Oblonsky did dine at home: the conversation was general, and his wife, speaking to him, addressed him as “Stiva,” as she had not done before. In the relations of the husband and wife the same estrangement still remained, but there was no talk now of separation, and Stepan Arkadyevitch saw the possibility of explanation and reconciliation.
Immediately after dinner Kitty came in. She knew Anna Arkadyevna, but only very slightly, and she came now to her sister’s with some trepidation, at the prospect of meeting this fashionable Petersburg lady, whom everyone spoke so highly of. But she made a favorable impression on Anna Arkadyevna—she saw that at once. Anna was unmistakably admiring her loveliness and her youth: before Kitty knew where she was she found herself not merely under Anna’s sway, but in love with her, as young girls do fall in love with older and married women. Anna was not like a fashionable lady, nor the mother of a boy of eight years old. In the elasticity of her movements, the freshness and the unflagging eagerness which persisted in her face, and broke out in her smile and her glance, she would rather have passed for a girl of twenty, had it not been for a serious and at times mournful look in her eyes, which struck and attracted Kitty. Kitty felt that Anna was perfectly simple and was concealing nothing, but that she had another higher world of interests inaccessible to her, complex and poetic.
After dinner, when Dolly went away to her own room, Anna rose quickly and went up to her brother, who was just lighting a cigar.
“Stiva,” she said to him, winking gaily, crossing him and glancing towards the door, “go, and God help you.”
He threw down the cigar, understanding her, and departed through the doorway.
When Stepan Arkadyevitch had disappeared, she went back to the sofa where she 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.
“It’s strange, but there are. At the Bobrishtchevs’ one always enjoys oneself, and at the Nikitins’ too, while at the Mezhkovs’ it’s always dull. Haven’t you noticed it?”