The mistake Alexei Alexandrovich had made, while preparing to see his wife, in not taking into account the eventuality that her repentance would be sincere and he would forgive her, and then she would not die – this mistake presented itself to him in all its force two months after his return from Moscow. But the mistake came not only from his not having taken this eventuality into account, but also from the fact that, prior to the day when he saw his dying wife, he had not known his own heart. At his wife’s bedside he had given himself for the first time in his life to that feeling of tender compassion which other people’s suffering evoked in him, and which he had previously been ashamed of as a bad weakness. Pity for her, and repentance at having wished for her death, and above all the very joy of forgiveness, made it so that he suddenly felt not only relief from his suffering but also an inner peace that he had never experienced before. He suddenly felt that the very thing that had once been the source of his suffering had become the source of his spiritual joy, that what had seemed insoluble when he condemned, reproached and hated, became simple and clear when he forgave and loved.
He forgave his wife and pitied her for her sufferings and repentance. He forgave Vronsky and pitied him, especially after rumours reached him of his desperate act. He also pitied his son more than before, and now reproached himself for having been too little concerned with him. But for the newborn little girl he had some special feeling, not only of pity but also of tenderness. At first it was only out of compassion that he concerned himself with the newborn, weak little girl, who was not his daughter and who was neglected during her mother’s illness and would probably have died if he had not looked after her – and he did not notice how he came to love her. He went to the nursery several times a day and sat there for a long while, so that the wet nurse and the nanny, who were intimidated at first, became used to him. He would sometimes spend half an hour silently gazing at the saffron–red, downy and wrinkled little face of the sleeping baby, watching the movements of her scowling forehead and plump little hands with curled fingers that rubbed her little eyes and nose with their backs. At such moments especially Alexei Alexandrovich felt utterly at peace and in harmony with himself, and saw nothing extraordinary in his situation, nothing that needed to be changed.
But the more time that passed, the more clearly he saw that, natural as this situation was for him now, he would not be allowed to remain in it. He felt that, besides the good spiritual force that guided his soul, there was another force, crude and equally powerful, if not more so, that guided his life, and that this force would not give him the humble peace he desired. He felt that everybody looked at him with questioning surprise, not understanding him and expecting something from him. In particular, he felt the precariousness and unnaturalness of his relations with his wife.
—Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, p. 288