ready to forgive but you must understand that my wife - my wife! - a respectable woman is subjected to annoyances, and insults, and impertinences by certain milksops, scou-...'' Yet, you understand, the milksop is present, and it is up to me to make peace between them. Again I trot out all my diplomacy, and again, just as the matter is about to be concluded, our friend the government clerk gets heated and turns red while his country sausages bristle up, and I once more exert diplomatic finesse.'

`Ah, you must hear this story!' said Betsy, laughing, to a lady who was entering the box. `He has made me laugh so much... Well, bonne chance!' she added, giving Vronsky the one finger free from holding her fan, and with a shrug of her shoulders letting down the bodice of her gown, that had worked up, so as to be fittingly and fully nude as she moved forward, toward the footlights, into the lights of the gas, and within the ken of all.

Vronsky drove to the French theater, where he really had to see the colonel of his regiment, who never missed a single performance there; he wanted to talk over his peacemaking, which had been occupying and amusing him for the last three days. Petritsky, whom he liked, was implicated in the affair, as well as another fine fellow and excellent comrade, who had lately joined the regiment - the young Prince Kedrov. But, mainly, the interests of the regiment were involved as well.

Both culprits were in Vronsky's squadron. The colonel of the regiment had received a call from the government clerk, Venden, with a complaint against his officers, who had insulted his wife. His young wife, as Venden told the story - he had been married half a year - had been at church with her mother, and, suddenly feeling indisposed, due to her interesting condition, found that she could not remain standing and drove home in the first sleigh with the mettlesome coachman she came across. It was then that the officers set off in pursuit of her; she was alarmed, and, feeling still worse, ran home up the staircase. Venden himself, on returning from his office, had heard a ring at their bell and voices, had stepped out, and seeing the intoxicated officers with a letter, he had pushed them out. He was asking that the culprits be severely punished.

`You may say what you will,' said the colonel to Vronsky, whom he had invited to come and see him. `Petritsky is becoming impossible. Not a week goes by without some scrape. This clerk chap won't let matters drop - he'll go on with the thing.'

Vronsky saw all the thanklessness of the business, and that a duel was out of the question here; that everything must be done to soften this government clerk, and hush the matter up. The colonel had called in Vronsky precisely because he knew him to be an honorable and intelligent man, but, above all, one to whom the honor of the regiment was dear. They talked it over, and decided that Petritsky and Kedrov must go with Vronsky to this government clerk and apologize. The colonel and Vronsky were both fully aware that Vronsky's name and insignia of aide-de-camp were bound to go a long way toward softening the government clerk. And these two influences proved in fact not without effect; though the result of the mediation remained, as Vronsky had described, uncertain.

On reaching the French theater, Vronsky retired to the foyer with the colonel, and reported to him his success - or lack of it. The colonel, thinking it all over, decided not to go on with the matter; but then, for his own delectation, proceeded to question Vronsky about the details of his interview and for a long while could not restrain his laughter as he listened to Vronsky's story of how the government clerk, after subsiding for a while, would suddenly flare up again, as he recalled the details, and how Vronsky, at the last half-word of conciliation, had skillfully maneuvered a retreat, shoving Petritsky out before him.

`It's a disgraceful scrape, but a killing one. Kedrov really can't fight this gentleman! So he was awfully wrought up?' he asked again, laughing. `But what do you think of Claire today? She's a wonder!' he went on, speaking of a new French actress. `No matter how often you see her, she's different each time. It's only the French who can do that.'

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