The external relations of Alexei Alexandrovich and his wife had remained unchanged. The sole difference lay in the fact that he was more busily occupied than ever. As in former years, at the beginning of the spring he had gone to a foreign watering place for the sake of his health, being deranged every year with his strenuous winter work. And just as always he returned in July and at once fell to his usual work with increased energy. Just as always, too, his wife had moved for the summer to a villa out of town, while he remained in Peterburg.
From the date of their conversation after the party at Princess Tverskaia's he had never spoken again to Anna of his suspicions and his jealousies, and that habitual tone of his of bantering mimicry was the most convenient tone possible for his present attitude to his wife. He was a little colder to his wife. He simply seemed to be slightly displeased with her for that first midnight conversation, which she had repelled. In his attitude to her there was a shade of vexation, but nothing more. `You would not be open with me,' he seemed to say, mentally addressing her; `so much the worse for you. Now you may beg as you please, but I won't be open with you. So much the worse for you!' he said mentally, like a man who, after vainly attempting to extinguish a fire, should fly in a rage with his vain efforts and say, `Oh, very well then! You shall burn for this!'
This man, so subtle and astute in official life, did not realize all the insanity of such an attitude to his wife. He did not realize it, because it was too terrible to him to realize his actual position, and he shut down and locked and sealed up in his heart that secret place where lay hid his feelings toward his family - that is, his wife and son. He who had been such a considerate father, had from the end of that winter become peculiarly frigid to his son, and adopted to him just the same bantering tone as he used with his wife. `Aha, young man!' was the greeting with which he met him.
Alexei Alexandrovich asserted, and believed, that he had never in any previous year had so much official business as that year. But he was not aware that he sought work for himself that year, that this was one of the means for keeping shut that secret place where lay hid his feelings toward his wife and son, and his thoughts about them, which became more terrible the longer they lay there. If anyone had had the right to ask Alexei Alexandrovich what he thought of his wife's behavior, the mild and peaceable Alexei Alexandrovich would have made no answer, but he would have been greatly angered with any man who should question him on that subject. It was precisely for this reason that there came into Alexei Alexandrovich's face a look of haughtiness and severity whenever anyone inquired after his wife's health. Alexei Alexandrovich did not want to think at all about his wife's behavior and feelings, and he actually succeeded in not thinking about them at all.
Alexei Alexandrovich's permanent summer villa was in Peterhof, and the Countess Lidia Ivanovna used to spend the summer there, close to Anna, and constantly seeing her. That year Countess Lidia Ivanovna declined to settle in Peterhof, did not call once at Anna Arkadyevna's, and had hinted to Alexei Alexandrovich about the unsuitability of Anna's close intimacy with Betsy and Vronsky. Alexei Alexandrovich had sternly cut her short, roundly declaring his wife to be above suspicion, and from that time began to avoid Countess Lidia Ivanovna. He did not want to see, and did not see, that many people in society cast dubious glances on his wife; he did not want to understand, and did not understand, why his wife had so particularly insisted on staying at Tsarskoe, where Betsy was staying, and not far from the camp of Vronsky's regiment. He did not allow himself to think about it, and he did not think about it; but, all the same, though he never admitted it to himself, and had no proofs, nor even suspicious evidence, at the bottom of his heart he knew beyond all doubt that he was a deceived husband, and he was profoundly miserable about it.
How often during those eight years of happy life with his wife had Alexei Alexandrovich looked at other men's faithless wives and other deceived husbands and asked himself: `How can people descend to that? How is it they don't put an end to such a hideous situation?' But now, when the misfortune had come upon himself, he was so far from thinking of putting an end to the situation that he would not recognize it at all - would not recognize it just because it was too awful, too unnatural.
Since his return from abroad Alexei Alexandrovich had been twice at their country villa. Once he dined there, another time he spent the evening there with a party of friends, but he had not once stayed the night there, as it had been his habit to do in previous years.
The day of the races had been a very busy day for Alexei Alexandrovich; but when sketching out the day in the morning he made up his mind to go immediately after his early dinner, to their summer villa to see his wife and from there to the races, which all the Court were to witness, and at which he was bound to be present. He was going to see his wife, because he had determined to see her once a week to keep up appearances. And besides, on that day, as it was the fifteenth, he had to give his wife some money for her expenses, according to their usual arrangement.
