Chapter 19

When Anna entered the tiny drawing room, she found Dolly sitting there with a white-headed plump little boy, already resembling his father; she was listening to a lesson in French reading. As the boy read, he kept twisting and trying to tear off a button that was nearly off his jacket. His mother had several times taken his hand from it, but the plump little hand went back to the button again. His mother pulled the button off and put it in her pocket.

`Keep your hands still, Grisha,' she said, and she took up her work, a coverlet she had long been making. She always set to work on it at depressed moments, and now she knitted at it nervously, twitching her fingers and counting the stitches. Though she had sent word the day before to her husband that it was nothing to her whether his sister came or not, she had made everything ready for her arrival, and was expecting her sister-in-law with agitation.

Dolly was crushed by her sorrow, utterly swallowed up by it. Still she did not forget that Anna, her sister- in-law, was the wife of one of the most important personages in Peterburg, and was a Peterburg grande dame. And, thanks to this circumstance, she did not carry out her threat to her husband - that is to say, she had not forgotten that her sister-in-law was coming. `And, after all, Anna is in no wise to blame,' thought Dolly. `I know nothing save the very best about her, and I have seen nothing but kindness and affection from her toward myself.' It was true that as far as she could recall her impressions at Peterburg at the Karenin's, she did not like their household itself; there was something artificial about the whole arrangement of their family life. `But why should I not receive her? If only she doesn't take it into her head to console me!' thought Dolly. `All consolations and exhortations and Christian forgiveness - I have thought all this over a thousand times, and it's all no use.'

All these days Dolly had been alone with her children. She did not want to talk of her sorrow, but with that sorrow in her heart she could not talk of outside matters.

She knew that in one way or another she would tell Anna everything, and she was alternately glad at the thought of speaking freely, and angry at the necessity of speaking of her humiliation with her, his sister, and of hearing her ready-made phrases of exhortation and consolation.

She had been on the lookout for her, glancing at her watch every minute, and, as often happens, let slip that precise minute when her visitor arrived, so that she did not hear the bell.

Catching the sound of skirts and of light steps at the door, she looked round, and her careworn face unconsciously expressed not gladness, but wonder. She got up and embraced her sister-in-law.

`What, here already?' she said as she kissed her.

`Dolly, how glad I am to see you!'

`I am glad, too,' said Dolly, faintly smiling, and trying by the expression of Anna's face to find out whether she knew. `Most likely she knows,' she thought, noticing the sympathy in Anna's face. `Well, come along, I'll take you to your room,' she went on, trying to defer as long as possible the time of explanation.

`Is this Grisha? Heavens, how he's grown!' said Anna; and kissing him, never taking her eyes off Dolly, she stood still and flushed. `No, please, let us stay here.'

She took off her shawl and her hat, and catching it in a lock of her black hair, which was a mass of curls, she tossed her head and shook her hair down.

`You are radiant with health and happiness!' said Dolly, almost with envy.

`I?... Yes,' said Anna. `Merciful heavens, Tania! You're the same age as my Seriozha,' she added, addressing the little girl as she ran in. She took her in her arms and kissed her. `Delightful child, delightful! Show me them all.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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