"There is no deceit she would stick at. She was near her
confinement. Perhaps it is the confinement. But what can be
their aim? To legitimize the child, to compromise me, and
prevent a divorce," he thought. "But something was said in it: I
am dying...." He read the telegram again, and suddenly the plain
meaning of what was said in it struck him.
"And if it is true?" he said to himself. "If it is true that in
the moment of agony and nearness to death she is genuinely
penitent, and I, taking it for a trick, refuse to go? That would
not only be cruel, and everyone would blame me, but it would be
stupid on my part."
"Piotr, call a coach; I am going to Petersburg," he said to his
Alexey Alexandrovitch decided that he would go to Petersburg and
see his wife. If her illness was a trick, he would say nothing
and go away again. If she was really in danger, and wished to
see him before her death, he would forgive her if he found her
alive, and pay her the last duties if he came too late.
All the way he thought no more of what he ought to do.
With a sense of weariness and uncleanness from the night spent in
the train, in the early fog of Petersburg Alexey Alexandrovitch
drove through the deserted Nevsky and stared straight before him,
not thinking of what was awaiting him. He could not think about
it, because in picturing what would happen, he could not drive
away the reflection that her death would at once remove all the
difficulty of his position. Bakers, closed shops, night-cabmen,
porters sweeping the pavements flashed past his eyes, and he
watched it all, trying to smother the thought of what was
awaiting him, and what he dared not hope for, and yet was hoping
for. He drove up to the steps. A sledge and a carriage with the
coachman asleep stood at the entrance. As he went into the
entry, Alexey Alexandrovitch, as it were, got out his resolution
from the remotest corner of his brain, and mastered it
thoroughly. Its meaning ran: "If it's a trick, then calm
contempt and departure. If truth, do what is proper."