WHEN he got home, Vronsky found there a note from Anna. She wrote, I am ill and unhappy. I cannot come out, but I cannot go on longer without seeing you. Come in this evening. Alexey Alexandrovitch goes to the council at seven and will be there till ten. Thinking for an instant of the strangeness of her bidding him come straight to her, in spite of her husbands insisting on her not receiving him, he decided to go.
Vronsky had that winter got his promotion, was now a colonel, had left the regimental quarters, and was living alone. After having some lunch, he lay down on the sofa immediately, and in five minutes memories of the hideous scenes he had witnessed during the last few days were confused together and joined on to a mental image of Anna and of the peasant who had played an important part in the bear-hunt, and Vronsky fell asleep. He waked up in the dark, trembling with horror, and made haste to light a candle. What was it? What? What was the dreadful thing I dreamed? Yes, yes; I think a little dirty man with a dishevelled beard was stooping down doing something, and all of a sudden he began saying some strange words in French. Yes, there was nothing else in the dream, he said to himself. But why was it so awful? He vividly recalled the peasant again and those incomprehensible French words the peasant had uttered, and a chill of horror ran down his spine.
It was half-past eight already. He rang up his servant, dressed in haste, and went out on to the steps, completely forgetting the dream and only worried at being late. As he drove up to the Karenins entrance he looked at his watch and saw it was ten minutes to nine. A high, narrow carriage with a pair of greys was standing at the entrance. He recognised Annas carriage. She is coming to me, thought Vronsky, and better she should. I dont like going into that house. But no matter; I cant hide myself, he thought, and with that manner peculiar to him from childhood, as of a man who has nothing to be ashamed of, Vronsky got out of his sledge and went to the door. The door opened, and the hall-porter with a rug on his arm called the carriage. Vronsky, though he did not usually notice details, noticed at this moment the amazed expression with which the porter glanced at him. In the very doorway Vronsky almost ran up against Alexey Alexandrovitch. The gas jet threw its full light on the bloodless, sunken face under the black hat and on the white cravat, brilliant against the beaver of the coat. Karenins fixed, dull eyes were fastened upon Vronskys face. Vronsky bowed, and Alexey Alexandrovitch, chewing his lips, lifted his hand to his hat and went on. Vronsky saw him without looking round get into the carriage, pick up the rug and the operaglass at the window and disappear. Vronsky went into the hall. His brows were scowling, and his eyes gleamed with a proud and angry light in them.
What a position! he thought. If he would fight, would stand up for his honour, I could act, could express my feelings; but this weakness or baseness He puts me in the position of playing false, which I never meant and never mean to do.
Vronskys ideas had changed since the day of his conversation with Anna in the Vrede garden. Unconsciously yielding to the weakness of Annawho had surrendered herself up to him utterly, and simply looked to him to decide her fate, ready to submit to anythinghe had long ceased to think that their tie might end as he had thought then. His ambitious plans had retreated into the background again, and feeling that he had got out of that circle of activity in which everything was definite, he had given himself entirely to his passion, and that passion was binding him more and more closely to her.
What? Ive been waiting in agony for an hour, two hours No, I wont I cant quarrel with you. Of course you couldnt come. No, I wont. She laid her two hands on his shoulders, and looked a long while at him with a profound, passionate, and at the same time searching look. She was studying his face to make up for the time she had not seen him. She was, every time she saw him, making the picture of him in her imagination (incomparably superior, impossible in reality) fit with him as he really was.