Chapter 8

Alexei Alexandrovich, on coming back from church service, had spent the whole morning indoors. He had two pieces of business before him that morning; first, to receive and send on a deputation from the native tribes which was on its way to Peterburg, and which was now at Moscow; secondly, to write the promised letter to the lawyer. The deputation, though it had been summoned at Alexei Alexandrovich's instigation, was not without its discomforting and even dangerous aspect, and he was glad he had found it in Moscow. The members of this deputation had not the slightest conception of their duty and the part they were to play. They naively believed that it was their business to lay before the Commission their needs and the actual condition of things, and to ask assistance of the government, and utterly failed to grasp that some of their statements and requests supported the contention of the enemy's side, and so spoiled the whole business. Alexei Alexandrovich was busily engaged with them for a long while, drew up a program for them from which they were not to depart, and on dismissing them wrote a letter to Peterburg for the guidance of the deputation. He had his chief support in this affair in the Countess Lidia Ivanovna. She was a specialist in the matter of deputations, and no one knew better than she how to puff, and put them in the way they should go. Having completed this task, Alexei Alexandrovich wrote the letter to the lawyer. Without the slightest hesitation he gave him permission to act as he might judge best. In the letter he enclosed three of Vronsky's notes to Anna, which were in the portfolio he had taken away.

Since Alexei Alexandrovich had left home with the intention of not returning to his family again, and since he had been at the lawyer's and had spoken, though only to one man, of his intention, since, moreover, he had translated the matter from the world of real life to the world of ink and paper, he had grown more and more used to his own intention, and by now distinctly perceived the feasibility of its execution.

He was sealing the envelope to the lawyer, when he heard the loud tones of Stepan Arkadyevich's voice. Stepan Arkadyevich was disputing with Alexei Alexandrovich's servant, and insisting on being announced.

`No matter,' thought Alexei Alexandrovich, `so much the better. I will inform him at once of my position in regard to his sister, and explain why it is I can't dine with him.'

`Come in!' he said aloud, collecting his papers, and putting them under the blotting pad.

`There, you see, you're talking nonsense, and he is at home!' responded Stepan Arkadyevich's voice, addressing the servant, who had refused to let him in, and, taking off his coat as he went, Oblonsky walked into the room. `Well, I'm awfully glad I've found you! So I hope...' Stepan Arkadyevich began cheerfully.

`I cannot come,' Alexei Alexandrovich said coldly, standing and not asking his visitor to sit down.

Alexei Alexandrovich had thought to pass at once into those frigid relations in which he ought to stand with the brother of a wife against whom he was beginning a suit for divorce. But he had not taken into account the ocean of kindliness brimming over in the heart of Stepan Arkadyevich.

Stepan Arkadyevich opened wide his clear, shining eyes.

`Why can't you? What do you mean?' he asked in perplexity, speaking in French. `Oh, but it's a promise. And we're all counting on you.'

`I want to tell you that I can't dine at your house, because the terms of relationship which have existed between us must cease.'

`How? How do you mean? For what reason?' said Stepan Arkadyevich with a smile.

`Because I am beginning an action for divorce against your sister, my wife. I ought to have...'

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