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At Gurov's home in Moscow, it's wintertime. At first, he is glad to be back; he immerses himself in the city life and is sure that, in a month, he won't even remember what Anna looks like.
However, a month later, Gurov feels as though he parted with Anna just the day before. She's haunting him, everywhere, all the time.
Gurov desperately wants to talk to someone about these feelings, but he has no one, and besides, he doesn't understand well enough to express them. He doesn't even know if he was in love.
He quickly grows tired of the Moscow scene and all the people in it. "What senseless nights, what uninteresting, uneventful days!" He can't sleep; he's sick of his family and his work.
In December he gets ready for a trip. He tells his wife he's going to Petersburg under some pretense; in reality, he goes to S., to find Anna and talk to her.
In the morning he arrives and takes a hotel room. He quickly finds out where the Von Diderits live and goes there. He finds a house surrounded by "a long grey fence adorned with nails."
Because it's a holiday, he worries that Anna's husband is at home. He debates the best way to get in touch with her. He sees an old woman exit the house with Anna's dog.
Instead of approaching, he goes back to his hotel and takes a nap. He wakes up in the evening, frustrated with the situation.
The next morning he sees a playbill for an opera, The Geisha, opening that night. Figuring that Anna will be there, he goes to the show.
The theatre is a provincial one, and it is full. Amidst the crowd Gurov spots Anna in the third row: "When Gurov looked at her his heart contracted, and he understood clearly that for him there was in the whole world no creature so near, so precious, and so important to him" (3.26).
Then he sees her husband, "a young man with small side-whiskers, tall and stooping" and bending his head at every step. Gurov remembers that Anna called him a flunkey, and thinks that this might not be so inaccurate.
During intermission, while the husband is away smoking, Gurov approaches Anna and says hello. She turns pale when she sees him; her reaction frightens Gurov, who feels as though everyone is looking at them.
Anna gets up and walks towards the door; he follows her out.
She stops on a secluded staircase and asks desperately why he has come to see her. She admits that she's unhappy and has thought only of him since they parted, though she wanted to forget him.
Gurov takes Anna in his arms and kisses her; she continues to ask why he's doing this and finally pushes him away, begging him "by all that is sacred" to leave at once. Finally she swears that, if he'll leave, she'll come and visit him in Moscow. Then she runs away, back down the stairs.
Gurov waits alone for a bit, then retrieves his coat and leaves the theatre.