“So you go back from your promise?”
“I have never refused to do all that is possible, but I want time to consider how much of what I promised is possible.”
“No, Alexey Alexandrovitch!” cried Oblonsky, jumping up, “I won’t believe that! She’s unhappy as only an unhappy woman can be, and you cannot refuse in such...”
“As much of what I promised as is possible. Vous professez d’etre libre penseur. But I as a believer cannot, in a matter of such gravity, act in opposition to the Christian law.”
“But in Christian societies and among us, as far as I’m aware, divorce is allowed,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Divorce is sanctioned even by our church. And we see...”
“It is allowed, but not in the sense...”
“Alexey Alexandrovitch, you are not like yourself,” said Oblonsky, after a brief pause. “Wasn’t it you (and didn’t we all appreciate it in you?) who forgave everything, and moved simply by Christian feeling was ready to make any sacrifice? You said yourself: if a man take thy coat, give him thy cloak also, and now...”
“I beg,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch shrilly, getting suddenly onto his feet, his face white and his jaws twitching, “I beg you to drop this...to drop...this subject!”
“Oh, no! Oh, forgive me, forgive me if I have wounded you,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, holding out his hand with a smile of embarrassment; “but like a messenger I have simply performed the commission given me.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch gave him his hand, pondered a little, and said:
“I must think it over and seek for guidance. The day after tomorrow I will give you a final answer,” he said, after considering a moment.
Stepan Arkadyevitch was about to go away when Korney came in to announce:
“Who’s Sergey Alexyevitch?” Stepan Arkadyevitch was beginning, but he remembered immediately.
“Ah, Seryozha!” he said aloud. “Sergey Alexyevitch! I thought it was the director of a department. Anna asked me to see him too,” he thought.
And he recalled the timid, piteous expression with which Anna had said to him at parting: “Anyway, you will see him. Find out exactly where he is, who is looking after him. And Stiva...if it were possible! Could it be possible?” Stepan Arkadyevitch knew what was meant by that “if it were possible,”—if it were possible to arrange the divorce so as to let her have her son.... Stepan Arkadyevitch saw now that it was no good to dream of that, but still he was glad to see his nephew.
Alexey Alexandrovitch reminded his brother-in-law that they never spoke to the boy of his mother, and he begged him not to mention a single word about her.
“He was very ill after that interview with his mother, which we had not foreseen,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch. “Indeed, we feared for his life. But with rational treatment, and sea-bathing in the summer, he regained his strength, and now, by the doctor’s advice, I have let him go to school. And certainly the companionship of school has had a good effect on him, and he is perfectly well, and making good progress.”