"This is rather indiscreet, but it's so good it's an awful temptation to tell the story,"
said Vronsky, looking at her with his laughing eyes. "I'm not going to mention any
"But I shall guess, so much the better."
"Well, listen: two festive young men were driving-"
"Officers of your regiment, of course?"
"I didn't say they were officers,--two young men who had been lunching."
"In other words, drinking."
"Possibly. They were driving on their way to dinner with a friend in the most
festive state of mind. And they beheld a pretty woman in a hired sledge; she
overtakes them, looks round at them, and, so they fancy anyway, nods to them
and laughs. They, of course, follow her. They gallop at full speed. To their
amazement, the fair one alights at the entrance of the very house to which they
were going. The fair one darts upstairs to the top story. They get a glimpse of red
lips under a short veil, and exquisite little feet."
"You describe it with such feeling that I fancy you must be one of the two."
"And after what you said, just now! Well, the young men go in to their comrade's;
he was giving a farewell dinner. There they certainly did drink a little too much, as
one always does at farewell dinners. And at dinner they inquire who lives at the
top in that house. No one knows; only their host's valet, in answer to their inquiry
whether any 'young ladies' are living on the top floor, answered that there were a
great many of them about there. After dinner the two young men go into their
host's study, and write a letter to the unknown fair one. They compose an ardent
epistle, a declaration in fact, and they carry the letter upstairs themselves, so as
to elucidate whatever might appear not perfectly intelligible in the letter."
"Why are you telling me these horrible stories? Well?"
"They ring. A maidservant opens the door, they hand her the letter, and assure
the maid that they're both so in love that they'll die on the spot at the door. The
maid, stupefied, carries in their messages. All at once a gentleman appears with
whiskers like sausages, as red as a lobster, announces that there is no one living
in the flat except his wife, and sends them both about their business."