Anna Karenina ( Part 6 – Chapter 26-30)
In September Levin moved to Moscow for Kitty’s confinement. He had spent a whole month in Moscow with nothing to do, when Sergey Ivanovitch, who had property in the Kashinsky province, and took great interest in the question of the approaching elections, made ready to set off to the elections. He invited his brother, who had a vote in the Seleznevsky district, to come with him. Levin had, moreover, to transact in Kashin some extremely important business relating to the wardship of land and to the receiving of certain redemption money for his sister, who was abroad.
Levin still hesitated, but Kitty, who saw that he was bored in Moscow, and urged him to go, on her own authority ordered him the proper nobleman’s uniform, costing seven pounds. And that seven pounds paid for the uniform was the chief cause that finally decided Levin to go. He went to Kashin….
Levin had been six days in Kashin, visiting the assembly each day, and busily engaged about his sister’s business, which still dragged on. The district marshals of nobility were all occupied with the elections, and it was impossible to get the simplest thing done that depended upon the court of wardship. The other matter, the payment of the sums due, was met too by difficulties. After long negotiations over the legal details, the money was at last ready to be paid; but the notary, a most obliging person, could not hand over the order, because it must have the signature of the president, and the president, though he had not given over his duties to a deputy, was at the elections. All these worrying negotiations, this endless going from place to place, and talking with pleasant and excellent people, who quite saw the unpleasantness of the petitioner’s position, but were powerless to assist him–all these efforts that yielded no result, led to a feeling of misery in Levin akin to the mortifying helplessness one experiences in dreams when one tries to use physical force. He felt this frequently as he talked to his most good-natured solicitor. This solicitor did, it seemed, everything possible, and strained every nerve to get him out of his difficulties. “I tell you what you might try,” he said more than once; “go to so-and-so and so-and-so,” and the solicitor drew up a regular plan for getting round the fatal point that hindered everything. But he would add immediately, “It’ll mean some delay, anyway, but you might try it.” And Levin did try, and did go. Everyone was kind and civil, but the point evaded seemed to crop up again in the end, and again to bar the way. What was particularly trying, was that Levin could not make out with whom he was struggling, to whose interest it was that his business should not be done. That no one seemed to know; the solicitor certainly did not know. If Levin could have understood why, just as he saw why one can only approach the booking office of a railway station in single file, it would not have been so vexatious and tiresome to him. But with the hindrances that confronted him in his business, no one could explain why they existed.
But Levin had changed a good deal since his marriage; he was patient, and if he could not see why it was all arranged like this, he told himself that he could not judge without knowing all about it, and that most likely it must be so, and he tried not to fret.
In attending the elections, too, and taking part in them, he tried now not to judge, not to fall foul of them, but to comprehend as fully as he could the question which was so earnestly and ardently absorbing honest and excellent men whom he respected. Since his marriage there had been revealed to Levin so many new and serious aspects of life that had previously, through his frivolous attitude to them, seemed of no importance, that in the question of the elections too he assumed and tried to find some serious significance.
Sergey Ivanovitch explained to him the meaning and object of the proposed revolution at the elections. The marshal of the province in whose hands the law had placed the control of so many important public functions–the guardianship of wards (the very department which was giving Levin so much trouble just now), the disposal of large sums subscribed by the nobility of the province, the high schools, female, male, and military, and popular instruction on the new model, and finally, the district council–the marshal of the province, Snetkov, was a nobleman of the old school,–dissipating an immense fortune, a good-hearted man, honest after his own fashion, but utterly without any comprehension of the needs of modern days. He always took, in every question, the side of the nobility; he was positively antagonistic to the spread of popular education, and he succeeded in giving a purely party character to the district council which ought by rights to be of such an immense importance. What was needed was to put in his place a fresh, capable, perfectly modern man, of contemporary ideas, and to frame their policy so as from the rights conferred upon the nobles, not as the nobility, but as an element of the district council, to extract all the powers of self-government that could possibly be derived from them. In the wealthy Kashinsky province, which always took the lead of other provinces in everything, there was now such a preponderance of forces that this policy, once carried through properly there, might serve as a model for other provinces for all Russia. And hence the whole question was of the greatest importance. It was proposed to elect as marshal in place of Snetkov either Sviazhsky, or, better still, Nevyedovsky, a former university professor, a man of remarkable intelligence and a great friend of Sergey Ivanovitch.
