FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 21

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

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Dolly came out of her room to the
tea of the grown-up people.  Stepan Arkadyevitch
did not come out.  He must have left his wife’s
room by the other door.

“I am afraid you’ll be
cold upstairs,” observed Dolly, addressing Anna;
“I want to move you downstairs, and we shall
be nearer.”

“Oh, please, don’t trouble
about me,” answered Anna, looking intently into
Dolly’s face, trying to make out whether there
had been a reconciliation or not.

“It will be lighter for you
here,” answered her sister-in-law.

“I assure you that I sleep everywhere,
and always like a marmot.”

“What’s the question?”
inquired Stepan Arkadyevitch, coming out of his room
and addressing his wife.

From his tone both Kitty and Anna
knew that a reconciliation had taken place.

“I want to move Anna downstairs,
but we must hang up blinds.  No one knows how
to do it; I must see to it myself,” answered
Dolly addressing him.

“God knows whether they are
fully reconciled,” thought Anna, hearing her
tone, cold and composed.

“Oh, nonsense, Dolly, always
making difficulties,” answered her husband. 
“Come, I’ll do it all, if you like…”

“Yes, they must be reconciled,” thought
Anna.

“I know how you do everything,”
answered Dolly.  “You tell Matvey to do
what can’t be done, and go away yourself, leaving
him to make a muddle of everything,” and her
habitual, mocking smile curved the corners of Dolly’s
lips as she spoke.

“Full, full reconciliation,
full,” thought Anna; “thank God!”
and rejoicing that she was the cause of it, she went
up to Dolly and kissed her.

“Not at all.  Why do you
always look down on me and Matvey?” said Stepan
Arkadyevitch, smiling hardly perceptibly, and addressing
his wife.

The whole evening Dolly was, as always,
a little mocking in her tone to her husband, while
Stepan Arkadyevitch was happy and cheerful, but not
so as to seem as though, having been forgiven, he
had forgotten his offense.

At half-past nine o’clock a
particularly joyful and pleasant family conversation
over the tea-table at the Oblonskys’ was broken
up by an apparently simple incident.  But this
simple incident for some reason struck everyone as
strange.  Talking about common acquaintances
in Petersburg, Anna got up quickly.

“She is in my album,”
she said; “and, by the way, I’ll show you
my Seryozha,” she added, with a mother’s
smile of pride.

Towards ten o’clock, when she
usually said good-night to her son, and often before
going to a ball put him to bed herself, she felt depressed
at being so far from him; and whatever she was talking
about, she kept coming back in thought to her curly-headed
Seryozha.  She longed to look at his photograph
and talk of him.  Seizing the first pretext, she
got up, and with her light, resolute step went for
her album.  The stairs up to her room came out
on the landing of the great warm main staircase.

Just as she was leaving the drawing
room, a ring was heard in the hall.

“Who can that be?” said Dolly.

“It’s early for me to
be fetched, and for anyone else it’s late,”
observed Kitty.

“Sure to be someone with papers
for me,” put in Stepan Arkadyevitch.  When
Anna was passing the top of the staircase, a servant
was running up to announce the visitor, while the visitor
himself was standing under a lamp.  Anna glancing
down at once recognized Vronsky, and a strange feeling
of pleasure and at the same time of dread of something
stirred in her heart.  He was standing still,
not taking off his coat, pulling something out of
his pocket.  At the instant when she was just
facing the stairs, he raised his eyes, caught sight
of her, and into the expression of his face there
passed a shade of embarrassment and dismay.  With
a slight inclination of her head she passed, hearing
behind her Stepan Arkadyevitch’s loud voice
calling him to come up, and the quiet, soft, and composed
voice of Vronsky refusing.

When Anna returned with the album,
he was already gone, and Stepan Arkadyevitch was telling
them that he had called to inquire about the dinner
they were giving next day to a celebrity who had just
arrived.  “And nothing would induce him
to come up.  What a queer fellow he is!”
added Stepan Arkadyevitch.

Kitty blushed.  She thought that
she was the only person who knew why he had come,
and why he would not come up.  “He has been
at home,” she thought, “and didn’t
find me, and thought I should be here, but he did
not come up because he thought it late, and Anna’s
here.”

All of them looked at each other,
saying nothing, and began to look at Anna’s
album.

There was nothing either exceptional
or strange in a man’s calling at half-past nine
on a friend to inquire details of a proposed dinner
party and not coming in, but it seemed strange to
all of them.  Above all, it seemed strange and
not right to Anna.

 

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