Anna karenina, p.146
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       Anna Karenina, p.146

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 22

  Alexey Alexandrovitch had forgotten the Countess Lidia Ivanovna, but shehad not forgotten him. At the bitterest moment of his lonely despair shecame to him, and without waiting to be announced, walked straight intohis study. She found him as he was sitting with his head in both hands.

  "_J'ai force la consigne_," she said, walking in with rapid steps andbreathing hard with excitement and rapid exercise. "I have heard all!Alexey Alexandrovitch! Dear friend!" she went on, warmly squeezing hishand in both of hers and gazing with her fine pensive eyes into his.

  Alexey Alexandrovitch, frowning, got up, and disengaging his hand, movedher a chair.

  "Won't you sit down, countess? I'm seeing no one because I'm unwell,countess," he said, and his lips twitched.

  "Dear friend!" repeated Countess Lidia Ivanovna, never taking her eyesoff his, and suddenly her eyebrows rose at the inner corners, describinga triangle on her forehead, her ugly yellow face became still uglier,but Alexey Alexandrovitch felt that she was sorry for him and waspreparing to cry. And he too was softened; he snatched her plump handand proceeded to kiss it.

  "Dear friend!" she said in a voice breaking with emotion. "You ought notto give way to grief. Your sorrow is a great one, but you ought to findconsolation."

  "I am crushed, I am annihilated, I am no longer a man!" said AlexeyAlexandrovitch, letting go her hand, but still gazing into her brimmingeyes. "My position is so awful because I can find nowhere, I cannot findwithin me strength to support me."

  "You will find support; seek it--not in me, though I beseech you tobelieve in my friendship," she said, with a sigh. "Our support is love,that love that He has vouchsafed us. His burden is light," she said,with the look of ecstasy Alexey Alexandrovitch knew so well. "He will beyour support and your succor."

  Although there was in these words a flavor of that sentimental emotionat her own lofty feelings, and that new mystical fervor which had latelygained ground in Petersburg, and which seemed to Alexey Alexandrovitchdisproportionate, still it was pleasant to him to hear this now.

  "I am weak. I am crushed. I foresaw nothing, and now I understandnothing."

  "Dear friend," repeated Lidia Ivanovna.

  "It's not the loss of what I have not now, it's not that!" pursuedAlexey Alexandrovitch. "I do not grieve for that. But I cannot helpfeeling humiliated before other people for the position I am placed in.It is wrong, but I can't help it, I can't help it."

  "Not you it was performed that noble act of forgiveness, at which I wasmoved to ecstasy, and everyone else too, but He, working within yourheart," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, raising her eyes rapturously, "andso you cannot be ashamed of your act."

  Alexey Alexandrovitch knitted his brows, and crooking his hands, hecracked his fingers.

  "One must know all the facts," he said in his thin voice. "A man'sstrength has its limits, countess, and I have reached my limits. Thewhole day I have had to be making arrangements, arrangements abouthousehold matters arising" (he emphasized the word _arising_) "from mynew, solitary position. The servants, the governess, the accounts....These pinpricks have stabbed me to the heart, and I have not thestrength to bear it. At dinner ... yesterday, I was almost getting upfrom the dinner table. I could not bear the way my son looked at me. Hedid not ask me the meaning of it all, but he wanted to ask, and I couldnot bear the look in his eyes. He was afraid to look at me, but that isnot all...." Alexey Alexandrovitch would have referred to the bill thathad been brought him, but his voice shook, and he stopped. That bill onblue paper, for a hat and ribbons, he could not recall without a rush ofself-pity.

  "I understand, dear friend," said Lidia Ivanovna. "I understand it all.Succor and comfort you will find not in me, though I have come only toaid you if I can. If I could take from off you all these petty,humiliating cares ... I understand that a woman's word, a woman'ssuperintendence is needed. You will intrust it to me?"

  Silently and gratefully Alexey Alexandrovitch pressed her hand.

