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Leaving the young lovers for a while, we return to Karenin and his life.
He is still irritated after that dinner and his conversation with Dolly about his imminent divorce. During that dinner, he recalls that Turovtsyn applauded a betrayed husband who "acted like a real man; challenged [his rival] to a duel and killed him" (4.17.1). This recollection embarrasses Karenin, who decides that it's too late, so there's no point thinking about it.
He is thinking about an upcoming trip when his valet brings in two telegrams. The first tells him that Stremov got the promotion that Karenin wanted. The second is from Anna. She writes that she is dying and begs him to go to her bedside and forgive her.
At first Karenin thinks Anna's letter is a hoax, that Anna just wants him on hand to legitimize the child, but upon further reflection decides that he doesn't want to take the chance if she does actually die.
He goes to Petersburg to see Anna instead of heading out on his planned excursion.
When he arrives at the house a servant tells him that Anna delivered a baby girl yesterday. Anna is still alive, but severely ill.
Upon hearing this news, Karenin realizes how much he had wanted Anna to die, and feels guilty.
Vronsky is in the inner room, weeping. He begs Karenin to let him stay, even though his presence is the one thing Karenin hadn't wanted.
As always when he is presented with signs of other people's emotions, Karenin turns away from Vronsky's tears and goes into Anna's bedroom.
She is delirious but her voice is very clear and precise.
She doesn't realize that Karenin is already in the room, but talks about his kindness, and how Seryozha has his eyes. She says that she fears death.
All the while Karenin is sitting at her bedside.
Anna begs him to forgive her. He feels a sudden bliss in the idea of forgiveness.
Anna calls Vronsky into the room. He sits by her bed and covers his face out of shame.
Anna tells Karenin to uncover Vronsky's face.
She asks Karenin to forgive them both. He does so.
Anna is delirious. She begins asking for morphine and the doctor.
She has puerperal fever, with a one percent chance of survival.
On the third day, the doctor said there was some hope. On that day, Vronsky and Karenin have a chat in Karenin's study. Vronsky asks Karenin to pity him.
Karenin explains to Vronsky that he had wanted a divorce, had wanted revenge, and had even wanted Anna to die. But he has since forgiven Anna, and now he is filled with the joy of forgiveness. Karenin has resolved to stay with Anna. Karenin suggests that Vronsky leave, saying that if she asks for Vronsky, he will let Karenin know.
Vronsky gets up, but his posture is stooped and bent over, and he looks up at Karenin from beneath his brow. He does not understand Karenin's feelings, but he does see him as lofty and somehow unapproachable now.