Stepan Arkadyevitch was glad, too, that he was having a good time, and that everyone was pleased. The episode of the elections served as a good occasion for a capital dinner. Sviazhsky comically imitated the tearful discourse of the marshal, and observed, addressing Nevyedovsky, that his excellency would have to select another more complicated method of auditing the accounts than tears. Another nobleman jocosely described how footmen in stockings had been ordered for the marshal’s ball, and how now they would have to be sent back unless the new marshal would give a ball with footmen in stockings.
Continually during dinner they said of Nevyedovsky: “our marshal,” and “your excellency.”
This was said with the same pleasure with which a bride is called “Madame” and her husband’s name. Nevyedovsky affected to be not merely indifferent but scornful of this appellation, but it was obvious that he was highly delighted, and had to keep a curb on himself not to betray the triumph which was unsuitable to their new liberal tone.
After dinner several telegrams were sent to people interested in the result of the election. And Stepan Arkadyevitch, who was in high good humor, sent Darya Alexandrovna a telegram: “Nevyedovsky elected by twenty votes. Congratulations. Tell people.” He dictated it aloud, saying: “We must let them share our rejoicing.” Darya Alexandrovna, getting the message, simply sighed over the rouble wasted on it, and understood that it was an after-dinner affair. She knew Stiva had a weakness after dining for faire jouer le telegraphe.
Everything, together with the excellent dinner and the wine, not from Russian merchants, but imported direct from abroad, was extremely dignified, simple, and enjoyable. The party—some twenty—had been selected by Sviazhsky from among the more active new liberals, all of the same way of thinking, who were at the same time clever and well bred. They drank, also half in jest, to the health of the new marshal of the province, of the governor, of the bank director, and of “our amiable host.”
Vronsky was satisfied. He had never expected to find so pleasant a tone in the provinces.
Towards the end of dinner it was still more lively. The governor asked Vronsky to come to a concert for the benefit of the Servians which his wife, who was anxious to make his acquaintance, had been getting up.
“There’ll be a ball, and you’ll see the belle of the province. Worth seeing, really.”
“Not in my line,” Vronsky answered. He liked that English phrase. But he smiled, and promised to come.
Before they rose from the table, when all of them were smoking, Vronsky’s valet went up to him with a letter on a tray.
“From Vozdvizhenskoe by special messenger,” he said with a significant expression.
“Astonishing! how like he is to the deputy prosecutor Sventitsky,” said one of the guests in French of the valet, while Vronsky, frowning, read the letter.