Stepan Arkadyevitch felt completely nonplussed by the strange talk which he was hearing for the first time. The complexity of Petersburg, as a rule, had a stimulating effect on him, rousing him out of his Moscow stagnation. But he liked these complications, and understood them only in the circles he knew and was at home in. In these unfamiliar surroundings he was puzzled and disconcerted, and could not get his bearings. As he listened to Countess Lidia Ivanovna, aware of the beautiful, artless—or perhaps artful, he could not decide which—eyes of Landau fixed upon him, Stepan Arkadyevitch began to be conscious of a peculiar heaviness in his head.
The most incongruous ideas were in confusion in his head. “Marie Sanina is glad her child’s dead…. How good a smoke would be now!… To be saved, one need only believe, and the monks don’t know how the thing’s to be done, but Countess Lidia Ivanovna does know…. And why is my head so heavy? Is it the cognac, or all this being so queer? Anyway, I fancy I’ve done nothing unsuitable so far. But anyway, it won’t do to ask her now. They say they make one say one’s prayers. I only hope they won’t make me! That’ll be too imbecile. And what stuff it is she’s reading! but she has a good accent. Landau—Bezzubov—what’s he Bezzubov for?” All at once Stepan Arkadyevitch became aware that his lower jaw was uncontrollably forming a yawn. He pulled his whiskers to cover the yawn, and shook himself together. But soon after he became aware that he was dropping asleep and on the very point of snoring. He recovered himself at the very moment when the voice of Countess Lidia Ivanovna was saying “he’s asleep.” Stepan Arkadyevitch started with dismay, feeling guilty and caught. But he was reassured at once by seeing that the words “he’s asleep” referred not to him, but to Landau. The Frenchman was asleep as well as Stepan Arkadyevitch. But Stepan Arkadyevitch’s being asleep would have offended them, as he thought (though even this, he thought, might not be so, as everything seemed so queer), while Landau’s being asleep delighted them extremely, especially Countess Lidia Ivanovna.
“Mon ami,” said Lidia Ivanovna, carefully holding the folds of her silk gown so as not to rustle, and in her excitement calling Karenin not Alexey Alexandrovitch, but “mon ami,” “donnez-lui la main. Vous voyez? Sh!” she hissed at the footman as he came in again. “Not at home.”
The Frenchman was asleep, or pretending to be asleep, with his head on the back of his chair, and his moist hand, as it lay on his knee, made faint movements, as though trying to catch something. Alexey Alexandrovitch got up, tried to move carefully, but stumbled against the table, went up and laid his hand in the Frenchman’s hand. Stepan Arkadyevitch got up too, and opening his eyes wide, trying to wake himself up if he were asleep, he looked first at one and then at the other. It was all real. Stepan Arkadyevitch felt that his head was getting worse and worse.
“Que la personne qui est arrivée la dernière, celle qui demande, qu’elle sorte! Qu’elle sorte!” articulated the Frenchman, without opening his eyes.
“Vous m’excuserez, mais vous voyez…. Revenez vers dix heures, encore mieux demain.”
“Qu’elle sorte!” repeated the Frenchman impatiently.
“C’est moi, n’est-ce pas?” And receiving an answer in the affirmative, Stepan Arkadyevitch, forgetting the favor he had meant to ask of Lidia Ivanovna, and forgetting his sister’s affairs, caring for nothing, but filled with the sole desire to get away as soon as possible, went out on tiptoe and ran out into the street as though from a plague-stricken house. For a long while he chatted and joked with his cab-driver, trying to recover his spirits.
At the French theater where he arrived for the last act, and afterwards at the Tatar restaurant after his champagne, Stepan Arkadyevitch felt a little refreshed in the atmosphere he was used to. But still he felt quite unlike himself all that evening.
On getting home to Pyotr Oblonsky’s, where he was staying, Stepan Arkadyevitch found a note from Betsy. She wrote to him that she was very anxious to finish their interrupted conversation, and begged him to come next day. He had scarcely read this note, and frowned at its contents, when he heard below the ponderous tramp of the servants, carrying something heavy.
Stepan Arkadyevitch went out to look. It was the rejuvenated Pyotr Oblonsky. He was so drunk that he could not walk upstairs; but he told them to set him on his legs when he saw Stepan Arkadyevitch, and clinging to him, walked with him into his room and there began telling him how he had spent the evening, and fell asleep doing so.
Stepan Arkadyevitch was in very low spirits, which happened rarely with him, and for a long while he could not go to sleep. Everything he could recall to his mind, everything was disgusting; but most disgusting of all, as if it were something shameful, was the memory of the evening he had spent at Countess Lidia Ivanovna’s.
Next day he received from Alexey Alexandrovitch a final answer, refusing to grant Anna’s divorce, and he understood that this decision was based on what the Frenchman had said in his real or pretended trance.