`I beg you, I entreat you,' she said suddenly, taking his hand, and speaking in quite a different tone, sincere and tender, `never speak to me of that!'

`But, Anna...'

`Never. Leave it to me. I know all the baseness, all the horror of my position; but it's not so easy to decide as you think. Therefore leave it to me, and do what I say. Never speak to me of it. Do you promise me?... No, no, promise!...'

`I promise everything, but I can't be at peace, especially after what you have told me I can't be at peace, when you can't be at peace....'

`I?' she repeated. `Yes, I am worried sometimes; but that will pass, if you will never talk about this. When you talk about it - it's only then it worries me.'

`I don't understand,' he said.

`I know,' she interrupted him, `how hard it is for your truthful nature to lie, and I grieve for you. I often think, how could you ruin your whole life for me.'

`I was just thinking the very same thing,' he said; `how could you sacrifice everything for my sake? I can't forgive myself because you're unhappy.'

`I unhappy?' she said, coming closer to him, and looking at him with an ecstatic smile of love. `I am like a hungry man who has been given food. He may be cold, and dressed in rags, and ashamed, but he is not unhappy. I unhappy? No, this is my happiness....'

She could hear the sound of her son's voice coming toward them, and, glancing swiftly round the terrace, she got up impulsively. Her eyes glowed with the fire he knew so well; with a rapid movement she raised her lovely hands, covered with rings, took his head, looked into his face with a protracted gaze, and, putting up her face with smiling, parted lips, swiftly kissed his mouth and both eyes, and thrust him away. She would have gone, but he held her back.

`When?' he murmured in a whisper, gazing in ecstasy at her.

`Tonight, at one o'clock,' she whispered, and, with a heavy sigh, she walked with her light, swift step to meet her son.

Seriozha had been caught by the rain in the big garden, and he and his nurse had taken shelter in a bower.

`Well, au revoir,' she said to Vronsky. `I must soon be getting ready for the races. Betsy promised to fetch me.'

Vronsky, looking at his watch, hurriedly drove off.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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