As intensely as Anna had longed to see her son, and long as she had been thinking of it and preparing herself for it, she had not in the least expected that seeing him would affect her so deeply. On getting back to her lonely rooms in the hotel she could not for a long while understand why she was there. “Yes, it’s all over, and I am again alone,” she said to herself, and without taking off her hat she sat down in a low chair by the hearth. Fixing her eyes on a bronze clock standing on a table between the windows, she tried to think.
The French maid brought from abroad came in to suggest she should dress. She gazed at her wonderingly and said, “Presently.” A footman offered her coffee. “Later on,” she said.
The Italian nurse, after having taken the baby out in her best, came in with her, and brought her to Anna. The plump, well-fed little baby, on seeing her mother, as she always did, held out her fat little hands, and with a smile on her toothless mouth, began, like a fish with a float, bobbing her fingers up and down the starched folds of her embroidered skirt, making them rustle. It was impossible not to smile, not to kiss the baby, impossible not to hold out a finger for her to clutch, crowing and prancing all over; impossible not to offer her a lip which she sucked into her little mouth by way of a kiss. And all this Anna did, and took her in her arms and made her dance, and kissed her fresh little cheek and bare little elbows; but at the sight of this child it was plainer than ever to her that the feeling she had for her could not be called love in comparison with what she felt for Seryozha. Everything in this baby was charming, but for some reason all this did not go deep to her heart. On her first child, though the child of an unloved father, had been concentrated all the love that had never found satisfaction. Her baby girl had been born in the most painful circumstances and had not had a hundredth part of the care and thought which had been concentrated on her first child. Besides, in the little girl everything was still in the future, while Seryozha was by now almost a personality, and a personality dearly loved. In him there was a conflict of thought and feeling; he understood her, he loved her, he judged her, she thought, recalling his words and his eyes. And she was forever—not physically only but spiritually—divided from him, and it was impossible to set this right.
She gave the baby back to the nurse, let her go, and opened the locket in which there was Seryozha’s portrait when he was almost of the same age as the girl. She got up, and, taking off her hat, took up from a little table an album in which there were photographs of her son at different ages. She wanted to compare them, and began taking them out of the album. She took them all out except one, the latest and best photograph. In it he was in a white smock, sitting astride a chair, with frowning eyes and smiling lips. It was his best, most characteristic expression. With her little supple hands, her white, delicate fingers, that moved with a peculiar intensity today, she pulled at a corner of the photograph, but the photograph had caught somewhere, and she could not get it out. There was no paper-knife on the table, and so, pulling out the photograph that was next to her son’s (it was a photograph of Vronsky taken at Rome in a round hat and with long hair), she used it to push out her son’s photograph. “Oh, here is he!” she said, glancing at the portrait of Vronsky, and she suddenly recalled that he was the cause of her present misery. She had not once thought of him all the morning. But now, coming all at once upon that manly, noble face, so familiar and so dear to her, she felt a sudden rush of love for him.
“But where is he? How is it he leaves me alone in my misery?” she thought all at once with a feeling of reproach, forgetting she had herself kept from him everything concerning her son. She sent to ask him to come to her immediately; with a throbbing heart she awaited him, rehearsing to herself the words in which she would tell him all, and the expressions of love with which he would console her. The messenger returned with the answer that he had a visitor with him, but that he would come immediately, and that he asked whether she would let him bring with him Prince Yashvin, who had just arrived in Petersburg. “He’s not coming alone, and since dinner yesterday he has not seen me,” she thought; “he’s not coming so that I could tell him everything, but coming with Yashvin.” And all at once a strange idea came to her: what if he had ceased to love her?
And going over the events of the last few days, it seemed to her that she saw in everything a confirmation of this terrible idea. The fact that he had not dined at home yesterday, and the fact that he had insisted on their taking separate sets of rooms in Petersburg, and that even now he was not coming to her alone, as though he were trying to avoid meeting her face to face.
“But he ought to tell me so. I must know that it is so. If I knew it, then I know what I should do,” she said to herself, utterly unable to picture to herself the position she would be in if she were convinced of his not caring for her. She thought he had ceased to love her, she felt close upon despair, and consequently she felt exceptionally alert. She rang for her maid and went to her dressing-room. As she dressed, she took more care over her appearance than she had done all those days, as though he might, if he had grown cold to her, fall in love with her again because she had dressed and arranged her hair in the way most becoming to her.
She heard the bell ring before she was ready. When she went into the drawing-room it was not he, but Yashvin, who met her eyes. Vronsky was looking through the photographs of her son, which she had forgotten on the table, and he made no haste to look round at her.
“We have met already,” she said, putting her little hand into the huge hand of Yashvin, whose bashfulness was so queerly out of keeping with his immense frame and coarse face. “We met last year at the races. Give them to me,” she said, with a rapid movement snatching from Vronsky the photographs of her son, and glancing significantly at him with flashing eyes. “Were the races good this year? Instead of them I saw the races in the Corso in Rome. But you don’t care for life abroad,” she said with a cordial smile. “I know you and all your tastes, though I have seen so little of you.”
“I’m awfully sorry for that, for my tastes are mostly bad,” said Yashvin, gnawing at his left mustache.
Having talked a little while, and noticing that Vronsky glanced at the clock, Yashvin asked her whether she would be staying much longer in Petersburg, and unbending his huge figure reached after his cap.
“Not long, I think,” she said hesitatingly, glancing at Vronsky.
“So then we shan’t meet again?”
“Come and dine with me,” said Anna resolutely, angry it seemed with herself for her embarrassment, but flushing as she always did when she defined her position before a fresh person. “The dinner here is not good, but at least you will see him. There is no one of his old friends in the regiment Alexey cares for as he does for you.”
“Delighted,” said Yashvin with a smile, from which Vronsky could see that he liked Anna very much.
Yashvin said good-bye and went away; Vronsky stayed behind.
“Are you going too?” she said to him.
“I’m late already,” he answered. “Run along! I’ll catch you up in a moment,” he called to Yashvin.
She took him by the hand, and without taking her eyes off him, gazed at him while she ransacked her mind for the words to say that would keep him.
“Wait a minute, there’s something I want to say to you,” and taking his broad hand she pressed it on her neck. “Oh, was it right my asking him to dinner?”
“You did quite right,” he said with a serene smile that showed his even teeth, and he kissed her hand.
“Alexey, you have not changed to me?” she said, pressing his hand in both of hers. “Alexey, I am miserable here. When are we going away?”
“Soon, soon. You wouldn’t believe how disagreeable our way of living here is to me too,” he said, and he drew away his hand.
“Well, go, go!” she said in a tone of offense, and she walked quickly away from him.