The meeting was opened by the governor, who made a speech to the nobles, urging them to elect the public functionaries, not from regard for persons, but for the service and welfare of their fatherland, and hoping that the honorable nobility of the Kashinsky province would, as at all former elections, hold their duty as sacred, and vindicate the exalted confidence of the monarch.
When he had finished with his speech, the governor walked out of the hall, and the noblemen noisily and eagerly–some even enthusiastically –followed him and thronged round him while he put on his fur coat and conversed amicably with the marshal of the province. Levin, anxious to see into everything and not to miss anything, stood there too in the crowd, and heard the governor say: “Please tell Marya Ivanovna my wife is very sorry she couldn’t come to the Home.” And thereupon the nobles in high good-humor sorted out their fur coats and all drove off to the cathedral.
In the cathedral Levin, lifting his hand like the rest and repeating the words of the archdeacon, swore with most terrible oaths to do all the governor had hoped they would do. Church services always affected Levin, and as he uttered the words “I kiss the cross,” and glanced round at the crowd of young and old men repeating the same, he felt touched.
On the second and third days there was business relating to the finances of the nobility and the female high school, of no importance whatever, as Sergey Ivanovitch explained, and Levin, busy seeing after his own affairs, did not attend the meetings. On the fourth day the auditing of the marshal’s accounts took place at the high table of the marshal of the province. And then there occurred the first skirmish between the new party and the old. The committee who had been deputed to verify the accounts reported to the meeting that all was in order. The marshal of the province got up, thanked the nobility for their confidence, and shed tears. The nobles gave him a loud welcome, and shook hands with him. But at that instant a nobleman of Sergey Ivanovitch’s party said that he had heard that the committee had not verified the accounts, considering such a verification an insult to the marshal of the province. One of the members of the committee incautiously admitted this. Then a small gentleman, very young-looking but very malignant, began to say that it would probably be agreeable to the marshal of the province to give an account of his expenditures of the public moneys, and that the misplaced delicacy of the members of the committee was depriving him of this moral satisfaction. Then the members of the committee tried to withdraw their admission, and Sergey Ivanovitch began to prove that they must logically admit either that they had verified the accounts or that they had not, and he developed this dilemma in detail. Sergey Ivanovitch was answered by the spokesman of the opposite party. Then Sviazhsky spoke, and then the malignant gentleman again. The discussion lasted a long time and ended in nothing. Levin was surprised that they should dispute upon this subject so long, especially as, when he asked Sergey Ivanovitch whether he supposed that money had been misappropriated, Sergey Ivanovitch answered:
“Oh, no! He’s an honest man. But those old-fashioned methods of paternal family arrangements in the management of provincial affairs must be broken down.”
On the fifth day came the elections of the district marshals. It was rather a stormy day in several districts. In the Seleznevsky district Sviazhsky was elected unanimously without a ballot, and he gave a dinner that evening.
The sixth day was fixed for the election of the marshal of the province.
The rooms, large and small, were full of noblemen in all sorts of uniforms. Many had come only for that day. Men who had not seen each other for years, some from the Crimea, some from Petersburg, some from abroad, met in the rooms of the Hall of Nobility. There was much discussion around the governor’s table under the portrait of the Tsar.
The nobles, both in the larger and the smaller rooms, grouped themselves in camps, and from their hostile and suspicious glances, from the silence that fell upon them when outsiders approached a group, and from the way that some, whispering together, retreated to the farther corridor, it was evident that each side had secrets from the other. In appearance the noblemen were sharply divided into two classes: the old and the new. The old were for the most part either in old uniforms of the nobility, buttoned up closely, with spurs and hats, or in their own special naval, cavalry, infantry, or official uniforms. The uniforms of the older men were embroidered in the old-fashioned way with epaulets on their shoulders; they were unmistakably tight and short in the waist, as though their wearers had grown out of them. The younger men wore the uniform of the nobility with long waists and broad shoulders, unbuttoned over white waistcoats, or uniforms with black collars and with the embroidered badges of justices of the peace. To the younger men belonged the court uniforms that here and there brightened up the crowd.
But the division into young and old did not correspond with the division of parties. Some of the young men, as Levin observed, belonged to the old party; and some of the very oldest noblemen, on the contrary, were whispering with Sviazhsky, and were evidently ardent partisans of the new party.
