“Oh, do please explain,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch; “what does it mean? Yesterday I was seeing him on my sister’s behalf, and I asked him to give me a final answer. He gave me no answer, and said he would think it over. But this morning, instead of an answer, I received an invitation from Countess Lidia Ivanovna for this evening.”
“Ah, so that’s it, that’s it!” said Princess Myakaya gleefully, “they’re going to ask Landau what he’s to say.”
“Ask Landau? What for? Who or what’s Landau?”
“What! you don’t know Jules Landau, le fameux Jules Landau, le clairvoyant? He’s crazy too, but on him your sister’s fate depends. See what comes of living in the provinces—you know nothing about anything. Landau, do you see, was a commis in a shop in Paris, and he went to a doctor’s; and in the doctor’s waiting room he fell asleep, and in his sleep he began giving advice to all the patients. And wonderful advice it was! Then the wife of Yury Meledinsky—you know, the invalid?—heard of this Landau, and had him to see her husband. And he cured her husband, though I can’t say that I see he did him much good, for he’s just as feeble a creature as ever he was, but they believed in him, and took him along with them and brought him to Russia. Here there’s been a general rush to him, and he’s begun doctoring everyone. He cured Countess Bezzubova, and she took such a fancy to him that she adopted him.”
“Yes, as her son. He’s not Landau any more now, but Count Bezzubov. That’s neither here nor there, though; but Lidia—I’m very fond of her, but she has a screw loose somewhere—has lost her heart to this Landau now, and nothing is settled now in her house or Alexey Alexandrovitch’s without him, and so your sister’s fate is now in the hands of Landau, alias Count Bezzubov.”
After a capital dinner and a great deal of cognac drunk at Bartnyansky’s, Stepan Arkadyevitch, only a little later than the appointed time, went in to Countess Lidia Ivanovna’s.
“Who else is with the countess?—a Frenchman?” Stepan Arkadyevitch asked the hall porter, as he glanced at the familiar overcoat of Alexey Alexandrovitch and a queer, rather artless-looking overcoat with clasps.
“Alexey Alexandrovitch Karenin and Count Bezzubov,” the porter answered severely.
“Princess Myakaya guessed right,” thought Stepan Arkadyevitch, as he went upstairs. “Curious! It would be quite as well, though, to get on friendly terms with her. She has immense influence. If she would say a word to Pomorsky, the thing would be a certainty.”
It was still quite light out-of-doors, but in Countess Lidia Ivanovna’s little drawing room the blinds were drawn and the lamps lighted. At a round table under a lamp sat the countess and Alexey Alexandrovitch, talking softly. A short, thinnish man, very pale and handsome, with feminine hips and knock-kneed legs, with fine brilliant eyes and long hair lying on the collar of his coat, was standing at the end of the room gazing at the portraits on the wall. After greeting the lady of the house and Alexey Alexandrovitch, Stepan Arkadyevitch could not resist glancing once more at the unknown man.