ON the day of the races at Krasnoe Selo, Vronsky had come earlier than usual to eat beefsteak in the common mess-room of the regiment. He had no need to be strict with himself, as he had very quickly been brought down to the required light weight; but still he had to avoid gaining flesh, and so he eschewed farinaceous and sweet dishes. He sat with his coat unbuttoned over a white waistcoat, resting both elbows on the table, and while waiting for the steak he had ordered he looked at a French novel that lay open on his plate. He was only looking at the book to avoid conversation with the officers coming in and out; he was thinking.
He was thinking of Annas promise to see him that day after the races. But he had not seen her for three days, and as her husband had just returned from abroad, he did not know whether she would be able to meet him to-day or not, and he did not know how to find out. He had had his last interview with her at his cousin Betsys summer villa. He visited the Karenins summer villa as rarely as possible. Now he wanted to go there, and he pondered the question how to do it.
Of course I shall say Betsy has sent me to ask whether shes coming to the races. Of course, Ill go, he decided, lifting his head from the book. And as he vividly pictured the happiness of seeing her, his face lighted up.
Send to my house, and tell them to have out the carriage and three horses as quick as they can, he said to the servant, who handed him the steak on a hot silver dish, and moving the dish up he began eating.
From the billiard-room next door came the sound of balls knocking, of talk and laughter. Two officers appeared at the entrance-door: one, a young fellow, with a feeble, delicate face, who had lately joined the regiment from the Corps of Pages; the other, a plump, elderly officer, with a bracelet on his wrist, and little eyes, lost in fat.
Ah! here he is! he cried, bringing his big hand down heavily on his epaulet. Vronsky looked round angrily, but his face lighted up immediately with his characteristic expression of genial and manly serenity.
There go the inseparables, Yashvin dropped, glancing sarcastically at the two officers who were at that instant leaving the room. And he bent his long legs, swathed in tight riding-breeches, and sat down in the chair, too low for him, so that his knees were cramped up in a sharp angle.
Yashvin, a gambler and a rake, a man not merely without moral principles, but of immoral principles, Yashvin was Vronskys greatest friend in the regiment. Vronsky liked him both for his exceptional physical strength, which he showed for the most part by being able to drink like a fish, and do without sleep without being in the slightest degree affected by it; and for his great strength of character, which he showed in his relations with his comrades and superior officers, commanding both fear and respect, and also at cards, when he would play for tens of thousands, and however much he might have drunk, always with such skill and decision, that he was reckoned the best player in the English Club. Vronsky respected and liked Yashvin particularly because he felt Yashvin liked him, not for his name and his money, but for himself. And of all men he was the only one with whom Vronsky would have liked to speak of his love. He felt that Yashvin, in spite of his apparent contempt for every sort of feeling, was the only man who could, so he fancied, comprehend the intense passion which now filled his whole life. Moreover, he felt certain that Yashvin, as it was, took no delight in gossip and scandal, and interpreted his feeling rightly, that is to say, knew and believed that this passion was not a jest, not a pastime, but something more serious and important.