Anna karenina, p.109
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       Anna Karenina, p.109

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 8

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

  Since Alexey Alexandrovitch had left home with the intention of notreturning to his family again, and since he had been at the lawyer's andhad spoken, though only to one man, of his intention, since especiallyhe had translated the matter from the world of real life to the world ofink and paper, he had grown more and more used to his own intention, andby now distinctly perceived the feasibility of its execution.

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

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

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

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

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

  Alexey Alexandrovitch had thought to pass at once into those frigidrelations in which he ought to stand with the brother of a wife againstwhom he was beginning a suit for divorce. But he had not taken intoaccount the ocean of kindliness brimming over in the heart of StepanArkadyevitch.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch opened wide his clear, shining eyes.

  "Why can't you? What do you mean?" he asked in perplexity, speaking inFrench. "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 termsof 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, mywife. 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. Hegroaned and sank into an armchair.

  "No, Alexey Alexandrovitch! What are you saying?" cried Oblonsky, andhis 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 theeffect he anticipated, and that it would be unavoidable for him toexplain his position, and that, whatever explanations he might make, hisrelations with his brother-in-law would remain unchanged.

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

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

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

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

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

  "This is awful!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch. "I would do one thing, AlexeyAlexandrovitch. I beseech you, do it!" he said. "No action has yet beentaken, 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 awonderful woman. For God's sake, talk to her! Do me that favor, Ibeseech you!"

  Alexey Alexandrovitch pondered, and Stepan Arkadyevitch looked at himsympathetically, 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 imagineour relations must change."

  "Why so? I don't see that. Allow me to believe that apart from ourconnection you have for me, at least in part, the same friendly feelingI have always had for you ... and sincere esteem," said StepanArkadyevitch, pressing his hand. "Even if your worst suppositions werecorrect, 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, dothis, come and see my wife."

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

  "No; why shouldn't you come today to dine, anyway? My wife's expectingyou. Please, do come. And, above all, talk it over with her. She's awonderful 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 whatinterested 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 afeeling readily comprehensible to officials--that hatred felt by one whohas suffered a defeat in the service for one who has received apromotion, he could not endure him.

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

  "Of course; he was at our sitting yesterday. He seems to know his workcapitally, 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 Idon't know, but one thing--he's a very nice fellow," answered StepanArkadyevitch. "I've just been seeing him, and he's really a capitalfellow. We lunched together, and I taught him how to make, you know thatdrink, wine and oranges. It's so cooling. And it's a wonder he didn'tknow 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 toDolgovushin's! So please come round to dinner. You can't imagine how youwill grieve my wife and me."

  The way in which Alexey Alexandrovitch saw his brother-in-law out wasvery 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," answeredStepan 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.

 

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