Anna karenina, p.23
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       Anna Karenina, p.23

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 23

  Vronsky and Kitty waltzed several times round the room. After the firstwaltz Kitty went to her mother, and she had hardly time to say a fewwords to Countess Nordston when Vronsky came up again for the firstquadrille. During the quadrille nothing of any significance was said:there was disjointed talk between them of the Korsunskys, husband andwife, whom he described very amusingly, as delightful children at forty,and of the future town theater; and only once the conversation touchedher to the quick, when he asked her about Levin, whether he was here,and added that he liked him so much. But Kitty did not expect much fromthe quadrille. She looked forward with a thrill at her heart to themazurka. She fancied that in the mazurka everything must be decided. Thefact that he did not during the quadrille ask her for the mazurka didnot trouble her. She felt sure she would dance the mazurka with him asshe had done at former balls, and refused five young men, saying she wasengaged for the mazurka. The whole ball up to the last quadrille was forKitty an enchanted vision of delightful colors, sounds, and motions. Sheonly sat down when she felt too tired and begged for a rest. But as shewas dancing the last quadrille with one of the tiresome young men whomshe could not refuse, she chanced to be vis-a-vis with Vronsky and Anna.She had not been near Anna again since the beginning of the evening, andnow again she saw her suddenly quite new and surprising. She saw in herthe signs of that excitement of success she knew so well in herself; shesaw that she was intoxicated with the delighted admiration she wasexciting. She knew that feeling and knew its signs, and saw them inAnna; saw the quivering, flashing light in her eyes, and the smile ofhappiness and excitement unconsciously playing on her lips, and thedeliberate grace, precision, and lightness of her movements.

  "Who?" she asked herself. "All or one?" And not assisting the harassedyoung man she was dancing with in the conversation, the thread of whichhe had lost and could not pick up again, she obeyed with externalliveliness the peremptory shouts of Korsunsky starting them all into the_grand rond_, and then into the _chaine_, and at the same time she keptwatch with a growing pang at her heart. "No, it's not the admiration ofthe crowd has intoxicated her, but the adoration of one. And that one?can it be he?" Every time he spoke to Anna the joyous light flashed intoher eyes, and the smile of happiness curved her red lips. she seemed tomake an effort to control herself, to try not to show these signs ofdelight, but they came out on her face of themselves. "But what of him?"Kitty looked at him and was filled with terror. What was pictured soclearly to Kitty in the mirror of Anna's face she saw in him. What hadbecome of his always self-possessed resolute manner, and the carelesslyserene expression of his face? Now every time he turned to her, he benthis head, as though he would have fallen at her feet, and in his eyesthere was nothing but humble submission and dread. "I would not offendyou," his eyes seemed every time to be saying, "but I want to savemyself, and I don't know how." On his face was a look such as Kitty hadnever seen before.

  They were speaking of common acquaintances, keeping up the most trivialconversation, but to Kitty it seemed that every word they said wasdetermining their fate and hers. And strange it was that they wereactually talking of how absurd Ivan Ivanovitch was with his French, andhow the Eletsky girl might have made a better match, yet these words hadall the while consequence for them, and they were feeling just as Kittydid. The whole ball, the whole world, everything seemed lost in fog inKitty's soul. Nothing but the stern discipline of her bringing-upsupported her and forced her to do what was expected of her, that is, todance, to answer questions, to talk, even to smile. But before themazurka, when they were beginning to rearrange the chairs and a fewcouples moved out of the smaller rooms into the big room, a moment ofdespair and horror came for Kitty. She had refused five partners, andnow she was not dancing the mazurka. She had not even a hope of beingasked for it, because she was so successful in society that the ideawould never occur to anyone that she had remained disengaged till now.She would have to tell her mother she felt ill and go home, but she hadnot the strength to do this. She felt crushed. She went to the furthestend of the little drawing room and sank into a low chair. Her light,transparent skirts rose like a cloud about her slender waist; one bare,thin, soft, girlish arm, hanging listlessly, was lost in the folds ofher pink tunic; in the other she held her fan, and with rapid, shortstrokes fanned her burning face. But while she looked like a butterfly,clinging to a blade of grass, and just about to open its rainbow wingsfor fresh flight, her heart ached with a horrible despair.

