Chapter 21

After a capital dinner and a great deal of cognac drunk at Bartniansky's, Stepan Arkadyevich, only a little later than the appointed time, went in to Countess Lidia Ivanovna's.

`Who else is with the countess? A Frenchman?' Stepan Arkadyevich asked the hall porter, as he glanced at the familiar overcoat of Alexei Alexandrovich and a queer, rather naïve-looking overcoat with clasps.

`Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin and Count Bezzubov,' the porter answered austerely.

`Princess Miaghkaia guessed right,' thought Stepan Arkadyevich, 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 Alexei Alexandrovich, 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 other end of the room gazing at the portraits on the wall. After greeting the lady of the house and Alexei Alexandrovich, Stepan Arkadyevich could not resist glancing once more at the unknown man.

`Monsieur Landau!' the Countess addressed him with a suavity and circumspection that impressed Oblonsky. And she introduced them.

Landau looked round hurriedly, came up, and, smiling, laid his moist, lifeless hand in Stepan Arkadyevich's outstretched hand and immediately walked away, and fell to gazing at the portraits again. The Countess and Alexei Alexandrovich looked at each other significantly.

`I am very glad to see you, particularly today,' said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, pointing out to Stepan Arkadyevich a seat beside Karenin.

`I introduced you to him as Landau,' she said in a soft voice, glancing at the Frenchman and again immediately after at Alexei Alexandrovich, `but he is really Count Bezzubov, as you're probably aware. Only he does not like the title.'

`Yes, I heard so,' answered Stepan Arkadyevich; `they say he completely cured Countess Bezzubova.'

`She was here today, poor thing!' the Countess said, turning to Alexei Alexandrovich. `This separation is awful for her. It's such a blow to her!'

`And he positively is going?' queried Alexei Alexandrovich.

`Yes, he's going to Paris. He heard a voice yesterday,' said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, looking at Stepan Arkadyevich.

`Ah, a voice!' repeated Oblonsky, feeling that he must be as circumspect as he possibly could in this society, where something peculiar was happening, or was about to happen, to which he had not the key.

A moment's silence followed, after which Countess Lidia Ivanovna, as though approaching the main topic of conversation, said with a fine smile to Oblonsky:

`I've known you for a long while, and am very glad to make a closer acquaintance with you. Les amis de nos amis sont nos amis. But to be a true friend, one must enter into the spiritual state of one's friend, and I fear that you are not doing so in the case of Alexei Alexandrovich. You understand what I mean?' she said, lifting her fine pensive eyes.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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