`Divorce, you mean?' said Anna. `Do you know, the only woman who came to see me in Peterburg was Betsy Tverskaia? You know her, of course? Au fond, c'est la femme la plus dépravee qui existe. She had an intrigue with Tushkevich, deceiving her husband in the basest way. And she told me that she did not care to know me so long as my position was irregular. Don't imagine I would compare... I know you, darling. But I could not help remembering... Well, so what did he say to you?' she repeated.

`He said that he was unhappy on your account and his own. Perhaps you will say that it's egoism, but what a legitimate and noble egoism. He wants first of all to legitimize his daughter, and to be your husband, to have a legal right to you.'

`What wife, what slave can be so utterly a slave as I, in my position?' she put in gloomily.

`The chief thing he desires... he desires that you should not suffer.'

`That's impossible. Well?'

`Well, and the most legitimate desire - he wishes that your children should have a name.'

`What children?' Anna said, not looking at Dolly, and half closing her eyes.

`Annie and those to come...'

`He need not trouble on that score; I shall have no more children.'

`How can you tell that you won't?'

`I shall not, because I don't wish it.' And, in spite of all her emotion, Anna smiled, as she caught the naïve expression of curiosity, wonder, and horror on Dolly's face.

`The doctor told me after my illness...'

`Impossible!' said Dolly, opening her eyes wide. For here this was one of those discoveries the consequences and deductions from which are so immense that all that one feels for the first instant is that it is impossible to take it all in, and that one will have to reflect a great, great deal upon it.

This discovery, suddenly throwing light on all those families of one or two children, which had hitherto been so incomprehensible to her, aroused so many ideas, reflections, and contradictory emotions, that she had nothing to say, and simply gazed with wide-open eyes of wonder at Anna. This was the very thing she had been dreaming of, but now learning that it was possible, she was horrified. She felt that it was too simple a solution of too complicated a problem.

`N'est-ce pas immoral?' was all she said, after a brief pause.

`Why so? Think - I have a choice between two alternatives: either to be with child, that is an invalid, or to be the friend and companion of my husband - practically my husband,' Anna said in a tone intentionally superficial and frivolous.

`Yes, yes,' said Darya Alexandrovna, hearing the very arguments she had used to herself, and not finding the same force in them as before.

`For you, for other people,' said Anna, as though divining her thoughts, `there may be reason to hesitate; but for me... You must consider - I am not his wife; he loves me as long as he loves me. And how am I to keep his love? Not like this!'

She moved her white hands in a curve before her waist.

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