Anna karenina, p.149
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       Anna Karenina, p.149

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 25

  When Alexey Alexandrovitch came into the Countess Lidia Ivanovna's snuglittle boudoir, decorated with old china and hung with portraits, thelady 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 serviceand a silver spirit-lamp and tea kettle. Alexey Alexandrovitch lookedidly about at the endless familiar portraits which adorned the room, andsitting down to the table, he opened a New Testament lying upon it. Therustle of the countess's silk skirt drew his attention off.

  "Well now, we can sit quietly," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, slippinghurriedly with an agitated smile between the table and the sofa, "andtalk over our tea."

  After some words of preparation, Countess Lidia Ivanovna, breathing hardand flushing crimson, gave into Alexey Alexandrovitch's hands the lettershe 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 liftinghis eyes.

  "Dear friend, you never see evil in anyone!"

  "On the contrary, I see that all is evil. But whether it is just..."

  His face showed irresolution, and a seeking for counsel, support, andguidance in a matter he did not understand.

  "No," Countess Lidia Ivanovna interrupted him; "there are limits toeverything. I can understand immorality," she said, not quitetruthfully, since she never could understand that which leads women toimmorality; "but I don't understand cruelty: to whom? to you! How canshe stay in the town where you are? No, the longer one lives the moreone learns. And I'm learning to understand your loftiness and herbaseness."

  "Who is to throw a stone?" said Alexey Alexandrovitch, unmistakablypleased with the part he had to play. "I have forgiven all, and so Icannot deprive her of what is exacted by love in her--by her love forher son...."

  "But is that love, my friend? Is it sincere? Admitting that you haveforgiven--that you forgive--have we the right to work on the feelings ofthat angel? He looks on her as dead. He prays for her, and beseeches Godto have mercy on her sins. And it is better so. But now what will hethink?"

  "I had not thought of that," said Alexey Alexandrovitch, evidentlyagreeing.

  Countess Lidia Ivanovna hid her face in her hands and was silent. Shewas praying.

  "If you ask my advice," she said, having finished her prayer anduncovered her face, "I do not advise you to do this. Do you suppose Idon't see how you are suffering, how this has torn open your wounds? Butsupposing that, as always, you don't think of yourself, what can it leadto?--to fresh suffering for you, to torture for the child. If there werea 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 intrustit to me, I will write to her."

  And Alexey Alexandrovitch consented, and Countess Lidia Ivanovna sentthe following letter in French:

  "Dear Madame,

  "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.

  Countess Lidia"

  This letter attained the secret object which Countess Lidia Ivanovna hadconcealed from herself. It wounded Anna to the quick.

  For his part, Alexey Alexandrovitch, on returning home from LidiaIvanovna's, could not all that day concentrate himself on his usualpursuits, and find that spiritual peace of one saved and believing whichhe had felt of late.

  The thought of his wife, who had so greatly sinned against him, andtowards whom he had been so saintly, as Countess Lidia Ivanovna had sojustly told him, ought not to have troubled him; but he was not easy; hecould not understand the book he was reading; he could not drive awayharassing 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 hadreceived her confession of infidelity on their way home from the races(especially that he had insisted only on the observance of externaldecorum, and had not sent a challenge) tortured him like a remorse. Hewas tortured too by the thought of the letter he had written her; andmost of all, his forgiveness, which nobody wanted, and his care of theother man's child made his heart burn with shame and remorse.

  And just the same feeling of shame and regret he felt now, as hereviewed 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 questionalways 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 therepassed before his mind a whole series of these mettlesome, vigorous,self-confident men, who always and everywhere drew his inquisitiveattention in spite of himself. He tried to dispel these thoughts, hetried to persuade himself that he was not living for this transientlife, but for the life of eternity, and that there was peace and love inhis heart.

  But the fact that he had in this transient, trivial life made, as itseemed to him, a few trivial mistakes tortured him as though the eternalsalvation in which he believed had no existence. But this temptation didnot last long, and soon there was reestablished once more in AlexeyAlexandrovitch's soul the peace and the elevation by virtue of which hecould forget what he did not want to remember.

 

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