When he was dressed, Stepan Arkadyevitch sprinkled some scent on
himself, pulled down his shirt-cuffs, distributed into his
pockets his cigarettes, pocketbook, matches, and watch with its
double chain and seals, and shaking out his handkerchief, feeling
himself clean, fragrant, healthy, and physically at ease, in
spite of his unhappiness, he walked with a slight swing on each
leg into the dining-room, where coffee was already waiting for
him, and beside the coffee, letters and papers from the office.
He read the letters. One was very unpleasant, from a merchant
who was buying a forest on his wife's property. To sell this
forest was absolutely essential; but at present, until he was
reconciled with his wife, the subject could not be discussed.
The most unpleasant thing of all was that his pecuniary interests
should in this way enter into the question of his reconciliation
with his wife. And the idea that he might be let on by his
interests, that he might seek a reconciliation with his wife on
account of the sale of the forest--that idea hurt him.
When he had finished his letters, Stepan Arkadyevitch moved the
office-papers close to him, rapidly looked through two pieces of
business, made a few notes with a big pencil, and pushing away
the papers, turned to his coffee. As he sipped his coffee, he
opened a still damp morning paper, and began reading it.
Stepan Arkadyevitch took in and read a liberal paper, not an
extreme one, but one advocating the views held by the majority.
And in spite of the fact that science, art, and politics had no
special interest for him, he firmly held those views on all these
subjects which were held by the majority and by his paper, and he
only changed them when the majority changed them--or, more
strictly speaking, he did not change them, but they imperceptibly
changed of themselves within him.
Stepan Arkadyevitch had not chosen his political opinions or his
views; these political opinions and views had come to him of
themselves, just as he did not choose the shapes of his hat and
coat, but simply took those that were being worn. And for him,
living in a certain society--owing to the need, ordinarily
developed at years of discretion, for some degree of mental
activity--to have views was just as indispensable as to have a
hat. If there was a reason for his preferring liberal to
conservative views, which were held also by many of his circle,
it arose not from his considering liberalism more rational, but
from its being in closer accordance with his manner of life. The
liberal party said that in Russia everything is wrong, and
certainly Stepan Arkadyevitch had many debts and was decidedly
short of money. The liberal party said that marriage is an
institution quite out of date, and that it needs reconstruction;
and family life certainly afforded Stepan Arkadyevitch little
gratification, and forced him into lying and hypocrisy, which was
so repulsive to his nature. The liberal party said, or rather
allowed it to be understood, that religion is only a curb to keep
in check the barbarous classes of the people; and Stepan
Arkadyevitch could not get through even a short service without
his legs aching from standing up, and could never make out what
was the object of all the terrible and high-flown language about
another world when life might be so very amusing in this world.
And with all this, Stepan Arkadyevitch, who liked a joke, was
fond of puzzling a plain man by saying that if he prided himself
on his origin, he ought not to stop at Rurik and disown the first
founder of his family--the monkey. And so Liberalism had become
a habit of Stepan Arkadyevitch's, and he liked his newspaper, as
he did his cigar after dinner, for the slight fog it diffused in
his brain. He read the leading article, in which it was
maintained that it was quite senseless in our day to raise an
outcry that radicalism was threatening to swallow up all
conservative elements, and that the government ought to take
measures to crush the revolutionary hydra; that, on the contrary,
"in our opinion the danger lies not in that fantastic
revolutionary hydra, but in the obstinacy of traditionalism
clogging progress," etc., etc. He read another article, too, a
financial one, which alluded to Bentham and Mill, and dropped
some innuendoes reflecting on the ministry. With his
characteristic quickwittedness he caught the drift of each
innuendo, divined whence it came, at whom and on what ground it
was aimed, and that afforded him, as it always did, a certain
satisfaction. But today that satisfaction was embittered by
Matrona Philimonovna's advice and the unsatisfactory state of the
household. He read, too, that Count Beist was rumored to have
left for Wiesbaden, and that one need have no more gray hair, and
of the sale of a light carriage, and of a young person seeking a
situation; but these items of information did not give him, as
usual, a quiet, ironical gratification. Having finished the
paper, a second cup of coffee and a roll and butter, he got up,
shaking the crumbs of the roll off his waistcoat; and, squaring
his broad chest, he smiled joyously: not because there was
anything particularly agreeable in his mind--the joyous smile
was evoked by a good digestion.
