Who else is with the countess?a Frenchman? Stepan Arkadyevitch asked the hall-porter, as he glanced at the familiar overcoat of Alexey Alexandrovitch and a queer, rather artless-looking overcoat with clasps.
Princess Myaky guessed right, thought Stepan Arkadyevitch, as he went upstairs. Curious! It would be quite as well, though, to get on friendly terms with her. She has immense influence. If she would say a word to Pomorsky, the thing would be a certainty.
It was still quite light out of doors, but in Countess Lidia Ivanovnas little drawing-room the blinds were drawn and the lamps lighted. At a round table under a lamp sat the countess and Alexey Alexandrovitch, talking softly. A short, thinnish man, very pale and handsome, with feminine hips and knock-kneed legs, with fine brilliant eyes and long hair. lying on the collar of his coat, was standing at the other end of the room gazing at the portraits on the wall. After greeting the lady of the house and Alexey Alexandrovitch, Stepan Arkadyevitch could not resist glancing once more at the unknown man.
Landau looked round hurriedly, came up, and smiling, laid his moist, lifeless hand in Stepan Arkadyevitchs outstretched hand and immediately walked away and fell to gazing at the portraits again. The countess and Alexey Alexandrovitch looked at each other significantly.
I introduced you to him as Landau, she said in a soft voice, glancing at the Frenchman, and again immediately after at Alexey Alexandrovitch, but he is really Count Bezzubov, as youre probably aware. Only he does not like the title.
Ive known you for a long while, and am very glad to make a closer acquaintance with you. Les amis de nos amis sont nos amis. But to be a true friend, one must enter into the spiritual state of ones friend, and I fear that you are not doing so in the case of Alexey Alexandrovitch. You understand what I mean? she said, lifting her fine pensive eyes.
The change is not in his external position, Countess Lidia Ivanovna said sternly, following with eyes of love the figure of Alexey Alexandrovitch as he got up and crossed over to Landau; his heart is changed, a new heart has been vouchsafed him, and I fear you dont fully apprehend the change that has taken place in him.
Oh well, in general outlines I can conceive the change. We have always been friendly, and now said Stepan Arkadyevitc, responding with a sympathetic glance to the expression of the countess, and mentally balancing the question with which of the two ministers she was most intimate, 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 his neighbours; on the contrary, that change can only intensify love in his heart. But I am afraid you do not understand me. Wont you have some tea? she said, with her eyes indicating the footman, who was handing round tea on a tray.
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 smiled a smile of childlike artlessness.
Dont take any notice, said Lidia Ivanovna, and she lightly moved a chair up for Alexey Alexandrovitch. I have observed she was beginning, when a footman came into the room with a letter. Lidia Ivanovna rapidly ran her eyes over the note, and excusing herself, wrote an answer with extraordinary rapidity, handed it to the man, and came back to the table. I have observed, she went on, that Moscow people, especially the men, are more indifferent to religion than any one.
I am not so much indifferent on that subject as I am waiting in suspense, said Stepan Arkadyevitch, with his most deprecating smile. I hardly thing that the time for such questions has come yet for me.
We can never tell whether the time has come for us or not, said Alexey Alexandrovitch severely. We ought not to think whether we are ready or not ready. Gods grace is not guided by human considerations: sometimes it comes not to those that strive for it, and comes to those that are unprepared, like Saul.
But a man may feel himself unworthy sometimes to rise to that height, said Stepan Arkadyevitch, conscious of hypocrisy in admitting this religious height, but at the same time unable to bring himself to acknowledge his free-thinking views before a person who, by a single word to Pomorsky, might procure him the coveted appointment.
That is, you mean that sin keeps him back? said Lidia Ivanovna. But that is a false idea. There is no sin for believers, their sin has been atoned for. Pardon, she added, looking at the footman, who came in again with another letter. She read it and gave a verbal answer: To-morrow at the Grand Duchesss, say. For the believer sin is not, she went on.
There you have itfrom the epistle of St. James, said Alexey Alexandrovitch, addressing Lidia Ivanovna, with a certain reproachfulness in his tone. It was unmistakably a subject they had discussed more than once before. What harm has been done by the false interpretation of that passage! Nothing holds men back from belief like that misinterpretation. I have not works, so I cannot believe, though all the while that is not said. But the very opposite is said.
Striving for God, saving the soul by fasting, said Countess Lidia Ivanovana, with disgusting contempt, those are the crude ideas of our monks Yet that is nowhere said. It is far simple and easier, she added, looking at Oblonsky with the same encouraging smile with which at court she encouraged youthful maids of honour, disconcerted by the new surroundings of the court.
I want to read him Safe and Happy, or Under the Wing, she said, looking inquiringly at Karenin. And finding the book, and sitting down again in her place, she opened it. Its very short. In it is described the way by which faith can be reached, and the happiness, above all earthly bliss, with which it fills the soul. The believer can-not be unhappy because he is not alone. But you will see. She was just settling herself to read when the footman came in again. Madame Borozdin? Tell her, to-morrow at two oclock. Yes, she said, putting her finger in the place in the book, and gazing before her with her fine pensive eyes, that is how true faith acts. You know Marie Sanin? You know about her trouble? She lost her only child. She was in despair. And what happened? She found this comforter, and she thanks God now for the death of her child. Such is the happiness faith brings!
Oh yes, that is most said Stepan Arkadyevitch, glad they were going to read, and let him have a chance to collect his faculties. No, I see Id better not ask her about anything to-day, he thought. If only I can get out of this without putting my foot in it!