`You call it cruelty for a husband to give his wife liberty, giving her the honorable protection of his name, simply on the condition of observing the proprieties: is that cruelty?'

`It's worse that cruel - it's base, if you want to know!' Anna cried, in a rush of hatred, and, getting up, she was about to leave the room.

`No!' he shrieked in his shrill voice, which pitched a note even higher than usual, and his big hands clutching her by the arm so violently that red marks were left from the bracelet he was squeezing, he forcibly made her sit down in her place. `Base! If you care to use that word, what is base is to forsake husband and child for a lover, while you eat your husband's bread!'

She bowed her head. She did not say what she had said the evening before to her lover, that he was her husband, and her husband was superfluous; she did not even think of that. She felt all the justice of his words, and only said softly:

`You cannot describe my position as worse than I feel it to be myself; but what are you saying all this for?'

`What am I saying it for? What for?' he went on, as angrily. `So that you may know that, since you have not carried out my wishes in regard to observing outward decorum, I will take measures to put an end to this state of things.'

`Soon, very soon, it will end, anyway,' she said; and again, at the thought of death near at hand and now desired, tears came into her eyes.

`It will end sooner than you and your lover have planned! If you must have the satisfaction of animal passion...'

`Alexei Alexandrovich! I won't say it's not generous, but it's not like a gentleman to strike anyone who's down.'

`Yes, you only think of yourself! But the sufferings of a man who was your husband have no interest for you. You don't care that his whole life is ruined, that he is seff... seff...'

Alexei Alexandrovich was speaking so quickly that he began to stammer, and was utterly unable to articulate the word `suffering'. In the end he pronounced it `saffering'. She wanted to laugh, and was immediately ashamed that anything could amuse her at such a moment. And for the first time, for an instant, she felt for him, put herself in his place, and was sorry for him. But what could she say or do? Her head sank, and she sat silent. He too was silent for some time, and then began speaking in a frigid, less shrill voice, emphasizing random words that had no special significance.

I came to tell you...' he said.

She glanced at him. `No; it was my fancy,' she thought, recalling the expression of his face when he stumbled over the word `suffering.' `No; can a man with those dull eyes, with that self-satisfied complacency, feel anything?'

`I cannot change anything,' she whispered.

`I have come to tell you that I am going tomorrow to Moscow, and shall not return again to this house, and you will receive notice of what I decide through the lawyer into whose hands I shall entrust the task of getting a divorce. My son is going to my sister's,' said Alexei Alexandrovich, with an effort recalling what he had meant to say about his son.

`You take Seriozha to hurt me,' she said, looking at him from under her brows. `You do not love him.... Leave me Seriozha!'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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