"No. I'm not going to let you go for anything," answered Betsy,
looking intently into Anna's 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.
"Alexey's playing us false," she said in French; "he writes that
he can't 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
"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 can't be more Catholic than the Pope," she said. "Stremov
and Liza Merkalova, why, they're the cream of the cream of
society. Besides, they're received everywhere, and I"--she
laid special stress on the I--"have never been strict and
intolerant. It's simply that I haven't the time."
"No; you don't care, perhaps, to meet Stremov? Let him and
Alexey Alexandrovitch tilt at each other in the committee--
that's no affair of ours. But in the world, he's the most
amiable man I know, and a devoted croquet player. You shall see.
And, in spite of his absurd position as Liza's lovesick swain at
his age, you ought to see how he carries off the absurd position.
He's very nice. Sappho Shtoltz you don't know? Oh, that's a new
type, quite new."