Chapter 21

`No, I think the Princess is tired, and horses don't interest her,' Vronsky said to Anna, who wanted to go on to the stud farm, where Sviiazhsky wished to see the new stallion. `You go on, while I escort the Princess home, and we'll have a little talk,' he said. `If you would like that?' he added, turning to her.

`I know nothing about horses, and I shall be delighted to go back with you,' answered Darya Alexandrovna, rather astonished.

She saw by Vronsky's face that he wanted something from her. She was not mistaken. As soon as they had passed through the little gate back into the garden, he looked in the direction Anna had taken, and, having made sure that she could neither hear nor see them, he began:

`You guess that I have something I want to say to you,' he said, looking at her with laughing eyes. `I am not wrong in believing you to be a friend of Anna's.' He took off his hat, and taking out his handkerchief, wiped his head, which was growing bald.

Darya Alexandrovna made no answer, and merely stared at him with dismay. When she was left alone with him, she suddenly felt afraid; his laughing eyes and stern expression scared her.

The most diverse suppositions as to what he was about to say to her flashed into her brain. `He is going to beg me to come to stay with them with the children, and I shall have to refuse; or to create a set that will receive Anna in Moscow.... Or isn't it Vassenka Veslovsky and his relations with Anna? Or perhaps about Kitty - that he feels he was to blame?' All her conjectures were unpleasant, but she did not guess what he really wanted to talk about to her.

`You have so much influence with Anna, she is so fond of you,' he said; `do help me.'

Darya Alexandrovna looked with timid inquiry into his energetic face, which under the linden trees was continually being lighted up in patches by the sunshine, and then passing into complete shadow again. She waited for him to say more, but he walked in silence beside her, scratching with his cane in the gravel.

`You have come to see us, you, the only woman of Anna's former friends - I don't count Princess Varvara - but I know that you have done this not because you regard our position as normal, but because, understanding all the difficulty of the position, you still love her and want to be a help to her. Have I understood you rightly?' he asked, looking round at her.

`Oh, yes,' answered Darya Alexandrovna, putting down her sunshade, `but...'

`No,' he broke in, and unconsciously, oblivious of the awkward position in which he was putting his companion, he stopped abruptly, so that she had to stop short too. `No one feels more deeply and intensely than I do all the difficulty of Anna's position; and that you may well understand, if you do me the honor of supposing I have any heart. I am to blame for that position, and that is why I feel it.'

`I understand,' said Darya Alexandrovna, involuntarily admiring the sincerity and firmness with which he said this. `But just because you feel yourself responsible, you exaggerate it, I am afraid,' she said. `Her position in the world is difficult, I can well understand.'

`In the world it is hell!' he brought out quickly, frowning darkly. `You can't imagine moral sufferings greater than what she went through in Peterburg during that fortnight.... And I beg you to believe it.'

`Yes, but here, so long as neither Anna... nor you want society...'

`Society!' he said contemptuously. `How could I want society?'

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