FictionForest

PART FOUR : Chapter 8

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

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Alexey Alexandrovitch, on coming back
from church service, had spent the whole morning indoors. 
He had two pieces of business before him that morning;
first, to receive and send on a deputation from the
native tribes which was on its way to Petersburg,
and now at Moscow; secondly, to write the promised
letter to the lawyer.  The deputation, though
it had been summoned at Alexey Alexandrovitch’s
instigation, was not without its discomforting and
even dangerous aspect, and he was glad he had found
it in Moscow.  The members of this deputation
had not the slightest conception of their duty and
the part they were to play.  They naively believed
that it was their business to lay before the commission
their needs and the actual condition of things, and
to ask assistance of the government, and utterly failed
to grasp that some of their statements and requests
supported the contention of the enemy’s side,
and so spoiled the whole business.  Alexey Alexandrovitch
was busily engaged with them for a long while, drew
up a program for them from which they were not to
depart, and on dismissing them wrote a letter to Petersburg
for the guidance of the deputation.  He had his
chief support in this affair in the Countess Lidia
Ivanovna.  She was a specialist in the matter
of deputations, and no one knew better than she how
to manage them, and put them in the way they should
go.  Having completed this task, Alexey Alexandrovitch
wrote the letter to the lawyer.  Without the
slightest hesitation he gave him permission to act
as he might judge best.  In the letter he enclosed
three of Vronsky’s notes to Anna, which were
in the portfolio he had taken away.

Since Alexey Alexandrovitch had left
home with the intention of not returning to his family
again, and since he had been at the lawyer’s
and had spoken, though only to one man, of his intention,
since especially he had translated the matter from
the world of real life to the world of ink and paper,
he had grown more and more used to his own intention,
and by now distinctly perceived the feasibility of
its execution.

He was sealing the envelope to the
lawyer, when he heard the loud tones of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s
voice.  Stepan Arkadyevitch was disputing with
Alexey Alexandrovitch’s servant, and insisting
on being announced.

“No matter,” thought Alexey
Alexandrovitch, “so much the better.  I
will inform him at once of my position in regard to
his sister, and explain why it is I can’t dine
with him.”

“Come in!” he said aloud,
collecting his papers, and putting them in the blotting-paper.

“There, you see, you’re
talking nonsense, and he’s at home!” responded
Stepan Arkadyevitch’s voice, addressing the servant,
who had refused to let him in, and taking off his coat
as he went, Oblonsky walked into the room.  “Well,
I’m awfully glad I’ve found you! 
So I hope…”  Stepan Arkadyevitch began
cheerfully.

“I cannot come,” Alexey
Alexandrovitch said coldly, standing and not asking
his visitor to sit down.

Alexey Alexandrovitch had thought
to pass at once into those frigid relations in which
he ought to stand with the brother of a wife against
whom he was beginning a suit for divorce.  But
he had not taken into account the ocean of kindliness
brimming over in the heart of Stepan Arkadyevitch.

Stepan Arkadyevitch opened wide his
clear, shining eyes.

“Why can’t you?  What
do you mean?” he asked in perplexity, speaking
in French.  “Oh, but it’s a promise. 
And we’re all counting on you.”

“I want to tell you that I can’t
dine at your house, because the terms of relationship
which have existed between us must cease.”

“How?  How do you mean? 
What for?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with a
smile.

“Because I am beginning an action
for divorce against your sister, my wife.  I
ought to have…”

But, before Alexey Alexandrovitch
had time to finish his sentence, Stepan Arkadyevitch
was behaving not at all as he had expected. 
He groaned and sank into an armchair.

“No, Alexey Alexandrovitch! 
What are you saying?” cried Oblonsky, and his
suffering was apparent in his face.

“It is so.”

“Excuse me, I can’t, I can’t believe
it!”

Alexey Alexandrovitch sat down, feeling
that his words had not had the effect he anticipated,
and that it would be unavoidable for him to explain
his position, and that, whatever explanations he might
make, his relations with his brother-in-law would remain
unchanged.

