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CHAPTER XVIII. OFFICIALDOM.
Hardly had Nekhludoff finished dressing the next morning, just as he was about to go down, the footman brought him a card from the Moscow advocate. The advocate had come to St. Petersburg on business of his own, and was going to be present when Maslova's case was examined in the Senate, if that would be soon. The telegram sent by Nekhludoff crossed him on the way. Having found out from Nekhludoff when the case was going to be heard, and which senators were to be present, he smiled. "Exactly, all the three types of senators," he said. "Wolf is a Petersburg official; Skovorodnikoff is a theoretical, and Bay a practical lawyer, and therefore the most alive of them all," said the advocate. "There is most hope of him. Well, and how about the Petition Committee?"
"Oh, I'm going to Baron Vorobioff to-day. I could not get an audience with him yesterday.
"Do you know why he is BARON Vorobioff?" said the advocate, noticing the slightly ironical stress that Nekhludoff put on this foreign title, followed by so very Russian a surname.
"That was because the Emperor Paul rewarded the grandfather - I think he was one of the Court footmen - by giving him this title. He managed to please him in some way, so he made him a baron. 'It's my wish, so don't gainsay me!' And so there's a BARON Vorobioff, and very proud of the title. He is a dreadful old humbug."
Well, I'm going to see him," said Nekhludoff.
"That's good; we can go together. I shall give you a lift."
As they were going to start, a footman met Nekhludoff in the ante-room, and handed him a note from Mariette:
Pour vous faire plaisir, f'ai agi tout a fait contre mes principes et j'ai intercede aupres de mon mari pour votre protegee. II se trouve que cette personne pout etre relaxee immediatement. Mon mari a ecrit au commandant. Venez donc disinterestedly. Je vous attends.
"Just fancy!" said Nekhludoff to the advocate. "Is this not dreadful? A woman whom they are keeping in solitary confinement for seven months turns out to be quite innocent, and only a word was needed to get her released."
"That's always so. Well, anyhow, you have succeeded in getting what you wanted."
"Yes, but this success grieves me. Just think what must be going on there. Why have they been keeping her?"
"Oh, it's best not to look too deeply into it. Well, then, I shall give you a lift, if I may," said the advocate, as they left the house, and a fine carriage that the advocate had hired drove up to the door. "It's Baron Vorobioff you are going to see?"
The advocate gave the driver his directions, and the two good horses quickly brought Nekhludoff to the house in which the Baron lived. The Baron was at home. A young official in uniform, with a long, thin neck, a much protruding Adam's apple, and an extremely light walk, and two ladies were in the first room.
"Your name, please?" the young man with the Adam's apple asked, stepping with extreme lightness and grace across from the ladies to Nekhludoff.
Nekhludoff gave his name.
"The Baron was just mentioning you," said the young man, the Baron's adjutant, and went out through an inner door. He returned, leading a weeping lady dressed in mourning. With her bony fingers the lady was trying to pull her tangled veil over her face in order to hide her tears.
"Come in, please," said the young man to Nekhludoff, lightly stepping up to the door of the study and holding it open. When Nekhludoff came in, he saw before him a thick-set man of medium height, with short hair, in a frock coat, who was sitting in an armchair opposite a large writing-table, and looking gaily in front of himself. The kindly, rosy red face, striking by its contrast with the white hair, moustaches, and beard, turned towards Nekhludoff with a friendly smile.
"Very glad to see you. Your mother and I were old acquaintances and friends. I have seen you as a boy, and later on as an officer. Sit down and tell me what I can do for you. Yes, yes," he said, shaking his cropped white head, while Nekhludoff was telling him Theodosia's story. "Go on, go on. I quite understand. It is certainly very touching. And have you handed in the petition?"
"I have got the petition ready," Nekhludoff said, getting it out of his pocket; "but I thought of speaking to you first in hopes that the case would then get special attention paid to it."
"You have done very well. I shall certainly report it myself," said the Baron, unsuccessfully trying to put an expression of pity on his merry face. "Very touching! It is clear she was but a child; the husband treated her roughly, this repelled her, but as time went on they fell in love with each other. Yes I will report the case."
"Count Ivan Michaelovitch was also going to speak about it."
Nekhludoff had hardly got these words out when the Baron's face changed.
"You had better hand in the petition into the office, after all, and I shall do what I can," he said.
At this moment the young official again entered the room, evidently showing off his elegant manner of walking.
"That lady is asking if she may say a few words more."
"Well, ask her in. Ah, mon cher, how many tears we have to see shed! If only we could dry them all. One does all that lies within one's power."
The lady entered.
"I forgot to ask you that he should not be allowed to give up the daughter, because he is ready . . ."
"But I have already told you that I should do all I can."
"Baron, for the love of God! You will save the mother?"
She seized his hand, and began kissing it.
"Everything shall be done."
When the lady went out Nekhludoff also began to take leave.
"We shall do what we can. I shall speak about it at the Ministry of Justice, and when we get their answer we shall do what we can."
Nekhludoff left the study, and went into the office again. Just as in the Senate office, he saw, in a splendid apartment, a number of very elegant officials, clean, polite, severely correct and distinguished in dress and in speech.
"How many there are of them; how very many and how well fed they all look! And what clean shirts and hands they all have, and how well all their boots are polished! Who does it for them? How comfortable they all are, as compared not only with the prisoners, but even with the peasants!" These thoughts again involuntarily came to Nekhludoff's mind.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER XIX. AN OLD GENERAL OF REPUTE.