All the tables in the restaurant were taken—and over them floated the continuous noise of knives upon plates and a motley babel, galloping in waves. It smelt of rich and pungent kitchen fumes. In the middle of the restaurant, upon a stand, Roumanians in red frocks were playing; all swarthy, white-toothed, with the faces of whiskered, pomaded apes, with their hair licked down. The director of the orchestra, bending forward and affectedly swaying, was playing upon a violin and making unseemly sweet eyes at the public—the eyes of a man-prostitute. And everything together— this abundance of tiresome electric lights, the exaggeratedly bright toilettes of the ladies, the odours of modish, spicy perfumes, this ringing music, with willful slowings up of the tempo, with voluptuous swoonings in the transitions, with the tempestuous passages screwed up—everything fitted the one to the other, forming a general picture of insane and stupid luxury, a setting for an imitation of a gay, unseemly carouse.
Above, around the entire hall, ran open galleries, upon which, as upon little balconies, opened the doors of the private cabinets. In one of these cabinets four were sitting—two ladies and two men; an artiste known to all Russia, the cantatrice Rovinskaya, a large, handsome woman, with long, green, Egyptian eyes, and a long, red, sensuous mouth, the lips of which were rapaciously drooping at the corners; the baroness Tefting, little, exquisite, pale—she was everywhere seen with the artiste; the famous lawyer Ryazanov; and Volodya Chaplinsky, a rich young man of the world, a composer-dilettante, the author of several darling little ballads and many witticisms upon the topics of the day, which circulated all over town.
The walls of the cabinet were red, with a gold design. On the table, among the lighted candelabra, two white, tarred necks of bottles stuck up out of an electroplated vase, which had sweated from the cold, and the light in a tenuous gold played in the shallow goblets of wine. Outside, near the doors, a waiter was on duty, leaning against the wall; while the stout, tall, important maitre d’hotel, on whose right little finger, always sticking out, sparkled a huge diamond, would frequently stop at these doors, and attentively listen with one ear to what was going on in the cabinet.
The baroness, with a bored, pale face, was listlessly gazing through a lorgnette down at the droning, chewing, swarming crowd. Among the red, white, blue and straw-coloured feminine dresses the uniform figures of the men resembled large, squat, black beetles. Rovinskaya negligently, yet at the same time intently as well, was looking down upon the stand and the spectators, and her face expressed fatigue, ennui, and perhaps also that satiation with all spectacles, which are such matters of course to celebrities. The splendid, long, slender fingers of her left hand were lying upon the crimson velvet of the box-seat. Emeralds of a rare beauty hung upon them so negligently that it seemed as though they would fall off at any second, and suddenly she began laughing.