Anna karenina, p.22
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       Anna Karenina, p.22

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 22

  The ball was only just beginning as Kitty and her mother walked up thegreat staircase, flooded with light, and lined with flowers and footmenin powder and red coats. From the rooms came a constant, steady hum, asfrom a hive, and the rustle of movement; and while on the landingbetween trees they gave last touches to their hair and dresses beforethe mirror, they heard from the ballroom the careful, distinct notes ofthe fiddles of the orchestra beginning the first waltz. A little old manin civilian dress, arranging his gray curls before another mirror, anddiffusing an odor of scent, stumbled against them on the stairs, andstood aside, evidently admiring Kitty, whom he did not know. A beardlessyouth, one of those society youths whom the old Prince Shtcherbatskycalled "young bucks," in an exceedingly open waistcoat, straighteninghis white tie as he went, bowed to them, and after running by, came backto ask Kitty for a quadrille. As the first quadrille had already beengiven to Vronsky, she had to promise this youth the second. An officer,buttoning his glove, stood aside in the doorway, and stroking hismustache, admired rosy Kitty.

  Although her dress, her coiffure, and all the preparations for the ballhad cost Kitty great trouble and consideration, at this moment shewalked into the ballroom in her elaborate tulle dress over a pink slipas easily and simply as though all the rosettes and lace, all the minutedetails of her attire, had not cost her or her family a moment'sattention, as though she had been born in that tulle and lace, with herhair done up high on her head, and a rose and two leaves on the top ofit.

  When, just before entering the ballroom, the princess, her mother, triedto turn right side out of the ribbon of her sash, Kitty had drawn back alittle. She felt that everything must be right of itself, and graceful,and nothing could need setting straight.

  It was one of Kitty's best days. Her dress was not uncomfortableanywhere; her lace berthe did not droop anywhere; her rosettes were notcrushed nor torn off; her pink slippers with high, hollowed-out heelsdid not pinch, but gladdened her feet; and the thick rolls of fairchignon kept up on her head as if they were her own hair. All the threebuttons buttoned up without tearing on the long glove that covered herhand without concealing its lines. The black velvet of her locketnestled with special softness round her neck. That velvet was delicious;at home, looking at her neck in the looking glass, Kitty had felt thatthat velvet was speaking. About all the rest there might be a doubt, butthe velvet was delicious. Kitty smiled here too, at the ball, when sheglanced at it in the glass. Her bare shoulders and arms gave Kitty asense of chill marble, a feeling she particularly liked. Her eyessparkled, and her rosy lips could not keep from smiling from theconsciousness of her own attractiveness. She had scarcely entered theballroom and reached the throng of ladies, all tulle, ribbons, lace, andflowers, waiting to be asked to dance--Kitty was never one of thatthrong--when she was asked for a waltz, and asked by the best partner,the first star in the hierarchy of the ballroom, a renowned director ofdances, a married man, handsome and well-built, Yegorushka Korsunsky. Hehad only just left the Countess Bonina, with whom he had danced thefirst half of the waltz, and, scanning his kingdom--that is to say, afew couples who had started dancing--he caught sight of Kitty, entering,and flew up to her with that peculiar, easy amble which is confined todirectors of balls. Without even asking her if she cared to dance, heput out his arm to encircle her slender waist. She looked round forsomeone to give her fan to, and their hostess, smiling to her, took it.

  "How nice you've come in good time," he said to her, embracing herwaist; "such a bad habit to be late." Bending her left hand, she laid iton his shoulder, and her little feet in their pink slippers beganswiftly, lightly, and rhythmically moving over the slippery floor intime to the music.

  "It's a rest to waltz with you," he said to her, as they fell into thefirst slow steps of the waltz. "It's exquisite--such lightness,precision." He said to her the same thing he said to almost all hispartners whom he knew well.

  She smiled at his praise, and continued to look about the room over hisshoulder. She was not like a girl at her first ball, for whom all facesin the ballroom melt into one vision of fairyland. And she was not agirl who had gone the stale round of balls till every face in theballroom was familiar and tiresome. But she was in the middle stagebetween these two; she was excited, and at the same time she hadsufficient self-possession to be able to observe. In the left corner ofthe ballroom she saw the cream of society gathered together.There--incredibly naked--was the beauty Lidi, Korsunsky's wife; therewas the lady of the house; there shone the bald head of Krivin, alwaysto be found where the best people were. In that direction gazed theyoung men, not venturing to approach. There, too, she descried Stiva,and there she saw the exquisite figure and head of Anna in a blackvelvet gown. And _he_ was there. Kitty had not seen him since theevening she refused Levin. With her long-sighted eyes, she knew him atonce, and was even aware that he was looking at her.

