Chapter 5

The waiting room of the celebrated Peterburg lawyer was full when Alexei Alexandrovich entered it. Three ladies - an old lady, a young lady, and a merchant's wife, and three gentlemen - one a German banker with a ring on his finger, the second a merchant with a beard, and the third a wrathful-looking government clerk in official uniform, with a cross on his neck - had obviously been waiting a long while already. Two clerks were writing at tables with scratching pens. The appurtenances of the writing tables, about which Alexei Alexandrovich was himself very fastidious, were exceptionally good. He could not help observing this. One of the clerks, without getting up, turned fretfully to Alexei Alexandrovich, half-closing his eyes.

`What is it you wish?'

`My business has to do with the lawyer.'

`He is engaged,' the clerk responded severely, and he pointed with his pen at the persons waiting, and went on writing.

`Can't he spare time to see me?' said Alexei Alexandrovich.

`He has no time free; he is always busy. Kindly wait your turn.'

`Then I must trouble you to give him my card,' Alexei Alexandrovich said with dignity, seeing the impossibility of preserving his incognito.

The clerk took the card and, obviously not approving of what he read on it, went to the door.

Alexei Alexandrovich was in principle in favor of the publicity of legal proceedings, though for some higher official considerations he disliked the application of the principle in Russia, and disapproved of it, as far as he could disapprove of anything instituted by authority of the Emperor. His whole life had been spent in administrative work, and consequently, when he did not approve of anything, his disapproval was softened by the recognition of the inevitability of mistakes and the possibility of reform in every department. In the new public law courts he disliked the restrictions laid on the lawyers conducting cases. But till then he had had nothing to do with the law courts, and so had disapproved of their publicity simply in theory; now his disapprobation was strengthened by the unpleasant impression made on him in the lawyer's waiting room.

`He will be out right away,' said the clerk; and two minutes later there did actually appear in the doorway the large figure of an old student of jurisprudence who had been consulting with the lawyer, and the lawyer himself.

The lawyer was a little, squat, bald man, with a dark, reddish beard, light-colored long eyebrows, and beetling brow. He was attired as though for a wedding, from his cravat to his double watch chain and patent-leather shoes. His face was clever and rustic, but his dress was dandified and in bad taste.

`Pray walk in,' said the lawyer, addressing Alexei Alexandrovich; and, gloomily ushering Karenin in before him, he closed the door. `Won't you sit down?' He indicated an armchair at a writing table covered with papers. He sat down himself, and, rubbing his little hands with short fingers covered with white hairs, he bent his head on one side. But as soon as he was settled in this position a moth flew over the table. The lawyer, with a swiftness that could never have been expected of him, opened his hands, caught the moth, and resumed his former attitude.

`Before beginning to speak of my business,' said Alexei Alexandrovich, following the lawyer's movements with wondering eyes, `I ought to observe that the matter about which I have to speak to you is to be a secret.'

The lawyer's drooping reddish mustaches were stirred by a scarcely perceptible smile.

`I should not be a lawyer if I could not keep the secrets confided to me. But if you would like proof...'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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