Connected with the conversation that had sprung up on the rights
of women there were certain questions as to the inequality of
rights in marriage improper to discuss before the ladies.
Pestsov had several times during dinner touched upon these
questions, but Sergey Ivanovitch and Stepan Arkadyevitch
carefully drew him off them.
When they rose from the table and the ladies had gone out,
Pestsov did not follow them, but addressing Alexey
Alexandrovitch, began to expound the chief ground of inequality.
The inequality in marriage, in his opinion, lay in the fact that
the infidelity of the wife and infidelity of the husband are
punished unequally, both by the law and by public opinion.
Stepan Arkadyevitch went hurriedly up to Alexey Alexandrovitch
and offered him a cigar.
"No, I don't smoke," Alexey Alexandrovitch answered calmly, and
as though purposely wishing to show that he was not afraid of the
subject, he turned to Pestsov with a chilly smile.
"I imagine that such a view has a foundation in the very nature
of things," he said, and would have gone on to the drawing room.
But at this point Turovtsin broke suddenly and unexpectedly into
the conversation, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch.
"You heard, perhaps, about Pryatchnikov?" said Turovtsin, warmed
up by the champagne he had drunk, and long waiting for an
opportunity to break the silence that had weighed on him. "Vasya
Pryatchnikov," he said, with a good-natured smile on his damp,
red lips, addressing himself principally to the most important
guest, Alexey Alexandrovitch, "they told me today he fought a
duel with Kvitsky at Tver, and has killed him."
Just as it always seems that one bruises oneself on a sore place,
so Stepan Arkadyevitch felt now that the conversation would by
ill luck fall every moment on Alexey Alexandrovitch's sore spot.
He would again have got his brother-in-law away, but Alexey
Alexandrovitch himself inquired, with curiosity:
"What did Pryatchnikov fight about?"
"His wife. Acted like a man, he did! Called him out and shot
"Ah!" said Alexey Alexandrovitch indifferently, and lifting his
eyebrows, he went into the drawing room.