While he was washing, Petritsky described to him in brief outlines his position, as far as it had changed since Vronsky had left Petersburg. No money at all. His father said he wouldn’t give him any and pay his debts. His tailor was trying to get him locked up, and another fellow, too, was threatening to get him locked up. The colonel of the regiment had announced that if these scandals did not cease he would have to leave. As for the baroness, he was sick to death of her, especially since she’d taken to offering continually to lend him money. But he had found a girl—he’d show her to Vronsky—a marvel, exquisite, in the strict Oriental style, “genre of the slave Rebecca, don’t you know.” He’d had a row, too, with Berkoshov, and was going to send seconds to him, but of course it would come to nothing. Altogether everything was supremely amusing and jolly. And, not letting his comrade enter into further details of his position, Petritsky proceeded to tell him all the interesting news. As he listened to Petritsky’s familiar stories in the familiar setting of the rooms he had spent the last three years in, Vronsky felt a delightful sense of coming back to the careless Petersburg life that he was used to.
“Impossible!” he cried, letting down the pedal of the washing basin in which he had been sousing his healthy red neck. “Impossible!” he cried, at the news that Laura had flung over Fertinghof and had made up to Mileev. “And is he as stupid and pleased as ever? Well, and how’s Buzulukov?”
“Oh, there is a tale about Buzulukov—simply lovely!” cried Petritsky. “You know his weakness for balls, and he never misses a single court ball. He went to a big ball in a new helmet. Have you seen the new helmets? Very nice, lighter. Well, so he’s standing.... No, I say, do listen.”
“I am listening,” answered Vronsky, rubbing himself with a rough towel.
“Up comes the Grand Duchess with some ambassador or other, and, as ill-luck would have it, she begins talking to him about the new helmets. The Grand Duchess positively wanted to show the new helmet to the ambassador. They see our friend standing there.” (Petritsky mimicked how he was standing with the helmet.) “The Grand Duchess asked him to give her the helmet; he doesn’t give it to her. What do you think of that? Well, every one’s winking at him, nodding, frowning—give it to her, do! He doesn’t give it to her. He’s mute as a fish. Only picture it!... Well, the...what’s his name, whatever he was...tries to take the helmet from him...he won’t give it up!... He pulls it from him, and hands it to the Grand Duchess. ‘Here, your Highness,’ says he, ‘is the new helmet.’ She turned the helmet the other side up, And—just picture it!—plop went a pear and sweetmeats out of it, two pounds of sweetmeats!...He’d been storing them up, the darling!”
Vronsky burst into roars of laughter. And long afterwards, when he was talking of other things, he broke out into his healthy laugh, showing his strong, close rows of teeth, when he thought of the helmet.