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Chapter 22


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.
Korsunky 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 yo 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.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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