`Please, please, don't let us talk of this,' he said, sitting down, and at the same time feeling rise up and stir within his heart a hope he had believed to be buried.

`If I did not like you,' she said, and tears came into her eyes; `if I did not know you, as I do know you...'

The feeling that had seemed dead revived more and more, rose up and took possession of Levin's heart.

`Yes, I understand it all now,' said Darya Alexandrovna. `You can't understand it; for you men, who are free and make your own choice, it's always clear whom you love. But a girl's in a position of suspense, with all a woman's or maiden's modesty, a girl who sees you men from afar, who takes everything on trust - a girl may have, and often has, such a feeling that she cannot tell what to say.'

`Yes, if the heart does not speak....'

`No, the heart does speak; but just consider: you men have views about a girl, you come to the house, you make friends, you criticize, you wait to see if you have found what you love, and then, when you are sure you love her, you propose...'

`Well, that's not quite it.'

`Anyway you propose, when your love is ripe, or when the balance has completely turned between the two you are choosing from. But a girl is not asked. She is expected to make her choice, and yet she cannot choose - she can only answer ``yes' or ``no.''

`Yes, to choose between me and Vronsky,' thought Levin, and the dead thing that had come to life within him died again, and only weighed on his heart and set it aching.

`Darya Alexandrovna,' he said, `that's how one chooses a new dress, or some purchase or other - not love. The choice has been made, and so much the better.... And there can be no repetition.'

`Ah, pride, pride!' said Darya Alexandrovna, as though despising him for the baseness of this feeling in comparison with that other feeling which only women know. `At the time when you proposed to Kitty she was just in a position in which she could not answer. She was in doubt. Doubt between you and Vronsky. Him she was seeing every day, and you she had not seen for a long while. Supposing she had been older... I, for instance, in her place, could have felt no doubt. I always disliked him, and my dislike proved to be justified.'

Levin recalled Kitty's answer. She had said: `No, that cannot be....'

`Darya Alexandrovna,' he said dryly, `I appreciate your confidence in me; I believe you are making a mistake. But whether I am right or wrong, that pride you so despise makes any thought of Katerina Alexandrovna out of the question for me; you understand - utterly out of the question.'

`I will only say one thing more: you know that I am speaking of my sister, whom I love as I love my own children. I don't say she cared for you; all I meant to say is that her refusal at that moment proves nothing.'

`I don't know!' said Levin, jumping up. `you only knew how you are hurting me. It's just as if a child of yours were dead, and they were to say to you: He would have been like this and like that, and he might have lived, and how happy you would have been in him. But he's dead, dead, dead!...'

`How absurd you are!' said Darya Alexandrovna, looking with mournful tenderness at Levin's excitement. `Yes, I see it all more and more clearly,' she went on musingly. `So you won't come to see us, then, when Kitty's here?'

`No, I shan't come. Of course I won't avoid meeting Katerina Alexandrovna; but, as far as I can, I will try to save her the annoyance of my presence.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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