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Anna Karenina 41


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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. "Its strange, but there are. At the Bobrishtchevs one always enjoys oneself, and at the Nikitins too, while at the Mezhkovs its always dull. Havent 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 said: "In the first place its 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 wont be possible to avoid going. Here, take it," she said to Tanya, who was pulling 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 ball." "Anyway, if I do go, I shall comfort myself with the thought that its a pleasure to you...Grisha, dont pull my hair. Its 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 from 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 husband. "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 Vronskys mother," she went on; "and his mother talked without a pause of him, hes her favorite. I know mothers are partial, but..." "What did his mother tell you?" "Oh, a great deal! And I know that hes 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. Hes a hero, in fact," said Anna, smiling and recollecting the two hundred roubles he had given at

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