  "But perhaps I am wrong, perhaps it was not so?" And again she recalledall she had seen.

  "Kitty, what is it?" said Countess Nordston, stepping noiselessly overthe carpet towards her. "I don't understand it."

  Kitty's lower lip began to quiver; she got up quickly.

  "Kitty, you're not dancing the mazurka?"

  "No, no," said Kitty in a voice shaking with tears.

  "He asked her for the mazurka before me," said Countess Nordston,knowing Kitty would understand who were "he" and "her." "She said: 'Why,aren't you going to dance it with Princess Shtcherbatskaya?'"

  "Oh, I don't care!" answered Kitty.

  No one but she herself understood her position; no one knew that she hadjust refused the man whom perhaps she loved, and refused him because shehad put her faith in another.

  Countess Nordston found Korsunsky, with whom she was to dance themazurka, and told him to ask Kitty.

  Kitty danced in the first couple, and luckily for her she had not totalk, because Korsunsky was all the time running about directing thefigure. Vronsky and Anna sat almost opposite her. She saw them with herlong-sighted eyes, and saw them, too, close by, when they met in thefigures, and the more she saw of them the more convinced was she thather unhappiness was complete. She saw that they felt themselves alone inthat crowded room. And on Vronsky's face, always so firm andindependent, she saw that look that had struck her, of bewilderment andhumble submissiveness, like the expression of an intelligent dog when ithas done wrong.

  Anna smiled, and her smile was reflected by him. She grew thoughtful,and he became serious. Some supernatural force drew Kitty's eyes toAnna's face. She was fascinating in her simple black dress, fascinatingwere her round arms with their bracelets, fascinating was her firm neckwith its thread of pearls, fascinating the straying curls of her loosehair, fascinating the graceful, light movements of her little feet andhands, fascinating was that lovely face in its eagerness, but there wassomething terrible and cruel in her fascination.

  Kitty admired her more than ever, and more and more acute was hersuffering. Kitty felt overwhelmed, and her face showed it. When Vronskysaw her, coming across her in the mazurka, he did not at once recognizeher, she was so changed.

  "Delightful ball!" he said to her, for the sake of saying something.

  "Yes," she answered.

  In the middle of the mazurka, repeating a complicated figure, newlyinvented by Korsunsky, Anna came forward into the center of the circle,chose two gentlemen, and summoned a lady and Kitty. Kitty gazed at herin dismay as she went up. Anna looked at her with drooping eyelids, andsmiled, pressing her hand. But, noticing that Kitty only responded toher smile by a look of despair and amazement, she turned away from her,and began gaily talking to the other lady.

  "Yes, there is something uncanny, devilish and fascinating in her,"Kitty said to herself.

  Anna did not mean to stay to supper, but the master of the house beganto press her to do so.

  "Nonsense, Anna Arkadyevna," said Korsunsky, drawing her bare arm underthe sleeve of his dress coat, "I've such an idea for a _cotillion! Unbijou!_"

  And he moved gradually on, trying to draw her along with him. Their hostsmiled approvingly.

  "No, I am not going to stay," answered Anna, smiling, but in spite ofher smile, both Korsunsky and the master of the house saw from herresolute tone that she would not stay.

  "No; why, as it is, I have danced more at your ball in Moscow than Ihave all the winter in Petersburg," said Anna, looking round at Vronsky,who st
ood near her. "I must rest a little before my journey."

  "Are you certainly going tomorrow then?" asked Vronsky.

  "Yes, I suppose so," answered Anna, as it were wondering at the boldnessof his question; but the irrepressible, quivering brilliance of her eyesand her smile set him on fire as she said it.

  Anna Arkadyevna did not stay to supper, but went home.

 

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