`This is a true friend of mine - almost my greatest friend,' he said to Vronsky. `You also are still closer and dearer to me. And I want you, and I know you ought, to be friends, and great friends, because you're both splendid fellows.'

`Well, there's nothing for us now but to kiss and be friends,' Vronsky said, with good-natured playfulness, holding out his hand.

Levin quickly took the offered hand, and squeezed it warmly.

`I'm very, very glad,' said Levin.

`Waiter, a bottle of champagne,' said Stepan Arkadyevich.

`And I'm very glad,' said Vronsky.

But in spite of Stepan Arkadyevich's desire, and their own desire, they had nothing to talk about, and both felt it.

`Do you know, he has never met Anna?' Stepan Arkadyevich said to Vronsky. `And I want above everything to take him to see her. Let us go, Levin!'

`Really?' said Vronsky. `She will be very glad to see you. I should be going home at once,' he added, `but I'm worried about Iashvin, and I want to stay on till he finishes.'

`Why, is he losing?'

`He keeps losing, and I'm the only friend that can restrain him.'

`Well, what do you say to pyramids? Levin, will you play? Capital!' said Stepan Arkadyevich. `Get the table ready,' he said to the marker.

`It has been ready a long while,' answered the marker, who had already set the balls in a triangle, and was knocking the red one about for his own diversion.

`Well, let us begin.'

After the game Vronsky and Levin sat down at Gaghin's table, and at Stepan Arkadyevich's suggestion Levin took a hand in the game. Vronsky sat down at the table, surrounded by friends, who were incessantly coming up to him. Every now and then he went to the `infernal' to keep an eye on Iashvin. Levin was enjoying a delightful sense of repose after the mental fatigue of the morning. He was glad that all hostility was at an end with Vronsky, and the sense of peace, decorum and comfort never left him.

When the game was over, Stepan Arkadyevich took Levin's arm.

`Well, let us go to Anna's, then. At once? Eh? She is at home. I promised her long ago to bring you. Where were you intending to spend the evening?'

`Oh, nowhere specially. I promised Sviiazhsky to go to the Society of Agriculture. By all means, let us go,' said Levin.

`Very good; come along. Find out if my carriage is here,' Stepan Arkadyevich said to the waiter.

Levin went up to the table, paid the forty roubles he had lost; paid his bill, the amount of which was in some mysterious way ascertained by the little old waiter who stood at the counter, and, swinging his arms, he walked through all the rooms to the exit.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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