Part 1, Chapter 21 Summary
At teatime, Darya Alexandrovna appears but her husband does not; she worries about Anna Karenina’s comfort and plans to move her so she will be warmer. From her tone, Anna Karenina cannot determine whether a reconciliation has happened, but once Stepan Arkadyevitch enters the room both she and Kitty can tell that the couple has made their peace.
During the entire evening, Darya Alexandrovitch’s tone is slightly mocking and her husband is happy and cheerful (mindful that he has been forgiven but his offense has not been forgotten). At nine-thirty, this simple, peaceful family gathering is interrupted by an apparently simple incident which nevertheless seems strange to them all.
As the group discusses their common acquaintances from St. Petersburg, Anna Karenina quickly gets up from the table and says with pride she will show them pictures of her beloved son Seryozha. At about ten o’clock, when she is usually tucking her son into bed before attending a ball, she keeps thinking about her curly-haired boy. She longs to see his face and abruptly gets up to retrieve her photo album; as she is on the landing on her way upstairs, the doorbell rings.
It is too early for Kitty’s ride and too late for anyone else to call. Stepan Arkadyevitch assumes it is someone for him and heads for the door. As Anna Karenina is on the stairs, a servant is announcing the visitor and the visitor himself is standing under a lamp. Glancing down, she recognizes Vronsky at once and a thrill of both pleasure and dread stirs in her heart.
Vronsky is standing still and taking something from his pocket. Just as Anna Karenina is passing, Vronsky looks up and a look of dismay and embarrassment passes over his face. With a slight nod, she passes and hears her brothers’ shout for Vronsky to come in and Vronsky’s polite refusal. By the time she returns to the group with her album, the visitor is gone. He claimed to have come merely to inquire about a dinner party being held the next day, and though it was strange it was not extraordinary.
Kitty tells herself that Vronsky paid the strange visit because he did not find her at her own house and came here to find her. He did not stay because it was late and they had a guest. To Anna Karenina, there is something not quite right about the strange visit.