“Thank you,” answered Alexey Alexandrovitch. “What an exquisite day to-day,” he added, laying emphasis in his peculiar way on the word exquisite.
That they laughed at him he was well aware, but he did not expect anything but hostility from them; he was used to that by now.
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 Seryozha.
“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.
When Alexey Alexandrovitch with Lidia Ivanovna’s help had been brought back anew to life and activity, he felt it his duty to undertake the education of the son left on his hands. Having never before taken any interest in educational questions, Alexey Alexandrovitch devoted some time to the theoretical study of the subject. After reading several books on anthropology, education, and didactics, Alexey Alexandrovitch drew up a plan of education, and engaging the best tutor in Petersburg to superintend it, he set to work, and the subject continually absorbed him.