Catching sight of the yellow shoulders of Lidia Ivanovna jutting
out above her corset, and her fine pensive eyes bidding him to
her, Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled, revealing untarnished white
teeth, and went towards her.
Lidia Ivanovna's dress had cost her great pains, as indeed all
her dresses had done of late. Her aim in dress was now quite the
reverse of that she had pursued thirty years before. Then her
desire had been to adorn herself with something, and the more
adorned the better. Now, on the contrary, she was perforce
decked out in a way so inconsistent with her age and her figure,
that her one anxiety was to contrive that the contrast between
these adornments and her own exterior should not be too
appalling. And as far as Alexey Alexandrovitch was concerned she
succeeded, and was in his eyes attractive. For him she was the
one island not only of goodwill to him, but of love in the midst
of the sea of hostility and jeering that surrounded him.
Passing through rows of ironical eyes, he was drawn as naturally
to her loving glance as a plant to the sun.
"I congratulate you," she said to him, her eyes on his ribbon.
Suppressing a smile of pleasure, he shrugged his shoulders,
closing his eyes, as though to say that that could not be a
source of joy to him. Countess Lidia Ivanovna was very well
aware that it was one of his chief sources of satisfaction,
though he never admitted it.
"How is our angel?" said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, meaning
"I can't say I was quite pleased with him," said Alexey
Alexandrovitch, raising his eyebrows and opening his eyes. "And
Sitnikov is not satisfied with him." (Sitnikov was the tutor to
whom Seryozha's secular education had been intrusted.) "As I
have mentioned to you, there's a sort of coldness in him towards
the most important questions which ought to touch the heart of
every man and every child...." Alexey Alexandrovitch began
expounding his views on the sole question that interested him
besides the service--the education of his son.