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Chapter 8


Alexey Alexandrovitch, on coming back from church service, had
spent the whole morning indoors. He had two pieces of business
before him that morning; first, to receive and send on a
deputation from the native tribes which was on its way to
Petersburg, and now at Moscow; secondly, to write the promised
letter to the lawyer. The deputation, though it had been
summoned at Alexey Alexandrovitch's instigation, was not without
its discomforting and even dangerous aspect, and he was glad he
had found it in Moscow. The members of this deputation had not
the slightest conception of their duty and the part they were to
play. They naively believed that it was their business to lay
before the commission their needs and the actual condition of
things, and to ask assistance of the government, and utterly
failed to grasp that some of their statements and requests
supported the contention of the enemy's side, and so spoiled the
whole business. Alexey Alexandrovitch was busily engaged with
them for a long while, drew up a program for them from which they
were not to depart, and on dismissing them wrote a letter to
Petersburg for the guidance of the deputation. He had his chief
support in this affair in the Countess Lidia Ivanovna. She was a
specialist in the matter of deputations, and no one knew better
than she how to manage them, and put them in the way they should
go. Having completed this task, Alexey Alexandrovitch wrote the
letter to the lawyer. Without the slightest hesitation he gave
him permission to act as he might judge best. In the letter he
enclosed three of Vronsky's notes to Anna, which were in the
portfolio he had taken away.

Since Alexey Alexandrovitch had left home with the intention of
not returning to his family again, and since he had been at the
lawyer's and had spoken, though only to one man, of his
intention, since especially he had translated the matter from the
world of real life to the world of ink and paper, he had grown
more and more used to his own intention, and by now distinctly
perceived the feasibility of its execution.

He was sealing the envelope to the lawyer, when he heard the loud
tones of Stepan Arkadyevitch's voice. Stepan Arkadyevitch was
disputing with Alexey Alexandrovitch's servant, and insisting on
being announced.

"No matter," thought Alexey Alexandrovitch, "so much the better.
I will inform him at once of my position in regard to his
sister, and explain why it is I can't dine with him."

"Come in!" he said aloud, collecting his papers, and putting them
in the blotting-paper.

"There, you see, you're talking nonsense, and he's at home!"
responded Stepan Arkadyevitch's voice, addressing the servant,
who had refused to let him in, and taking off his coat as he
went, Oblonsky walked into the room. "Well, I'm awfully glad
I've found you! So I hope..." Stepan Arkadyevitch began
cheerfully.

"I cannot come," Alexey Alexandrovitch said coldly, standing and
not asking his visitor to sit down.

Alexey Alexandrovitch had thought to pass at once into those
frigid relations in which he ought to stand with the brother of a
wife against whom he was beginning a suit for divorce. But he
had not taken into account the ocean of kindliness brimming over
in the heart of Stepan Arkadyevitch.

Stepan Arkadyevitch opened wide his clear, shining eyes.

"Why can't you? What do you mean?" he asked in perplexity,
speaking in French. "Oh, but it's a promise. And we're all
counting on you."

"I want to tell you that I can't dine at your house, because the
terms of relationship which have existed between us must cease."

"How? How do you mean? What for?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch with
a smile.

"Because I am beginning an action for divorce against your
sister, my wife. I ought to have..."

But, before Alexey Alexandrovitch had time to finish his
sentence, Stepan Arkadyevitch was behaving not at all as he had
expected. He groaned and sank into an armchair.

"No, Alexey Alexandrovitch! What are you saying?" cried
Oblonsky, and his suffering was apparent in his face.

"It is so."

"Excuse me, I can't, I can't believe it!"

Alexey Alexandrovitch sat down, feeling that his words had not
had the effect he anticipated, and that it would be unavoidable
for him to explain his position, and that, whatever explanations
he might make, his relations with his brother-in-law would remain
unchanged.

"Yes, I am brought to the painful necessity of seeking a
divorce," he said.

"I will say one thing, Alexey Alexandrovitch. I know you for an
excellent, upright man; I know Anna--excuse me, I can't change my
opinion of her--for a good, an excellent woman; and so, excuse
me, I cannot believe it. There is some misunderstanding," said
he.

"Oh, if it were merely a misunderstanding!..."

"Pardon, I understand," interposed Stepan Arkadyevitch. "But of
course.... One thing: you must not act in haste. You must not,
you must not act in haste!"

"I am not acting in haste," Alexey Alexandrovitch said coldly,
"but one cannot ask advice of anyone in such a matter. I have
quite made up my mind.

"This is awful!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch. "I would do one
thing, Alexey Alexandrovitch. I beseech you, do it!" he said.
"No action has yet been taken, if I understand rightly. Before
you take advice, see my wife, talk to her. She loves Anna like a
sister, she loves you, and she's a wonderful woman. For God's
sake, talk to her! Do me that favor, I beseech you!"

Alexey Alexandrovitch pondered, and Stepan Arkadyevitch looked at
him sympathetically, without interrupting his silence.

"You will go to see her?"

"I don't know. That was just why I have not been to see you. I
imagine our relations must change."

"Why so? I don't see that. Allow me to believe that apart from
our connection you have for me, at least in part, the same
friendly feeling I have always had for you...and sincere esteem,"
said Stepan Arkadyevitch, pressing his hand. "Even if your worst
suppositions were correct, I don't--and never would--take on
myself to judge either side, and I see no reason why our
relations should be affected. But now, do this, come and see my
wife."

"Well, we look at the matter differently," said Alexey
Alexandrovitch coldly. "However, we won't discuss it."

"No; why shouldn't you come today to dine, anyway? My wife's
expecting you. Please, do come. And, above all, talk it over
with her. She's a wonderful woman. For God's sake, on my knees,
I implore you!"

"If you so much wish it, I will come," said Alexey
Alexandrovitch, sighing.

And, anxious to change the conversation, he inquired about what
interested them both--the new head of Stepan Arkadyevitch's
department, a man not yet old, who had suddenly been promoted to
so high a position.

Alexey Alexandrovitch had previously felt no liking for Count
Anitchkin, and had always differed from him in his opinions. But
now, from a feeling readily comprehensible to officials--that
hatred felt by one who has suffered a defeat in the service for
one who has received a promotion, he could not endure him.

"Well, have you seen him?" said Alexey Alexandrovitch with a
malignant smile.

"Of course; he was at our sitting yesterday. He seems to know
his work capitally, and to be very energetic."

"Yes, but what is his energy directed to?" said Alexey
Alexandrovitch. "Is he aiming at doing anything, or simply
undoing what's been done? It's the great misfortune of our
government--this paper administration, of which he's a worthy
representative."

"Really, I don't know what fault one could find with him. His
policy I don't know, but one thing--he's a very nice fellow,"
answered Stepan Arkadyevitch. "I've just been seeing him, and
he's really a capital fellow. We lunched together, and I taught
him how to make, you know that drink, wine and oranges. It's so
cooling. And it's a wonder he didn't know it. He liked it
awfully. No, really he's a capital fellow."

Stepan Arkadyevitch glanced at his watch.

"Why, good heavens, it's four already, and I've still to go to
Dolgovushin's! So please come round to dinner. You can't
imagine how you will grieve my wife and me."

The way in which Alexey Alexandrovitch saw his brother-in-law out
was very different from the manner in which he had met him.

"I've promised, and I'll come," he answered wearily.

"Believe me, I appreciate it, and I hope you won't regret it,"
answered Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling.

And, putting on his coat as he went, he patted the footman on the
head, chuckled, and went out.

"At five o'clock, and not evening dress, please," he shouted once
more, turning at the door.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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