Anna karenina, p.34
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       Anna Karenina, p.34

           graf Leo Tolstoy

  Chapter 34

  When Vronsky went to Moscow from Petersburg, he had left his large setof rooms in Morskaia to his friend and favorite comrade Petritsky.

  Petritsky was a young lieutenant, not particularly well-connected, andnot merely not wealthy, but always hopelessly in debt. Towards eveninghe was always drunk, and he had often been locked up after all sorts ofludicrous and disgraceful scandals, but he was a favorite both of hiscomrades and his superior officers. On arriving at twelve o'clock fromthe station at his flat, Vronsky saw, at the outer door, a hiredcarriage familiar to him. While still outside his own door, as he rang,he heard masculine laughter, the lisp of a feminine voice, andPetritsky's voice. "If that's one of the villains, don't let him in!"Vronsky told the servant not to announce him, and slipped quietly intothe first room. Baroness Shilton, a friend of Petritsky's, with a rosylittle face and flaxen hair, resplendent in a lilac satin gown, andfilling the whole room, like a canary, with her Parisian chatter, sat atthe round table making coffee. Petritsky, in his overcoat, and thecavalry captain Kamerovsky, in full uniform, probably just come fromduty, were sitting each side of her.

  "Bravo! Vronsky!" shouted Petritsky, jumping up, scraping his chair."Our host himself! Baroness, some coffee for him out of the new coffeepot. Why, we didn't expect you! Hope you're satisfied with the ornamentof your study," he said, indicating the baroness. "You know each other,of course?"

  "I should think so," said Vronsky, with a bright smile, pressing thebaroness's little hand. "What next! I'm an old friend."

  "You're home after a journey," said the baroness, "so I'm flying. Oh,I'll be off this minute, if I'm in the way."

  "You're home, wherever you are, baroness," said Vronsky. "How do you do,Kamerovsky?" he added, coldly shaking hands with Kamerovsky.

  "There, you never know how to say such pretty things," said thebaroness, turning to Petritsky.

  "No; what's that for? After dinner I say things quite as good."

  "After dinner there's no credit in them? Well, then, I'll make you somecoffee, so go and wash and get ready," said the baroness, sitting downagain, and anxiously turning the screw in the new coffee pot. "Pierre,give me the coffee," she said, addressing Petritsky, whom she calledPierre as a contraction of his surname, making no secret of herrelations with him. "I'll put it in."

  "You'll spoil it!"

  "No, I won't spoil it! Well, and your wife?" said the baroness suddenly,interrupting Vronsky's conversation with his comrade. "We've beenmarrying you here. Have you brought your wife?"

  "No, baroness. I was born a Bohemian, and a Bohemian I shall die."

  "So much the better, so much the better. Shake hands on it."

  And the baroness, detaining Vronsky, began telling him, with many jokes,about her last new plans of life, asking his advice.

  "He persists in refusing to give me a divorce! Well, what am I to do?"(_He_ was her husband.) "Now I want to begin a suit against him. What doyou advise? Kamerovsky, look after the coffee; it's boiling over. Yousee, I'm engrossed with business! I want a lawsuit, because I must havemy property. Do you understand the folly of it, that on the pretext ofmy being unfaithful to him," she said contemptuously, "he wants to getthe benefit of my fortune."

  Vronsky heard with pleasure this light-hearted prattle of a prettywoman, agreed with her, gave her half-joking counsel, and altogetherdropped at once into the tone habitual to him in talking to such women.In his Petersburg world all people were divided into utterly opposedclasses. One, the lower class, vulgar, stupid, and, above all,ridiculous people, who believe that one husband ought to live with theone wife whom he has lawfully married; that a girl should be innocent, awoman modest, and a man manly, self-controlled, and strong; that oneought to bring up one's children, earn one's bread, and pay one's debts;and various similar absurdities. This was the class of old-fashioned andridiculous people. But there was another class of people, the realpeople. To this class they all belonged, and in it the great thing wasto be elegant, generous, plucky, gay, to abandon oneself without a blushto every passion, and to laugh at everything else.

