Anna came in with her head bent, playing with the tassels of her hood. Her face was glowing with a vivid glow; but this glow was not one of joyousness- it recalled the fearful glow of a conflagration in the midst of a dark night. On seeing her husband, Anna raised her head and smiled, as though she had just waked up.
"You're not in bed? What a miracle!" she said throwing off her hood and, without stopping, she went on into the dressing room. "It's late, Alexei Alexandrovich," she said, from behind the door.
"Anna, I must have a talk with you."
"With me?" she said, wonderingly. She came out from the door, and looked at him. "Why, what is it? What about?" she asked, sitting down. "Well, let's talk, if it's so necessary. But it would be better to go to sleep."
Anna was saying whatever came to her tongue, and marveled, hearing herself, at her own capacity for lying. How simple and natural were her words, and how likely that she was simply sleepy She felt herself clad in an impenetrable armor of falsehood. She felt that some unseen force had come to her aid and was supporting her.
"Anna, I must warn you," he began.
"Warn me? she said. "Of what?
She looked at him so simply, so brightly, that anyone who did not know her as her husband knew her could not have noticed anything unnatural, either in the sound or the sense of her words. But to him, knowing her, knowing that whenever he went to bed five minutes later than usual, she noticed it, and asked him the reason- to him, knowing that every joy, every pleasure and pain that she felt she communicated to him at once- to him it meant a great deal to see now that she did not care to notice his state of mind, that she did not care to say a word about herself. He saw that the inmost recesses of her soul, that had always hitherto lain open before him, were now closed against him. More than that, he saw from her tone that she was not even perturbed at that, but seemed to be saying straightforwardly to him: "Yes, it is closed now, which is as it should be, and will be so in future." Now he experienced a feeling such as a man might have who, returning home, finds his own house locked up. "But perhaps the key may yet be found," thought Alexei Alexandrovich.
"I want to warn you," he said in a low voice, "that through thoughtlessness and lack of caution you may cause yourself to be talked about in society. Your too animated conversation this evening with Count Vronsky" (he enunciated the name firmly and with quiet intervals) "attracted attention."
He talked and looked at her laughing eyes, which frightened him now with their impenetrable look, and, as he talked, he felt all the uselessness and futility of his words.
"You're always like that," she answered as though completely misapprehending him, and of all he had said only taking in the last phrase. "One time you don't like my being dull, and another time you don't like my being lively. I wasn't dull. Does that offend you?"
Alexei Alexandrovich shivered, and bent his hands to make the joints crack.
"Oh, please, don't do that- I dislike it so," she said.
"Anna, is this you?" said Alexei Alexandrovich quietly, making an effort over himself, and restraining the motion of his hands.
"But what is it all about?" she said, with such genuine and droll wonder. "What do you want of me?"
Alexei Alexandrovich paused, and rubbed his forehead and his eyes. He saw that instead of doing as he had intended- that is to say, warning his wife against a mistake in the eyes of the world- he had unconsciously become agitated over what was the affair of her conscience, and was struggling against some imaginary barrier.
"This is what I meant to say to you," he went on coldly and composedly, "and I beg you to hear me to the end. I consider jealousy, as you know, a humiliating and degrading feeling, and I shall never allow myself to be guided by it; but there are certain rules of decency which cannot be disregarded with impunity. This evening it was not I who observed it- but, judging by the impression made on the company, everyone observed that your conduct and deportment were not altogether what one would desire."
"I positively don't understand," said Anna, shrugging her shoulders. "He doesn't care," she thought. "But other people noticed it and that's what upsets him."- "You're not well, Alexei Alexandrovich," she added, and, getting up, was about to pass through the door; but he moved forward as though he would stop her.
His face was gloomy and forbidding, as Anna had never seen it before. She stopped, and bending her head back and to one side, began taking out her hairpins with her quick-darting hand.
"Well, I'm listening- what does follow?" she said, calmly and ironically; "and, indeed, I am listening even with interest, for I should like to understand what it is all about."
She spoke, and marveled at the confident, calm and natural tone in which she spoke, and at the choice of the words she used.
"To enter into all the details of your feelings I have no right, and, besides, I regard that as useless and even harmful," began Alexei Alexandrovich. "Rummaging in our souls, we often bring up something that might have otherwise lain there unnoticed. Your feelings are an affair of your own conscience; but I am in duty bound to you, to myself and to God, to point out to you your duties. Our life has been joined, not by man, but by God. That union can only be severed by a crime, and a crime of that nature brings its own chastisement."
"I don't understand a word. And, oh dear! how sleepy I am, unluckily," she said, rapidly passing her hand through her hair, feeling for the remaining hairpins.
"Anna, for God's sake don't speak like that!" he said gently. "Perhaps I am mistaken, but believe me, that which I am saying I say as much for myself as for you. I am your husband, and I love you."
For an instant her face fell, and the mocking gleam in her eyes died away; but the phrase "I love" threw her into revolt again. She thought: "Love? Can he love? If he hadn't heard there was such a thing as love, he would never have used the word. He doesn't even know what love is."
"Alexei Alexandrovich, I really do not understand," she said. "Define what it is you consider..."
"Pardon, let me say all I have to say. I love you. But I am not speaking of myself; the most important persons in this matter are our son and yourself. It may very well be, I repeat, that my words seem to you utterly unnecessary and out of place; it may be that they are called forth by my mistaken impression. In that case, I beg you to forgive me. But if you are conscious yourself of even the smallest foundation for them, then I beg you to think a little, and if your heart prompts you, to speak out to me..."
Alexei Alexandrovich was unconsciously saying something utterly unlike what he had prepared.
"I have nothing to say. And besides she said suddenly, with difficulty repressing a smile, "it's really time to be in bed."
Alexei Alexandrovich sighed, and, without saying more, went into the bedroom.
When she came into the bedroom, he was already in bed. His lips were sternly compressed, and his eyes looked away from her. Anna got into her bed, and lay expecting every minute that he would begin to speak to her again. She both feared his speaking and wished for it. But he was silent. She waited for a long while without moving, and forgot about him. She thought of that other; she pictured him, and felt how her heart was flooded with emotion and guilty delight at the thought of him. Suddenly she heard an even, tranquil snore. For the first instant Alexei Alexandrovich seemed, as it were, appalled at his own snoring, and ceased; but after a pause of one or two breaths, the snore sounded again, with a new tranquil rhythm.
"It's late, it's late," she whispered with a smile. A long while she lay, without moving, and with open eyes, whose brilliance she almost fancied she could herself see in the darkness.