Although there was in these words a flavor of that sentimental
emotion at her own lofty feelings, and that new mystical fervor
which had lately gained ground in Petersburg, and which seemed to
Alexey Alexandrovitch disproportionate, still it was pleasant to
him to hear this now.
"I am weak. I am crushed. I foresaw nothing, and now I
"Dear friend," repeated Lidia Ivanovna.
"It's not the loss of what I have not now, it's not that!"
pursued Alexey Alexandrovitch. "I do not grieve for that. But
I cannot help feeling humiliated before other people for the
position I am placed in. It is wrong, but I can't help it, I
can't help it."
"Not you it was performed that noble act of forgiveness, at which
I was moved to ecstasy, and everyone else too, but He, working
within your heart," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, raising her
eyes rapturously, "and so you cannot be ashamed of your act."
Alexey Alexandrovitch knitted his brows, and crooking his hands,
he cracked his fingers.
"One must know all the facts," he said in his thin voice. "A
man's strength has its limits, countess, and I have reached my
limits. The whole day I have had to be making arrangements,
arrangements about household matters arising" (he emphasized the
word arising) "from my new, solitary position. The servants, the
governess, the accounts.... These pinpricks have stabbed me to
the heart, and I have not the strength to bear it. At dinner...
yesterday, I was almost getting up from the dinner table. I
could not bear the way my son looked at me. He did not ask me
the meaning of it all, but he wanted to ask, and I could not bear
the look in his eyes. He was afraid to look at me, but that is
not all...." Alexey Alexandrovitch would have referred to the
bill that had been brought him, but his voice shook, and he
stopped. That bill on blue paper, for a hat and ribbons, he
could not recall without a rush of self-pity.