“Before beginning to speak of my business,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, following the lawyer’s movements with wondering eyes, “I ought to observe that the business about which I have to speak to you is to be strictly private.”
The lawyer’s overhanging reddish mustaches were parted in a scarcely perceptible smile.
“I should not be a lawyer if I could not keep the secrets confided to me. But if you would like proof...”
Alexey Alexandrovitch glanced at his face, and saw that the shrewd, gray eyes were laughing, and seemed to know all about it already.
“You know my name?” Alexey Alexandrovitch resumed.
“I know you and the good”—again he caught a moth—“work you are doing, like every Russian,” said the lawyer, bowing.
Alexey Alexandrovitch sighed, plucking up his courage. But having once made up his mind he went on in his shrill voice, without timidity—or hesitation, accentuating here and there a word.
“I have the misfortune,” Alexey Alexandrovitch began, “to have been deceived in my married life, and I desire to break off all relations with my wife by legal means—that is, to be divorced, but to do this so that my son may not remain with his mother.”
The lawyer’s gray eyes tried not to laugh, but they were dancing with irrepressible glee, and Alexey Alexandrovitch saw that it was not simply the delight of a man who has just got a profitable job: there was triumph and joy, there was a gleam like the malignant gleam he saw in his wife’s eyes.
“You desire my assistance in securing a divorce?”
“Yes, precisely so; but I ought to warn you that I may be wasting your time and attention. I have come simply to consult you as a preliminary step. I want a divorce, but the form in which it is possible is of great consequence to me. It is very possible that if that form does not correspond with my requirements I may give up a legal divorce.”
“Oh, that’s always the case,” said the lawyer, “and that’s always for you to decide.”
He let his eyes rest on Alexey Alexandrovitch’s feet, feeling that he might offend his client by the sight of his irrepressible amusement. He looked at a moth that flew before his nose, and moved his hands, but did not catch it from regard for Alexey Alexandrovitch’s position.
“Though in their general features our laws on this subject are known to me,” pursued Alexey Alexandrovitch, “I should be glad to have an idea of the forms in which such things are done in practice.”
“You would be glad,” the lawyer, without lifting his eyes, responded, adopting, with a certain satisfaction, the tone of his client’s remarks, “for me to lay before you all the methods by which you could secure what you desire?”
And on receiving an assuring nod from Alexey Alexandrovitch, he went on, stealing a glance now and then at Alexey Alexandrovitch’s face, which was growing red in patches.