Levin stood in the smaller room, where they were smoking and taking light refreshments, close to his own friends, and listening to what they were saying, he conscientiously exerted all his intelligence trying to understand what was said. Sergey Ivanovitch was the center round which the others grouped themselves. He was listening at that moment to Sviazhsky and Hliustov, the marshal of another district, who belonged to their party. Hliustov would not agree to go with his district to ask Snetkov to stand, while Sviazhsky was persuading him to do so, and Sergey Ivanovitch was approving of the plan. Levin could not make out why the opposition was to ask the marshal to stand whom they wanted to supersede.
Stepan Arkadyevitch, who had just been drinking and taking some lunch, came up to them in his uniform of a gentleman of the bedchamber, wiping his lips with a perfumed handkerchief of bordered batiste.
“We are placing our forces,” he said, pulling out his whiskers, “Sergey Ivanovitch!”
And listening to the conversation, he supported Sviazhsky’s contention.
“One district’s enough, and Sviazhsky’s obviously of the opposition,” he said, words evidently intelligible to all except Levin.
“Why, Kostya, you here too! I suppose you’re converted, eh?” he added, turning to Levin and drawing his arm through his. Levin would have been glad indeed to be converted, but could not make out what the point was, and retreating a few steps from the speakers, he explained to Stepan Arkadyevitch his inability to understand why the marshal of the province should be asked to stand.
“O sancta simplicitas!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, and briefly and clearly he explained it to Levin. If, as at previous elections, all the districts asked the marshal of the province to stand, then he would be elected without a ballot. That must not be. Now eight districts had agreed to call upon him: if two refused to do so, Snetkov might decline to stand at all; and then the old party might choose another of their party, which would throw them completely out in their reckoning. But if only one district, Sviazhsky’s, did not call upon him to stand, Snetkov would let himself be balloted for. They were even, some of them, going to vote for him, and purposely to let him get a good many votes, so that the enemy might be thrown off the scent, and when a candidate of the other side was put up, they too might give him some votes. Levin understood to some extent, but not fully, and would have put a few more questions, when suddenly everyone began talking and making a noise and they moved towards the big room.
“What is it? eh? whom?” “No guarantee? whose? what?” “They won’t pass him?” “No guarantee?” “They won’t let Flerov in?” “Eh, because of the charge against him?” “Why, at this rate, they won’t admit anyone. It’s a swindle!” “The law!” Levin heard exclamations on all sides, and he moved into the big room together with the others, all hurrying somewhere and afraid of missing something. Squeezed by the crowding noblemen, he drew near the high table where the marshal of the province, Sviazhsky, and the other leaders were hotly disputing about something.
Levin was standing rather far off. A nobleman breathing heavily and hoarsely at his side, and another whose thick boots were creaking, prevented him from hearing distinctly. He could only hear the soft voice of the marshal faintly, then the shrill voice of the malignant gentleman, and then the voice of Sviazhsky. They were disputing, as far as he could make out, as to the interpretation to be put on the act and the exact meaning of the words: “liable to be called up for trial.”
The crowd parted to make way for Sergey Ivanovitch approaching the table. Sergey Ivanovitch, waiting till the malignant gentleman had finished speaking, said that he thought the best solution would be to refer to the act itself, and asked the secretary to find the act. The act said that in case of difference of opinion, there must be a ballot.
Sergey Ivanovitch read the act and began to explain its meaning, but at that point a tall, stout, round-shouldered landowner, with dyed whiskers, in a tight uniform that cut the back of his neck, interrupted him. He went up to the table, and striking it with his finger ring, he shouted loudly: “A ballot! Put it to the vote! No need for more talking!” Then several voices began to talk all at once, and the tall nobleman with the ring, getting more and more exasperated, shouted more and more loudly. But it was impossible to make out what he said.
He was shouting for the very course Sergey Ivanovitch had proposed; but it was evident that he hated him and all his party, and this feeling of hatred spread through the whole party and roused in opposition to it the same vindictiveness, though in a more seemly form, on the other side. Shouts were raised, and for a moment all was confusion, so that the marshal of the province had to call for order.
“A ballot! A ballot! Every nobleman sees it! We shed our blood for our country!… The confidence of the monarch…. No checking the accounts of the marshal; he’s not a cashier…. But that’s not the point…. Votes, please! Beastly!…” shouted furious and violent voices on all sides. Looks and faces were even more violent and furious than their words. They expressed the most implacable hatred. Levin did not in the least understand what was the matter, and he marveled at the passion with which it was disputed whether or not the decision about Flerov should be put to the vote. He forgot, as Sergey Ivanovitch explained to him afterwards, this syllogism: that it was necessary for the public good to get rid of the marshal of the province; that to get rid of the marshal it was necessary to have a majority of votes; that to get a majority of votes it was necessary to secure Flerov’s right to vote; that to secure the recognition of Flerov’s right to vote they must decide on the interpretation to be put on the act.
