“But is that love, my friend? Is it sincere? Admitting that you have forgiven—that you forgive—have we the right to work on the feelings of that angel? He looks on her as dead. He prays for her, and beseeches God to have mercy on her sins. And it is better so. But now what will he think?”
“I had not thought of that,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, evidently agreeing.
Countess Lidia Ivanovna hid her face in her hands and was silent. she was praying.
“If you ask my advice,” she said, having finished her prayer and uncovered her face, “I do not advise you to do this. Do you suppose I don’t see how you are suffering, how this has torn open your wounds? But supposing that, as always, you don’t think of yourself, what can it lead to?—to fresh suffering for you, to torture for the child. If there were a trace of humanity left in her, she ought not to wish for it herself. No, I have no hesitation in saying I advise not, and if you will intrust it to me, I will write to her.”
And Alexey Alexandrovitch consented, and Countess Lidia Ivanovna sent the following letter in French:
“To be reminded of you might have results for
your son in leading to questions on his part which
could not be answered without implanting in the child’s
soul a spirit of censure towards what should be for
him sacred, and therefore I beg you to interpret your
husband’s refusal in the spirit of Christian
love. I pray to Almighty God to have mercy on
This letter attained the secret object which Countess Lidia Ivanovna had concealed from herself. It wounded Anna to the quick.
For his part, Alexey Alexandrovitch, on returning home from Lidia Ivanovna’s, could not all that day concentrate himself on his usual pursuits, and find that spiritual peace of one saved and believing which he had felt of late.
The thought of his wife, who had so greatly sinned against him, and towards whom he had been so saintly, as Countess Lidia Ivanovna had so justly told him, ought not to have troubled him; but he was not easy; he could not understand the book he was reading; he could not drive away harassing recollections of his relations with her, of the mistake which, as it now seemed, he had made in regard to her. The memory of how he had received her confession of infidelity on their way home from the races (especially that he had insisted only on the observance of external decorum, and had not sent a challenge) tortured him like a remorse. He was tortured too by the thought of the letter he had written her; and most of all, his forgiveness, which nobody wanted, and his care of the other man’s child made his heart burn with shame and remorse.
And just the same feeling of shame and regret he felt now, as he reviewed all his past with her, recalling the awkward words in which, after long wavering, he had made her an offer.