Alexei Alexandrovich 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, without looking her in the face, but eying with displeasure Shcherbatsky, 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 Alexei Alexandrovich's sleeve. `We shall be disturbed here. Come this way, please.'
Dolly's agitation had an effect on Alexei Alexandrovich. He got up and submissively followed her to the schoolroom. They sat down at 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, still avoiding 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.
Alexei Alexandrovich smiled coldly, with his lips alone, meaning to signify to her and 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, are all a mistake, and that she wants to begin life anew,' 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 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 waver.
`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 there's nothing else to do!' she said.
`What is horrible in a misfortune 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
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