Stepan Arkadyevitch took the letter, looked with incredulous
surprise at the lusterless eyes fixed so immovably on him, and
began to read.
"I see that my presence is irksome to you. Painful as it is to
me to believe it, I see that it is so, and cannot be otherwise.
I don't blame you, and God is my witness that on seeing you at
the time of your illness I resolved with my whole heart to forget
all that had passed between us and to begin a new life. I do not
regret, and shall never regret, what I have done; but I have
desired one thing--your good, the good of your soul--and now I
see I have not attained that. Tell me yourself what will give
you true happiness and peace to your soul. I put myself entirely
in your hands, and trust to your feeling of what's right."
Stepan Arkadyevitch handed back the letter, and with the same
surprise continued looking at his brother-in-law, not knowing
what to say. This silence was so awkward for both of them that
Stepan Arkadyevitch's lips began twitching nervously, while he
still gazed without speaking at Karenin's face.
"That's what I wanted to say to her," said Alexey Alexandrovitch,
"Yes, yes..." said Stepan Arkadyevitch, not able to answer for
the tears that were choking him.
"Yes, yes, I understand you," he brought out at last.
"I want to know what she would like," said Alexey Alexandrovitch.
"I am afraid she does not understand her own position. She is
not a judge," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, recovering himself. "She
is crushed, simply crushed by your generosity. If she were to
read this letter, she would be incapable of saying anything, she
would only hang her head lower than ever."
"Yes, but what's to be done in that case? how explain, how find
out her wishes?"
"If you will allow me to give my opinion, I think that it lies
with you to point out directly the steps you consider necessary
to end the position."