But this joyous smile at once recalled everything to
him, and he grew thoughtful.
Two childish voices (Stepan Arkadyevitch recognized the voices of
Grisha, his youngest boy, and Tanya, his eldest girl) were heard
outside the door. They were carrying something, and dropped it.
"I told you not to sit passengers on the roof," said the little
girl in English; "there, pick them up!"
"Everything's in confusion," thought Stepan Arkadyevitch; "there
are the children running about by themselves." And going to the
door, he called them. They threw down the box, that represented
a train, and came in to their father.
The little girl, her father's favorite, ran up boldly, embraced
him, and hung laughingly on his neck, enjoying as she always did
the smell of scent that came from his whiskers. At last the
little girl kissed his face, which was flushed from his stooping
posture and beaming with tenderness, loosed her hands, and was
about to run away again; but her father held her back.
"How is mamma?" he asked, passing his hand over his daughter's
smooth, soft little neck. "Good morning," he said, smiling to
the boy, who had come up to greet him. He was conscious that he
loved the boy less, and always tried to be fair; but the boy felt
it, and did not respond with a smile to his father's chilly
"Mamma? She is up," answered the girl.
Stepan Arkadyevitch sighed. "That means that she's not slept
again all night," he thought.
"Well, is she cheerful?"
The little girl knew that there was a quarrel between her father
and mother, and that her mother could not be cheerful, and that
her father must be aware of this, and that he was pretending when
he asked about it so lightly. And she blushed for her father.
He at once perceived it, and blushed too.
"I don't know," she said. "She did not say we must do our
lessons, but she said we were to go for a walk with Miss Hoole to
"Well, go, Tanya, my darling. Oh, wait a minute, though," he
said, still holding her and stroking her soft little hand.
He took off the matelpiece, where he had put it yesterday, a
little box of sweets, and gave her two, picking out her
favorites, a chocolate and a fondant.
"For Grisha?" said the little girl, pointing to the chocolate.
"Yes, yes." And still stroking her little shoulder, he kissed
her on the roots of here hair and neck, and let her go.
"The carriage is ready," said Matvey; "but there's some one to
see you with a petition."
"Been here long?" asked Stepan Arkadyevitch.
"Half an hour."
"How many times have I told you to tell me at once?"
"One must let you drink your coffee in peace, at least," said
Matvey, in the affectionately gruff tone with which it was
impossible to be angry.
"Well, show the person up at once," said Oblonsky, frowning with
The petitioner, the widow of a staff captain Kalinin, came with a
request impossible and unreasonable; but Stepan Arkadyevitch, as
he generally did, made her sit down, heard her to the end
attentively without interrupting her, and gave her detailed
advice as to how and to whom to apply, and even wrote her, in his
large, sprawling, good and legible hand, a confident and fluent
little note to a personage who might be of use to her. Having
got rid of the staff captain's widow, Stepan Arkadyevitch took
his hat and stopped to recollect whether he had forgotten
anything. It appeared that he had forgotten nothing except what
he wanted to forget--his wife.
"Ah, yes!" He bowed his head, and his handsome face assumed a
harassed expression. "To go, or not to go!" he said to himself;
and an inner voice told him he must not go, that nothing could
come of it but falsity; that to amend, to set right their
relations was impossible, because it was impossible to make her
attractive again and able to inspire love, or to make him an old
man, not susceptible to love. Except deceit and lying nothing
could come of it now; and deceit and lying were opposed to his
"It must be some time, though: it can't go on like this," he
said, trying to give himself courage. He squared his chest, took
out a cigarette, took two whiffs at it, flung it into a
mother-of-pearl ashtray, and with rapid steps walked through the
drawing room, and opened the other door into his wife's bedroom.