When Alexey Alexandrovitch came into the Countess Lidia
Ivanovna's snug little boudoir, decorated with old china and hung
with portraits, the lady herself had not yet made her appearance.
She was changing her dress.
A cloth was laid on a round table, and on it stood a china
tea service and a silver spirit-lamp and tea kettle. Alexey
Alexandrovitch looked idly about at the endless familiar
portraits which adorned the room, and sitting down to the table,
he opened a New Testament lying upon it. The rustle of the
countess's silk skirt drew his attention off.
"Well now, we can sit quietly," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna,
slipping hurriedly with an agitated smile between the table and
the sofa, "and talk over our tea."
After some words of preparation, Countess Lidia Ivanovna,
breathing hard and flushing crimson, gave into Alexey
Alexandrovitch's hands the letter she had received.
After reading the letter, he sat a long while in silence.
"I don't think I have the right to refuse her," he said,
timidly lifting his eyes.
"Dear friend, you never see evil in anyone!"
"On the contrary, I see that all is evil. But whether it is
His face showed irresolution, and a seeking for counsel, support,
and guidance in a matter he did not understand.
"No," Countess Lidia Ivanovna interrupted him; "there are limits
to everything. I can understand immorality," she said, not
quite truthfully, since she never could understand that which
leads women to immorality; "but I don't understand cruelty: to
whom? to you! How can she stay in the town where you are? No,
the longer one lives the more one learns. And I'm learning to
understand your loftiness and her baseness."
"Who is to throw a stone?" said Alexey Alexandrovitch,
unmistakably pleased with the part he had to play. "I have
forgiven all, and so I cannot deprive her of what is exacted by
love in her--by her love for her son...."