Although Anna tries to remain composed and mature when Vronsky goes to the elections, the stern look he gives her before he leaves breaks her calm, since she interprets it as his love for her cooling off. She begins to consider seriously actually getting a divorce and marrying Vronsky. Vronsky doesn’t return as anticipated after six days, and Annie falls ill, but Anna finds that she cannot pretend to love her daughter. That night, she writes to Vronsky in fear of losing him and sends the contradictory letter immediately; when she re-reads it the next day, she regrets the sentiment but is pleased that Vronsky is returning: even though she knows he’s burdened by her, she wants him under her sight at all times.
Tolstoy switches to Anna’s perspective to show what she has been thinking about while Vronsky was at the elections: just as he showed the horseracing scene several times from several different characters’ perspectives, he rewinds time to allow the reader to see what Anna has been thinking while Vronsky has been away. Anna is of two minds: although her rational brain knows that she is being ridiculously, even counterproductively, obsessive and oppressive of Vronsky, her emotions take over, and she falls sway to the panic of her passions.
When Vronsky returns, she feels ashamed of her clinginess, but she’s glad to have him back in her sights. She is beautiful, but her beauty is no longer a thrill for Vronsky. Annie has recovered. Anna tells Vronsky that she never wants to be separated from him again; if there’s business in Moscow, she will go with him. Anna says she will write the letter to Karenin asking for a divorce. Although Vronsky says that he doesn’t wish to be separated from her, his eyes belie his words, and they settle “like a married couple.”
Anna lives from moment to moment: when Vronsky is away from her, she’s constantly consumed with jealousy, but when he’s in her grip again, she convinces herself that all is well. Though Vronsky says that he loves Anna, his expressions do not match, and for Tolstoy, actions always speak louder than words. Settling as though married may seem bucolic, but, as the beginning of the novel makes clear, marriage all too often spells unhappiness rather than bliss.