The division of the retelling into chapters is conditional.
While discussing with young people the concepts of "what is good and what is bad," Ivan Vasilyevich told an incident that had happened to him in his youth.
At the ball
In his student days, Ivan loved the idle way of life, studying, having fun, and being able to dance beautifully. He was in love with Varenka B., admiring her beauty, grace, and cheerful smile.
The love story began on the last day of Shrovetide, when Ivan was at the provincial marshal's ball. The ball was wonderful: a beautiful buffet, sumptuous halls, and famous musicians. That evening Ivan did not drink, as he was intoxicated with love, and danced with Varenka. Only one mazurka with the girl was beaten off him by another gentleman. Ivan danced with the German, but all his attention that evening was fixed on Varenka.
Time flew by unnoticed. In the last minutes of the ball they walked along the hall for the hundredth time. Ivan did not want to part with Varenka, and so that he did not regret it, she gave him a feather from her cheap white fan. Ivan was delighted.
The hostess of the ball asked Varenka to dance with her father.
In spite of the colonel's words that he had learned, it was obvious that he was trying. The entire audience was watching the couple's every move. After the end of the dance, the colonel led her to Ivan, mistakenly believing that he was her beau. Ivan and Varenka performed one last dance before a late supper, in which he "embraced ... the whole world with his love." After dinner she and Ivan danced a square dance, and his happiness grew infinitely.
On arriving home, Ivan realized that he would not be able to sleep. In his hands he held a feather and Varenka's glove. Looking at them, Ivan recalled the previous evening: how out of two suitors she had chosen him, how at dinner she had looked at him furtively with her caressing eyes, how she had danced smoothly with her father.
After the ball
Ivan went outside and walked toward Varenka's house. "It was the most Shrovetide weather," as the snow melted on the roads and roofs.
In the field, not far from Varenka's house, his attention was caught by "something big, black," a nasty and shrill tune coming from there. Asking the blacksmith walking ahead of him what was going on, Ivan found out that it was the military punishing the Tatar for his escape. Next to them walked a man in whom he recognized Varenka's father. The Tatar was being beaten with spitzrutens - flexible, thick rods.
At each blow the punished, as if surprised, turned his face, wrinkled with suffering, to the side from which the blow fell, and ... sobbed: "Brothers, have mercy. Brothers, have mercy.
As the procession passed by, Ivan saw the Tatar's back: red, wet, unnatural. He "did not believe that it was the body of a man." Confronted with the Colonel's gaze, Ivan felt ashamed; he did not know where to look, and hurried home.
What he saw struck Ivan, his life was abruptly changed. He did not go into the military and did not serve anywhere at all. His seemingly endless love had come to an end.
When she, as she often did, with a smile on her face, thought about it, I immediately remembered the colonel in the square, and I became somehow embarrassed and uncomfortable, and I began to see her less often.
Ivan Vasilievich finished his story with the thought that a minor event can affect the rest of his life.
The retelling is based on edition of the story from Tolstoy's collected works in 22 volumes (M.: Art Literature, 1983).