One of Anna’s objects in coming
back to Russia had been to see her son. From
the day she left Italy the thought of it had never
ceased to agitate her. And as she got nearer
to Petersburg, the delight and importance of this
meeting grew ever greater in her imagination.
She did not even put to herself the question how to
arrange it. It seemed to her natural and simple
to see her son when she should be in the same town
with him. But on her arrival in Petersburg she
was suddenly made distinctly aware of her present
position in society, and she grasped the fact that
to arrange this meeting was no easy matter.
She had now been two days in Petersburg.
The thought of her son never left her for a single
instant, but she had not yet seen him. To go
straight to the house, where she might meet Alexey
Alexandrovitch, that she felt she had no right to do.
She might be refused admittance and insulted.
To write and so enter into relations with her husband that
it made her miserable to think of doing; she could
only be at peace when she did not think of her husband.
To get a glimpse of her son out walking, finding
out where and when he went out, was not enough for
her; she had so looked forward to this meeting, she
had so much she must say to him, she so longed to
embrace him, to kiss him. Seryozha’s old
nurse might be a help to her and show her what to do.
But the nurse was not now living in Alexey Alexandrovitch’s
house. In this uncertainty, and in efforts to
find the nurse, two days had slipped by.
Hearing of the close intimacy between
Alexey Alexandrovitch and Countess Lidia Ivanovna,
Anna decided on the third day to write to her a letter,
which cost her great pains, and in which she intentionally
said that permission to see her son must depend on
her husband’s generosity. She knew that
if the letter were shown to her husband, he would
keep up his character of magnanimity, and would not
refuse her request.
The commissionaire who took the letter
had brought her back the most cruel and unexpected
answer, that there was no answer. She had never
felt so humiliated as at the moment when, sending for
the commissionaire, she heard from him the exact account
of how he had waited, and how afterwards he had been
told there was no answer. Anna felt humiliated,
insulted, but she saw that from her point of view
Countess Lidia Ivanovna was right. Her suffering
was the more poignant that she had to bear it in solitude.
She could not and would not share it with Vronsky.
She knew that to him, although he was the primary cause
of her distress, the question of her seeing her son
would seem a matter of very little consequence.
She knew that he would never be capable of understanding
all the depth of her suffering, that for his cool
tone at any allusion to it she would begin to hate
him. And she dreaded that more than anything
in the world, and so she hid from him everything that
related to her son. Spending the whole day at
home she considered ways of seeing her son, and had
reached a decision to write to her husband. She
was just composing this letter when she was handed
the letter from Lidia Ivanovna. The countess’s
silence had subdued and depressed her, but the letter,
all that she read between the lines in it, so exasperated
her, this malice was so revolting beside her passionate,
legitimate tenderness for her son, that she turned
against other people and left off blaming herself.
“This coldness this
pretense of feeling!” she said to herself.
“They must needs insult me and torture the child,
and I am to submit to it! Not on any consideration!
She is worse than I am. I don’t lie, anyway.”
And she decided on the spot that next day, Seryozha’s
birthday, she would go straight to her husband’s
house, bribe or deceive the servants, but at any cost
see her son and overturn the hideous deception with
which they were encompassing the unhappy child.
She went to a toy shop, bought toys
and thought over a plan of action. She would
go early in the morning at eight o’clock, when
Alexey Alexandrovitch would be certain not to be up.
She would have money in her hand to give the hall
porter and the footman, so that they should let her
in, and not raising her veil, she would say that she
had come from Seryozha’s godfather to congratulate
him, and that she had been charged to leave the toys
at his bedside. She had prepared everything but
the words she should say to her son. Often as
she had dreamed of it, she could never think of anything.
The next day, at eight o’clock
in the morning, Anna got out of a hired sledge and
rang at the front entrance of her former home.
“Run and see what’s wanted.
Some lady,” said Kapitonitch, who, not yet
dressed, in his overcoat and galoshes, had peeped out
of the window and seen a lady in a veil standing close
up to the door. His assistant, a lad Anna did
not know, had no sooner opened the door to her than
she came in, and pulling a three-rouble note out of
her muff put it hurriedly into his hand.
Alexeitch,” she said, and was going on.
Scrutinizing the note, the porter’s assistant
stopped her at the second glass door.
“Whom do you want?” he asked.
She did not hear his words and made no answer.
Noticing the embarrassment of the
unknown lady, Kapitonitch went out to her, opened
the second door for her, and asked her what she was
pleased to want.
“From Prince Skorodumov for Sergey Alexeitch,”
“His honor’s not up yet,”
said the porter, looking at her attentively.
