FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 20

Leo TolstoyAug 21, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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The whole of that day Anna spent at
home, that’s to say at the Oblonskys’,
and received no one, though some of her acquaintances
had already heard of her arrival, and came to call;
the same day.  Anna spent the whole morning with
Dolly and the children.  She merely sent a brief
note 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 still remained, but
there was no talk now of separation, and Stepan Arkadyevitch
saw the possibility of explanation and reconciliation.

Immediately after dinner Kitty came
in.  She knew Anna Arkadyevna, but only very
slightly, and she came now to her sister’s with
some trepidation, at the prospect of meeting this
fashionable Petersburg lady, whom everyone spoke so
highly of.  But she made a favorable impression
on Anna Arkadyevna ­she saw that at once. 
Anna was unmistakably admiring her loveliness and
her youth:  before Kitty knew where she was she
found herself not merely under Anna’s sway,
but in love with her, as young girls do fall in love
with older and married women.  Anna was not like
a fashionable lady, nor the mother of a boy of eight
years old.  In the elasticity of her movements,
the freshness and the unflagging eagerness which persisted
in her face, and broke out in her smile and her glance,
she would rather have passed for a girl of twenty,
had it not been for a serious and at times mournful
look in her eyes, which struck and attracted Kitty. 
Kitty felt that Anna was perfectly simple and was
concealing nothing, but that she had another higher
world of interests inaccessible to her, complex and
poetic.

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

“Stiva,” she said to him,
winking gaily, crossing him and glancing towards the
door, “go, and God help you.”

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

When Stepan Arkadyevitch had disappeared,
she went back to the sofa where she had been sitting,
surrounded by the children.  Either because the
children saw that their mother was fond of this aunt,
or that they felt a special charm in her themselves,
the two elder ones, and the younger following their
lead, as children so often do, had clung about their
new aunt since before dinner, and would not leave
her side.  And it had become a sort of game among
them to sit a close as possible to their aunt, 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, sitting down
in her place.

And again Grisha poked his little
face under her arm, and nestled with his 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 always enjoys oneself.”

“Why, are there balls where
one always enjoys oneself?” Anna said, with
tender irony.

“It’s strange, but there
are.  At the Bobrishtchevs’ one always
enjoys oneself, and at the Nikitins’ too, while
at the Mezhkovs’ it’s always dull. 
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 which was 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, what difference
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 said to 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 a
pleasure to you…Grisha, don’t pull my hair. 
It’s untidy enough without that,” she
said, putting up a straying lock, which Grisha had
been playing with.

“I imagine you at the ball in lilac.”

“And why in lilac precisely?”
asked Anna, smiling.  “Now, children, run
along, run along.  Do you hear?  Miss Hoole
is calling you to tea,” she said, tearing the
children from her, and sending them off to the dining
room.

“I know why you press me to
come to the ball.  You expect a great deal of
this 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 I know that blue haze like the mist on the mountains
in Switzerland.  That mist which covers everything
in that blissful time when childhood is just ending,
and out of that vast circle, happy and gay, there
is a path growing narrower and narrower, and it is
delightful and alarming to enter the ballroom, bright
and splendid as it is….  Who has not been through
it?”

Kitty smiled without speaking. 
“But how did she go through it?  How I
should like to know all her love story!” thought
Kitty, recalling the unromantic appearance of Alexey
Alexandrovitch, her husband.

“I know something.  Stiva
told me, and I congratulate you.  I liked him
so much,” 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 traveled yesterday with
Vronsky’s mother,” she went on; “and
his mother talked without 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
see how chivalrous he is….  Well, for instance,
she told me that he had wanted to give up all his
property to his brother, that he had done something
extraordinary when he was quite a child, saved a woman
out of the water.  He’s a hero, in fact,”
said Anna, smiling and recollecting the two hundred
roubles he had given at the station.

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

“She pressed me very much to
go and see her,” Anna went on; “and I
shall be glad to go to see her tomorrow.  Stiva
is staying a long while in Dolly’s room, thank
God,” Anna added, changing the subject, and
getting up, 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, and embraced and
swung round all the throng of swarming children, shrieking
with delight.

 

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