Oblonsky refreshes himself in Petersburg after the stuffiness of Moscow. In Petersburg, attitudes are much more relaxed about marriage, children, service, etc. Everybody carries enormous debts but lives luxuriously.
Oblonsky is quite comfortable with the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that Petersburg allows him to cultivate: everyone lives on credit and reputation, but no one worries externally about it, which puts Oblonsky in his social element.
Oblonsky visits Princess Betsy and, flirts with her, but he starts inadvertently taking the flirting too far; luckily, Princess Miagky arrives to break the tension. Oblonsky says he is to call at the Countess Lydia’s house to speak with Karenin that night, and Princess Miagky says that Jules Landau, a famous but possibly half-witted clairvoyant, will make the decision about Karenin’s divorce, as Countess Lydia and Karenin now go to Landau for all their important advice.
Oblonsky is so at ease with the happy-go-lucky lifestyle of Petersburg that he finds himself flirting even more than he himself, the consummate flirt, feels comfortable with, since the other party actually seems to be beginning to take him seriously. Luckily, Oblonsky manages to avoid a potentially awkward situation by diverting himself with another set of social chores.