Chapter 21

`I've come to fetch you. Your lessive lasted a good time today,' said Petritsky. `Well, is it over?'

`It's over,' answered Vronsky, smiling with his eyes only, and twirling the tips of his mustaches as circumspectly as though after the perfect order into which his affairs had been brought any overbold or rapid movement might disturb it.

`You're always just as if you'd come out of a bath after it,' said Petritsky. `I've come from Gritzka' (that was what they called the colonel); - `you're expected there.'

Vronsky, without answering, looked at his comrade, thinking of something else.

`Yes; is that music at his place?' he said, listening to the familiar bass sounds of trumpets, of polkas and waltzes, floating across to him. `What's the fete?'

`Serpukhovskoy's come.'

`Aha!' said Vronsky. `Why, I didn't know.'

The smile in his eyes gleamed more brightly than ever.

Having once made up his mind that he was happy in his love, that he sacrificed his ambition to it - at any rate, having taken up this role - Vronsky was incapable of feeling either envious of Serpukhovskoy, or vexed at him for not having come to him first upon coming to the regiment. Serpukhovskoy was a good friend, and he was delighted he had come.

`Ah, I'm very glad!'

The colonel, Demin, had taken a large country house. The whole party was on the wide lower balcony. In the courtyard the first objects that met Vronsky's eyes were a band of singers in short white linen jackets, standing near a barrel of vodka, and the robust, good-humored figure of the colonel surrounded by officers. He had gone out as far as the first step of the balcony and was loudly shouting to drown out the band playing an Offenbach quadrille, waving his arms and giving some orders to a few soldiers standing on one side. A group of soldiers, a quartermaster, and several subalterns came up to the balcony with Vronsky. The colonel returned to the table, went out again on the steps with a tumbler in his hand, and proposed the toast, `To the health of our former comrade, the gallant general, Prince Serpukhovskoy. Hurrah!'

The colonel was followed by Serpukhovskoy, who came out on the steps smiling, with a glass in his hand.

`You always get younger, Bondarenko,' he said to the rosy-cheeked, smart-looking sergeant standing just before him, still youngish-looking though doing his second term of service.

It was three years since Vronsky had seen Serpukhovskoy. He looked more robust, had let his whiskers grow, but was still the same graceful creature, whose face and figure were even more striking from their fineness and nobility than their beauty. The only change Vronsky detected in him was that subdued, continual beaming which settles on the faces of men who are successful and are sure of the recognition of their success by everyone. Vronsky knew that radiant air, and immediately observed it in Serpukhovskoy.

As Serpukhovskoy came down the steps he saw Vronsky. A smile of pleasure lighted up his face. He tossed his head upward and waved the glass in his hand, greeting Vronsky, and showing him by the gesture that he could not come to him before kissing the sergeant who stood craning forward his lips ready to be kissed.

`Here he is!' shouted the colonel. `Iashvin told me you were in one of your gloomy tempers.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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