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Anna Karenina 171


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had better secure her own freedom, and try to see him somehow. But why she had spoken of old Madame Vrede, whom she had to go and see, as she had to see many other people, she could not have explained; and yet, as it afterwards turned out, had she contrived the most cunning devices to meet Vronsky, she could have thought of nothing better. "No. Im not going to let you go for anything," answered Betsy, looking intently into Annas face. "Really, if I were not fond of you, I should feel offended. One would think you were afraid my society would compromise you. Tea in the little dining room, please," she said, half closing her eyes, as she always did when addressing the footman. Taking the note from him, she read it. "Alexeys playing us false," she said in French; "he writes that he cant come," she added in a tone as simple and natural as though it could never enter her head that Vronsky could mean anything more to Anna than a game of croquet. Anna knew that Betsy knew everything, but, hearing how she spoke of Vronsky before her, she almost felt persuaded for a minute that she knew nothing. "Ah!" said Anna indifferently, as though not greatly interested in the matter, and she went on smiling: "How can you or your friends compromise anyone?" This playing with words, this hiding of a secret, had a great fascination for Anna, as, indeed, it has for all women. And it was not the necessity of concealment, not the aim with which the concealment was contrived, but the process of concealment itself which attracted her. "I cant be more Catholic than the Pope," she said. "Stremov and Liza Merkalova, why, theyre the cream of the cream of society. Besides, theyre received everywhere, and _I_"--she laid special stress on the I--"have never been strict and intolerant. Its simply that I havent the time." "No; you dont care, perhaps, to meet Stremov? Let him and Alexey Alexandrovitch tilt at each other in the committee-- thats no affair of ours. But in the world, hes the most amiable man I know, and a devoted croquet player. You shall see. And, in spite of his absurd position as Lizas lovesick swain at his age, you ought to see how he carries off the absurd position. Hes very nice. Sappho Shtoltz you dont know? Oh, thats a new type, quite new." Betsy said all this, and, at the same time, from her good-humored, shrewd glance, Anna felt that she partly guessed her plight, and was hatching something for her benefit. They were in the little boudoir. "I must write to Alexey though," and Betsy sat down to the table, scribbled a few lines, and put the note in an envelope. "Im telling him to come to dinner. Ive one lady extra to dinner with me, and no man to take her in. Look what Ive said, will that persuade him? Excuse me, I must leave you for a minute. Would you seal it up, please, and send it off?" she said from the door; "I have to give some directions." Without a moments thought, Anna sat down to the table with Betsys letter, and, without reading it, wrote below: "Its essential for me to see you. Come to the Vrede garden. I shall be there at six oclock." She sealed it up, and, Betsy coming back, in her presence handed the note to be taken. At tea, which was brought them on a little tea-table in the cool little drawing room, the cozy chat promised by Princess Tverskaya before the arrival of her visitors really did come off between the two women. They criticized the people they were expecting, and the conversation fell upon Liza Merkalova. "Shes very sweet, and I always liked her," said Anna. "You ought to like her. She raves about you. Yesterday she came up to me after the races and was in despair at not finding you. She says youre a real heroine of romance, and that if she were a man she would do all sorts of mad things for your sake. Stremov says she does that as it is." "But do tell me, please, I never could make it out," said Anna, after being silent for some time, speaking in a tone that showed she was not asking an idle question, but that what she was asking was of more

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