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while in silence, glancing at Mihail Vassilievitch, and several times he attempted to speak, but could not. He had already prepared the phrase: "You have heard of my trouble?" But he ended by saying, as usual: "So youll get this ready for me?" and with that dismissed him. The other person was the doctor, who had also a kindly feeling for him; but there had long existed a taciturn understanding between them that both were weighed down by work, and always in a hurry. Of his women friends, foremost amongst them Countess Lidia Ivanovna, Alexey Alexandrovitch never thought. All women, simply as women, were terrible and distasteful to him. Chapter 22 Alexey Alexandrovitch had forgotten the Countess Lidia Ivanovna, but she had not forgotten him. At the bitterest moment of his lonely despair she came to him, and without waiting to be announced, walked straight into his study. She found him as he was sitting with his head in both hands. "_Jai force la consigne_," she said, walking in with rapid steps and breathing hard with excitement and rapid exercise. "I have heard all! Alexey Alexandrovitch! Dear friend!" she went on, warmly squeezing his hand in both of hers and gazing with her fine pensive eyes into his. Alexey Alexandrovitch, frowning, got up, and disengaging his hand, moved her a chair. "Wont you sit down, countess? Im seeing no one because Im unwell, countess," he said, and his lips twitched. "Dear friend!" repeated Countess Lidia Ivanovna, never taking her eyes off his, and suddenly her eyebrows rose at the inner corners, describing a triangle on her forehead, her ugly yellow face became still uglier, but Alexey Alexandrovitch felt that she was sorry for him and was preparing to cry. And he too was softened; he snatched her plump hand and proceeded to kiss it. "Dear friend!" she said in a voice breaking with emotion. "You ought not to give way to grief. Your sorrow is a great one, but you ought to find consolation." "I am crushed, I am annihilated, I am no longer a man!" said Alexey Alexandrovitch, letting go her hand, but still gazing into her brimming eyes. "My position is so awful because I can find nowhere, I cannot find within me strength to support me." "You will find support; seek it--not in me, though I beseech you to believe in my friendship," she said, with a sigh. "Our support is love, that love that He has vouchsafed us. His burden is light," she said, with the look of ecstasy Alexey Alexandrovitch knew so well. "He will be your support and your succor." Although there was in these words a flavor of that sentimental emotion at her own lofty feelings, and that new mystical fervor which had lately gained ground in Petersburg, and which seemed to Alexey Alexandrovitch disproportionate, still it was pleasant to him to hear this now. "I am weak. I am crushed. I foresaw nothing, and now I understand nothing." "Dear friend," repeated Lidia Ivanovna. "Its not the loss of what I have not now, its not that!" pursued Alexey Alexandrovitch. "I do not grieve for that. But I cannot help feeling humiliated before other people for the position I am placed in. It is wrong, but I cant help it, I cant help it." "Not you it was performed that noble act of forgiveness, at which I was moved to ecstasy, and everyone else too, but He, working within your heart," said Countess Lidia Ivanovna, raising her eyes rapturously, "and so you cannot be ashamed of your act." Alexey Alexandrovitch knitted his brows, and crooking his hands, he cracked his fingers. "One must know all the facts," he said in his thin voice. "A mans strength has its limits, countess, and I have reached my limits. The whole day I have had to be making arrangements, arrangements about household matters arising" (he emphasized the word _arising_) "from my new, solitary position. The servants, the governess, the accounts.... These pinpricks have stabbed me to the heart, and I have not the strength to bear it. At dinner... yesterday, I was almost getting up from the dinner table. I could not bear the way my son looked at me. He did not ask me the meaning of it all, but he wanted to ask, and I could not bear the look in his eyes. He was afraid to look at me, but that is not all...." Alexey Alexandrovitch would have referred

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