

Alexey Alexandrovitch heard her, but
her words had no effect on him now.  All the
hatred of that day when he had resolved on a divorce
had sprung up again in his soul.  He shook himself,
and said in a shrill, loud voice: ­

“Forgive I cannot, and do not
wish to, and I regard it as wrong.  I have done
everything for this woman, and she has trodden it all
in the mud to which she is akin.  I am not a spiteful
man, I have never hated anyone, but I hate her with
my whole soul, and I cannot even forgive her, because
I hate her too much for all the wrong she has done
me!” he said, with tones of hatred in his voice.

“Love those that hate you….” 
Darya Alexandrovna whispered timorously.

Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled contemptuously. 
That he knew long ago, but it could not be applied
to his case.

“Love those that hate you, but
to love those one hates is impossible.  Forgive
me for having troubled you.  Everyone has enough
to bear in his own grief!” And regaining his
self-possession, Alexey Alexandrovitch quietly took
leave and went away.

 

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