Anna had not anticipated that the
absolutely unchanged hall of the house where she had
lived for nine years would so greatly affect her.
Memories sweet and painful rose one after another
in her heart, and for a moment she forgot what she
was here for.
“Would you kindly wait?”
said Kapitonitch, taking off her fur cloak.
As he took off the cloak, Kapitonitch
glanced at her face, recognized her, and made her
a low bow in silence.
“Please walk in, your excellency,” he
said to her.
She tried to say something, but her
voice refused to utter any sound; with a guilty and
imploring glance at the old man she went with light,
swift steps up the stairs. Bent double, and his
galoshes catching in the steps, Kapitonitch ran after
her, trying to overtake her.
“The tutor’s there; maybe
he’s not dressed. I’ll let him know.”
Anna still mounted the familiar staircase,
not understanding what the old man was saying.
“This way, to the left, if you
please. Excuse its not being tidy. His
honor’s in the old parlor now,” the hall
porter said, panting. “Excuse me, wait
a little, your excellency; I’ll just see,”
he said, and overtaking her, he opened the high door
and disappeared behind it. Anna stood still
waiting. “He’s only just awake,”
said the hall porter, coming out. And at the
very instant the porter said this, Anna caught the
sound of a childish yawn. From the sound of
this yawn alone she knew her son and seemed to see
him living before her eyes.
“Let me in; go away!”
she said, and went in through the high doorway.
On the right of the door stood a bed, and sitting
up in the bed was the boy. His little body bent
forward with his nightshirt unbuttoned, he was stretching
and still yawning. The instant his lips came
together they curved into a blissfully sleepy smile,
and with that smile he slowly and deliciously rolled
“Seryozha!” she whispered,
going noiselessly up to him.
When she was parted from him, and
all this latter time when she had been feeling a fresh
rush of love for him, she had pictured him as he was
at four years old, when she had loved him most of
all. Now he was not even the same as when she
had left him; he was still further from the four-year-old
baby, more grown and thinner. How thin his face
was, how short his hair was! What long hands!
How he had changed since she left him! But it
was he with his head, his lips, his soft neck and
broad little shoulders.
“Seryozha!” she repeated just in the child’s
He raised himself again on his elbow,
turned his tangled head from side to side as though
looking for something, and opened his eyes.
Slowly and inquiringly he looked for several seconds
at his mother standing motionless before him, then
all at once he smiled a blissful smile, and shutting
his eyes, rolled not backwards but towards her into
“Seryozha! my darling boy!”
she said, breathing hard and putting her arms round
his plump little body. “Mother!”
he said, wriggling about in her arms so as to touch
her hands with different parts of him.
Smiling sleepily still with closed
eyes, he flung fat little arms round her shoulders,
rolled towards her, with the delicious sleepy warmth
and fragrance that is only found in children, and
began rubbing his face against her neck and shoulders.
“I know,” he said, opening
his eyes; “it’s my birthday today.
I knew you’d come. I’ll get up
And saying that he dropped asleep.
Anna looked at him hungrily; she saw
how he had grown and changed in her absence.
She knew, and did not know, the bare legs so long
now, that were thrust out below the quilt, those short-cropped
curls on his neck in which she had so often kissed
him. She touched all this and could say nothing;
tears choked her.
“What are you crying for, mother?”
he said, waking completely up. “Mother,
what are you crying for?” he cried in a tearful
“I won’t cry…I’m
crying for joy. It’s so long since I’ve
seen you. I won’t, I won’t,”
she said, gulping down her tears and turning away.
“Come, it’s time for you to dress now,”
she added, after a pause, and, never letting go his
hands, she sat down by his bedside on the chair, where
his clothes were put ready for him.
“How do you dress without me?
How…” she tried to begin talking simply and
cheerfully, but she could not, and again she turned
“I don’t have a cold bath,
papa didn’t order it. And you’ve
not seen Vassily Lukitch? He’ll come in
soon. Why, you’re sitting on my clothes!”
And Seryozha went off into a peal
of laughter. She looked at him and smiled.
“Mother, darling, sweet one!”
he shouted, flinging himself on her again and hugging
her. It was as though only now, on seeing her
smile, he fully grasped what had happened.
“I don’t want that on,”
he said, taking off her hat. And as it were,
seeing her afresh without her hat, he fell to kissing
“But what did you think about
me? You didn’t think I was dead?”
“I never believed it.”
“You didn’t believe it, my sweet?”
“I knew, I knew!” he repeated
his favorite phrase, and snatching the hand that was
stroking his hair, he pressed the open palm to his
mouth and kissed it.