`You've never told me when the divorce is to be? Supposing I'm ready to fling my cap over the mill, other starchy people will give you the cold shoulder until you're married. And that's so simple nowadays. Ca se fait. So you're going on Friday? Sorry we shan't see each other again.'

From Betsy's tone Vronsky might have grasped what he had to expect from the world; but he made another effort in his own family. His mother he did not reckon upon. He knew that his mother, who had been so enthusiastic over Anna at their first acquaintance, would have no mercy on her now for having ruined her son's career. But he had more hope of Varia, his brother's wife. He fancied she would not cast a stone, and would go simply and directly to see Anna, and would receive her in her own house.

The day after his arrival Vronsky went to her, and finding her alone, expressed his wishes directly.

`You know, Alexei,' she said after hearing him, `how fond I am of you, and how ready I am to do anything for you; but I have not spoken, because I knew I could be of no use to you and to Anna Arkadyevna,' she said, articulating the name `Anna Arkadyevna' with particular care. `Don't suppose, please, that I judge her. Never! Perhaps in her place I should have done the same. I don't and can't enter into that,' she said, glancing timidly at his gloomy face. `But one must call things by their names. You want me to go and see her, to ask her here, and to rehabilitate her in society; but do understand that I cannot do so. I have daughters growing up, and I must live in the world for my husband's sake. Well, I'm ready to come and see Anna Arkadyevna - she will understand that I can't ask her here, or I should have to do so in such a way that she would not meet people who look at things differently; that would offend her. I can't raise her...'

`Oh, I don't regard her as having fallen more than hundreds of women you do receive!' Vronsky interrupted her still more gloomily, and he got up in silence, understanding that his sister-in-law's decision was not to be shaken.

`Alexei! Don't be angry with me. Please understand that I'm not to blame,' began Varia, looking at him with a timid smile.

`I'm not angry with you,' he said still as gloomily; `but this is doubly painful to me. I'm sorry, too, that this means breaking up our friendship - if not breaking up, at least weakening it. You will understand that for me, too, it cannot be otherwise.'

And with that he left her.

Vronsky knew that further efforts were useless, and that he had to spend these few days in Peterburg as though in a strange town, avoiding every sort of relation with his own old circle in order not to be exposed to the annoyances and humiliations which were so intolerable to him. One of the most unpleasant features of his position in Peterburg was that Alexei Alexandrovich and his name seemed to meet him everywhere. He could not begin to talk of anything without the conversation turning on Alexei Alexandrovich, he could not go anywhere without risk of meeting him. So at least it seemed to Vronsky, just as it seems to a man with a sore finger that he is continually, as though on purpose, grazing his sore finger against everything.

Their stay in Peterburg was the more painful to Vronsky because he perceived all the time a sort of new mood he could not understand in Anna. At one time she would seem in love with him, and the next she would become cold, irritable, and impenetrable. She was worrying over something, and keeping something back from him, and did not seem to notice the humiliations which poisoned his existence, and which for her, with her delicate intuition, must have been still more unbearable.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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