She dropped her eyes and listened, expecting what he would say, as if beseeching him in some way or other to make her believe differently.

`...instant of passion...' he said, and would have gone on, but at that word, as at a pang of physical pain, her lips stiffened again, and again the muscles of her right cheek worked.

`Go away, go out of the room!' she shrieked still more shrilly, `and don't talk to me of your passions and your vilenesses.'

She tried to go out, but tottered, and clung to the back of a chair to support herself. His face relaxed, his lips became puffy; tears welled up in his eyes.

`Dolly!' he said, sobbing now. `For mercy's sake, think of the children; they are not to blame! I am to blame - punish me then, make me expiate my fault. Anything I can do, I am ready to do! I am to blame, no words can express how much I am to blame! But, Dolly, forgive me!'

She sat down. He listened to her hard, heavy breathing, and he was unutterably sorry for her. She made several attempts to speak, but could not. He waited.

`You remember the children, Stiva, to play with them; but I remember, and know that they go to ruin now,' she said - obviously one of the phrases she had more than once repeated to herself in the course of the last three days.

She had called him `Stiva,' and he glanced at her with gratitude and moved to take her hand, but she drew back from him with aversion.

`I remember the children, and for that reason I would do anything in the world to save them; but I don't myself know the means. By taking them away from their father, or by leaving them with a vicious father - yes, a vicious father.... Tell me, after what... has happened, can we live together? Is that possible? Do tell me - is it possible?' she repeated, raising her voice. `After my husband, the father of my children, enters into a love affair with his own children's governess....'

`But what's to be done? What's to be done?' he kept saying in a pitiful voice, not knowing what he was saying, as his head sank lower and lower.

`You are loathsome to me, repulsive!' she shrieked, getting more and more heated. `Your tears mean nothing! You have never loved me; you have neither a heart nor a sense of honor! You are hateful to me, disgusting, a stranger - yes, a complete stranger!' With pain and wrath she uttered the word so terrible to herself - stranger.

He looked at her, and the fury expressed in her face alarmed and amazed him. He did not understand that it was his pity for her that exasperated her. She saw in him compassion for her, but not love. `No, she hates me. She will not forgive me,' he thought.

`It is awful Awful!' he said.

At that moment in the next room a child began to cry; probably it had fallen down. Darya Alexandrovna listened, and her face suddenly softened.

She seemed pulling herself together for a few seconds, as though she did not know where she was nor what she was doing, and, getting up rapidly, she moved toward the door.

`Well, she loves my child,' he thought, noticing the change of her face at the child's cry, `my child: how can she hate me then?'

`Dolly, one word more,' he said, following her.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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