Anna karenina, p.210
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       Anna Karenina, p.210

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 21

  After a capital dinner and a great deal of cognac drunk atBartnyansky's, Stepan Arkadyevitch, only a little later than theappointed time, went in to Countess Lidia Ivanovna's.

  "Who else is with the countess?--a Frenchman?" Stepan Arkadyevitch askedthe hall porter, as he glanced at the familiar overcoat of AlexeyAlexandrovitch and a queer, rather artless-looking overcoat with clasps.

  "Alexey Alexandrovitch Karenin and Count Bezzubov," the porter answeredseverely.

  "Princess Myakaya guessed right," thought Stepan Arkadyevitch, as hewent upstairs. "Curious! It would be quite as well, though, to get onfriendly terms with her. She has immense influence. If she would say aword to Pomorsky, the thing would be a certainty."

  It was still quite light out-of-doors, but in Countess Lidia Ivanovna'slittle drawing room the blinds were drawn and the lamps lighted. At around table under a lamp sat the countess and Alexey Alexandrovitch,talking softly. A short, thinnish man, very pale and handsome, withfeminine hips and knock-kneed legs, with fine brilliant eyes and longhair lying on the collar of his coat, was standing at the end of theroom gazing at the portraits on the wall. After greeting the lady of thehouse and Alexey Alexandrovitch, Stepan Arkadyevitch could not resistglancing once more at the unknown man.

  "Monsieur Landau!" the countess addressed him with a softness andcaution that impressed Oblonsky. And she introduced them.

  Landau looked round hurriedly, came up, and smiling, laid his moist,lifeless hand in Stepan Arkadyevitch's outstretched hand and immediatelywalked away and fell to gazing at the portraits again. The countess andAlexey Alexandrovitch looked at each other significantly.

  "I am very glad to see you, particularly today," said Countess LidiaIvanovna, pointing Stepan Arkadyevitch to a seat beside Karenin.

  "I introduced you to him as Landau," she said in a soft voice, glancingat the Frenchman and again immediately after at Alexey Alexandrovitch,"but he is really Count Bezzubov, as you're probably aware. Only he doesnot like the title."

  "Yes, I heard so," answered Stepan Arkadyevitch; "they say he completelycured Countess Bezzubova."

  "She was here today, poor thing!" the countess said, turning to AlexeyAlexandrovitch. "This separation is awful for her. It's such a blow toher!"

  "And he positively is going?" queried Alexey Alexandrovitch.

  "Yes, he's going to Paris. He heard a voice yesterday," said CountessLidia Ivanovna, looking at Stepan Arkadyevitch.

  "Ah, a voice!" repeated Oblonsky, feeling that he must be as circumspectas he possibly could in this society, where something peculiar was goingon, or was to go on, to which he had not the key.

  A moment's silence followed, after which Countess Lidia Ivanovna, asthough approaching the main topic of conversation, said with a finesmile to Oblonsky:

  "I've known you for a long while, and am very glad to make a closeracquaintance with you. _Les amis de nos amis sont nos amis._ But to be atrue friend, one must enter into the spiritual state of one's friend,and I fear that you are not doing so in the case of AlexeyAlexandrovitch. You understand what I mean?" she said, lifting her finepensive eyes.

  "In part, countess, I understand the position of AlexeyAlexandrovitch..." said Oblonsky. Having no clear idea what they weretalking about, he wanted to confine himself to generalities.

  "The change is not in his external position," Countess Lidia Ivanovnasaid sternly, following with eyes of love the figure of AlexeyAlexandrovitch as he got up and crossed over to Landau; "his heart ischanged, a new heart has been vouchsafed him, and I fear you don't fullyapprehend the change that has taken place in him."

  "Oh, well, in general outlines I can conceive the change. We have alwaysbeen friendly, and now..." said Stepan Arkadyevitch, responding with asympathetic glance to the expression of the countess, and mentallybalancing the question with which of the two ministers she was mostintimate, so as to know about which to ask her to speak for him.

  "The change that has taken place in him cannot lessen his love for hisneighbors; on the contrary, that change can only intensify love in hisheart. But I am afraid you do not understand me. Won't you have sometea?" she said, with her eyes indicating the footman, who was handinground tea on a tray.

  "Not quite, countess. Of course, his misfortune..."

  "Yes, a misfortune which has proved the highest happiness, when hisheart was made new, was filled full of it," she said, gazing with eyesfull of love at Stepan Arkadyevitch.

  "I do believe I might ask her to speak to both of them," thought StepanArkadyevitch.

  "Oh, of course, countess," he said; "but I imagine such changes are amatter so private that no one, even the most intimate friend, would careto speak of them."

  "On the contrary! We ought to speak freely and help one another."

  "Yes, undoubtedly so, but there is such a difference of convictions, andbesides..." said Oblonsky with a soft smile.

  "There can be no difference where it is a question of holy truth."

  "Oh, no, of course; but..." and Stepan Arkadyevitch paused in confusion.He understood at last that they were talking of religion.

  "I fancy he will fall asleep immediately," said Alexey Alexandrovitch ina whisper full of meaning, going up to Lidia Ivanovna.

