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
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?"