Part 7, Chapter 21 Summary
After a sumptuous meal and a great deal of cognac, Stepan Arkadyevitch is only slightly late for his appointment at Countess Lidia’s. Alexey Alexandrovitch and Count Bezzubov are already there, and Stepan Arkadyevitch intends to make a good impression, both to gain his sister’s divorce and a recommendation for the appointment he is seeking. Though it is still light outside, the drawing room is nearly dark and Alexey Alexandrovitch is talking quietly with Countess Lidia. Across the room, a very thin, pale, and handsome man is standing and examining the portraits on the wall.
Countess Lidia introduces her guest to the count and he immediately goes back to gazing at the portraits; Alexey Alexandrovitch and Countess Lidia exchange a meaningful look. They tell Stepan Arkadyevitch that Landau will be returning to Paris, for he heard a voice yesterday. The visitor from Moscow feels as if he must remain as circumspect as he can in this rather peculiar environment which he does not really understand.
After a silence, Countess Lidia begins talking about understanding the spiritual state of one’s friends, and it is clear to her that Stepan Arkadyevitch is not doing that with Alexey Alexandrovitch, does not appreciate that there has been a spiritual change, one which does not lessen but intensifies the love in his heart. Stepan Arkadyevitch says he understands (though he really does not); Countess Lidia doubts him and orders tea.
After more vague references to hearts and happiness and conviction, Stepan Arkadyevitch finally realizes that, despite her obvious love for Alexey Alexandrovitch, she is speaking about religion. Across the room, Landau has fallen nearly asleep in a chair under the portraits; when he senses he is being watched, he raises his head and looks at them with a smile of “childlike artlessness.”
The countess claims that she has heard that Moscow men are the most hardened to religion, and Alexey Alexandrovitch agrees that his brother-on-law seems indifferent to matters of faith. Stepan Arkadyevitch claims he is not indifferent but is simply “waiting in suspense.” The conversation continues and the gloriousness of an exalted faith is the subject. Stepan Arkadyevitch feels hypocritical saying things he does not believe, but he does not want to lose these potential recommendations.
The doctrine of faith without works is a point of disagreement for them, and the countess wants to instruct Stepan Arkadyevitch by reading him a passage from a book. She apologizes to Landau because she will read in English, which he does not understand; the man smiles, says he will understand, and closes his eyes once again. Again Alexey Alexandrovitch and Countess Lidia exchange a meaningful glance. Stepan Arkadyevitch is happy for the reading; it will give him time to collect himself and gather his thoughts.