She mentioned them, not only remembering the names, but the years, months, characters, illnesses of all the children, and Dolly could not but appreciate that.
`Very well, we will go to them,' she said. `It's a pity Vassia's asleep.'
After seeing the children, they sat down, alone now, in the drawing room, to coffee. Anna took the tray, and then pushed it away from her.
`Dolly,' she said, `he has told me.'
Dolly looked coldly at Anna; she was waiting now for hypocritically sympathetic phrases, but Anna said nothing of the sort.
`Dolly, darling,' she said, `I don't want to intercede for him, nor to try to comfort you - that's impossible. But, my dearest, I'm simply sorry, sorry from my heart for you!'
Under the thick lashes of her shining eyes tears suddenly glittered. She moved nearer to her sister-in- law and took her hand in her own, vigorous and little. Dolly did not shrink away, but her face did not lose its frigid expression. She said:
`To comfort me is impossible. Everything's lost after what has happened, everything's over!'
And directly she had said this, her face suddenly softened. Anna lifted the wasted, thin hand of Dolly, kissed it and said:
`But, Dolly, what's to be done, what's to be done? How is it best to act in this awful position - that's what you must think of.'
`All's over, and there's nothing more,' said Dolly. `And the worst of it all is, you see, that I can't cast him off: there are the children - my hands are tied. And I can't live with him! It's a torture for me to see him.'
`Dolly, darling, he has spoken to me, but I want to hear it from you: tell me all about it.'
Dolly looked at her inquiringly.
Sympathy and love unfeigned were apparent on Anna's face.
`Very well,' she suddenly said. `But I will begin at the beginning. You know how I was married. With the education maman gave us I was more than innocent - I was foolish. I knew nothing. They say, I know, men tell their wives of their former lives, but Stiva' - she corrected herself - `Stepan Arkadyevich told me nothing. You'll hardly believe it, but till now I imagined that I was the only woman he had known. So I lived eight years. You must understand that I was not only far from suspecting infidelity, but I regarded it as impossible, and then - try to imagine it - with such conceptions to find out suddenly all the horror, all the loathsomeness... You must try and understand me. To be fully convinced of one's happiness, and all at once...' continued Dolly, holding back her sobs, `To get a letter... His letter to his mistress, a governess in my employ. No, it's too awful!' She hastily pulled out her handkerchief and hid her face in it. `I can understand if it were passion,' she went on, after a brief silence, `but to deceive me deliberately, slyly... And with whom?... To go on being my husband while he and she... It's awful! You can't understand...'
`Oh, yes, I understand! I understand! Dolly, dearest, I do understand,' said Anna, pressing her hand.
`And do you imagine he realizes all the awfulness of my position? Dolly resumed. `Not in the slightest! He's happy and contented.'
`Oh, no!' Anna interposed quickly. `He's to be pitied, he's weighed down by remorse...'
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