Ever since Alexei Alexandrovich had left home with the intention of not returning to his family, and ever since he had seen the lawyer and told at least one person of his intention, especially since he had turned the matter of his life into a matter of papers, he had been growing more and more accustomed to his intention and now saw clearly the possibility of carrying it through.
He was sealing the envelope to his lawyer when he heard the loud sounds of Stepan Arkadyich’s voice. Stepan Arkadyich was arguing with Alexei Alexandrovich’s valet and insisting that he should be announced.
‘It makes no difference,’ thought Alexei Alexandrovich. ‘So much the better: I’ll declare my position regarding his sister now and explain why I cannot dine with them.’
‘Show him in!’ he said loudly, gathering up the papers and putting them into the blotter.
‘You see, you’re lying, he is at home!’ Stepan Arkadyich’s voice said to the lackey who had refused to let him in, and, taking his coat off as he went, Oblonsky entered the room. ‘Well, I’m very glad I found you at home! So, I hope ...’ Stepan Arkadyich began merrily.
‘I cannot come,’ Alexei Alexandrovich said coldly, standing and not inviting his visitor to sit down.
Alexei Alexandrovich meant to enter at once into the cold relations he ought to have with the brother of a wife with whom he was beginning divorce proceedings; but he had not taken into account the sea of good–naturedness that overflowed the shores of Stepan Arkadyich’s soul.
Stepan Arkadyich opened his shining, clear eyes wide.
‘Why can’t you? What do you mean to say?’ he said perplexedly in French. ‘No, you promised. And we’re all counting on you.’
‘I mean to say that I cannot come to your house, because the family relations that existed between us must cease.’
‘What? I mean, how? Why?’ Stepan Arkadyich said with a smile.
‘Because I am starting divorce proceedings against your sister, my wife. I have been forced ...’
But before Alexei Alexandrovich had time to finish what he was saying, Stepan Arkadyich acted in a way he had not expected at all. Stepan Arkadyich gasped and sank into an armchair.
‘No, Alexei Alexandrovich, what are you saying!’ cried Oblonsky, and suffering showed on his face.
‘Forgive me, but I can’t, I simply can’t believe it...’
Alexei Alexandrovich sat down, feeling that his words had not had the effect he anticipated, that it would be necessary for him to explain himself, and that whatever his explanations might be, his relations with his brother–in–law would remain the same.
‘Yes, I am put under the painful necessity of demanding a divorce,’ he said.
‘I’ll tell you one thing, Alexei Alexandrovich. I know you to be an excellent and just man, I know Anna – forgive me, I can’t change my opinion of her – to be a wonderful, excellent woman, and therefore, forgive me, but I can’t believe it. There’s some misunderstanding here,’ he said.
‘Yes, if only it were a misunderstanding ...’
‘Excuse me, I do see,’ Stepan Arkadyich interrupted. ‘But, naturally ... One thing: you mustn’t be hasty. You mustn’t, mustn’t be hasty!’
‘I am not being hasty,’ Alexei Alexandrovich said coldly. ‘And one cannot take anyone else’s advice in such a matter. I am firmly decided.’
‘This is terrible!’ said Stepan Arkadyich with a deep sigh. ‘There’s one thing I’d do, Alexei Alexandrovich. I beg you to do it!’ he said. ‘The proceedings haven’t started yet, as I understand. Before you start them, go and see my wife, talk with her. She loves Anna like a sister, she loves you, and she’s an amazing woman. For God’s sake, talk with her! Do it out of friendship for me, I beg you!’
Alexei Alexandrovich reflected, and Stepan Arkadyich looked at him sympathetically, without breaking his silence.
‘Will you go and see her?’
‘I don’t know. That’s why I didn’t call on you. I suppose our relations must change.’
‘Why so? I don’t see it. Permit me to think that, apart from our family relations, you have for me, at least somewhat, the friendly feelings that I have always had for you ... And true respect,’ said Stepan Arkadyich, pressing his hand. ‘Even if your worst suppositions are right, I do not and never will take it upon myself to judge either side, and I see no reason why our relations must change. But do it now, come and see my wife.’
‘Well, we have different views of this matter,’ Alexei Alexandrovich said coldly. ‘However, let’s not talk about it.’
‘No, why shouldn’t you come? Why not tonight for dinner? My wife is expecting you. Please come. And above all, talk it over with her. She’s an amazing woman. For God’s sake, I beg you on my knees!’
‘If you want it so much – I’ll come,’ Alexei Alexandrovich said with a sigh.
And, wishing to change the subject, he asked about something that interested them both – Stepan Arkadyich’s new superior, not yet an old man, who had suddenly been appointed to such a high position.
—Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, p. 261