Anna karenina, p.20
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       Anna Karenina, p.20

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 20

  The whole of that day Anna spent at home, that's to say at theOblonskys', and received no one, though some of her acquaintances hadalready heard of her arrival, and came to call the same day. Anna spentthe whole morning with Dolly and the children. She merely sent a briefnote to her brother to tell him that he must not fail to dine at home."Come, God is merciful," she wrote.

  Oblonsky did dine at home: the conversation was general, and his wife,speaking to him, addressed him as "Stiva," as she had not done before.In the relations of the husband and wife the same estrangement stillremained, but there was no talk now of separation, and StepanArkadyevitch saw the possibility of explanation and reconciliation.

  Immediately after dinner Kitty came in. She knew Anna Arkadyevna, butonly very slightly, and she came now to her sister's with sometrepidation, at the prospect of meeting this fashionable Petersburglady, whom everyone spoke so highly of. But she made a favorableimpression on Anna Arkadyevna--she saw that at once. Anna wasunmistakably admiring her loveliness and her youth: before Kitty knewwhere she was she found herself not merely under Anna's sway, but inlove with her, as young girls do fall in love with older and marriedwomen. Anna was not like a fashionable lady, nor the mother of a boy ofeight years old. In the elasticity of her movements, the freshness andthe unflagging eagerness which persisted in her face, and broke out inher smile and her glance, she would rather have passed for a girl oftwenty, had it not been for a serious and at times mournful look in hereyes, which struck and attracted Kitty. Kitty felt that Anna wasperfectly simple and was concealing nothing, but that she had anotherhigher world of interests inaccessible to her, complex and poetic.

  After dinner, when Dolly went away to her own room, Anna rose quicklyand went up to her brother, who was just lighting a cigar.

  "Stiva," she said to him, winking gaily, crossing him and glancingtowards the door, "go, and God help you."

  He threw down the cigar, understanding her, and departed through thedoorway.

  When Stepan Arkadyevitch had disappeared, she went back to the sofawhere she had been sitting, surrounded by the children. Either becausethe children saw that their mother was fond of this aunt, or that theyfelt a special charm in her themselves, the two elder ones, and theyounger following their lead, as children so often do, had clung abouttheir new aunt since before dinner, and would not leave her side. And ithad become a sort of game among them to sit a close as possible to theiraunt, to touch her, hold her little hand, kiss it, play with her ring,or even touch the flounce of her skirt.

  "Come, come, as we were sitting before," said Anna Arkadyevna, sittingdown in her place.

  And again Grisha poked his little face under her arm, and nestled withhis head on her gown, beaming with pride and happiness.

  "And when is your next ball?" she asked Kitty.

  "Next week, and a splendid ball. One of those balls where one alwaysenjoys oneself."

  "Why, are there balls where one always enjoys oneself?" Anna said, withtender irony.

  "It's strange, but there are. At the Bobrishtchevs' one always enjoysoneself, and at the Nikitins' too, while at the Mezhkovs' it's alwaysdull. Haven't you noticed it?"

  "No, my dear, for me there are no balls now where one enjoys oneself,"said Anna, and Kitty detected in her eyes that mysterious world whichwas not open to her. "For me there are some less dull and tiresome."

  "How can _you_ be dull at a ball?"

  "Why should not _I_ be dull at a ball?" inquired Anna.

  Kitty perceived that Anna knew what answer would follow.

  "Because you always look nicer than anyone."

  Anna had the faculty of blushing. She blushed a little, and said:

  "In the first place it's never so; and secondly, if it were, whatdifference would it make to me?"

  "Are you coming to this ball?" asked Kitty.

  "I imagine it won't be possible to avoid going. Here, take it," she saidto Tanya, who was pulling the loosely-fitting ring off her white,slender-tipped finger.

  "I shall be so glad if you go. I should so like to see you at a ball."

  "Anyway, if I do go, I shall comfort myself with the thought that it's apleasure to you ... Grisha, don't pull my hair. It's untidy enoughwithout that," she said, putting up a straying lock, which Grisha hadbeen playing with.

  "I imagine you at the ball in lilac."

  "And why in lilac precisely?" asked Anna, smiling. "Now, children, runalong, run along. Do you hear? Miss Hoole is calling you to tea," shesaid, tearing the children from her, and sending them off to the diningroom.

  "I know why you press me to come to the ball. You expect a great deal ofthis ball, and you want everyone to be there to take part in it."

  "How do you know? Yes."

  "Oh! what a happy time you are at," pursued Anna. "I remember, and Iknow that blue haze like the mist on the mountains in Switzerland. Thatmist which covers everything in that blissful time when childhood isjust ending, and out of that vast circle, happy and gay, there is a pathgrowing narrower and narrower, and it is delightful and alarming toenter the ballroom, bright and splendid as it is.... Who has not beenthrough it?"

  Kitty smiled without speaking. "But how did she go through it? How Ishould like to know all her love story!" thought Kitty, recalling theunromantic appearance of Alexey Alexandrovitch, her husband.

  "I know something. Stiva told me, and I congratulate you. I liked him somuch," Anna continued. "I met Vronsky at the railway station."

  "Oh, was he there?" asked Kitty, blushing. "What was it Stiva told you?"

  "Stiva gossiped about it all. And I should be so glad ... I traveledyesterday with Vronsky's mother," she went on; "and his mother talkedwithout a pause of him, he's her favorite. I know mothers are partial,but..."

  "What did his mother tell you?"

  "Oh, a great deal! And I know that he's her favorite; still one can seehow chivalrous he is.... Well, for instance, she told me that he hadwanted to give up all his property to his brother, that he had donesomething extraordinary when he was quite a child, saved a woman out ofthe water. He's a hero, in fact," said Anna, smiling and recollectingthe two hundred roubles he had given at the station.

  But she did not tell Kitty about the two hundred roubles. For somereason it was disagreeable to her to think of it. She felt that therewas something that had to do with her in it, and something that oughtnot to have been.

  "She pressed me very much to go and see her," Anna went on; "and I shallbe glad to go to see her tomorrow. Stiva is staying a long while inDolly's room, thank God," Anna added, changing the subject, and gettingup, Kitty fancied, displeased with something.

  "No, I'm first! No, I!" screamed the children, who had finished tea,running up to their Aunt Anna.

  "All together," said Anna, and she ran laughing to meet them, andembraced and swung round all the throng of swarming children, shriekingwith delight.

 
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