For several days now Countess Lidia Ivanovna had been in a state
of intense excitement. She had learned that Anna and Vronsky
were in Petersburg. Alexey Alexandrovitch must be saved from
seeing her, he must be saved even from the torturing knowledge
that that awful woman was in the same town with him, and that he
might meet her any minute.
Lidia Ivanovna made inquiries through her friends as to what
those infamous people, as she called Anna and Vronsky, intended
doing, and she endeavored so to guide every movement of her
friend during those days that he could not come across them. The
young adjutant, an acquaintance of Vronsky, through whom she
obtained her information, and who hoped through Countess Lidia
Ivanovna to obtain a concession, told her that they had finished
their business and were going away next day. Lidia Ivanovna had
already begun to calm down, when the next morning a note was
brought her, the handwriting of which she recognized with horror.
It was the handwriting of Anna Karenina. The envelope was of
paper as thick as bark; on the oblong yellow paper there was a
huge monogram, and the letter smelt of agreeable scent.
"Who brought it?"
"A commissionaire from the hotel."
It was some time before Countess Lidia Ivanovna could sit down to
read the letter. Her excitement brought on an attack of asthma,
to which she was subject. When she had recovered her composure,
she read the following letter in French:
"Madame la Comtesse,
"The Christian feelings with which your heart is filled give me
the, I feel, unpardonable boldness to write to you. I am
miserable at being separated from my son. I entreat permission
to see him once before my departure. Forgive me for recalling
myself to your memory. I apply to you and not to Alexey
Alexandrovitch, simply because I do not wish to cause that
generous man to suffer in remembering me. Knowing your
friendship for him, I know you will understand me. Could you
send Seryozha to me, or should I come to the house at some fixed
hour, or will you let me know when and where I could see him away
from home? I do not anticipate a refusal, knowing the
magnanimity of him with whom it rests. You cannot conceive the
craving I have to see him, and so cannot conceive the gratitude
your help will arouse in me.