“You’ll spoil it!”
“No, I won’t spoil it! Well, and your wife?” said the baroness suddenly, interrupting Vronsky’s conversation with his comrade. “We’ve been marrying you here. Have you brought your wife?”
“No, baroness. I was born a Bohemian, and a Bohemian I shall die.”
“So much the better, so much the better. Shake hands on it.”
And the baroness, detaining Vronsky, began telling him, with many jokes, about her last new plans of life, asking his advice.
“He persists in refusing to give me a divorce! Well, what am I to do?” (He was her husband.) “Now I want to begin a suit against him. What do you advise? Kamerovsky, look after the coffee; it’s boiling over. You see, I’m engrossed with business! I want a lawsuit, because I must have my property. Do you understand the folly of it, that on the pretext of my being unfaithful to him,” she said contemptuously, “he wants to get the benefit of my fortune.”
Vronsky heard with pleasure this light-hearted prattle of a pretty woman, agreed with her, gave her half-joking counsel, and altogether dropped at once into the tone habitual to him in talking to such women. In his Petersburg world all people were divided into utterly opposed classes. One, the lower class, vulgar, stupid, and, above all, ridiculous people, who believe that one husband ought to live with the one wife whom he has lawfully married; that a girl should be innocent, a woman modest, and a man manly, self-controlled, and strong; that one ought to bring up one’s children, earn one’s bread, and pay one’s debts; and various similar absurdities. This was the class of old-fashioned and ridiculous people. But there was another class of people, the real people. To this class they all belonged, and in it the great thing was to be elegant, generous, plucky, gay, to abandon oneself without a blush to every passion, and to laugh at everything else.
For the first moment only, Vronsky was startled after the impression of a quite different world that he had brought with him from Moscow. But immediately as though slipping his feet into old slippers, he dropped back into the light-hearted, pleasant world he had always lived in.
The coffee was never really made, but spluttered over every one, and boiled away, doing just what was required of it—that is, providing much cause for much noise and laughter, and spoiling a costly rug and the baroness’s gown.
“Well now, good-bye, or you’ll never get washed, and I shall have on my conscience the worst sin a gentleman can commit. So you would advise a knife to his throat?”
“To be sure, and manage that your hand may not be far from his lips. He’ll kiss your hand, and all will end satisfactorily,” answered Vronsky.
“So at the Francais!” and, with a rustle of her skirts, she vanished.
Kamerovsky got up too, and Vronsky, not waiting for him to go, shook hands and went off to his dressing room.