The waiting-room of the celebrated Petersburg lawyer was full when Alexey Alexandrovitch entered it. Three ladies—an old lady, a young lady, and a merchant’s wife—and three gentlemen— one a German banker with a ring on his finger, the second a merchant with a beard, and the third a wrathful-looking government clerk in official uniform, with a cross on his neck— had obviously been waiting a long while already. Two clerks were writing at tables with scratching pens. The appurtenances of the writing-tables, about which Alexey Alexandrovitch was himself very fastidious, were exceptionally good. He could not help observing this. One of the clerks, without getting up, turned wrathfully to Alexey Alexandrovitch, half closing his eyes. “What are you wanting?”
He replied that he had to see the lawyer on some business.
“He is engaged,” the clerk responded severely, and he pointed with his pen at the persons waiting, and went on writing.
“Can’t he spare time to see me?” said Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“He has no time free; he is always busy. Kindly wait your turn.”
“Then I must trouble you to give him my card,” Alexey Alexandrovitch said with dignity, seeing the impossibility of preserving his incognito.
The clerk took the card and, obviously not approving of what he read on it, went to the door.
Alexey Alexandrovitch was in principle in favor of the publicity of legal proceedings, though for some higher official considerations he disliked the application of the principle in Russia, and disapproved of it, as far as he could disapprove of anything instituted by authority of the Emperor. His whole life had been spent in administrative work, and consequently, when he did not approve of anything, his disapproval was softened by the recognition of the inevitability of mistakes and the possibility of reform in every department. In the new public law courts he disliked the restrictions laid on the lawyers conducting cases. But till then he had had nothing to do with the law courts, and so had disapproved of their publicity simply in theory; now his disapprobation was strengthened by the unpleasant impression made on him in the lawyer’s waiting room.
“Coming immediately,” said the clerk; and two minutes later there did actually appear in the doorway the large figure of an old solicitor who had been consulting with the lawyer himself.
The lawyer was a little, squat, bald man, with a dark, reddish beard, light-colored long eyebrows, and an overhanging brow. He was attired as though for a wedding, from his cravat to his double watch-chain and varnished boots. His face was clever and manly, but his dress was dandified and in bad taste.
“Pray walk in,” said the lawyer, addressing Alexey Alexandrovitch; and, gloomily ushering Karenin in before him, he closed the door.
“Won’t you sit down?” He indicated an armchair at a writing table covered with papers. He sat down himself, and, rubbing his little hands with short fingers covered with white hairs, he bent his head on one side. But as soon as he was settled in this position a moth flew over the table. The lawyer, with a swiftness that could never have been expected of him, opened his hands, caught the moth, and resumed his former attitude.