“But how have I been to blame?” he said to himself. And this question always excited another question in him—whether they felt differently, did their loving and marrying differently, these Vronskys and Oblonskys...these gentlemen of the bedchamber, with their fine calves. And there passed before his mind a whole series of these mettlesome, vigorous, self-confident men, who always and everywhere drew his inquisitive attention in spite of himself. He tried to dispel these thoughts, he tried to persuade himself that he was not living for this transient life, but for the life of eternity, and that there was peace and love in his heart.
But the fact that he had in this transient, trivial life made, as it seemed to him, a few trivial mistakes tortured him as though the eternal salvation in which he believed had no existence. But this temptation did not last long, and soon there was reestablished once more in Alexey Alexandrovitch’s soul the peace and the elevation by virtue of which he could forget what he did not want to remember.
“Well, Kapitonitch?” said Seryozha, coming back rosy and good-humored from his walk the day before his birthday, and giving his overcoat to the tall old hall porter, who smiled down at the little person from the height of his long figure. “Well, has the bandaged clerk been here today? Did papa see him?”
“He saw him. The minute the chief secretary came out, I announced him,” said the hall porter with a good-humored wink. “Here, I’ll take it off.”
“Seryozha!” said the tutor, stopping in the doorway leading to the inner rooms. “Take it off yourself.” But Seryozha, though he heard his tutor’s feeble voice, did not pay attention to it. He stood keeping hold of the hall porter’s belt, and gazing into his face.
“Well, and did papa do what he wanted for him?”
The hall porter nodded his head affirmatively. The clerk with his face tied up, who had already been seven times to ask some favor of Alexey Alexandrovitch, interested both Seryozha and the hall porter. Seryozha had come upon him in the hall, and had heard him plaintively beg the hall porter to announce him, saying that he and his children had death staring them in the face.
Since then Seryozha, having met him a second time in the hall, took great interest in him.
“Well, was he very glad?” he asked.
“Glad? I should think so! Almost dancing as he walked away.”
“And has anything been left?” asked Seryozha, after a pause.
“Come, sir,” said the hall-porter; then with a shake of his head he whispered, “Something from the countess.”
Seryozha understood at once that what the hall porter was speaking of was a present from Countess Lidia Ivanovna for his birthday.
“What do you say? Where?”
“Korney took it to your papa. A fine plaything it must be too!”