As they left the pavilion, Alexey Alexandrovitch, as always, talked to those he met, and Anna had, as always, to talk and answer; but she was utterly beside herself, and moved hanging on her husband's arm as though in a dream.
"Is he killed or not? Is it true? Will he come or not? Shall I see him today?" she was thinking.
She took her seat in her husband's carriage in silence, and in silence drove out of the crowd of carriages. I spite of all he had seen, Alexey Alexandrovitch still did not allow himself to consider his wife's real condition. He merely saw the outward symptoms. He saw that she was behaving unbecomingly, and considered it his duty to tell her so. But it was very difficult for him not to say more, to tell her nothing but that. He opened his mouth to tell her she had behaved unbecomingly, but he could not help saying something utterly different.
"What an inclination we all have, though, for these cruel spectacles," he said. "I observe..."
"Eh? I don't understand," said Anna contemptuously.
He was offended, and at once began to say what he had meant to say.
"I am obliged to tell you," he began.
"So now we are to have it out," she thought, and she felt frightened.
"I am obliged to tell you that your behavior has been unbecoming today," he said to her in French.
"In what way has my behavior been unbecoming?" she said aloud, turning her head swiftly and looking him straight in the face, not with the bright expression that seemed covering something, but with a look of determination, under which she concealed with difficulty the dismay she was feeling.
"Mind," he said, pointing to the open window opposite the coachman.
He got up and pulled up the window.
"What did you consider unbecoming?" she repeated.
"The despair you were unable to conceal at the accident to one of the riders."
He waited for her to answer, but she was silent, looking straight before her.
"I have already begged you so to conduct yourself in society that even malicious tongues can find nothing to say against you. There was a time when I spoke of your inward attitude, but I am not speaking of that now. Now I speak only of your external attitude. You have behaved improperly, and I would wish it not to occur again."
She did not hear half of what he was saying; she felt panic-stricken before him, and was thinking whether it was true that Vronsky was not killed. Was it of him they were speaking when they said the rider was unhurt, but the horse had broken its back? She merely smiled with a pretense of irony when he finished, and made no reply, because she had not heard what he said. Alexey Alexandrovitch had begun to speak boldly, but as he realized plainly what he was speaking of, the dismay she was feeling infected him too. He saw the smile, and a strange misapprehension came over him.
"She is smiling at my suspicions. Yes, she will tell me directly what she told me before; that there is no foundation for my suspicions, that it's absurd."
At that moment, when the revelation of everything was hanging over him, there was nothing he expected so much as that she would answer mockingly as before that his suspicions were absurd and utterly groundless. So terrible to him was that he knew that now he was ready to believe anything. But the expression of her face, scared and gloomy, did not now promise even deception.
"Possibly I was mistaken," said he. "If so, I beg your pardon."
"No, you were not mistaken," she said deliberately, looking desperately into his cold face. "You were not mistaken. I was, and I could not help being in despair. I hear you, but I am thinking of him. I love him, I am his mistress; I can't bear you; I'm afraid of you, and I hate you.... You can do what you like to me."
And dropping back into the corner of the carriage, she broke into sobs, hiding her face in her hands. Alexey Alexandrovitch did not stir, and kept looking straight before him. But his whole face suddenly bore the solemn rigidity of the dead, and his expression did not change during the whole time of the drive home. On reaching the house he turned his head to her, still with the same expression.
"Very well! But I expect a strict observance of the external forms of propriety till such time"--his voice shook--"as I may take measures to secure my honor and communicate them to you."
He got out first and helped her to get out. Before the servants he pressed her hand, took his seat in the carriage, and drove back to Petersburg. Immediately afterwards a footman came from Princess Betsy and brought Anna a note.
"I sent to Alexey to find out how he is, and he writes me he is quite well and unhurt, but in despair."
"So he will be here," she thought. "What a good thing I told him all!"
She glanced at her watch. She had still three hours to wait, and the memories of their last meeting set her blood in flame.
"My God, how light it is! It's dreadful, but I do love to see his face, and I do love this fantastic light.... My husband! Oh! yes.... Well, thank God! everything's over with him."