Dram... such an honest, capable fellow... Semionov, Chagin, Sigonin,' Alexei Alexandrovich remembered. `Admitting that a certain quite irrational ridicule falls to the lot of these men, yet I never saw anything but a misfortune in it, and always felt sympathy for it,' Alexei Alexandrovich said to himself, though indeed this was not the fact, and he had never felt sympathy for misfortunes of that kind, but the more often he had heard of instances of unfaithful wives betraying their husbands, the more highly he had thought of himself. `It is a misfortune which may befall anyone. And this misfortune has befallen me. The only thing to be done is to make the best of the situation.' And he began passing in review the methods of proceeding of men who had been in the same position that he was in.

`Daryalov fought a duel....'

The duel had particularly fascinated the thoughts of Alexei Alexandrovich in his youth, just because he was physically a fainthearted man, and was himself well aware of the fact. Alexei Alexandrovich could not without horror contemplate the idea of a pistol aimed at himself, and never made use of any weapon in his life. This horror had in his youth set him often pondering on dueling, and picturing himself in a position in which he would have to expose his life to danger. Having attained success and an established position in the world, he had long ago forgotten this feeling; but the habitual bent of feeling reasserted itself, and dread of his own cowardice proved even now so strong that Alexei Alexandrovich spent a long while thinking over the question of dueling in all its aspects, and hugging the idea of a duel, though he was fully aware beforehand that he would never under any circumstances fight one.

`There's no doubt our society is still so barbarous (it's not the same in England) that very many' - and among these were those whose opinion Alexei Alexandrovich particularly valued - `look favorably on the duel; but what result is attained by it? Suppose I call him out,' Alexei Alexandrovich went on to himself, and vividly picturing the night he would spend after the challenge, and the pistol aimed at him, he shuddered, and knew that he never would do it - `suppose I call him out. Suppose I am taught,' he went on musing, `I am placed, I press the trigger,' he said to himself, closing his eyes, `and it turns out I have killed him,' Alexei Alexandrovich said to himself, and he shook his head as though to dispel such silly ideas. `What sense is there in murdering a man in order to define one's relation to a guilty wife and son? I should still have to decide what I ought to do with her. But what is more probable, and what would doubtlessly occur - I should be killed or wounded. I, the innocent person, should be the victim - killed or wounded. It's even more senseless. But, apart from that, a challenge to fight would be an act hardly honest on my side. Don't I know beforehand that my friends would never allow me to fight a duel - would never allow the life of a statesman, needed by Russia, to be exposed to danger? What would come of it? It would come of it that, knowing beforehand that the matter would never come to real danger, it would amount to my simply trying to gain a certain sham reputation by such a challenge. That would be dishonest, that would be false, that would be deceiving myself and others. A duel is quite impossible, and no one expects it of me. My aim is simply to safeguard my reputation, which is essential for the uninterrupted pursuit of my public duties.' Official duties, which had always been of great consequence in Alexei Alexandrovich's eyes, seemed of special importance to his mind at this moment.

Considering and rejecting the duel, Alexei Alexandrovich turned to divorce - another solution selected by several of the husbands he remembered. Passing in mental review all the instances he knew of divorces (there were plenty of them in the very highest society with which he was very familiar), Alexei Alexandrovich could not find a single example in which the object of divorce was that which he had in view. In all these instances the husband had practically ceded or sold his unfaithful wife, and the very party who, being in fault, had not the right to contract a marriage, had formed counterfeit, pseudo-matrimonial ties with a new husband. In his own case, Alexei Alexandrovich saw that a legal divorce, that is to say, one in which only the guilty wife would be repudiated, was impossible of attainment. He saw that the complex conditions of the life they led made the coarse proofs of his wife's guilt, required by the law, out of the question; he saw that a certain refinement in that life would not admit of such proofs being brought forward, even if he had them, and that to bring forward such proofs would damage him in the public estimation more than it would her.

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