Alexey Alexandrovitch came back from
the meeting of the ministers at four o’clock,
but as often happened, he had not time to come in
to her. He went into his study to see the people
waiting for him with petitions, and to sign some papers
brought him by his chief secretary. At dinner
time (there were always a few people dining with the
Karenins) there arrived an old lady, a cousin of Alexey
Alexandrovitch, the chief secretary of the department
and his wife, and a young man who had been recommended
to Alexey Alexandrovitch for the service. Anna
went into the drawing room to receive these guests.
Precisely at five o’clock, before the bronze
Peter the First clock had struck the fifth stroke,
Alexey Alexandrovitch came in, wearing a white tie
and evening coat with two stars, as he had to go out
directly after dinner. Every minute of Alexey
Alexandrovitch’s life was portioned out and
occupied. And to make time to get through all
that lay before him every day, he adhered to the strictest
punctuality. “Unhasting and unresting,”
was his motto. He came into the dining hall,
greeted everyone, and hurriedly sat down, smiling to
“Yes, my solitude is over.
You wouldn’t believe how uncomfortable”
(he laid stress on the word uncomfortable) “it
is to dine alone.”
At dinner he talked a little to his
wife about Moscow matters, and, with a sarcastic smile,
asked her after Stepan Arkadyevitch; but the conversation
was for the most part general, dealing with Petersburg
official and public news. After dinner he spent
half an hour with his guests, and again, with a smile,
pressed his wife’s hand, withdrew, and drove
off to the council. Anna did not go out that
evening either to the Princess Betsy Tverskaya, who,
hearing of her return, had invited her, nor to the
theater, where she had a box for that evening.
She did not go out principally because the dress
she had reckoned upon was not ready. Altogether,
Anna, on turning, after the departure of her guests,
to the consideration of her attire, was very much
annoyed. She was generally a mistress of the
art of dressing well without great expense, and before
leaving Moscow she had given her dressmaker three
dresses to transform. The dresses had to be
altered so that they could not be recognized, and they
ought to have been ready three days before. It
appeared that two dresses had not been done at all,
while the other one had not been altered as Anna had
intended. The dressmaker came to explain, declaring
that it would be better as she had done it, and Anna
was so furious that she felt ashamed when she thought
of it afterwards. To regain her serenity completely
she went into the nursery, and spent the whole evening
with her son, put him to bed herself, signed him with
the cross, and tucked him up. She was glad she
had not gone out anywhere, and had spent the evening
so well. She felt so light-hearted and serene,
she saw so clearly that all that had seemed to her
so important on her railway journey was only one of
the common trivial incidents of fashionable life,
and that she had no reason to feel ashamed before
anyone else or before herself. Anna sat down
at the hearth with an English novel and waited for
her husband. Exactly at half-past nine she heard
his ring, and he came into the room.
“Here you are at last!”
she observed, holding out her hand to him.
He kissed her hand and sat down beside her.
“Altogether then, I see your
visit was a success,” he said to her.
“Oh, yes,” she said, and
she began telling him about everything from the beginning:
her journey with Countess Vronskaya, her arrival,
the accident at the station. Then she described
the pity she had felt, first for her brother, and
afterwards for Dolly.
“I imagine one cannot exonerate
such a man from blame, though he is your brother,”
said Alexey Alexandrovitch severely.
Anna smiled. She knew that he
said that simply to show that family considerations
could not prevent him from expressing his genuine
opinion. She knew that characteristic in her
husband, and liked it.
“I am glad it has all ended
so satisfactorily, and that you are back again,”
he went on. “Come, what do they say about
the new act I have got passed in the council?”
Anna had heard nothing of this act,
And she felt conscience-stricken at having been able
so readily to forget what was to him of such importance.
“Here, on the other hand, it
has made a great sensation,” he said, with a
She saw that Alexey Alexandrovitch
wanted to tell her something pleasant to him about
it, and she brought him by questions to telling it.
With the same complacent smile he told her of the
ovations he had received in consequence of the act
he had passed.
“I was very, very glad.
It shows that at last a reasonable and steady view
of the matter is becoming prevalent among us.”
Having drunk his second cup of tea
with cream, and bread, Alexey Alexandrovitch got up,
and was going towards his study.
“And you’ve not been anywhere
this evening? You’ve been dull, I expect?”
“Oh, no!” she answered,
getting up after him and accompanying him across the
room to his study. “What are you reading
now?” she asked.
“Just now I’m reading
Duc de Lille, Poesie des Enfers,”
he answered. “A very remarkable book.”
Anna smiled, as people smile at the
weaknesses of those they love, and, putting her hand
under his, she escorted him to the door of the study.
She knew his habit, that had grown into a necessity,
of reading in the evening. She knew, too, that
in spite of his official duties, which swallowed up
almost the whole of his time, he considered it his
duty to keep up with everything of note that appeared
in the intellectual world. She knew, too, that
he was really interested in books dealing with politics,
philosophy, and theology, that art was utterly foreign
to his nature; but, in spite of this, or rather, in
consequence of it, Alexey Alexandrovitch never passed
over anything in the world of art, but made it his
duty to read everything. She knew that in politics,
in philosophy, in theology, Alexey Alexandrovitch often
had doubts, and made investigations; but on questions
of art and poetry, and, above all, of music, of which
he was totally devoid of understanding, he had the
most distinct and decided opinions. He was fond
of talking about Shakespeare, Raphael, Beethoven, of
the significance of new schools of poetry and music,
all of which were classified by him with very conspicuous
“Well, God be with you,”
she said at the door of the study, where a shaded
candle and a decanter of water were already put by
his armchair. “And I’ll write to
He pressed her hand, and again kissed it.
“All the same he’s a good
man; truthful, good-hearted, and remarkable in his
own line,” Anna said to herself going back to
her room, as though she were defending him to someone
who had attacked him and said that one could not love
him. “But why is it his ears stick out
so strangely? Or has he had his hair cut?”
Precisely at twelve o’clock,
when Anna was still sitting at her writing table,
finishing a letter to Dolly, she heard the sound of
measured steps in slippers, and Alexey Alexandrovitch,
freshly washed and combed, with a book under his arm,
came in to her.
“It’s time, it’s
time,” said he, with a meaning smile, and he
went into their bedroom.
“And what right had he to look
at him like that?” thought Anna, recalling Vronsky’s
glance at Alexey Alexandrovitch.
Undressing, she went into the bedroom;
but her face had none of the eagerness which, during
her stay in Moscow, had fairly flashed from her eyes
and her smile; on the contrary, now the fire seemed
quenched in her, hidden somewhere far away.