“And one vote may decide the whole question and one must be serious and consecutive, if one wants to be of use in public life,” concluded Sergey Ivanovitch. But Levin forgot all that, and it was painful to him to see all these excellent persons, for whom he had a respect, in such an unpleasant and vicious state of excitement. To escape from this painful feeling he went away into the other room where there was nobody except the waiters at the refreshment bar. Seeing the waiters busy over washing up the crockery and setting in order their plates and wine glasses, seeing their calm and cheerful faces, Levin felt an unexpected sense of relief as though he had come out of a stuffy room into the fresh air. He began walking up and down, looking with pleasure at the waiters. He particularly liked the way one gray-whiskered waiter, who showed his scorn for the other younger ones and was jeered at by them, was teaching them how to fold up napkins properly. Levin was just about to enter into conversation with the old waiter, when the secretary of the court of wardship, a little old man whose specialty it was to know all the noblemen of the province by name and patronymic, drew him away.
“Please come, Konstantin Dmitrievitch,” he said, “your brother’s looking for you. They are voting on the legal point.”
Levin walked into the room, received a white ball, and followed his brother, Sergey Ivanovitch, to the table where Sviazhsky was standing with a significant and ironical face, holding his beard in his fist and sniffing at it. Sergey Ivanovitch put his hand into the box, put the ball somewhere, and making room for Levin, stopped. Levin advanced, but utterly forgetting what he was to do, and much embarrassed, he turned to Sergey Ivanovitch with the question, “Where am I to put it?” He asked this softly, at a moment when there was talking going on near, so that he had hoped his question would not be overheard. But the persons speaking paused, and his improper question was overheard. Sergey Ivanovitch frowned.
“That is a matter for each man’s own decision,” he said severely.
Several people smiled. Levin crimsoned, hurriedly thrust his hand under the cloth, and put the ball to the right as it was in his right hand. Having put it in, he recollected that he ought to have thrust his left hand too, and so he thrust it in though too late, and, still more overcome with confusion, he beat a hasty retreat into the background.
“A hundred and twenty-six for admission! Ninety-eight against!” sang out the voice of the secretary, who could not pronounce the letter r. Then there was a laugh; a button and two nuts were found in the box. The nobleman was allowed the right to vote, and the new party had conquered.
But the old party did not consider themselves conquered. Levin heard that they were asking Snetkov to stand, and he saw that a crowd of noblemen was surrounding the marshal, who was saying something. Levin went nearer. In reply Snetkov spoke of the trust the noblemen of the province had placed in him, the affection they had shown him, which he did not deserve, as his only merit had been his attachment to the nobility, to whom he had devoted twelve years of service. Several times he repeated the words: “I have served to the best of my powers with truth and good faith, I value your goodness and thank you,” and suddenly he stopped short from the tears that choked him, and went out of the room. Whether these tears came from a sense of the injustice being done him, from his love for the nobility, or from the strain of the position he was placed in, feeling himself surrounded by enemies, his emotion infected the assembly, the majority were touched, and Levin felt a tenderness for Snetkov.
In the doorway the marshal of the province jostled against Levin.
“Beg pardon, excuse me, please,” he said as to a stranger, but recognizing Levin, he smiled timidly. It seemed to Levin that he would have liked to say something, but could not speak for emotion. His face and his whole figure in his uniform with the crosses, and white trousers striped with braid, as he moved hurriedly along, reminded Levin of some hunted beast who sees that he is in evil case. This expression in the marshal’s face was particularly touching to Levin, because, only the day before, he had been at his house about his trustee business and had seen him in all his grandeur, a kind-hearted, fatherly man. The big house with the old family furniture; the rather dirty, far from stylish, but respectful footmen, unmistakably old house serfs who had stuck to their master; the stout, good-natured wife in a cap with lace and a Turkish shawl, petting her pretty grandchild, her daughter’s daughter; the young son, a sixth form high school boy, coming home from school, and greeting his father, kissing his big hand; the genuine, cordial words and gestures of the old man–all this had the day before roused an instinctive feeling of respect and sympathy in Levin. This old man was a touching and pathetic figure to Levin now, and he longed to say something pleasant to him.
