loudly their delight at the expected triumph of their officer and comrade. Vronsky moved into the middle of the crowd unnoticed, almost at the very moment when the bell rang at the finish of the race, and the tall, mud-spattered cavalry guard who came in first, leaning over the saddle, let go the reins of his panting gray stallion that looked dark with sweat.

The stallion, stiffening out his legs, with an effort stopped his rapid course, and the officer of the cavalry guards looked round him like a man waking up from a heavy sleep, and just managed to smile. A crowd of friends and outsiders pressed round him.

Vronsky intentionally avoided that select crowd of upper world, which was moving and talking with discreet freedom before the pavilions. He knew that Madame Karenina was there, and Betsy, and his brother's wife, and he purposely did not go near them for fear of something distracting his attention. But he was continually met and stopped by acquaintances, who told him about the previous races, and kept asking him why he was so late.

At the time when the racers had to go to the pavilion to receive the prizes, and all attention was directed to that point, Vronsky's elder brother, Alexandre, a colonel with the shoulder knot, came up to him. He was not tall, though as broadly built as Alexei, and handsomer and rosier than he; he had a red nose, and an open, tipsy face.

`Did you get my note?' he said. `There's never any finding you.'

Alexandre Vronsky, in spite of his dissolute life, and particularly his drunken habits, for which he was notorious, was quite one of the Court circle.

Now, as he talked to his brother of a matter bound to be exceedingly disagreeable to him, knowing that the eyes of many people might be fixed upon him, he kept a smiling countenance, as though he were jesting with his brother about something of little moment.

`I got it, and I really can't make out what you are worrying yourself about,' said Alexei.

`I'm worrying myself because the remark has just been made to me that you weren't here, and that you were seen in Peterhof on Monday.'

`There are matters which only concern those directly interested in them, and the matter you are so worried about is of that nature...'

`Yes, but if so, one does not belong in the service, one does not...'

`I beg you not to meddle, and that is all.'

Alexei Vronsky's frowning face turned pale, and his prominent lower jaw quivered, which happened rarely with him. Being a man of very warm heart, he was seldom angry; but when he was angry, and when his chin quivered, then, as Alexandre Vronsky knew, he was dangerous. Alexandre Vronsky smiled gaily.

`I only wanted to give you mother's letter. Answer it and don't worry about anything just before the race. Bonne chance,' he added, smiling, and he moved away from him. But after him another friendly greeting brought Vronsky to a standstill.

`So you won't recognize your friends! How are you, mon cher?' said Stepan Arkadyevich, as conspicuously brilliant in the midst of all the Peterburg brilliance as he was in Moscow, his face rosy, and his whiskers sleek and glossy. `I came up yesterday, and I'm delighted because I shall see your triumph. When shall we meet?'

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.