Chapter 24

`Then there is all the more reason for you to legalize your position, if possible,' said Dolly.

`Yes, if possible,' said Anna, speaking all at once in an utterly different tone, subdued and mournful.

`Surely you don't mean a divorce is impossible? I was told your husband had consented to it.'

`Dolly, I don't want to talk about that.'

`Oh, we won't then,' Darya Alexandrovna hastened to say, noticing the expression of suffering on Anna's face. `All I see is that you take too gloomy a view of things.'

`I? Not at all! I'm very satisfied and happy. You see, je fais passions. Veslovsky...'

`Yes, to tell the truth, I don't like Veslovsky's tone,' said Darya Alexandrovna, anxious to change the subject.

`Oh, that's nonsense! It amuses Alexei, and that's all; but he's a boy, and quite under control. You know, I turn him as I please. It's just as it might be with your Grisha.... Dolly!' she suddenly changed the subject. `You say I take too gloomy a view of things. You can't understand. It's too awful! I try not to take any view of it at all.'

`But I think you ought to. You ought to do all you can.'

`But what can I do? Nothing. You tell me to marry Alexei, and say I don't think about it. I don't think about it!' she repeated, and a flush rose into her face. She got up, straightening her chest, and sighed heavily. With her light step she began pacing up and down the room, stopping now and then. `I don't think of it? Not a day, not an hour passes that I don't think of it, and blame myself for what I think... because thinking of that may drive me mad. Drive me mad!' she repeated. `When I think of it, I can't sleep without morphine. But never mind. Let us talk quietly. They tell me - divorce. In the first place, he won't give me a divorce. He's under the influence of Countess Lidia Ivanovna now.'

Darya Alexandrovna, sitting erect on a chair, turned her head following Anna with a face of sympathetic suffering.

`You ought to make the attempt,' she said softly.

`Suppose I make the attempt. What does it mean?' she said, evidently giving utterance to a thought, a thousand times thought over and learned by heart. `It means that I, hating him, but still recognizing that I have wronged him - and I consider him magnanimous - that I humiliate myself to write to him.... Well, suppose I make the effort; I do it. Either I receive a humiliating refusal, or consent. Well, I have received his consent, say...' Anna was at that moment at the farthest end of the room, and she stopped there, doing something to the curtain at the window. `I receive his consent, but my... my son? They won't give him up to me. He will grow up despising me, with his father, whom I've abandoned. Do you see, I love equally, I think, but both more than myself, two beings - Seriozha and Alexei.'

She came out into the middle of the room and stood facing Dolly, with her arms pressed tightly across her chest. In her white dressing gown her figure seemed more than usually grand and broad. She bent her head, and with shining, wet eyes looked from under her brows at Dolly, a thin little pitiful figure in her patched dressing jacket and nightcap, shaking all over with emotion.

`It is only those two beings whom I love, and one excludes the other. I can't have them together, and that's the only thing I want. And since I can't have that, I don't care about the rest. I don't care about anything - anything. And it will end one way or another, and so I can't, I don't like to talk of it. So don't blame me, don't judge me for anything. You can't with your pure heart understand all that I'm suffering.'

She went up, sat down beside Dolly, and, with a guilty look, peeped into her face and took her hand.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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