When Alexey Alexandrovitch came into the Countess Lidia
Ivanovna's snug little boudoir, decorated with old china and hung
with portraits, the lady herself had not yet made her appearance.
She was changing her dress.
A cloth was laid on a round table, and on it stood a china
tea service and a silver spirit-lamp and tea kettle. Alexey
Alexandrovitch looked idly about at the endless familiar
portraits which adorned the room, and sitting down to the table,
he opened a New Testament lying upon it. The rustle of the
countess's silk skirt drew his attention off.
"Well now, we can sit quietly," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna,
slipping hurriedly with an agitated smile between the table and
the sofa, "and talk over our tea."
After some words of preparation, Countess Lidia Ivanovna,
breathing hard and flushing crimson, gave into Alexey
Alexandrovitch's hands the letter she had received.
After reading the letter, he sat a long while in silence.
"I don't think I have the right to refuse her," he said,
timidly lifting his eyes.
"Dear friend, you never see evil in anyone!"
"On the contrary, I see that all is evil. But whether it is
His face showed irresolution, and a seeking for counsel, support,
and guidance in a matter he did not understand.
"No," Countess Lidia Ivanovna interrupted him; "there are limits
to everything. I can understand immorality," she said, not
quite truthfully, since she never could understand that which
leads women to immorality; "but I don't understand cruelty: to
whom? to you! How can she stay in the town where you are? No,
the longer one lives the more one learns. And I'm learning to
understand your loftiness and her baseness."
"Who is to throw a stone?" said Alexey Alexandrovitch,
unmistakably pleased with the part he had to play. "I have
forgiven all, and so I cannot deprive her of what is exacted by
love in her--by her love for her son...."
"But is that love, my friend? Is it sincere? Admitting that you
have forgiven--that you forgive--have we the right to work on the
feelings of that angel? He looks on her as dead. He prays for
her, and beseeches God to have mercy on her sins. And it is
better so. But now what will he think?"
"I had not thought of that," said Alexey Alexandrovitch,
Countess Lidia Ivanovna hid her face in her hands and was silent.
she was praying.
"If you ask my advice," she said, having finished her prayer and
uncovered her face, "I do not advise you to do this. Do you
suppose I don't see how you are suffering, how this has torn open
your wounds? But supposing that, as always, you don't think of
yourself, what can it lead to?--to fresh suffering for you, to
torture for the child. If there were a trace of humanity left in
her, she ought not to wish for it herself. No, I have no
hesitation in saying I advise not, and if you will intrust it to
me, I will write to her."
And Alexey Alexandrovitch consented, and Countess Lidia Ivanovna
sent the following letter in French:
"To be reminded of you might have results for your son in leading
to questions on his part which could not be answered without
implanting in the child's soul a spirit of censure towards what
should be for him sacred, and therefore I beg you to interpret
your husband's refusal in the spirit of Christian love. I pray
to Almighty God to have mercy on you.
This letter attained the secret object which Countess Lidia
Ivanovna had concealed from herself. It wounded Anna to the
For his part, Alexey Alexandrovitch, on returning home from Lidia
Ivanovna's, could not all that day concentrate himself on his
usual pursuits, and find that spiritual peace of one saved and
believing which he had felt of late.
The thought of his wife, who had so greatly sinned against him,
and towards whom he had been so saintly, as Countess Lidia
Ivanovna had so justly told him, ought not to have troubled him;
but he was not easy; he could not understand the book he was
reading; he could not drive away harassing recollections of his
relations with her, of the mistake which, as it now seemed, he
had made in regard to her. The memory of how he had received her
confession of infidelity on their way home from the races
(especially that he had insisted only on the observance of
external decorum, and had not sent a challenge) tortured him like
a remorse. He was tortured too by the thought of the letter he
had written her; and most of all, his forgiveness, which nobody
wanted, and his care of the other man's child made his heart burn
with shame and remorse.
And just the same feeling of shame and regret he felt now, as he
reviewed all his past with her, recalling the awkward words in
which, after long wavering, he had made her an offer.
"But how have I been to blame?" he said to himself. And this
question always excited another question in him--whether they
felt differently, did their loving and marrying differently,
these Vronskys and Oblonskys...these gentlemen of the
bedchamber, with their fine calves. And there passed before his
mind a whole series of these mettlesome, vigorous, self-
confident men, who always and everywhere drew his inquisitive
attention in spite of himself. He tried to dispel these
thoughts, he tried to persuade himself that he was not living for
this transient life, but for the life of eternity, and that there
was peace and love in his heart.
But the fact that he had in this transient, trivial life made, as
it seemed to him, a few trivial mistakes tortured him as though
the eternal salvation in which he believed had no existence. But
this temptation did not last long, and soon there was
reestablished once more in Alexey Alexandrovitch's soul the peace
and the elevation by virtue of which he could forget what he did
not want to remember.