“Yes, I am brought to the painful
necessity of seeking a divorce,” he said.

“I will say one thing, Alexey
Alexandrovitch.  I know you for an excellent,
upright man; I know Anna ­excuse me, I can’t
change my opinion of her ­for a good, an
excellent woman; and so, excuse me, I cannot believe
it.  There is some misunderstanding,” said
he.

“Oh, if it were merely a misunderstanding!…”

“Pardon, I understand,”
interposed Stepan Arkadyevitch.  “But of
course….  One thing:  you must not act in
haste.  You must not, you must not act in haste!”

“I am not acting in haste,”
Alexey Alexandrovitch said coldly, “but one
cannot ask advice of anyone in such a matter. 
I have quite made up my mind.”

“This is awful!” said
Stepan Arkadyevitch.  “I would do one thing,
Alexey Alexandrovitch.  I beseech you, do it!”
he said.  “No action has yet been taken,
if I understand rightly.  Before you take advice,
see my wife, talk to her.  She loves Anna like
a sister, she loves you, and she’s a wonderful
woman.  For God’s sake, talk to her! 
Do me that favor, I beseech you!”

Alexey Alexandrovitch pondered, and
Stepan Arkadyevitch looked at him sympathetically,
without interrupting his silence.

“You will go to see her?”

“I don’t know.  That
was just why I have not been to see you.  I imagine
our relations must change.”

“Why so?  I don’t
see that.  Allow me to believe that apart from
our connection you have for me, at least in part, the
same friendly feeling I have always had for you…and
sincere esteem,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, pressing
his hand.  “Even if your worst suppositions
were correct, I don’t ­and never would ­take
on myself to judge either side, and I see no reason
why our relations should be affected.  But now,
do this, come and see my wife.”

“Well, we look at the matter
differently,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch coldly. 
“However, we won’t discuss it.”

“No; why shouldn’t you
come today to dine, anyway?  My wife’s
expecting you.  Please, do come.  And, above
all, talk it over with her.  She’s a wonderful
woman.  For God’s sake, on my knees, I
implore you!”

“If you so much wish it, I will
come,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, sighing.

And, anxious to change the conversation,
he inquired about what interested them both ­the
new head of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s department,
a man not yet old, who had suddenly been promoted to
so high a position.

Alexey Alexandrovitch had previously
felt no liking for Count Anitchkin, and had always
differed from him in his opinions.  But now,
from a feeling readily comprehensible to officials ­that
hatred felt by one who has suffered a defeat in the
service for one who has received a promotion, he could
not endure him.

“Well, have you seen him?”
said Alexey Alexandrovitch with a malignant smile.

“Of course; he was at our sitting
yesterday.  He seems to know his work capitally,
and to be very energetic.”

“Yes, but what is his energy
directed to?” said Alexey Alexandrovitch. 
“Is he aiming at doing anything, or simply
undoing what’s been done?  It’s the
great misfortune of our government ­this
paper administration, of which he’s a worthy
representative.”

“Really, I don’t know
what fault one could find with him.  His policy
I don’t know, but one thing ­he’s
a very nice fellow,” answered Stepan Arkadyevitch. 
“I’ve just been seeing him, and he’s
really a capital fellow.  We lunched together,
and I taught him how to make, you know that drink,
wine and oranges.  It’s so cooling. 
And it’s a wonder he didn’t know it. 
He liked it awfully.  No, really he’s
a capital fellow.”

Stepan Arkadyevitch glanced at his watch.

“Why, good heavens, it’s
four already, and I’ve still to go to Dolgovushin’s! 
So please come round to dinner.  You can’t
imagine how you will grieve my wife and me.”

The way in which Alexey Alexandrovitch
saw his brother-in-law out was very different from
the manner in which he had met him.

“I’ve promised, and I’ll come,”
he answered wearily.

“Believe me, I appreciate it,
and I hope you won’t regret it,” answered
Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling.

And, putting on his coat as he went,
he patted the footman on the head, chuckled, and went
out.

“At five o’clock, and
not evening dress, please,” he shouted once
more, turning at the door.

 

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