Anna had heard nothing of this bill, and she felt conscience-stricken that she could so readily forget what was to him of such importance.

`Here, on the other hand, this has created a great deal of talk,' said he, with a self-satisfied smile.

She saw that Alexei Alexandrovich wanted to tell her something that pleased him about it, and she brought him by questions to telling it. With the same self-satisfied smile he told her of the ovations he had received as a consequence of the bill he had passed.

`I was very, very happy. It shows that at last an intelligent and firm view of the matter is forming among us.'

After his second cup of tea, with cream and bread, Alexei Alexandrovich got up, and went toward his study.

`And you went nowhere this evening? Weren't You really bored?' he said.

`Oh, no!' she answered, getting up after him and accompanying him across the room to his study. `What are you reading now?' she asked.

`Just now I'm reading Duc de Lille - Poésie des enfers,' he answered. `A most remarkable book.'

Anna smiled, as people smile at the weaknesses of those they love, and, putting her hand in his, she kept him company to the door of his study. She knew his habit, now become a necessity, of reading in the evening. She knew, too, that in spite of his official duties, which engrossed almost all his time, he deemed it his duty to keep up with everything of note that appeared in the intellectual sphere. She knew, too, that his actual interest lay in books dealing with politics, philosophy and theology, that art was utterly foreign to his nature; but, in spite of this - or rather, in consequence of it - Alexei Alexandrovich never missed anything which created a sensation in the world of art, but made it his duty to read everything. She knew that in politics, in philosophy, in theology, Alexei Alexandrovich was a doubter and a seeker; yet in matters of art and poetry - and, above all, of music, of which he was totally devoid of understanding - he had the most definite and decided opinions. He was fond of discoursing on Shakespeare, Raphael, Beethoven, on the significance of new schools of poetry and music, all of which were classified by him with most obvious consistency.

`Well, God be with you,' she said at the door of the study, where a shaded candle and a decanter of water were already placed near his armchair. `As for me, I'm going to write to Moscow.'

He squeezed her hand, and again kissed it.

`Still, he's a good man; truthful, kindhearted, and remarkable in his own sphere,' Anna said to herself, back in her room, as though defending him before someone who accused him, saying that one could not love him. `But why is it his ears stick out so queerly? Or has he had his hair cut?...'

Exactly at twelve, as Anna was still sitting at her desk finishing a letter to Dolly, she heard the sound of measured, slippered steps, and Alexei Alexandrovich, washed and combed, a book under his arm, approached her.

`Come, come,' said he, with a particular smile, and passed on into their bedroom.

`And what right had he to look at him like that?' reflected Anna, recalling how Vronsky had looked at Alexei Alexandrovich.

Having disrobed, she went into the bedroom; but her face had none of the animation which, during her stay at Moscow, had fairly spurted from her eyes and her smile; on the contrary, now the fire seemed extinct in her, or hidden somewhere far away.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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