Anna was upstairs, standing before the looking glass, and, with Annushka's assistance, pinning the last ribbon on her gown when she heard carriage wheels crunching the gravel at the entrance.
"It's too early for Betsy," she thought, and, glancing out of the window, she caught sight of the carriage and, protruded from it, the black hat of Alexei Alexandrovich, and the ears that she knew so well. "How unlucky! Can he be going to stay the night?" she wondered, and the thought of all that might come of such a chance struck her as so awful and terrible that, without dwelling on it for a moment, she went down to meet him with a bright and radiant face; and conscious of the presence of that spirit of falsehood and deceit in herself that she had come to know of late, she abandoned herself to that spirit and began talking, hardly knowing what she was saying.
"Ah, how lovely of you!" she said, giving her husband her hand, and with a smile greeting Sludin, who was like one of the family. "You're staying the night, I hope?" was the first word the spirit of falsehood prompted her to utter. "And now we'll go together. Only it's a pity I've promised Betsy. She's coming for me."
Alexei Alexandrovich knit his brows at Betsy's name.
"Oh, I'm not going to separate the inseparables," he said in his usual bantering tone. "I'm going with Mikhail Vassilyevich. Even the doctors order me to walk. I'll walk, and fancy myself at the springs again."
"There's no hurry," said Anna. "Would you like tea?"
"Bring in tea, and tell Seriozha that Alexei Alexandrovich is here. Well, tell me, how have you been? Mikhail Vassilyevich, you've not been to see me before. Look how lovely it is out on the terrace," she said, turning first to one and then to the other.
She spoke very simply and naturally, but too much and too fast. She was the more aware of this from noticing in the inquisitive look which Mikhail Vassilyevich turned on her that he was, as it were, keeping watch on her.
Mikhail Vassilyevich promptly went out on the terrace.
She sat down beside her husband.
"You don't look quite well," she said.
"Yes," he said; "the doctor's been with me today and wasted an hour of my time. I feel that some one of our friends must have sent him: my health's so precious...."
"Come: what did he say?"
She questioned him about his health, and what he had been doing, and tried to persuade him to take a rest and come out to her.
All this she said brightly, rapidly, and with a peculiar brilliance in her eyes. But Alexei Alexandrovich did not now attach any special significance to this tone of hers. He heard only her words and gave them only the direct sense they bore. And he answered simply, though jestingly. There was nothing remarkable in all this conversation, but never after could Anna recall this brief scene without an agonizing pang of shame.
Seriozha came in, preceded by his governess. If Alexei Alexandrovich had allowed himself to observe he would have noticed the timid and bewildered eyes with which Seriozha glanced first at his father and then at his mother. But he would not see anything, and he did not see it.
"Ah, the young man! He's grown. Really, he's getting quite a man. How are you, young man?"
And he gave his hand to the scared child.
Seriozha had been shy of his father before, and now, ever since Alexei Alexandrovich had taken to calling him "young man," and since that insolvable question had occurred to him as to whether Vronsky were friend or foe, he avoided his father. He looked round toward his mother, as though seeking refuge. It was only with his mother that he was at ease. Meanwhile, Alexei Alexandrovich was holding his son by the shoulder, while he was speaking to the governess, and Seriozha was so miserably uncomfortable that Anna saw he was on the point of tears.
Anna, who had flushed a little the instant her son had come in, noticing that Seriozha was uncomfortable, got up hurriedly, took Alexei Alexandrovich's hand from her son's shoulder, and, kissing the boy, led him out onto the terrace, and quickly came back.
"It's time to start, though," said she, glancing at her watch. "How is it Betsy doesn't come?..."
"Yes," said Alexei Alexandrovich, and, getting up, he folded his hands and cracked his fingers. "I've come to bring you some money, too- for nightingales, we know, can't live on fairy tales," he said. "You want it, I expect?"
"No, I don't... Yes, I do," she said, without looking at him, and crimsoning to the roots of her hair. "But you'll come back here after the races, I suppose?"
"Oh, yes!" answered Alexei Alexandrovich. "And here's the glory of Peterhof- Princess Tverskaia," he added, looking out of the window at the English harnessed carriage, with the tiny seats placed extremely high. "What elegance! Charming! Well, let us be starting too, then."
Princess Tverskaia did not get out of her carriage, but her liveryman, in spatterdashes, a cape and black high hat, jumped off at the entrance.
"I'm going; good-by!" said Anna, and, kissing her son, she went up to Alexei Alexandrovich and held out her hand to him. "It was ever so lovely of you to come."
Alexei Alexandrovich kissed her hand.
"Well, au revoir, then! You'll come back for some tea- that'll be delightful!" she said, and went out, radiant and gay. But as soon as he was out of sight, she became aware of the spot on her hand that his lips had touched, and she shuddered with repulsion.