`Yes,' Anna went on. `Do you know why Kitty didn't come to dinner? She's jealous of me. I have spoiled... I've been the cause of that ball being a torture to her instead of a pleasure. But truly, truly, it's not my fault, or only my fault a little bit,' she said, daintily drawling the words `a little bit.'

`Oh, how like Stiva you said that!' said Dolly, laughing.

Anna was hurt.

`Oh no, oh no! I'm not Stiva,' she said, knitting her brows. `That's why I'm telling you, just because I do not even for an instant permit myself to doubt about myself,' said Anna.

But at the very moment she was uttering the words, she felt that they were not true. She was not merely doubting about herself - she felt emotion at the thought of Vronsky, and was going away sooner than she had meant, solely to avoid meeting him.

`Yes, Stiva told me you danced the mazurka with him, and that he...'

`You can't imagine how absurdly it all came about. I only meant to be matchmaking, and all at once it turned out quite differently. Possibly against my own will...'

She flushed and stopped.

`Oh, they feel it immediately!' said Dolly.

`But I should be in despair if there were anything serious in it on his side,' Anna interrupted her. `And I'm certain it will all be forgotten, and Kitty will leave off hating me.'

`All the same, Anna, to tell you the truth, I'm not very anxious for this marriage for Kitty. And it's better it should come to nothing, if he, Vronsky, is capable of falling in love with you in a single day.'

`Oh, heavens, that would be too silly!' said Anna, and again a deep flush of pleasure appeared on her face, as she heard the idea that absorbed her put into words. `And so here I am, going away, having made an enemy of Kitty, whom I liked so much! Ah, how sweet she is! But you'll make it right, Dolly? Eh?'

Dolly could scarcely suppress a smile. She loved Anna, but she was pleased to see that she, too, had her weaknesses.

`An enemy? That can't be.'

`I did so want you all to care for me, as I do for you, and now I care for you more than ever,' said Anna, with tears in her eyes. `Ah, how silly I am today!'

She passed her handkerchief over her face and began dressing.

At the very moment of starting Stepan Arkadyevich arrived, late, rosy and good-humored, smelling of wine and cigars.

Anna's emotionalism infected Dolly, and when she embraced her sister-in-law for the last time, she whispered:

`Remember, Anna, what you've done for me - I shall never forget. And remember that I love you, and shall always love you as my dearest friend!'

`I don't know why,' said Anna, kissing her and hiding her tears.

`You understand me, and still understand. Good-by, my darling!'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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