`In part, Countess, I understand the position of Alexei Alexandrovich...' said Oblonsky. Having no clear idea what they were talking about, he wanted to confine himself to generalities.

`The change is not in his external position,' Countess Lidia Ivanovna said sternly, following with eyes of love the figure of Alexei Alexandrovich as he got up and crossed over to Landau; `his heart is changed, a new heart has been vouchsafed him, and I fear you don't fully apprehend the change that has taken place in him.'

`Oh, well, in general outlines I can conceive the change. We have always been friendly, and now...' said Stepan Arkadyevich, responding with a sympathetic glance to the expression of the Countess, and mentally balancing the question with which of the two ministers she was more intimate, so as to know which to have her speak to.

`The change that has taken place in him cannot lessen his love for his neighbors; on the contrary, that change can only intensify love in his heart. But I am afraid you do not understand me. Won't you have some tea?' she said, with her eyes indicating the footman, who was handing round tea on a tray.

`Not quite, Countess. Of course, his misfortune...'

`Yes, a misfortune which has proved the highest happiness, when his heart was made new, was filled to the full with it,' she said, gazing with eyes full of love at Stepan Arkadyevich.

`I do believe I might ask her to speak to both of them,' thought Stepan Arkadyevich.

`Oh, of course, Countess,' he said; `but I imagine such changes are a matter so private that no one, even the most intimate friend, would care to speak of them.'

`On the contrary! We ought to speak freely and help one another.'

`Yes, undoubtedly so, but there is such a difference of convictions, and besides...' said Oblonsky with a soft smile.

`There can be no difference where it is a question of holy truth.'

`Oh, no, of course; but...' and Stepan Arkadyevich paused in confusion. He understood at last that they were talking of religion.

`I fancy he will go into a trance immediately,' said Alexei Alexandrovich in a whisper full of meaning, going up to Lidia Ivanovna.

Stepan Arkadyevich looked round. Landau was sitting at the window, leaning on his elbow and the back of his chair, his head drooping. Noticing that all eyes were turned on him, he raised his head and smiled a smile of childlike artlessness.

`Don't take any notice,' said Lidia Ivanovna, and she lightly moved a chair up for Alexei Alexandrovich. `I have observed...' she was beginning, when a footman came into the room with a letter. Lidia Ivanovna rapidly ran her eyes over the note, and, excusing herself, wrote an answer with extraordinary rapidity, handed it to the man, and came back to the table. `I have observed,' she went on, `that Moscow people, especially the men, are more than all others indifferent to religion.'

`Oh, no, Countess, I thought Moscow people had the reputation of being the firmest in the faith,' answered Stepan Arkadyevich.

`But as far as I can make out, you are unfortunately one of the indifferent ones,' said Alexei Alexandrovich, turning to him with a weary smile.

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