`Why should not I be dull at a ball?' inquired Anna.

Kitty perceived that Anna knew what answer would follow.

`Because you always look the loveliest of all.'

Anna had the faculty of blushing. She blushed, and said:

`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 Tania, 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 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 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 and take part in it.'

`How do you know? Yes!'

`Oh! What a happy time you are at,' pursued Anna. `I remember, and I know this blue haze, like the mist on the mountains in Switzerland. This 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 Alexei Alexandrovich, 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 blabbed 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 although I know that he's her favorite, one can still 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 from the water. He's a hero, in fact,' said Anna, smiling and recollecting the two hundred roubles he had given at the station.

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