  For the first moment only, Vronsky was startled after the impression ofa quite different world that he had brought with him from Moscow. Butimmediately as though slipping his feet into old slippers, he droppedback into the light-hearted, pleasant world he had always lived in.

  The coffee was never really made, but spluttered over every one, andboiled away, doing just what was required of it--that is, providing muchcause for much noise and laughter, and spoiling a costly rug and thebaroness's gown.

  "Well now, good-bye, or you'll never get washed, and I shall have on myconscience the worst sin a gentleman can commit. So you would advise aknife to his throat?"

  "To be sure, and manage that your hand may not be far from his lips.He'll kiss your hand, and all will end satisfactorily," answeredVronsky.

  "So at the Francais!" and, with a rustle of her skirts, she vanished.

  Kamerovsky got up too, and Vronsky, not waiting for him to go, shookhands and went off to his dressing room.

  While he was washing, Petritsky described to him in brief outlines hisposition, as far as it had changed since Vronsky had left Petersburg. Nomoney at all. His father said he wouldn't give him any and pay hisdebts. His tailor was trying to get him locked up, and another fellow,too, was threatening to get him locked up. The colonel of the regimenthad announced that if these scandals did not cease he would have toleave. As for the baroness, he was sick to death of her, especiallysince she'd taken to offering continually to lend him money. But he hadfound a girl--he'd show her to Vronsky--a marvel, exquisite, in thestrict Oriental style, "genre of the slave Rebecca, don't you know."He'd had a row, too, with Berkoshov, and was going to send seconds tohim, but of course it would come to nothing. Altogether everything wassupremely amusing and jolly. And, not letting his comrade enter intofurther details of his position, Petritsky proceeded to tell him all theinteresting news. As he listened to Petritsky's familiar stories in thefamiliar setting of the rooms he had spent the last three years in,Vronsky felt a delightful sense of coming back to the carelessPetersburg life that he was used to.

  "Impossible!" he cried, letting down the pedal of the washing basin inwhich he had been sousing his healthy red neck. "Impossible!" he cried,at the news that Laura had flung over Fertinghof and had made up toMileev. "And is he as stupid and pleased as ever? Well, and how'sBuzulukov?"

  "Oh, there is a tale about Buzulukov--simply lovely!" cried Petritsky."You know his weakness for balls, and he never misses a single courtball. He went to a big ball in a new helmet. Have you seen the newhelmets? Very nice, lighter. Well, so he's standing.... No, I say, dolisten."

  "I am listening," answered Vronsky, rubbing himself with a rough towel.

  "Up comes the Grand Duchess with some ambassador or other, and, asill-luck would have it, she begins talking to him about the new helmets.The Grand Duchess positively wanted to show the new helmet to theambassador. They see our friend standing there." (Petritsky mimicked howhe was standing with the helmet.) "The Grand Duchess asked him to giveher the helmet; he doesn't give it to her. What do you think of that?Well, every one's winking at him, nodding, frowning--give it to her, do!He doesn't give it to her. He's mute as a fish. Only picture it!...Well, the ... what's his name, whatever he was ... tries to take thehelmet from him ... he won't give it up!... He pulls it from him, andhands it to the Grand Duchess. 'Here, your Highness,' says he, 'is thenew helmet.' She turned the helmet the other side up, And--just pictureit!--plop went a pear and sweetmeats out of it, two pounds ofsweetmeats!... He'd been storing them up, the darling!"

  Vronsky burst into roars of laughter. And long afterwards, when he wastalking of other things, he broke out into his healthy laugh, showinghis strong, close rows of teeth, when he thought of the helmet.

  Having heard all the news, Vronsky, with the assistance of his valet,got into his uniform, and went off to report himself. He intended, whenhe had done that, to drive to his broth
er's and to Betsy's and to payseveral visits with a view to beginning to go into that society where hemight meet Madame Karenina. As he always did in Petersburg, he left homenot meaning to return till late at night.

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