Dolly came out of her room to the tea of the grownups. Stepan Arkadyevich did not come out. He must have left his wife's room by a back door.
`I am afraid you'll be cold upstairs,' observed Dolly, addressing Anna; `I want to move you downstairs, and we shall be nearer.'
`Oh, please, don't trouble about me,' answered Anna, looking intently into Dolly's face, trying to make out whether there had been a reconciliation or not.
`It will be lighter for you here,' answered her sister-in-law.
`I assure you that I can sleep like a marmot anywhere and any time.'
`What's all this?' inquired Stepan Arkadyevich, coming out of his room and addressing his wife.
From his tone both Kitty and Anna at once gathered that a reconciliation had taken place.
`I want to move Anna downstairs, but we must hang up blinds. No one knows how to do it; I must see to it myself,' answered Dolly addressing him.
`God knows whether they are fully reconciled,' thought Anna, hearing her tone, cold and composed.
`Come, Dolly, why be always making difficulties,' answered her husband. `There, I'll do it all, if you like...'
`I know how you do everything,' answered Dolly. `You tell Matvei to do what can't be done, and go away yourself, leaving him to make a muddle of everything,' and her habitual, mocking smile curved the corners of Dolly's lips as she spoke.
`Full, full reconciliation - full,' thought Anna, `thank God!' and rejoicing that she was the cause of it, she went up to Dolly and kissed her.
`Not at all. Why do you always look down on me and Matvei?' said Stepan Arkadyevich, smiling hardly perceptibly, and addressing his wife.
The whole evening Dolly was, as always, a little mocking in her tone to her husband, while Stepan Arkadyevich was happy and cheerful, yet not so as to seem as if, having been forgiven, he had forgotten his fault.
At half-past nine o'clock a particularly joyful and pleasant family conversation over the tea table at the Oblonsky's was broken up by an apparently simple incident. But this simple incident for some reason struck everyone as strange. Having begun talking about common acquaintances in Peterburg, Anna got up quickly.
`She is in my album,' she said; `and, by the way, I'll show you my Seriozha,' she added, with a mother's smile of pride.
Toward ten o'clock, when she usually said good night to her son, and often, before going to a ball put him to bed herself, she felt depressed at being so far from him; and whatever she was talking about, she kept coming back in thought to her curly-headed Seriozha. She longed to look at his photograph and talk of him. Seizing the first pretext, she got up, and with her light, resolute step went for her album. The stairs up to her room came out on the landing of the great warm main staircase.
Just as she was leaving the drawing room, a ring was heard in the hall.
`Who can that be?' said Dolly.
`It's too early for me to be fetched, and for anyone else it's too late,' observed Kitty.
`It's sure to be someone with papers for me,' put in Stepan Arkadyevich. When Anna was passing the top of the staircase, a servant was running up to announce the visitor, while the visitor himself was standing under a lamp. Anna, glancing down, at once recognized Vronsky, and a strange feeling of pleasure and, at the same time, of some dread, stirred in her heart. He stood there, without taking off his coat, and pulling something out of his pocket. At the instant when she was just halfway up the stairs he raised his eyes, caught sight of her, and the expression of his face changed to embarrassment and dismay. With a slight inclination of her head she passed, hearing behind her Stepan Arkadyevich's loud voice calling him to come up, and the quiet, soft, and calm voice of Vronsky refusing.
When Anna returned with the album he was already gone, and Stepan Arkadyevich was telling them that he had called to inquire about the dinner they were giving next day to a foreign celebrity.
`And nothing would induce him to come up. What a queer fellow he is!' added Stepan Arkadyevich.
Kitty blushed. She thought that she was the only person who knew why he had come, and why he would not come up. `He has been at home,' she thought, `and didn't find me, and thought I should be here, but he did not come up because he thought it late, and Anna's here.'
All of them looked at each other, saying nothing, and began to look at Anna's album.
There was nothing either exceptional or strange in a man's calling at half-past nine on a friend to inquire details of a proposed dinner party and not coming in, yet it seemed strange to all of them. And to Anna it seemed stranger and more unpleasant than to any of the others.