`Why didn't you come to dinner?' she said to him. `I marvel at this clairvoyance of lovers,' she added with a smile, so that no one but he could hear, `she wasn't there. But do come after the opera.'
Vronsky looked inquiringly at her. She nodded. He thanked her by a smile, and sat down beside her.
`But how I remember your jeers!' continued Princess Betsy, who took special delight in following up the progress of this passion. `What's become of all that? You're caught, my dear fellow.'
`That's my one desire - to be caught,' answered Vronsky, with his calm, good-natured smile. `If I complain at all, it's only that I'm not caught enough, if the truth were told. I begin to lose hope.'
`Why, whatever hope can you expect?' said Betsy, offended on behalf of her friend. `Entendons nous....' But in her eyes flitted gleams of light, which proclaimed that she understood very well, even as much as he did, what hope he might entertain.
`None whatever,' said Vronsky, laughing and showing his closely set teeth. `Excuse me,' he added, taking the binoculars out of her hand, and proceeding to scrutinize, over her bare shoulder, the row of boxes opposite them. `I'm afraid I'm becoming ridiculous.'
He was very well aware that he ran no risk of being ridiculous in the eyes of Betsy and all other fashionable people. He was very well aware that in the eyes of these people the role of the hapless lover of a girl, or in general, of any woman free to marry, might be ridiculous; but the role of a man pursuing a married woman, and, regardless of everything, staking his life on drawing her into adultery - that role has something beautiful and majestic about it, and can never be ridiculous, and so it was with a proud and gay smile under his mustaches that he lowered the binoculars and looked at his cousin.
`But why didn't you come to dinner?' she said, admiring him.
`I must tell you about that. I was busy - and with what, do you suppose? I'll give you a hundred guesses, a thousand... you'd never guess. I've been reconciling a husband with a man who'd insulted his wife. Yes, really!'
`Well, did you reconcile them?'
`You really must tell me about it,' she said, getting up. `Come to me in the next entr'acte.'
`I can't; I'm going to the French theater.'
`Leaving Nilsson?' Betsy queried in horror, though she could not herself have distinguished Nilsson from any chorus girl.
`What can I do? I've an appointment there, all because of my mission of peace.'
`'Blessed are the peacemakers;'' ``they shall be saved',' said Betsy, recalling something of that sort she had heard from somebody or other. `Very well, then, sit down, and tell me what it's all about.'
And she resumed her seat.
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