  "Together we will take care of Seryozha. Practical affairs are not mystrong point. But I will set to work. I will be your housekeeper. Don'tthank me. I do it not from myself..."

  "I cannot help thanking you."

  "But, dear friend, do not give way to the feeling of which youspoke--being ashamed of what is the Christian's highest glory: _he whohumbles himself shall be exalted_. And you cannot thank me. You mustthank Him, and pray to Him for succor. In Him alone we find peace,consolation, salvation, and love," she said, and turning her eyesheavenwards, she began praying, as Alexey Alexandrovitch gathered fromher silence.

  Alexey Alexandrovitch listened to her now, and those expressions whichhad seemed to him, if not distasteful, at least exaggerated, now seemedto him natural and consolatory. Alexey Alexandrovitch had disliked thisnew enthusiastic fervor. He was a believer, who was interested inreligion primarily in its political aspect, and the new doctrine whichventured upon several new interpretations, just because it paved the wayto discussion and analysis, was in principle disagreeable to him. He hadhitherto taken up a cold and even antagonistic attitude to this newdoctrine, and with Countess Lidia Ivanovna, who had been carried away byit, he had never argued, but by silence had assiduously parried herattempts to provoke him into argument. Now for the first time he heardher words with pleasure, and did not inwardly oppose them.

  "I am very, very grateful to you, both for your deeds and for yourwords," he said, when she had finished praying.

  Countess Lidia Ivanovna once more pressed both her friend's hands.

  "Now I will enter upon my duties," she said with a smile after a pause,as she wiped away the traces of tears. "I am going to Seryozha. Only inthe last extremity shall I apply to you." And she got up and went out.

  Countess Lidia Ivanovna went into Seryozha's part of the house, anddropping tears on the scared child's cheeks, she told him that hisfather was a saint and his mother was dead.

  Countess Lidia Ivanovna kept her promise. She did actually take uponherself the care of the organization and management of AlexeyAlexandrovitch's household. But she had not overstated the case whensaying that practical affairs were not her strong point. All herarrangements had to be modified because they could not be carried out,and they were modified by Korney, Alexey Alexandrovitch's valet, who,though no one was aware of the fact, now managed Karenin's household,and quietly and discreetly reported to his master while he was dressingall it was necessary for him to know. But Lidia Ivanovna's help was nonethe less real; she gave Alexey Alexandrovitch moral support in theconsciousness of her love and respect for him, and still more, as it wassoothing to her to believe, in that she almost turned him toChristianity--that is, from an indifferent and apathetic believer sheturned him into an ardent and steadfast adherent of the newinterpretation of Christian doctrine, which had been gaining ground oflate in Petersburg. It was easy for Alexey Alexandrovitch to believe inthis teaching. Alexey Alexandrovitch, like Lidia Ivanovna indeed, andothers who shared their views, was completely devoid of vividness ofimagination, that spiritual faculty in virtue of which the conceptionsevoked by the imagination become so vivid that they must needs be inharmony with other conceptions, and with actual fact. He saw nothingimpossible and inconceivable in the idea that death, though existing forunbelievers, did not exist for him, and that, as he was possessed of themost perfect faith, of the measure of which he was himself the judge,therefore there was no sin in his soul, and he was experiencing completesalvation here on earth.

  It is true that the erroneousness and shallowness of this conception ofhis faith was dimly perceptible to Alexey Alexandrovitch, and he knewthat when, without the slightest idea that his forgiveness was theaction of a higher power, he had surrendered directly to the feeling offorgiveness, he had felt more happiness than now when he was thinkingevery instant that Christ was in his heart, and that in signing officialpapers he was doing His will. But for Alexey Alexandrovitch it was anecessity to think in that way; it was such a necessity for him in hishumiliation to have some
elevated standpoint, however imaginary, fromwhich, looked down upon by all, he could look down on others, that heclung, as to his one salvation, to his delusion of salvation.

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