“Yes, but the heart. I see in him his father’s heart, and with such a heart a child cannot go far wrong,” said Lidia Ivanovna with enthusiasm.
“Yes, perhaps.... As for me, I do my duty. It’s all I can do.”
“You’re coming to me,” said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, after a pause; “we have to speak of a subject painful for you. I would give anything to have spared you certain memories, but others are not of the same mind. I have received a letter from her. She is here in Petersburg.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch shuddered at the allusion to his wife, but immediately his face assumed the deathlike rigidity which expressed utter helplessness in the matter.
“I was expecting it,” he said.
Countess Lidia Ivanovna looked at him ecstatically, and tears of rapture at the greatness of his soul came into her eyes.
When Alexey Alexandrovitch came into the Countess Lidia Ivanovna’s snug little boudoir, decorated with old china and hung with portraits, the lady herself had not yet made her appearance.
She was changing her dress.
A cloth was laid on a round table, and on it stood a china tea service and a silver spirit-lamp and tea kettle. Alexey Alexandrovitch looked idly about at the endless familiar portraits which adorned the room, and sitting down to the table, he opened a New Testament lying upon it. The rustle of the countess’s silk skirt drew his attention off.
“Well now, we can sit quietly,” said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, slipping hurriedly with an agitated smile between the table and the sofa, “and talk over our tea.”
After some words of preparation, Countess Lidia Ivanovna, breathing hard and flushing crimson, gave into Alexey Alexandrovitch’s hands the letter she had received.
After reading the letter, he sat a long while in silence.
“I don’t think I have the right to refuse her,” he said, timidly lifting his eyes.
“Dear friend, you never see evil in anyone!”
“On the contrary, I see that all is evil. But whether it is just...”
His face showed irresolution, and a seeking for counsel, support, and guidance in a matter he did not understand.
“No,” Countess Lidia Ivanovna interrupted him; “there are limits to everything. I can understand immorality,” she said, not quite truthfully, since she never could understand that which leads women to immorality; “but I don’t understand cruelty: to whom? to you! How can she stay in the town where you are? No, the longer one lives the more one learns. And I’m learning to understand your loftiness and her baseness.”
“Who is to throw a stone?” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, unmistakably pleased with the part he had to play. “I have forgiven all, and so I cannot deprive her of what is exacted by love in her—by her love for her son....”