But as time went on, he saw more and more distinctly that however
natural the position now seemed to him, he would not long be
allowed to remain in it. He felt that besides the blessed
spiritual force controlling his soul, there was another, a brutal
force, as powerful, or more powerful, which controlled his life,
and that this force would not allow him that humble peace he
longed for. He felt that everyone was looking at him with
inquiring wonder, that he was not understood, and that something
was expected of him. Above all, he felt the instability and
unnaturalness of his relations with his wife.
When the softening effect of the near approach of death had
passed away, Alexey Alexandrovitch began to notice that Anna was
afraid of him, ill at ease with him, and could not look him
straight in the face. She seemed to be wanting, and not daring,
to tell him something; and as though foreseeing their present
relations could not continue, she seemed to be expecting
something from him.
Towards the end of February it happened that Anna's baby
daughter, who had been named Anna too, fell ill. Alexey
Alexandrovitch was in the nursery in the morning, and leaving
orders for the doctor to be sent for, he went to his office. On
finishing his work, he returned home at four. Going into the
hall he saw a handsome groom, in a braided livery and a bear fur
cape, holding a white fur cloak.
"Who is here?" asked Alexey Alexandrovitch.
"Princess Elizaveta Federovna Tverskaya," the groom answered, and
it seemed to Alexey Alexandrovitch that he grinned.
During all this difficult time Alexey Alexandrovitch had noticed
that his worldly acquaintances, especially women, took a peculiar
interest in him and his wife. All these acquaintances he
observed with difficulty concealing their mirth at something; the
same mirth that he had perceived in the lawyer's eyes, and just
now in the eyes of this groom. Everyone seemed, somehow, hugely
delighted, as though they had just been at a wedding. When they
met him, with ill-disguised enjoyment they inquired after his
wife's health. The presence of Princess Tverskaya was unpleasant
to Alexey Alexandrovitch from the memories associated with her,
and also because he disliked her, and he went straight to the
nursery. In the day nursery Seryozha, leaning on the table with
his legs on a chair, was drawing and chatting away merrily. The
English governess, who had during Anna's illness replaced the
French one, was sitting near the boy knitting a shawl. She
hurriedly got up, curtseyed, and pulled Seryozha.