“If the world disapproves, I don’t care,” said Vronsky; “but if my relations want to be on terms of relationship with me, they will have to be on the same terms with my wife.”
The elder brother, who had always a respect for his younger brother’s judgment, could not well tell whether he was right or not till the world had decided the question; for his part he had nothing against it, and with Alexey he went up to see Anna.
Before his brother, as before everyone, Vronsky addressed Anna with a certain formality, treating her as he might a very intimate friend, but it was understood that his brother knew their real relations, and they talked about Anna’s going to Vronsky’s estate.
In spite of all his social experience Vronsky was, in consequence of the new position in which he was placed, laboring under a strange misapprehension. One would have thought he must have understood that society was closed for him and Anna; but now some vague ideas had sprung up in his brain that this was only the case in old-fashioned days, and that now with the rapidity of modern progress (he had unconsciously become by now a partisan of every sort of progress) the views of society had changed, and that the question whether they would be received in society was not a foregone conclusion. “Of course,” he thought, “she would not be received at court, but intimate friends can and must look at it in the proper light.” One may sit for several hours at a stretch with one’s legs crossed in the same position, if one knows that there’s nothing to prevent one’s changing one’s position; but if a man knows that he must remain sitting so with crossed legs, then cramps come on, the legs begin to twitch and to strain towards the spot to which one would like to draw them. This was what Vronsky was experiencing in regard to the world. Though at the bottom of his heart he knew that the world was shut on them, he put it to the test whether the world had not changed by now and would not receive them. But he very quickly perceived that though the world was open for him personally, it was closed for Anna. Just as in the game of cat and mouse, the hands raised for him were dropped to bar the way for Anna.
One of the first ladies of Petersburg society whom Vronsky saw was his cousin Betsy.
“At last!” she greeted him joyfully. “And Anna? How glad I am! Where are you stopping? I can fancy after your delightful travels you must find our poor Petersburg horrid. I can fancy your honeymoon in Rome. How about the divorce? Is that all over?”
Vronsky noticed that Betsy’s enthusiasm waned when she learned that no divorce had as yet taken place.
“People will throw stones at me, I know,” she said, “but I shall come and see Anna; yes, I shall certainly come. You won’t be here long, I suppose?”
And she did certainly come to see Anna the same day, but her tone was not at all the same as in former days. She unmistakably prided herself on her courage, and wished Anna to appreciate the fidelity of her friendship. She only stayed ten minutes, talking of society gossip, and on leaving she said: