When Dolly is about to go to bed, Anna comes in to talk about everything she had wanted to talk about during the day, but now that the time has finally arrived, Anna can find nothing to say. Finally, Anna asks about Kitty. Kitty has forgiven Anna, Dolly says, but she hasn’t forgotten.
Though Anna has wanted to speak with Dolly alone all day, now that she finally has the opportunity, she loses her nerve. She still feels guilty about Kitty: no matter how happy Kitty is, there will always be a wound between the women.
Dolly raises the topic of divorce. There is an ellipsis in the text, during which Anna tells Dolly a secret. The text resumes, with Dolly completely appalled. Anna says that she has chosen to stay beautiful to keep Vronsky, rather than be pregnant and unattractive. Dolly thinks ruefully of her own lack of beauty, but realizes that if Vronsky is prone to having affairs, he’ll have them: if Anna’s beauty is her only means of keeping Vronsky, it won’t work, since there will always be someone more beautiful out there. Dolly feels extremely distant from Anna.
Just as when Vronsky and Anna slept together in an ellipsis, Tolstoy again leaves unsaid the explicit fact that Anna has had an operation so she will have no more children. When she hears this, Dolly realizes that the foundations of Anna and Vronsky’s relationship is hollow; instead of a partnership based on trust, it’s a relationship based on fear and lies, and that if Anna’s beauty is the thing that holds them together, the relationship will crumble.