`No,' said Kitty, blushing, but looking at him all the more bravely with her truthful eyes; `a girl may be so circumstanced that she cannot live in the family without humiliation, while she herself...'

At the hint he understood her.

`Oh, yes,' he said. `Yes, yes, yes - you're right; you're right!'

And he saw all that Pestsov had been maintaining at dinner about the liberty of woman, simply from getting a glimpse of the terror of an old maid's existence and its humiliation in Kitty's heart; and loving her, he felt that terror and humiliation, and at once gave up his arguments.

A silence followed. She was still drawing with the chalk on the table. Her eyes were shining with a soft light. Under the influence of her mood he felt in all his being a continually growing tension of happiness.

`Ah! I've scribbled all over the table!' she said, and, laying down the chalk, she made a movement as though to get up.

`What! Shall I be left alone - without her?' he thought with horror, and he took the chalk. `Wait a minute,' he said, sitting down to the table. `I've long wanted to ask you one thing.'

He looked straight into her caressing, though frightened eyes.

`Please, ask it.'

`Here,' he said; and he wrote the initial letters, w, y, t, m: i, c, n, b, d, t, m, n, o, t. These letters meant, `When you told me: it could never be, did that mean never, or then?' There seemed no likelihood that she could make out this complicated sentence; but he looked at her as though his life depended on her understanding the words.

She glanced at him seriously, then leaned her puckered brow on her hands and began to read. Once or twice she stole a look at him, as though asking him, `Is it what I think it is?'

`I understand,' she said, flushing.

`What is this word?' he said, pointing to the n that stood for never.

`It means never,' she said; `but that's not true!'

He quickly rubbed out what he had written, gave her the chalk, and stood up. She wrote, t, i, c, n, a, d.

Dolly was completely comforted in the depression caused by her conversation with Alexei Alexandrovich when she caught sight of the two figures: Kitty with the chalk in her hand, with a shy and happy smile looking upward at Levin, and his handsome figure bending over the table with glowing eyes fastened one minute on the table and the next on her. He was suddenly radiant: he had understood. It meant, `Then I could not answer differently.'

He glanced at her questioningly, timidly.

`Only then?'

`Yes,' her smile answered.

`And n... And now?' he asked.

`Well, read this. I'll tell you what I should like - should like so much!' She wrote the initial letters, i, y, c, f, a, f, w, h. This meant, `If you could forget and forgive what happened.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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