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Anna Karenina 74


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that house. No one knows; only their hosts valet, in answer to their inquiry whether any young ladies are living on the top floor, answered that there were a great many of them about there. After dinner the two young men go into their hosts study, and write a letter to the unknown fair one. They compose an ardent epistle, a declaration in fact, and they carry the letter upstairs themselves, so as to elucidate whatever might appear not perfectly intelligible in the letter." "Why are you telling me these horrible stories? Well?" "They ring. A maidservant opens the door, they hand her the letter, and assure the maid that theyre both so in love that theyll die on the spot at the door. The maid, stupefied, carries in their messages. All at once a gentleman appears with whiskers like sausages, as red as a lobster, announces that there is no one living in the flat except his wife, and sends them both about their business." "How do you know he had whiskers like sausages, as you say?" "Ah, you shall hear. Ive just been to make peace between them." "Well, and what then?" "Thats the most interesting part of the story. It appears that its a happy couple, a government clerk and his lady. The government clerk lodges a complaint, and I became a mediator, and such a mediator!... I assure you Talleyrand couldnt hold a candle to me." "Why, where was the difficulty?" "Ah, you shall hear.... We apologize in due form: we are in despair, we entreat forgiveness for the unfortunate misunderstanding. The government clerk with the sausages begins to melt, but he, too, desires to express his sentiments, and as soon as ever he begins to express them, he begins to get hot and say nasty things, and again Im obliged to trot out all my diplomatic talents. I allowed that their conduct was bad, but I urged him to take into consideration their heedlessness, their youth; then, too, the young men had only just been lunching together. You understand. They regret it deeply, and beg you to overlook their misbehavior. The government clerk was softened once more. I consent, count, and am ready to overlook it; but you perceive that my wife--my wifes a respectable woman --has been exposed to the persecution, and insults, and effrontery of young upstarts, scoundrels.... And you must understand, the young upstarts are present all the while, and I have to keep the peace between them. Again I call out all my diplomacy, and again as soon as the thing was about at an end, our friend the government clerk gets hot and red, and his sausages stand on end with wrath, and once more I launch out into diplomatic wiles." "Ah, he must tell you this story!" said Betsy, laughing, to a lady who came into her box. "He has been making me laugh so." "Well, _bonne chance_!" she added, giving Vronsky one finger of the hand in which she held her fan, and with a shrug of her shoulders she twitched down the bodice of her gown that had worked up, so as to be duly naked as she moved forward towards the footlights into the light of the gas, and the sight of all eyes. Vronsky drove to the French theater, where he really had to see the colonel of his regiment, who never missed a single performance there. He wanted to see him, to report on the result of his mediation, which had occupied and amused him for the last three days. Petritsky, whom he liked, was implicated in the affair, and the other culprit was a capital fellow and first-rate comrade, who had lately joined the regiment, the young Prince Kedrov. And what was most important, the interests of the regiment were involved in it too. Both the young men were in Vronskys company. The colonel of the regiment was waited upon by the government clerk, Venden, with a complaint against his officers, who had insulted his wife. His young wife, so Venden told the story--he had been married half a year--was at church with her mother, and suddenly overcome by indisposition, arising from her interesting condition, she could not remain standing, she drove home in the first sledge, a smart-looking one, she came across. On the spot the officers set off in pursuit of her; she was alarmed, and feeling still more unwell, ran up the staircase home. Venden

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