Chapter 22

Stepan Arkadyevich, with the same somewhat solemn expression with which he used to take his presidential chair at his board, walked into Alexei Alexandrovich's room. Alexei Alexandrovich was walking about his room with his hands behind his back, thinking of just what Stepan Arkadyevich had been discussing with his wife.

`I'm not interrupting you?' said Stepan Arkadyevich, on the sight of his brother-in-law becoming suddenly aware of a sense of embarrassment unusual with him. To conceal this embarrassment he took out a newly purchased cigarette case that opened in a new way, and, sniffing the leather, took a cigarette out of it.

`No. Do you want anything?' Alexei Alexandrovich said reluctantly.

`Yes, I wished... I wanted... Yes, I wanted to talk to you,' said Stepan Arkadyevich, with surprise aware of an unaccustomed timidity.

This feeling was so unexpected and so strange that he did not believe it was the voice of conscience telling him that what he meant to do was wrong. Stepan Arkadyevich made an effort and struggled with the timidity that had come over him.

`I hope you believe in my love for my sister and my sincere affection and respect for you,' he said, reddening.

Alexei Alexandrovich stood still and said nothing, but his face struck Stepan Arkadyevich by its expression of an unresisting sacrifice.

`I intended... I wanted to have a little talk with you about my sister and your mutual position,' he said, still struggling with an unaccustomed constraint.

Alexei Alexandrovich smiled mournfully, looked at his brother-in-law, and, without answering, went up to the table, took from it an unfinished letter, and handed it to his brother-in-law.

`I think unceasingly of the same thing. And here is what I had begun writing, thinking I could say it better by letter, and that my presence irritates her,' he said, as he gave him the letter.

Stepan Arkadyevich took the letter, looked with incredulous surprise at the lusterless eyes fixed so immovably on him, and began to read:

`I see that my presence is irksome to you. Painful as it is to me to believe it, I see that it is so, and cannot be otherwise. I don't blame you, and God is my witness that on seeing you at the time of your illness I resolved with my whole heart to forget all that had passed between us, and to begin a new life. I do not regret, and shall never regret, what I have done; but I have desired one thing - your good, the good of your soul - and now I see I have not attained that. Tell me yourself what will give you true happiness and peace to your soul. I put myself entirely in your hands, and trust to your feeling of what is right.'

Stepan Arkadyevich handed back the letter, and, with the same surprise, continued looking at his brother- in-law, not knowing what to say. This silence was so awkward for both of them that Stepan Arkadyevich's lips began twitching nervously, while he still gazed without speaking at Karenin's face.

`That's what I wanted to say to her,' said Alexei Alexandrovich, turning away.

`Yes, yes...' said Stepan Arkadyevich, not able to answer for the tears that were choking him. `Yes, yes, I understand you,' he brought out at last.

`I want to know what she would like,' said Alexei Alexandrovich.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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