On reaching the French theater, Vronsky retired to the foyer with the colonel, and reported to him his success, or non-success. The colonel, thinking it all over, made up his mind not to pursue the matter further, but then for his own satisfaction proceeded to cross-examine Vronsky about his interview; and it was a long while before he could restrain his laughter, as Vronsky described how the government clerk, after subsiding for a while, would suddenly flare up again, as he recalled the details, and how Vronsky, at the last half word of conciliation, skillfully maneuvered a retreat, shoving Petritsky out before him.
“It’s a disgraceful story, but killing. Kedrov really can’t fight the gentleman! Was he so awfully hot?” he commented, laughing. “But what do you say to Claire today? She’s marvelous,” he went on, speaking of a new French actress. “However often you see her, every day she’s different. It’s only the French who can do that.”
Princess Betsy drove home from the theater, without waiting for the end of the last act. She had only just time to go into her dressing room, sprinkle her long, pale face with powder, rub it, set her dress to rights, and order tea in the big drawing room, when one after another carriages drove up to her huge house in Bolshaia Morskaia. Her guests stepped out at the wide entrance, and the stout porter, who used to read the newspapers in the mornings behind the glass door, to the edification of the passers-by, noiselessly opened the immense door, letting the visitors pass by him into the house.
Almost at the same instant the hostess, with freshly arranged coiffure and freshened face, walked in at one door and her guests at the other door of the drawing room, a large room with dark walls, downy rugs, and a brightly lighted table, gleaming with the light of candles, white cloth, silver samovar, and transparent china tea things.
The hostess sat down at the table and took off her gloves. Chairs were set with the aid of footmen, moving almost imperceptibly about the room; the party settled itself, divided into two groups: one round the samovar near the hostess, the other at the opposite end of the drawing room, round the handsome wife of an ambassador, in black velvet, with sharply defined black eyebrows. In both groups conversation wavered, as it always does, for the first few minutes, broken up by meetings, greetings, offers of tea, and as it were, feeling about for something to rest upon.
“She’s exceptionally good as an actress; one can see she’s studied Kaulbach,” said a diplomatic attache in the group round the ambassador’s wife. “Did you notice how she fell down?...”