`What is it? What?' he asked her, squeezing her hand with his elbow, and trying to read her thoughts in her face.

She walked on a few steps in silence, gathering up her courage; then suddenly she stopped.

`I did not tell you yesterday,' she began, breathing quickly and painfully, `that coming home with Alexei Alexandrovich I told him everything... told him I could not be his wife, that... and told him everything.'

He heard her, unconsciously bending his whole figure down to her as though hoping in this way to soften the hardness of her position for her. But directly she had said this he suddenly drew himself up, and a proud and hard expression came over his face.

`Yes, yes, that's better, a thousand times better! I know how painful it was,' he said. But she was not listening to his words - she was reading his thoughts from the expression of his face. She could not guess that that arose from the first idea that presented itself to Vronsky - that a duel was now inevitable. The idea of a duel had never crossed her mind, and so she put a different interpretation on this passing expression of hardness.

When she got her husband's letter, she knew then at the bottom of her heart that everything would go on in the old way, that she would not have the strength of will to forego her position, to abandon her son, and to join her lover. The morning spent at Princess Tverskaia's had confirmed her still more in this. But this interview was still of the utmost gravity for her. She hoped that this interview would transform her position, and save her. If on hearing this news he were to say to her resolutely, passionately, without an instant's wavering: `Throw up everything and come with me! she would give up her son and go away with him. But this news had not produced on him the effect she had expected; he simply seemed resentful of some affront.

`It was not in the least painful for me. It happened of itself,' she said irritably, `and see...' She pulled her husband's letter out of her glove.

`I understand, I understand,' he interrupted her, taking the letter, but not reading it, and trying to soothe her. `The one thing I longed for, the one thing I prayed for, was to cut short this position, so as to devote my life to your happiness.'

`Why do you tell me that?' she said. `Do you suppose I can doubt it? If I doubted...'

`Who's that coming?' said Vronsky suddenly, pointing to two ladies walking toward them. `Perhaps they know us!' and he hurriedly turned off, drawing her after him into a side path.

`Oh, I don't care!' she said. Her lips were quivering. And he fancied that her eyes looked with strange fury at him from under her veil. `I tell you that's not the point - I can't doubt that; but see what he writes me. Read it.' She stood still again.

Again, just as at the first moment of hearing of her rupture with her husband, Vronsky, on reading the letter, was unconsciously carried away by the natural sensation aroused in him by his own relation to the injured husband. Now, while he held his letter in his hands, he could not help picturing the challenge, which he would most likely find at home today or tomorrow, and the duel itself, in which, with the same cold and haughty expression that his face was assuming at this moment, he would await the injured husband's shot, after having himself fired into the air. And at that instant there flashed across his mind the thought of what Serpukhovskoy had just said to him, and what he had himself been thinking in the morning - that it was better not to bind himself; and he knew that he could not tell her this thought.

Having read the letter, he raised his eyes to her, and there was no firmness in them. She saw at once that he had been thinking about it before by himself. She knew that whatever he might say to her, he

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