`Ah! Here he is!' he cried, bringing his big hand down heavily on his epaulet. Vronsky looked round angrily, but his face lighted up immediately with his characteristic expression of calm and firm friendliness.

`That's it, Aliosha,' said the captain, in his loud baritone. `Have a bite and drink one tiny glass.'

`Oh, I'm not very hungry.'

`There go the inseparables,' Iashvin dropped, glancing sarcastically at the two officers who were at that instant leaving the room. And he bent his long legs, swathed in tight riding breeches, and sat down in the chair, too low for him, so that his knees were cramped up in a sharp angle. `Why didn't you turn up at Theater at Krasnoe Selo yesterday? Numerova wasn't at all bad. Where were you?'

`I was late at the Tverskys',' said Vronsky.

`Ah!' responded Iashvin.

Iashvin, a gambler and a rake, a man not merely without any principles, but of immoral principles - Iashvin was Vronsky's greatest friend in the regiment. Vronsky liked him both for his exceptional physical strength, which he showed for the most part by being able to drink like a fish and to do without sleep without being in the slightest degree affected by it; and for his great strength of character, which he showed in his relations with his comrades and superior officers, commanding both fear and respect, and also at cards, when he would play for tens of thousands and, however much he might have drunk, always with such skill and decision that he was reckoned the best player in the English Club. Vronsky respected and liked Iashvin particularly because he felt Iashvin liked him, not for his name and his money, but for himself. And of all men he was the only one with whom Vronsky would have liked to speak of his love. He felt that Iashvin, in spite of his apparent contempt for every sort of feeling, was the only man who could, so he fancied, comprehend the intense passion which now filled his whole life. Moreover, he felt certain that Iashvin, as it was, took no delight in gossip and scandal, and interpreted his feeling rightly - that is to say, knew and believed that this passion was not a joke, not a pastime, but something more serious and important.

Vronsky had never spoken to him of his passion, but he was aware that he knew all about it, and that he put the right interpretation on it, and he was glad to see this in his eyes.

`Ah! yes,' he said, to the announcement that Vronsky had been at the Tverskys'; and, his black eyes shining, he plucked at his left mustache, and began twisting it into his mouth - a bad habit he had.

`Well, and what did you do yesterday? Win anything?' asked Vronsky.

`Eight thousand. But three don't count; the chap will hardly pay up.'

`Oh, then you can afford to lose over me,' said Vronsky, laughing. (Iashvin had betted heavily on Vronsky in the races.)

`No chance of my losing. Makhotin's the only one who's a dangerous entrant.'

And the conversation passed to forecasts of the coming race, the only thing Vronsky could think of just now.

`Come along, I've finished,' said Vronsky, and getting up he went to the door. Iashvin got up too, stretching his long legs and his long back.

`It's too early for me to dine, but I must have a drink. I'll come along directly. Hi, wine!' he shouted, in his rich voice, that was so famous at drill, and set the windows shaking. `No, I don't need it!' he shouted again, immediately after. `You're going home, so I'll go with you.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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