FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 22

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

Light off Small Medium Large

The ball was only just beginning as
Kitty and her mother walked up the great staircase,
flooded with light, and lined with flowers and footmen
in powder and red coats.  From the rooms came
a constant, steady hum, as from a hive, and the rustle
of movement; and while on the landing between trees
they gave last touches to their hair and dresses before
the mirror, they heard from the ballroom the careful,
distinct notes of the fiddles of the orchestra beginning
the first waltz.  A little old man in civilian
dress, arranging his gray curls before another mirror,
and diffusing an odor of scent, stumbled against them
on the stairs, and stood aside, evidently admiring
Kitty, whom he did not know.  A beardless youth,
one of those society youths whom the old Prince Shtcherbatsky
called “young bucks,” in an exceedingly
open waistcoat, straightening his white tie as he
went, bowed to them, and after running by, came back
to ask Kitty for a quadrille.  As the first quadrille
had already been given to Vronsky, she had to promise
this youth the second.  An officer, buttoning
his glove, stood aside in the doorway, and stroking
his mustache, admired rosy Kitty.

Although her dress, her coiffure,
and all the preparations for the ball had cost Kitty
great trouble and consideration, at this moment she
walked into the ballroom in her elaborate tulle dress
over a pink slip as easily and simply as though all
the rosettes and lace, all the minute details of her
attire, had not cost her or her family a moment’s
attention, as though she had been born in that tulle
and lace, with her hair done up high on her head,
and a rose and two leaves on the top of it.

When, just before entering the ballroom,
the princess, her mother, tried to turn right side
out of the ribbon of her sash, Kitty had drawn back
a little.  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 uncomfortable anywhere; her lace
berthe did not droop anywhere; her rosettes were not
crushed nor torn off; her pink slippers with high,
hollowed-out heels did not pinch, but gladdened her
feet; and the thick rolls of fair chignon kept up on
her head as if they were her own hair.  All the
three buttons buttoned up without tearing on the long
glove that covered her hand without concealing its
lines.  The black velvet of her locket nestled
with special softness round her neck.  That velvet
was delicious; at home, looking at her neck in the
looking glass, Kitty had felt that that velvet was
speaking.  About all the rest there might be
a doubt, but the velvet was delicious.  Kitty
smiled here too, at the ball, when she glanced at
it in the glass.  Her bare shoulders and arms
gave Kitty a sense of chill marble, a feeling she
particularly liked.  Her eyes sparkled, and her
rosy lips could not keep from smiling from the consciousness
of her own attractiveness.  She had scarcely
entered the ballroom and reached the throng of ladies,
all tulle, ribbons, lace, and flowers, waiting to
be asked to dance ­Kitty was never one of
that throng ­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 of
dances, a married man, handsome and well-built, Yegorushka
Korsunsky.  He had only just left the Countess
Bonina, with whom he had danced the first half of the
waltz, and, scanning his kingdom ­that is
to say, a few couples who had started dancing ­he
caught sight of Kitty, entering, and flew up to her
with that peculiar, easy amble which is confined to
directors of balls.  Without even asking her if
she cared to dance, he put out his arm to encircle
her slender waist.  She looked round for someone
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 her
waist; “such a bad habit to be late.” 
Bending her left hand, she laid it on his shoulder,
and her little feet in their pink slippers began swiftly,
lightly, and rhythmically moving over the slippery
floor in time to the music.

“It’s a rest to waltz
with you,” he said to her, as they fell into
the first slow steps of the waltz.  “It’s
exquisite ­such lightness, precision.” 
He said to her the same thing he said to almost all
his partners whom he knew well.

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

“Another turn, eh?  You’re
not tired?” said Korsunsky, a little out of
breath.

“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 the group 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 partner sharply
round, so that her slim ankles, in light transparent
stockings, were exposed to view, and her train floated
out in fan shape and covered Krivin’s knees. 
Korsunsky bowed, set straight his open shirt front,
and gave her his arm to conduct her to Anna Arkadyevna. 
Kitty, flushed, took her 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 and shoulders, that looked
as though carved in old ivory, and her rounded arms,
with tiny, slender wrists.  The whole gown was
trimmed with Venetian guipure.  On her head, among
her black hair ­her own, with no false additions ­was
a little wreath of pansies, and a bouquet of the same
in the black ribbon of her sash among white lace. 
Her coiffure was not striking.  All that was
noticeable was the little wilful tendrils of her 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 pictured her invariably in
lilac.  But now seeing her in black, she felt
that she had not fully seen her charm.  She saw
her now as someone quite new and surprising to her. 
Now she understood that Anna could not have been
in lilac, and that her charm was just that she always
stood out against her attire, that her dress could
never be noticeable on her.  And her black dress,
with its sumptuous lace, was not noticeable on her;
it was only the frame, and all that was seen was she ­simple,
natural, elegant, and at the same time gay and eager.

She was standing holding herself,
as always, very erect, and when Kitty drew near the
group she was speaking to the master of the house,
her head 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 a
movement of her head, hardly perceptible, but understood
by Kitty, signifying approval of her dress and her
looks.  “You came into the room dancing,”
she added.

“This is one of my most faithful
supporters,” said Korsunsky, bowing to Anna
Arkadyevna, whom he had not yet seen.  “The
princess helps to make balls happy and successful. 
Anna Arkadyevna, a waltz?” he said, bending
down to her.

“Why, have you met?” inquired their host.

“Is there anyone we have not
met?  My wife and I are like white wolves ­everyone
knows us,” answered Korsunsky.  “A
waltz, Anna Arkadyevna?”

“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, not noticing
Vronsky’s bow, and she hastily put her hand on
Korsunsky’s shoulder.

“What is she vexed with him
about?” thought Kitty, discerning that Anna
had intentionally not responded to Vronsky’s
bow.  Vronsky went up to Kitty reminding her of
the first quadrille, and expressing his regret that
he had not seen her all this time.  Kitty gazed
in admiration at Anna waltzing, and listened to him. 
She expected him to ask her for a waltz, but he did
not, and she glanced wonderingly at him.  He
flushed slightly, and hurriedly asked her to waltz,
but he had only just put his arm round her waist and
taken the first step when the music suddenly stopped. 
Kitty looked into his face, which was so close to her
own, and long afterwards ­for several years
after ­that look, full of love, to which
he made no response, cut her to the heart with an
agony of shame.

Pardon! pardon! Waltz!
waltz!” shouted Korsunsky from the other side
of the room, and seizing the first young lady he came
across he began dancing himself.

 

Leave a Reply