  Stepan Arkadyevitch looked round. Landau was sitting at the window,leaning on his elbow and the back of his chair, his head drooping.Noticing that all eyes were turned on him he raised his head and smileda smile of childlike artlessness.

  "Don't take any notice," said Lidia Ivanovna, and she lightly moved achair up for Alexey Alexandrovitch. "I have observed..." she wasbeginning, when a footman came into the room with a letter. LidiaIvanovna rapidly ran her eyes over the note, and excusing herself, wrotean answer with extraordinary rapidity, handed it to the man, and cameback to the table. "I have observed," she went on, "that Moscow people,especially the men, are more indifferent to religion than anyone."

  "Oh, no, countess, I thought Moscow people had the reputation of beingthe firmest in the faith," answered Stepan Arkadyevitch.

  "But as far as I can make out, you are unfortunately one of theindifferent ones," said Alexey Alexandrovitch, turning to him with aweary smile.

  "How anyone can be indifferent!" said Lidia Ivanovna.

  "I am not so much indifferent on that subject as I am waiting insuspense," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, with his most deprecating smile. "Ihardly think that the time for such questions has come yet for me."

  Alexey Alexandrovitch and Lidia Ivanovna looked at each other.

  "We can never tell whether the time has come for us or not," said AlexeyAlexandrovitch severely. "We ought not to think whether we are ready ornot ready. God's grace is not guided by human considerations: sometimesit comes not to those that strive for it, and comes to those that areunprepared, like Saul."

  "No, I believe it won't be just yet," said Lidia Ivanovna, who had beenmeanwhile watching the movements of the Frenchman. Landau got up andcame to them.

  "Do you allow me to listen?" he asked.

  "Oh, yes; I did not want to disturb you," said Lidia Ivanovna, gazingtenderly at him; "sit here with us."

  "One has only not to close one's eyes to shut out the light," AlexeyAlexandrovitch went on.

  "Ah, if you knew the happiness we know, feeling His presence ever in ourhearts!" said Countess Lidia Ivanovna with a rapturous smile.

  "But a man may feel himself unworthy sometimes to rise to that height,"said Stepan Arkadyevitch, conscious of hypocrisy in admitting thisreligious height, but at the same time unable to bring himself toacknowledge his free-thinking views before a person who, by a singleword to Pomorsky, might procure him the coveted appointment.

  "That is, you mean that sin keeps him back?" said Lidia Ivanovna. "Butthat is a false idea. There is no sin for believers, their sin has beenatoned for. _Pardon,_" she added, looking at the footman, who came inagain with another letter. She read it and gave a verbal answer:"Tomorrow at the Grand Duchess's, say." "For the believer sin is not
,"she went on.

  "Yes, but faith without works is dead," said Stepan Arkadyevitch,recalling the phrase from the catechism, and only by his smile clingingto his independence.

  "There you have it--from the epistle of St. James," said AlexeyAlexandrovitch, addressing Lidia Ivanovna, with a certainreproachfulness in his tone. It was unmistakably a subject they haddiscussed more than once before. "What harm has been done by the falseinterpretation of that passage! Nothing holds men back from belief likethat misinterpretation. 'I have not works, so I cannot believe,' thoughall the while that is not said. But the very opposite is said."

  "Striving for God, saving the soul by fasting," said Countess LidiaIvanovna, with disgusted contempt, "those are the crude ideas of ourmonks.... Yet that is nowhere said. It is far simpler and easier," sheadded, looking at Oblonsky with the same encouraging smile with which atcourt she encouraged youthful maids of honor, disconcerted by the newsurroundings of the court.

  "We are saved by Christ who suffered for us. We are saved by faith,"Alexey Alexandrovitch chimed in, with a glance of approval at her words.

  _"Vous comprenez l'anglais?"_ asked Lidia Ivanovna, and receiving areply in the affirmative, she got up and began looking through a shelfof books.

  "I want to read him 'Safe and Happy,' or 'Under the Wing,'" she said,looking inquiringly at Karenin. And finding the book, and sitting downagain in her place, she opened it. "It's very short. In it is describedthe way by which faith can be reached, and the happiness, above allearthly bliss, with which it fills the soul. The believer cannot beunhappy because he is not alone. But you will see." She was justsettling herself to read when the footman came in again. "MadameBorozdina? Tell her, tomorrow at two o'clock. Yes," she said, puttingher finger in the place in the book, and gazing before her with her finepensive eyes, "that is how true faith acts. You know Marie Sanina? Youknow about her trouble? She lost her only child. She was in despair. Andwhat happened? She found this comforter, and she thanks God now for thedeath of her child. Such is the happiness faith brings!"

  "Oh, yes, that is most..." said Stepan Arkadyevitch, glad they weregoing to read, and let him have a chance to collect his faculties. "No,I see I'd better not ask her about anything today," he thought. "If onlyI can get out of this without putting my foot in it!"

  "It will be dull for you," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, addressingLandau; "you don't know English, but it's short."

  "Oh, I shall understand," said Landau, with the same smile, and heclosed his eyes. Alexey Alexandrovitch and Lidia Ivanovna exchangedmeaningful glances, and the reading began.

 
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