FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 22

Leo TolstoyAug 25, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Stepan Arkadyevitch felt completely
nonplussed by the strange talk which he was hearing
for the first time.  The complexity of Petersburg,
as a rule, had a stimulating effect on him, rousing
him out of his Moscow stagnation.  But he liked
these complications, and understood them only in the
circles he knew and was at home in.  In these
unfamiliar surroundings he was puzzled and disconcerted,
and could not get his bearings.  As he listened
to Countess Lidia Ivanovna, aware of the beautiful,
artless ­or perhaps artful, he could not
decide which ­eyes of Landau fixed upon
him, Stepan Arkadyevitch began to be conscious of
a peculiar heaviness in his head.

The most incongruous ideas were in
confusion in his head.  “Marie Sanina is
glad her child’s dead….  How good a smoke
would be now!…  To be saved, one need only
believe, and the monks don’t know how the thing’s
to be done, but Countess Lidia Ivanovna does know…. 
And why is my head so heavy?  Is it the cognac,
or all this being so queer?  Anyway, I fancy I’ve
done nothing unsuitable so far.  But anyway,
it won’t do to ask her now.  They say they
make one say one’s prayers.  I only hope
they won’t make me!  That’ll be too
imbecile.  And what stuff it is she’s reading!
but she has a good accent.  Landau ­Bezzubov ­
what’s he Bezzubov for?” All at once Stepan
Arkadyevitch became aware that his lower jaw was uncontrollably
forming a yawn.  He pulled his whiskers to cover
the yawn, and shook himself together.  But soon
after he became aware that he was dropping asleep
and on the very point of snoring.  He recovered
himself at the very moment when the voice of Countess
Lidia Ivanovna was saying “he’s asleep.” 
Stepan Arkadyevitch started with dismay, feeling
guilty and caught.  But he was reassured at once
by seeing that the words “he’s asleep”
referred not to him, but to Landau.  The Frenchman
was asleep as well as Stepan Arkadyevitch.  But
Stepan Arkadyevitch’s being asleep would have
offended them, as he thought (though even this, he
thought, might not be so, as everything seemed so
queer), while Landau’s being asleep delighted
them extremely, especially Countess Lidia Ivanovna.

“Mon ami,” said Lidia Ivanovna,
carefully holding the folds of her silk gown so as
not to rustle, and in her excitement calling Karenin
not Alexey Alexandrovitch, but “mon ami,”
“donnez-lui la main.  Vous voyez? 
Sh!”
she hissed at the footman as he came in
again.  “Not at home.”

The Frenchman was asleep, or pretending
to be asleep, with his head on the back of his chair,
and his moist hand, as it lay on his knee, made faint
movements, as though trying to catch something. 
Alexey Alexandrovitch got up, tried to move carefully,
but stumbled against the table, went up and laid his
hand in the Frenchman’s hand.  Stepan Arkadyevitch
got up too, and opening his eyes wide, trying to wake
himself up if he were asleep, he looked first at one
and then at the other.  It was all real. 
Stepan Arkadyevitch felt that his head was getting
worse and worse.

“Que la personne qui est arrivée
la dernière, celle qui demande, qu’elle sorte! 
Qu’elle sorte!”
articulated the Frenchman,
without opening his eyes.

“Vous m’excuserez, maïs vous
voyez….  Revenez vers dix heures, encore mieux
demain.”

“Qu’elle sorte!” repeated
the Frenchman impatiently.

“C’est moi, n’est-ce
pas?”
And receiving an answer in the affirmative,
Stepan Arkadyevitch, forgetting the favor he had meant
to ask of Lidia Ivanovna, and forgetting his sister’s
affairs, caring for nothing, but filled with the sole
desire to get away as soon as possible, went out on
tiptoe and ran out into the street as though from
a plague-stricken house.  For a long while he
chatted and joked with his cab-driver, trying to recover
his spirits.

At the French theater where he arrived
for the last act, and afterwards at the Tatar restaurant
after his champagne, Stepan Arkadyevitch felt a little
refreshed in the atmosphere he was used to. 
But still he felt quite unlike himself all that evening.

On getting home to Pyotr Oblonsky’s,
where he was staying, Stepan Arkadyevitch found a
note from Betsy.  She wrote to him that she was
very anxious to finish their interrupted conversation,
and begged him to come next day.  He had scarcely
read this note, and frowned at its contents, when
he heard below the ponderous tramp of the servants,
carrying something heavy.

Stepan Arkadyevitch went out to look. 
It was the rejuvenated Pyotr Oblonsky.  He was
so drunk that he could not walk upstairs; but he told
them to set him on his legs when he saw Stepan Arkadyevitch,
and clinging to him, walked with him into his room
and there began telling him how he had spent the evening,
and fell asleep doing so.

Stepan Arkadyevitch was in very low
spirits, which happened rarely with him, and for a
long while he could not go to sleep.  Everything
he could recall to his mind, everything was disgusting;
but most disgusting of all, as if it were something
shameful, was the memory of the evening he had spent
at Countess Lidia Ivanovna’s.

Next day he received from Alexey Alexandrovitch
a final answer, refusing to grant Anna’s divorce,
and he understood that this decision was based on
what the Frenchman had said in his real or pretended
trance.

 

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