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The next morning Andrei gets all duded up in preparation to go to see the emperor.
In Bilibin’s house he runs into a bunch of Bilibin’s friends. They’re a small circle of Russian diplomats who hang out and gossip.
One of them is Ippolit Kuragin. Remember him? He’s the one who was trying to hit on Andrei’s wife at that party at the beginning of the novel. His brother Anatole is the drunken fool who hosted the bear-tied-to-a-policeman party.
Anyway, the guys gossip and joke about all the ladies Ippolit is apparently seducing all over town.
Andrei realizes immediately that Ippolit is the group moron and internally laughs that he was ever jealous about his wife and this loser.
Still, Ippolit seems to do a brisk bit of business in the ladies’ department.
The gang decides to show off this little town to Andrei, but he instead hustles off to see the emperor.
Bilibin gives him a good tip: the emperor is not good at conversation, so Andrei should really do the talking.