When Anna went into the room, Dolly was sitting in the little drawing-room with a
white-headed fat little boy, already like his father, giving him a lesson in French
reading. As the boy read, he kept twisting and trying to tear off a button that was
nearly off his jacket. His mother had several times taken his hand from it, but the
fat little hand went back to the button again. His mother pulled the button off and
put it in her pocket.
"Keep your hands still, Grisha," she said, and she took up her work, a coverlet
she had long been making. She always set to work on it at depressed moments,
and now she knitted at it nervously, twitching her fingers and counting the
stitches. Though she had sent word the day before to her husband that it was
nothing to her whether his sister came or not, she had made everything ready for
her arrival, and was expecting her sister-in-law with emotion.
Dolly was crushed by her sorrow, utterly swallowed up by it. Still she did not
forget that Anna, her sister-in-law, was the wife of one of the most important
personages in Petersburg, and was a Petersburg grande dame. And, thanks to
this circumstance, she did not carry out her threat to her husband--that is to say,
she remembered that her sister-in-law was coming. "And, after all, Anna is in no
wise to blame," thought Dolly. "I know nothing of her except the very best, and I
have seen nothing but kindness and affection from her towards myself." It was
true that as far as she could recall her impressions at Petersburg at the
Karenins', she did not like their household itself; there was something artificial in
the whole framework of their family life. "But why should I not receive her? If only
she doesn't take it into her head to console me!" thought Dolly. "All consolation
and counsel and Christian forgiveness, all that I have thought over a thousand
times, and it's all no use."
All these days Dolly had been alone with her children. She did not want to talk of
her sorrow, but with that sorrow in her heart she could not talk of outside matters.
She knew that in one way or another she would tell Anna everything, and she
was alternately glad at the thought of speaking freely, and angry at the necessity
of speaking of her humiliation with her, his sister, and of hearing her ready-made
phrases of good advice and comfort. She had been on the lookout for her,
glancing at her watch every minute, and, as so often happens, let slip just that
minute when her visitor arrived, so that she did not hear the bell.
Catching a sound of skirts and light steps at the door, she looked round, and her
care-worn face unconsciously expressed not gladness, but wonder. She got up
and embraced her sister-in-law.
"What, here already!" she said as she kissed her.