FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 23

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

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Vronsky and Kitty waltzed several
times round the room.  After the first waltz
Kitty went to her mother, and she had hardly time
to say a few words to Countess Nordston when Vronsky
came up again for the first quadrille.  During
the quadrille nothing of any significance was said: 
there was disjointed talk between them of the Korsunskys,
husband and wife, whom he described very amusingly,
as delightful children at forty, and of the future
town theater; and only once the conversation touched
her 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 from the quadrille. 
She looked forward with a thrill at her heart to
the mazurka.  She fancied that in the mazurka
everything must be decided.  The fact that he
did not during the quadrille ask her for the mazurka
did not trouble her.  She felt sure she would
dance the mazurka with him as she had done at former
balls, and refused five young men, saying she was
engaged for the mazurka.  The whole ball up to
the last quadrille was for Kitty an enchanted vision
of delightful colors, sounds, and motions.  She
only sat down when she felt too tired and begged for
a rest.  But as she was dancing the last quadrille
with one of the tiresome young men whom she 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, and now again she saw
her suddenly quite new and surprising.  She saw
in her the signs of that excitement of success she
knew so well in herself; she saw that she was intoxicated
with the delighted admiration she was exciting. 
She knew that feeling and knew its signs, and saw
them in Anna; saw the quivering, flashing light in
her eyes, and the smile of happiness and excitement
unconsciously playing on her lips, and the deliberate
grace, precision, and lightness of her movements.

“Who?” she asked herself. 
“All or one?” And not assisting the harassed
young man she was dancing with in the conversation,
the thread of which he had lost and could not pick
up again, she obeyed with external liveliness the
peremptory shouts of Korsunsky starting them all into
the grand rond, and then into the chaîne,
and at the same time she kept watch with a growing
pang at her heart.  “No, it’s not
the admiration of the 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 into her eyes, and the smile of happiness
curved her red lips. she seemed to make an effort
to control herself, to try not to show these signs
of delight, 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
so clearly to Kitty in the mirror of Anna’s
face she saw in him.  What had become of his
always self-possessed resolute manner, and the carelessly
serene expression of his face?  Now every time
he turned to her, he bent his head, as though he would
have fallen at her feet, and in his eyes there was
nothing but humble submission and dread.  “I
would not offend you,” his eyes seemed every
time to be saying, “but I want to save myself,
and I don’t know how.”  On his face
was a look such as Kitty had never seen before.

They were speaking of common acquaintances,
keeping up the most trivial conversation, but to Kitty
it seemed that every word they said was determining
their fate and hers.  And strange it was that
they were actually talking of how absurd Ivan Ivanovitch
was with his French, and how the Eletsky girl might
have made a better match, yet these words had all
the while consequence for them, and they were feeling
just as Kitty did.  The whole ball, the whole
world, everything seemed lost in fog in Kitty’s
soul.  Nothing but the stern discipline of her
bringing-up supported her and forced her to do what
was expected of her, that is, to dance, to answer
questions, to talk, even to smile.  But before
the mazurka, when they were beginning to rearrange
the chairs and a few couples moved out of the smaller
rooms into the big room, a moment of despair and horror
came for Kitty.  She had refused five partners,
and now she was not dancing the mazurka.  She
had not even a hope of being asked for it, because
she was so successful in society that the idea would
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 had not the strength
to do this.  She felt crushed.  She went
to the furthest end 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 of her pink tunic; in the other
she held her fan, and with rapid, short strokes fanned
her burning face.  But while she looked like
a butterfly, clinging to a blade of grass, and just
about to open its rainbow wings for fresh flight, her
heart ached with a horrible despair.

“But perhaps I am wrong, perhaps
it was not so?” And again she recalled all she
had seen.

“Kitty, what is it?” said
Countess Nordston, stepping noiselessly over the 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 had just refused
the man whom perhaps she loved, and refused him because
she had put her faith in another.

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

Kitty danced in the first couple,
and luckily for her she had not to talk, because Korsunsky
was all the time running about directing the figure. 
Vronsky and Anna sat almost opposite her.  She
saw them with her long-sighted eyes, and saw them,
too, close by, when they met in the figures, and the
more she saw of them the more convinced was she that
her unhappiness was complete.  She saw that they
felt themselves alone in that crowded room.  And
on Vronsky’s face, always so firm and independent,
she saw that look that had struck her, of bewilderment
and humble submissiveness, like the expression of
an intelligent dog when it has 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 to
Anna’s face.  She was fascinating in her
simple black dress, fascinating were her round arms
with their bracelets, fascinating was her firm neck
with its thread of pearls, fascinating the straying
curls of her loose hair, fascinating the graceful,
light movements of her little feet and hands, fascinating
was that lovely face in its eagerness, but there was
something terrible and cruel in her fascination.

Kitty admired her more than ever,
and more and more acute was her suffering.  Kitty
felt overwhelmed, and her face showed it.  When
Vronsky saw her, coming across her in the mazurka,
he did not at once recognize her, 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, newly invented by Korsunsky,
Anna came forward into the center of the circle, chose
two gentlemen, and summoned a lady and Kitty. 
Kitty gazed at her in dismay as she went up. 
Anna looked at her with drooping eyelids, and smiled,
pressing her hand.  But, noticing that Kitty
only responded to her 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 began to press her to
do so.

“Nonsense, Anna Arkadyevna,”
said Korsunsky, drawing her bare arm under the sleeve
of his dress coat, “I’ve such an idea for
a cotillion!  Un bijou!

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

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

“No; why, as it is, I have danced
more at your ball in Moscow than I have all the winter
in Petersburg,” said Anna, looking round at
Vronsky, who stood 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 boldness of his
question; but the irrepressible, quivering brilliance
of her eyes and her smile set him on fire as she said
it.

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

 

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