Chapter 34

Upon his departure from Peterburg Vronsky had left his large apartments on Morskaia to his friend and favorite comrade Petritsky.

Petritsky was a young lieutenant, not particularly well-connected, and not merely not wealthy, but in debt all around. Toward evening he was always drunk, and he had often found himself in the guardhouse because of sorts of ludicrous and disgraceful scrapes, but he was a favorite both of his comrades and his superior officers. At twelve o'clock, as Vronsky was driving up from the station to his quarters, he saw, near the entrance of the house, a hired carriage familiar to him. Even as he rang he heard, beyond the door, masculine laughter, the twitter of a feminine voice, and Petritsky's shout: `If that's one of the villains, don't let him in!' Vronsky told the servant not to announce him, and slipped noiselessly into the first room. Baroness Shilton, a friend of Petritsky's, with a rosy little face and flaxen-fair, resplendent in a lilac satin gown, and filling the whole room, like a canary, with her Parisian accents, sat at a round table, brewing coffee. Petritsky, in his overcoat, and the cavalry captain Kamerovsky, in full uniform, probably just come from duty, were sitting near her.

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

`I should say so!' said Vronsky, with a bright smile, squeezing the Barones'ss little hand. `Why, we're old friends.'

`You've just returned after traveling,' said the Baroness, `so I'll run along. 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 can never say such charming things,' said the Baroness, turning to Petritsky.

`No - why not? After dinner even I can say things quite as good.'

`After dinner there's no merit in them! Well, then, I'll give you some coffee; go wash and tidy up,' said the Baroness, sitting down again, and anxiously turning a gadget in the new coffee urn. `Pierre, give me the coffee,' she said, addressing Petritsky, whom she called Pierre, playing on his surname, making no secret of her relations with him. `I want to put some more in.'

`You'll spoil it!'

`No, I won't spoil it! Well, and how is your wife?' said the Baroness suddenly, interrupting Vronsky's conversation with his comrade. `We've been marrying you off here. Have you brought your wife along?'

`No, Baroness. I was born a gypsy, and a gypsy I'll die.'

`So much the better - so much the better. Shake hands on it.'

And the Baroness, detaining Vronsky, began telling him, interspersing her story with many jokes, about her latest plans of life, and seeking his counsel.

`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 would you advise? Kamerovsky, look after the coffee - it's boiled out; you can see I'm taken up with business! I want a lawsuit, because I must have my property. You can understand the stupidity of his saying that I am unfaithful to him,' she said contemptuously, `yet through it he wants to get the benefit of my fortune.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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