The highest Petersburg society is essentially one: in it everyone
knows everyone else, everyone even visits everyone else. But
this great set has its subdivisions. Anna Arkadyevna Karenina
had friends and close ties in three different circles of this
highest society. One circle was her husband's government
official set, consisting of his colleagues and subordinates,
brought together in the most various and capricious manner, and
belonging to different social strata. Anna found it difficult
now to recall the feeling of almost awe-stricken reverence which
she had at first entertained for these persons. Now she knew all
of them as people know one another in a country town; she knew
their habits and weaknesses, and where the shoe pinched each one
of them. She knew their relations with one another and with the
head authorities, knew who was for whom, and how each one
maintained his position, and where they agreed and disagreed.
But the circle of political, masculine interests had never
interested her, in spite of countess Kidia Ivanovna's influence,
and she avoided it.
Another little set with which Anna was in close relations was the
one by means of which Alexey Alexandrovitch had made his career.
The center of this circle was the Countess Lidia Ivanovna. It
was a set made up of elderly, ugly, benevolent, and godly women,
and clever, learned, and ambitious men. One of the clever people
belonging to the set had called it "the conscience of Petersburg
society." Alexey Alexandrovitch had the highest esteem for this
circle, and Anna with her special gift for getting on with
everyone, had in the early days of her life in Petersburg made
friends in this circle also. Now, since her return from Moscow,
she had come to feel this set insufferable. It seemed to her
that both she and all of them were insincere, and she fell so
bored and ill at ease in that world that she went to see the
Countess Lidia Ivanovna as little as possible.
The third circle with which Anna had ties was preeminently the
fashionable world--the world of balls, of dinners, of sumptuous
dresses, the world that hung on to the court with one hand, so as
to avoid sinking to the level of the demi-monde. For the
demi-monde the members of that fashionable world believed that
they despised, though their tastes were not merely similar, but
in fact identical. Her connection with this circle was kept up
through Princess Betsy Tverskaya, her cousin's wife, who had an
income of a hundred and twenty thousand roubles, and who had
taken a great fancy to Anna ever since she first came out, showed
her much attention, and drew her into her set, making fun of
Countess Kidia Ivanovna's coterie.
"When I'm old and ugly I'll be the same," Betsy used to say; "but
for a pretty young woman like you it's early days for that house
Anna had at first avoided as far as she could Princess
Tverskaya's world, because it necessitated an expenditure beyond
her means, and besides in her heart she preferred the first
circle. But since her visit to Moscow she had done quite the
contrary. She avoided her serious-minded friends, and went out
into the fashionable world. There she met Vronsky, and
experienced an agitating joy at those meetings. She met Vronsky
specially often at Betsy's for Betsy was a Vronsky by birth and
his cousin. Vronsky was everywhere where he had any chance of
meeting Anna, and speaking to her, when he could, of his love.
She gave him no encouragement, but every time she met him there
surged up in her heart that same feeling of quickened life that
had come upon her that day in the railway carriage when she saw
him for the first time. She was conscious herself that her
delight sparkled in her eyes and curved her lips into a smile,
and she could not quench the expression of this delight.
At first Anna sincerely believed that she was displeased with him
for daring to pursue her. Soon after her return from Moscow, on
arriving at a soiree where she had expected to meet him, and not
finding him there, she realized distinctly from the rush of
disappointment that she had been deceiving herself, and that this
pursuit was not merely not distasteful to her, but that it made
the whole interest of her life.
A celebrated singer was singing for the second time, and all the
fashionable world was in the theater. Vronsky, seeing his
cousin from his stall in the front row, did not wait till the
entr'acte, but went to her box.
"Why didn't you come to dinner?" she said to him. "I marvel at
the second sight of lovers," she added with a smile, so that no
one but he could hear; "SHE WASN'T THERE. But come after the
Vronsky looked inquiringly at her. She nodded. He thanked her
by a smile, and sat down beside her.
"But how I remember your jeers!" continued Princess Betsy, who
took a peculiar pleasure in following up this passion to a
successful issue. "What's become of all that? You're caught, my
"That's my one desire, to be caught," answered Vronsky, with his
serene, good-humored smile. "If I complain of anything it's only
that I'm not caught enough, to tell the truth. I begin to lose
"Why, whatever hope can you have?" said Betsy, offended on behalf
of her friend. "Enendons nous...." But in her eyes there were
gleams of light that betrayed that she understood perfectly and
precisely as he did what hope he might have.
"None whatever," said Vronsky, laughing and showing his even rows
of teeth. "Excuse me," he added, taking an opera glass out of
her hand, and proceeding to scrutinize, over her bare shoulder,
the row of boxes facing them. "I'm afraid I'm becoming
He was very well aware that he ran no risk of being ridiculous in
the eyes of Betsy or any other fashionable people. He was very
well aware that in their eyes the position of an unsuccessful
lover of a girl, or of any woman free to marry, might be
ridiculous. But the position of a man pursuing a married woman,
and, regardless of everything, staking his life on drawing her
into adultery, has something fine and grand about it, and can
never be ridiculous; and so it was with a proud and gay smile
under his mustaches that he lowered the opera glass and looked at
"But why was it you didn't come to dinner?" she said, admiring
"I must tell you about that. I was busily employed, and doing
what, do you suppose? I'll give you a hundred guesses, a
thousand...you'd never guess. I've been reconciling a husband
with a man who'd insulted his wife. Yes, really!"
"Well, did you succeed?"
"You really must tell me about it," she said, getting up. "Come
to me in the next entr'acte."
"I can't; I'm going to the French theater."
"From Nilsson?" Betsy queried in horror, though she could not
herself have distinguished Nilsson's voice from any chorus
"Can't help it. I've an appointment there, all to do with my
mission of peace."
" Blessed are the peacemakers; theirs is the kingdom of heaven,'"
said Betsy, vaguely recollecting she had heard some similar
saying from someone. "Very well, then, sit down, and tell me
what it's all about."
And she sat down again.