The valet, conscious of his own innocence, would have defended himself, but, glancing at his master, he saw from his face that the only thing to do was to be silent, and hurriedly threading his way in and out, dropped down on the carpet and began gathering up the whole and broken glasses and bottles.

`That's not your duty; send the waiter to clear away, and get my dress coat out.'

Vronsky arrived at the theater at half-past eight The performance was in full swing. The little old boxkeeper, recognizing Vronsky as he helped him off with his fur coat, called him `Your Excellency,' and suggested he should not take a check but should simply call Fiodor. In the brightly lighted corridor there was no one but the box opener and two footmen with fur cloaks on their arms listening at the doors. Through the closed doors came the sounds of the discreet staccato accompaniment of the orchestra, and a single female voice rendering distinctly a musical phrase. The door opened to let the box opener slip through, and the phrase drawing to the end reached Vronsky's hearing clearly. But the doors were closed again at once, and Vronsky did not hear the end of the phrase and the cadence of the accompaniment, though he knew from the thunder of applause that it was over. When he entered the hall, brilliantly lighted with chandeliers and gas jets, the noise was still going on. On the stage the singer, bowing and smiling, flashing with bare shoulders and with diamonds, was, with the help of the tenor who had given her his arm, gathering up the bouquets that were clumsily flying over the footlights. Then she went up to a gentleman with glossy pomaded hair parted down the middle, who was stretching across the footlights holding out something to her, and all the public in the stalls as well as in the boxes was in excitement, craning forward, shouting and clapping. The conductor in his high chair assisted in passing the offering, and straightened his white tie. Vronsky walked into the middle of the stalls, and, standing still, began looking about him. That day less than ever was his attention turned upon the familiar, habitual surroundings, the stage, the noise, all the familiar, uninteresting, particolored herd of spectators in the packed theater.

There were, as always, the same ladies of some sort with officers of some sort in the back of the boxes; the same gaily dressed women - God knows who - and uniforms and black coats; the same dirty crowd in the upper gallery, and among the crowd, in the boxes and in the front rows, were some forty of the real people, men and women. And to those oases Vronsky at once directed his attention, and with them he entered at once into relation.

The act was over when he went in, and so he did not go straight to his brother's box, but going up to the first row of stalls stopped at the footlights with Serpukhovskoy, who, standing with one knee, raised and his heel on the footlights, caught sight of him in the distance and beckoned to him, smiling.

Vronsky had not yet seen Anna. He purposely avoided looking in her direction. But he knew by the direction of people's eyes where she was. He looked round discreetly, but he was not seeking her; expecting the worst, his eyes sought for Alexei Alexandrovich. To his relief Alexei Alexandrovich was not in the theater that evening.

`How little of the military man there is left in you!' Serpukhovskoy was saying to him. `A diplomat, an artist, something of that sort, one would say.'

`Yes, it was like going back home when I put on a dress coat,' answered Vronsky, smiling and slowly taking out his opera glasses.

`Well, I'll own I envy you there. When I come back from abroad and put on this,' he touched his shoulder knot, `I regret my freedom.'

Serpukhovskoy had long given up all hope of Vronsky's career, but he liked him as before, and was now particularly cordial to him.

`What a pity you were not in time for the first act!'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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