Vronsky returns to his Petersburg apartment and finds his favorite comrade, Petrivsky, there with some friends, including Baroness Shilton, Petrivsky's current companion. Amidst the slightly drunken chatter and gossip of his gay, broad-minded companions, Vronsky drops back into the light-hearted pleasant world he has always lived in. He has a bantering discussion with Baroness Shilton about divorce. Her husband, she says, wants to keep her property by way of retribution for her unfaithfulness.
Vronsky dresses himself in his uniform to report to his regiment. He plans, among other visits, to pay his cousin Princess Betsy Tverskoy a call. Related to Anna through marriage, Betsy would bring him into that society where he might meet Madame Karenina. As he always does in Petersburg, Vronsky leaves home, not meaning to return until late at night.
In this chapter Vronsky returns to his familiar habits, just as Dolly, Levin, and Anna have gone back to their "starting points" after confronting their respective crises. Vronsky's light talk with the baroness
about divorce preludes his more intense arguments with Anna later on, and the behavior attributed to Baron Shilton suggests the nature of Karenin's response to the same problem.
Part I ends on a note of departure, as Vronsky leaves to form connections which will give him further chances to see Anna. This lightly undertaken departure, however, represents one with grave consequences for Vronsky: He is really departing from his old way of life with its facile relationships to embark upon a new existence and a relationship of unimagined intensity.