Chapter 21

Before Betsy had time to walk out of the drawing room, she was met in the doorway by Stepan Arkadyevich, who had just come from Ielisseev's, where a consignment of fresh oysters had been received.

`Ah! Princess! What a delightful meeting!' he began. `I've been to see you.'

`A meeting for one minute, for I'm going,' said Betsy, smiling and putting on her glove.

`Don't put on your glove yet, Princess; let me kiss your hand. There's nothing I'm so thankful to the revival of the old fashions for as kissing the hand.' He kissed Betsy's hand. `When shall we see each other?'

`You don't deserve it,' answered Betsy, smiling.

`Oh, yes, I deserve a great deal, for I've become a most serious person. I not only manage my own domestic affairs, but other people's too,' he said, with a significant expression.

`Oh, I'm so glad!' answered Betsy, at once understanding that he was speaking of Anna. And, going back into the drawing room, they stood in a corner. `He's killing her,' said Betsy in a whisper full of meaning. `It's impossible, impossible...'

`I'm so glad you think so,' said Stepan Arkadyevich, shaking his head with a serious and sympathetically distressed expression, `that's what I've come to Peterburg for.'

`The whole town's talking of it,' she said. `It's an impossible situation. She pines and pines away. He doesn't understand that she's one of those women who can't trifle with their feelings. One of two things: either let him take her away, act with energy, or give her a divorce. This is stifling her.'

`Yes, yes... just so...' Oblonsky said, sighing.

`That's what I've come for. At least not solely for that... I've been made a Kammerherr; of course, one has to give thanks. But the chief thing was having to settle this.'

`Well, God help you!' said Betsy.

After accompanying Betsy to the outside hall, once more kissing her hand above the glove, at the point where the pulse beats, and murmuring to her such unseemly nonsense that she did not know whether to laugh or to be angry, Stepan Arkadyevich went to his sister. He found her in tears.

Although he happened to be bubbling over with good spirits, Stepan Arkadyevich immediately and quite naturally fell into the sympathetic, poetically emotional tone which harmonized with her mood. He asked her how she was, and how she had spent the morning.

`Very, very miserably. Today, and this morning, and all past days, and all the days to come,' she said.

`I think you're giving way to pessimism. You must rouse yourself, you must look life in the face. I know it's hard, but...'

`I have heard it said that women love men even for their vices,' Anna began suddenly, `but I hate him for his virtues. I can't live with him. Do you understand? The sight of him has a physical effect in me - I am beside myself from it. I can't, I can't live with him. What am I to do? I have been unhappy, and used to think one couldn't be unhappier, but the awful state of things I am going through now I could never have conceived. Would you believe it, that, knowing he's a good man, a splendid man, that I'm not worth his little finger, I still hate him. I hate him for his generosity. And there's nothing left for me but...'

She would have said `death,' but Stepan Arkadyevich would not let her finish.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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