"Excuse me, your excellency, for venturing to trouble you. But
if you direct us to apply to her excellency, would you graciously
oblige us with her address?"
Alexey Alexandrovitch pondered, as it seemed to the clerk, and
all at once, turning round, he sat down at the table. Letting
his head sink into his hands, he sat for a long while in that
position, several times attempted to speak and stopped short.
Korney, perceiving his master's emotion, asked the clerk to call
another time. Left alone, Alexey Alexandrovitch recognized that
he had not the strength to keep up the line of firmness and
composure any longer. He gave orders for the carriage that was
awaiting him to be taken back, and for no one to be admitted, and
he did not go down to dinner.
He felt that he could not endure the weight of universal contempt
and exasperation, which he had distinctly seen in the face of the
clerk and of Korney, and of everyone, without exception, whom he
had met during those two days. He felt that he could not turn
aside from himself the hatred of men, because that hatred did not
come from his being bad (in that case he could have tried to be
better), but from his being shamefully and repulsively unhappy.
He knew that for this, for the very fact that his heart was torn
with grief, they would be merciless to him. He felt that men
would crush him as dogs strangle a torn dog yelping with pain.
He knew that his sole means of security against people was to
hide his wounds from them, and instinctively he tried to do this
for two days, but now he felt incapable of keeping up the unequal
His despair was even intensified by the consciousness that he was
utterly alone in his sorrow. In all Petersburg there was not a
human being to whom he could express what he was feeling, who
would feel for him, not as a high official, not as a member of
society, but simply as a suffering man; indeed he had not such a
one in the whole world.
Alexey Alexandrovitch grew up an orphan. There were two
brothers. They did not remember their father, and their mother
died when Alexey Alexandrovitch was ten years old. The property
was a small one. Their uncle, Karenin, a government official of
high standing, at one time a favorite of the late Tsar, had
brought them up.