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Chapter 20

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

"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

"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 bulling 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

"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 form 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

"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

"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.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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