With his habitual control over his thoughts, though he thought all this about his wife, he did not let his thoughts stray further in regard to her.
That morning was a very full one for Alexei Alexandrovich. The evening before, Countess Lidia Ivanovna had sent him a pamphlet by a celebrated traveler in China, who was staying in Peterburg, and with it she enclosed a note begging him to see the traveler himself, as he was an extremely interesting person from various points of view, and likely to be useful. Alexei Alexandrovich had not had time to read the pamphlet through in the evening, and finished it in the morning. Then people began arriving with petitions, and then came the reports, interviews, appointments, dismissals, apportionment of rewards, pensions, payments, papers - the workday round, as Alexei Alexandrovich called it, that always took up so much time. Then there was a private business of his own, a visit from the doctor, and from the steward who managed his property. The steward did not take up much time. He simply gave Alexei Alexandrovich the money he needed, together with a brief statement of the position of his affairs, which was not altogether satisfactory, as during that year, owing to increased expenses, more had been paid out than usual, and there was a deficit. But the doctor, a celebrated Peterburg doctor, who was an intimate acquaintance of Alexei Alexandrovich, had taken up a great deal of time. Alexei Alexandrovich had not expected him that day, and was surprised at his visit, and still more so when the doctor questioned him very carefully about his health, listened to his breathing, and tapped at his liver. Alexei Alexandrovich did not know that his friend Lidia Ivanovna, noticing that he was not as well as usual that year, had begged the doctor to go and examine him. `Do this for my sake,' the Countess Lidia Ivanovna had said to him.
`I will do it for the sake of Russia, Countess,' replied the doctor.
`A priceless man!' said the Countess Lidia Ivanovna.
The doctor was extremely dissatisfied with Alexei Alexandrovich. He found the liver considerably enlarged, and the digestive powers weakened, while the course of mineral waters had been quite without effect. He prescribed more physical exercise as far as possible, and as far as possible less mental strain, and above all no worry - in other words, just what was as much out of Alexei Alexandrovich's power as abstaining from breathing. Then he withdrew, leaving in Alexei Alexandrovich an unpleasant sense that something was wrong with him, and that there was no chance of curing it.
As he was coming away, the doctor chanced to meet on the steps an acquaintance of his, Sludin, who was head clerk in Alexei Alexandrovich's office. They had been comrades at the university, and, though they rarely met, they thought highly of each other and were excellent friends, and hence there was no one to whom the doctor would have given his opinion of a patient so freely as to Sludin.
`How glad I am you've been seeing him!' said Sludin. `He's not well, and I fancy... Well, what do you think of him?'
`I'll tell you,' said the doctor, beckoning over Sludin's head to his coachman to bring the carriage round. `It's just this,' said the doctor, taking a finger of his kid glove in his white hands and pulling it, `if you don't strain the strings, and then try to break them, you'll find it a difficult job; but strain a string to its very utmost, and the mere weight of one finger on the strained string will snap it. And with his close assiduity, his conscientious devotion to his work, he's strained to the utmost; and there's some outside burden weighing on him, and that not a light one,' concluded the doctor, raising his eyebrows significantly. `Will you be at the races?' he added, as he came down to his carriage. `Yes, yes, to be sure; it does waste a lot of time,' the doctor responded vaguely to some reply of Sludin's he had not caught.
Directly after the doctor, who had taken up so much time, came the celebrated traveler, and Alexei Alexandrovich, by means of the pamphlet he had only just finished reading, and his previous acquaintance with the subject, impressed the traveler by the depth of his knowledge of the subject and the breadth and enlightenment of his view of it.
At the same time with the traveler there was announced a provincial marshal of nobility on a visit to Peterburg, with whom Alexei Alexandrovich had to have some conversation. After his departure, he had to finish the daily routine of business with his head clerk, and then he still had to drive round to call on a certain personage on a matter of grave and serious import. Alexei Alexandrovich hardly managed to be back by five o'clock, his dinner hour, and, after dining with his head clerk, he invited him to drive with him to his summer villa and to the races.
Though he did not acknowledge it to himself, Alexei Alexandrovich always tried nowadays to secure the presence of a third person in his interviews with his wife.