FictionForest

PART FIVE : Chapter 23

Leo TolstoyAug 24, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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The Countess Lidia Ivanovna had, as
a very young and sentimental girl, been married to
a wealthy man of high rank, an extremely good-natured,
jovial, and extremely dissipated rake.  Two months
after marriage her husband abandoned her, and her impassioned
protestations of affection he met with a sarcasm and
even hostility that people knowing the count’s
good heart, and seeing no defects in the sentimental
Lidia, were at a loss to explain.  Though they
were divorced and lived apart, yet whenever the husband
met the wife, he invariably behaved to her with the
same malignant irony, the cause of which was incomprehensible.

Countess Lidia Ivanovna had long given
up being in love with her husband, but from that time
she had never given up being in love with someone. 
She was in love with several people at once, both
men and women; she had been in love with almost everyone
who had been particularly distinguished in any way. 
She was in love with all the new princes and princesses
who married into the imperial family; she had been
in love with a high dignitary of the Church, a vicar,
and a parish priest; she had been in love with a journalist,
three Slavophiles, with Komissarov, with a minister,
a doctor, an English missionary and Karenin. 
All these passions constantly waning or growing more
ardent, did not prevent her from keeping up the most
extended and complicated relations with the court
and fashionable society.  But from the time that
after Karenin’s trouble she took him under her
special protection, from the time that she set to
work in Karenin’s household looking after his
welfare, she felt that all her other attachments were
not the real thing, and that she was now genuinely
in love, and with no one but Karenin.  The feeling
she now experienced for him seemed to her stronger
than any of her former feelings.  Analyzing her
feeling, and comparing it with former passions, she
distinctly perceived that she would not have been in
love with Komissarov if he had not saved the life
of the Tsar, that she would not have been in love
with Ristitch-Kudzhitsky if there had been no Slavonic
question, but that she loved Karenin for himself,
for his lofty, uncomprehended soul, for the sweet ­to
her ­high notes of his voice, for his drawling
intonation, his weary eyes, his character, and his
soft white hands with their swollen veins.  She
was not simply overjoyed at meeting him, but she sought
in his face signs of the impression she was making
on him.  She tried to please him, not by her
words only, but in her whole person.  For his
sake it was that she now lavished more care on her
dress than before.  She caught herself in reveries
on what might have been, if she had not been married
and he had been free.  She blushed with emotion
when he came into the room, she could not repress
a smile of rapture when he said anything amiable to
her.

For several days now Countess Lidia
Ivanovna had been in a state of intense excitement. 
She had learned that Anna and Vronsky were in Petersburg. 
Alexey Alexandrovitch must be saved from seeing her,
he must be saved even from the torturing knowledge
that that awful woman was in the same town with him,
and that he might meet her any minute.

Lidia Ivanovna made inquiries through
her friends as to what those infamous people,
as she called Anna and Vronsky, intended doing, and
she endeavored so to guide every movement of her friend
during those days that he could not come across them. 
The young adjutant, an acquaintance of Vronsky, through
whom she obtained her information, and who hoped through
Countess Lidia Ivanovna to obtain a concession, told
her that they had finished their business and were
going away next day.  Lidia Ivanovna had already
begun to calm down, when the next morning a note was
brought her, the handwriting of which she recognized
with horror.  It was the handwriting of Anna Karenina. 
The envelope was of paper as thick as bark; on the
oblong yellow paper there was a huge monogram, and
the letter smelt of agreeable scent.

“Who brought it?”

“A commissionaire from the hotel.”

It was some time before Countess Lidia
Ivanovna could sit down to read the letter. 
Her excitement brought on an attack of asthma, to
which she was subject.  When she had recovered
her composure, she read the following letter in French: 

Madame la Comtesse,

“The Christian feelings with
which your heart is filled give me the, I feel, unpardonable
boldness to write to you.  I am miserable at
being separated from my son.  I entreat permission
to see him once before my departure.  Forgive
me for recalling myself to your memory.  I apply
to you and not to Alexey Alexandrovitch, simply because
I do not wish to cause that generous man to suffer
in remembering me.  Knowing your friendship for
him, I know you will understand me.  Could you
send Seryozha to me, or should I come to the house
at some fixed hour, or will you let me know when and
where I could see him away from home?  I do not
anticipate a refusal, knowing the magnanimity of him
with whom it rests.  You cannot conceive the
craving I have to see him, and so cannot conceive the
gratitude your help will arouse in me.

Anna”

Everything in this letter exasperated
Countess Lidia Ivanovna:  its contents and the
allusion to magnanimity, and especially its free and
easy ­as she considered ­tone.

“Say that there is no answer,”
said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, and immediately opening
her blotting-book, she wrote to Alexey Alexandrovitch
that she hoped to see him at one o’clock at the
levee.

“I must talk with you of a grave
and painful subject.  There we will arrange where
to meet.  Best of all at my house, where I will
order tea as you like it.  Urgent. 
He lays the cross, but He gives the strength to bear
it,” she added, so as to give him some slight
preparation.  Countess Lidia Ivanovna usually
wrote some two or three letters a day to Alexey Alexandrovitch. 
She enjoyed that form of communication, which gave
opportunity for a refinement and air of mystery not
afforded by their personal interviews.

 

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