  "Another turn, eh? You're not tired?" said Korsunsky, a little out ofbreath.

  "No, thank you!"

  "Where shall I take you?"

  "Madame Karenina's here, I think ... take me to her."

  "Wherever you command."

  And Korsunsky began waltzing with measured steps straight towards thegroup in the left corner, continually saying, "Pardon, mesdames, pardon,pardon, mesdames"; and steering his course through the sea of lace,tulle, and ribbon, and not disarranging a feather, he turned his partnersharply round, so that her slim ankles, in light transparent stockings,were exposed to view, and her train floated out in fan shape and coveredKrivin's knees. Korsunsky bowed, set straight his open shirt front, andgave her his arm to conduct her to Anna Arkadyevna. Kitty, flushed, tookher train from Krivin's knees, and, a little giddy, looked round,seeking Anna. Anna was not in lilac, as Kitty had so urgently wished,but in a black, low-cut, velvet gown, showing her full throat andshoulders, that looked as though carved in old ivory, and her roundedarms, with tiny, slender wrists. The whole gown was trimmed withVenetian guipure. On her head, among her black hair--her own, with nofalse additions--was a little wreath of pansies, and a bouquet of thesame in the black ribbon of her sash among white lace. Her coiffure wasnot striking. All that was noticeable was the little wilful tendrils ofher curly hair that would always break free about her neck and temples.Round her well-cut, strong neck was a thread of pearls.

  Kitty had been seeing Anna every day; she adored her, and had picturedher invariably in lilac. But now seeing her in black, she felt that shehad not fully seen her charm. She saw her now as someone quite new andsurprising to her. Now she understood that Anna could not have been inlilac, and that her charm was just that she always stood out against herattire, that her dress could never be noticeable on her. And her blackdress, with its sumptuous lace, was not noticeable on her; it was onlythe frame, and all that was seen was she--simple, natural, elegant, andat the same time gay and eager.

  She was standing holding herself, as always, very erect, and when Kittydrew near the group she was speaking to the master of the house, herhead slightly turned towards him.

  "No, I don't throw stones," she was saying, in answer to something,"though I can't understand it," she went on, shrugging her shoulders,and she turned at once with a soft smile of protection towards Kitty.With a flying, feminine glance she scanned her attire, and made amovement of her head, hardly perceptible, but understood by Kitty,signifying approval of her dress and her looks. "You came into the roomdancing," she added.

  "This is one of my most faithful supporters," said Korsunsky, bowing toAnna Arkadyevna, whom he had not yet seen. "The princess helps to makeballs happy and successful. Anna Arkadyevna, a waltz?" he said, bendingdown to her.

  "Why, have you met?" inquired their host.

  "Is there anyone we have not met? My wife and I are like whitewolves--everyone knows us," answered Korsunsky. "A waltz, AnnaArkadyevna?"

  "I don't dance when it's possible not to dance," she said.

  "But tonight it's impossible," answered Korsunsky.

  At
that instant Vronsky came up.

  "Well, since it's impossible tonight, let us start," she said, notnoticing Vronsky's bow, and she hastily put her hand on Korsunsky'sshoulder.

  "What is she vexed with him about?" thought Kitty, discerning that Annahad intentionally not responded to Vronsky's bow. Vronsky went up toKitty reminding her of the first quadrille, and expressing his regretthat he had not seen her all this time. Kitty gazed in admiration atAnna waltzing, and listened to him. She expected him to ask her for awaltz, but he did not, and she glanced wonderingly at him. He flushedslightly, and hurriedly asked her to waltz, but he had only just put hisarm round her waist and taken the first step when the music suddenlystopped. Kitty looked into his face, which was so close to her own, andlong afterwards--for several years after--that look, full of love, towhich he made no response, cut her to the heart with an agony of shame.

  "_Pardon! pardon!_ Waltz! waltz!" shouted Korsunsky from the other sideof the room, and seizing the first young lady he came across he begandancing himself.

 
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