Alexey Alexandrovitch had forgotten the Countess Lidia Ivanovna,
but she had not forgotten him. At the bitterest moment of his
lonely despair she came to him, and without waiting to be
announced, walked straight into his study. She found him as he
was sitting with his head in both hands.
"J'ai force la consigne," she said, walking in with rapid steps
and breathing hard with excitement and rapid exercise. "I have
heard all! Alexey Alexandrovitch! Dear friend!" she went on,
warmly squeezing his hand in both of hers and gazing with her
fine pensive eyes into his.
Alexey Alexandrovitch, frowning, got up, and disengaging his
hand, moved her a chair.
"Won't you sit down, countess? I'm seeing no one because I'm
unwell, countess," he said, and his lips twitched.
"Dear friend!" repeated Countess Lidia Ivanovna, never taking her
eyes off his, and suddenly her eyebrows rose at the inner
corners, describing a triangle on her forehead, her ugly yellow
face became still uglier, but Alexey Alexandrovitch felt that she
was sorry for him and was preparing to cry. And he too was
softened; he snatched her plump hand and proceeded to kiss it.
"Dear friend!" she said in a voice breaking with emotion. "You
ought not to give way to grief. Your sorrow is a great one, but
you ought to find consolation."
"I am crushed, I am annihilated, I am no longer a man!" said
Alexey Alexandrovitch, letting go her hand, but still gazing into
her brimming eyes. "My position is so awful because I can find
nowhere, I cannot find within me strength to support me."
"You will find support; seek it--not in me, though I beseech you
to believe in my friendship," she said, with a sigh. "Our
support is love, that love that He has vouchsafed us. His burden
is light," she said, with the look of ecstasy Alexey
Alexandrovitch knew so well. "He will be your support and your