Her face seemed tired, and lacking in that play of animation which usually hovered between her smile and her eyes; but for a single instant, as she glanced at him, something flashed in her eyes, and although this flash died away at once, he was made happy by that moment. She glanced at her husband, to find out whether he knew Vronsky. Alexei Alexandrovich was regarding Vronsky with displeasure, absent- mindedly trying to recall who he was. Vronsky's calmness and self-confidence had here run up, like a scythe against a stone, on the frigid self-confidence of Alexei Alexandrovich.

`Count Vronsky,' said Anna.

`Ah! We are acquainted, I believe,' said Alexei Alexandrovich apathetically, proffering his hand. `You set out with the mother and return with the son,' he said to Anna, articulating distinctly, as though each word were a coin of high value bestowed by him on his hearers. - `You're back from leave, I suppose?' he said, and without waiting for a reply, he addressed his wife in his bantering tone: `Well, were a great many tears shed in Moscow at parting?'

By addressing his wife thus he meant Vronsky to perceive that he wished to be left alone, and, turning slightly toward him, he touched his hat; but Vronsky turned to Anna Arkadyevna:

`I hope to have the honor of calling on you,' he said.

Alexei Alexandrovich glanced with his weary eyes at Vronsky.

`Delighted,' he said coldly. `We're at home Mondays.' Then, dismissing Vronsky entirely, he said to his wife: `I am rather lucky to have just half an hour to meet you, so that I can prove to you my fondness,' he went on, in the same bantering tone.

`You lay too great a stress on your fondness for me to value it very much,' she responded in the same bantering tone, involuntarily listening to the sound of Vronsky's steps behind them. `But what have I to do with that?' she said to herself, and began questioning her husband as to how Seriozha had got on without her.

`Oh, capitally! Mariette says he has been a very darling boy, and... I must disappoint you... But he has not languished for you as your husband has. But once more merci, my dear, for bestowing a whole day upon me. Our dear Samovar will be enraptured.' (He called the Countess Lidia Ivanovna, well known in society, a samovar, because she was bubbling over with excitement on any and every occasion.) `She has been asking for you. And, d'you know, if I may venture to advise you, you ought to go to see her today. You know how she takes everything to heart. Just now, with all her own cares, she's anxious about the reconciliation of the Oblonskys.'

The Countess Lidia Ivanovna was a friend of her husband's, and the center of that one of the coteries of the Peterburg beau monde with which Anna was, through her husband, in the closest rapport.

`But I wrote to her.'

`Yes, but she must have full details. Go to see her, if you're not too tired, my dear. Well, Kondratii will take you in the carriage, while I go to my committee. Once more I shall not be alone at dinner,' Alexei Alexandrovich continued, but no longer in a jesting tone. `You wouldn't believe how I've grown used to you....'

And, with a prolonged pressure of her hand, and a particular smile, he helped her into her carriage.

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