“I beg you not to meddle, and that’s all I have to say.”
Alexey Vronsky’s frowning face turned white, and his prominent lower jaw quivered, which happened rarely with him. Being a man of very warm heart, he was seldom angry; but when he was angry, and when his chin quivered, then, as Alexander Vronsky knew, he was dangerous. Alexander Vronsky smiled gaily.
“I only wanted to give you Mother’s letter. Answer it, and don’t worry about anything just before the race. Bonne chance,” he added, smiling and he moved away from him. But after him another friendly greeting brought Vronsky to a standstill.
“So you won’t recognize your friends! How are you, mon cher?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, as conspicuously brilliant in the midst of all the Petersburg brilliance as he was in Moscow, his face rosy, and his whiskers sleek and glossy. “I came up yesterday, and I’m delighted that I shall see your triumph. When shall we meet?”
“Come tomorrow to the messroom,” said Vronsky, and squeezing him by the sleeve of his coat, with apologies, he moved away to the center of the race course, where the horses were being led for the great steeplechase.
The horses who had run in the last race were being led home, steaming and exhausted, by the stable-boys, and one after another the fresh horses for the coming race made their appearance, for the most part English racers, wearing horsecloths, and looking with their drawn-up bellies like strange, huge birds. On the right was led in Frou-Frou, lean and beautiful, lifting up her elastic, rather long pasterns, as though moved by springs. Not far from her they were taking the rug off the lop-eared Gladiator. The strong, exquisite, perfectly correct lines of the stallion, with his superb hind-quarters and excessively short pasterns almost over his hoofs, attracted Vronsky’s attention in spite of himself. He would have gone up to his mare, but he was again detained by an acquaintance.
“Oh, there’s Karenin!” said the acquaintance with whom he was chatting. “He’s looking for his wife, and she’s in the middle of the pavilion. Didn’t you see her?”
“No,” answered Vronsky, and without even glancing round towards the pavilion where his friend was pointing out Madame Karenina, he went up to his mare.
Vronsky had not had time to look at the saddle, about which he had to give some direction, when the competitors were summoned to the pavilion to receive their numbers and places in the row at starting. Seventeen officers, looking serious and severe, many with pale faces, met together in the pavilion and drew the numbers. Vronsky drew the number seven. The cry was heard: “Mount!”