“So you’re sure to be our marshal again,” he said.
“It’s not likely,” said the marshal, looking round with a scared expression. “I’m worn out, I’m old. If there are men younger and more deserving than I, let them serve.”
And the marshal disappeared through a side door.
The most solemn moment was at hand. They were to proceed immediately to the election. The leaders of both parties were reckoning white and black on their fingers.
The discussion upon Flerov had given the new party not only Flerov’s vote, but had also gained time for them, so that they could send to fetch three noblemen who had been rendered unable to take part in the elections by the wiles of the other party. Two noble gentlemen, who had a weakness for strong drink, had been made drunk by the partisans of Snetkov, and a third had been robbed of his uniform.
On learning this, the new party had made haste, during the dispute about Flerov, to send some of their men in a sledge to clothe the stripped gentleman, and to bring along one of the intoxicated to the meeting.
“I’ve brought one, drenched him with water,” said the landowner, who had gone on this errand, to Sviazhsky. “He’s all right? he’ll do.”
“Not too drunk, he won’t fall down?” said Sviazhsky, shaking his head.
“No, he’s first-rate. If only they don’t give him any more here…. I’ve told the waiter not to give him anything on any account.”
The narrow room, in which they were smoking and taking refresh~ ments, was full of noblemen. The excitement grew more intense, and every face betrayed some uneasiness. The excitement was specially keen for the leaders of each party, who knew every detail, and had reckoned up every vote. They were the generals organizing the approaching battle. The rest, like the rank and file before an engagement, though they were getting ready for the fight, sought for other distractions in the interval. Some were lunching, standing at the bar, or sitting at the table; others were walking up and down the long room, smoking cigarettes, and talking with friends whom they had not seen for a long while.
Levin did not care to eat, and he was not smoking; he did not want to join his own friends, that is Sergey Ivanovitch, Stepan Arkadyevitch, Sviazhsky and the rest, because Vronsky in his equerry’s uniform was standing with them in eager conversation. Levin had seen him already at the meeting on the previous day, and he had studiously avoided him, not caring to greet him. He went to the window and sat down, scanning the groups, and listening to what was being said around him. He felt depressed, especially because everyone else was, as he saw, eager, anxious, and interested, and he alone, with an old, toothless little man with mumbling lips wearing a naval uniform, sitting beside him, had no interest in it and nothing to do.
“He’s such a blackguard! I have told him so, but it makes no difference. Only think of it! He couldn’t collect it in three years!” he heard vigorously uttered by a round-shouldered, short, country gentleman, who had pomaded hair hanging on his embroidered collar, and new boots obviously put on for the occasion, with heels that tapped energetically as he spoke. Casting a displeased glance at Levin, this gentleman sharply turned his back.
“Yes, it’s a dirty business, there’s no denying,” a small gentleman assented in a high voice.
Next, a whole crowd of country gentlemen, surrounding a stout general, hurriedly came near Levin. These persons were unmistakably seeking a place where they could talk without being overheard.
“How dare he say I had his breeches stolen! Pawned them for drink, I expect. Damn the fellow, prince indeed! He’d better not say it, the beast!”
“But excuse me! They take their stand on the act,” was being said in another group; “the wife must be registered as noble.”
“Oh, damn your acts! I speak from my heart. We’re all gentlemen, aren’t we? Above suspicion.”
“Shall we go on, your excellency, fine champagne?”
Another group was following a nobleman, who was shouting something in a loud voice; it was one of the three intoxicated gentlemen.
“I always advised Marya Semyonovna to let for a fair rent, for she can never save a profit,” he heard a pleasant voice say. The speaker was a country gentleman with gray whiskers, wearing the regimental uniform of an old general staff-officer. It was the very landowner Levin had met at Sviazhsky’s. He knew him at once. The landowner too stared at Levin, and they exchanged greetings.
“Very glad to see you! To be sure! I remember you very well. Last year at our district marshal, Nikolay Ivanovitch’s.”
“Well, and how is your land doing?” asked Levin.
“Oh, still just the same, always at a loss,” the landowner answered with a resigned smile, but with an expression of serenity and conviction that so it must be. “And how do you come to be in our province?” he asked. “Come to take part in our coup d’etat?” he said, confidently pronouncing the French words with a bad accent. “All Russia’s here–gentlemen of the bedchamber, and everything short of the ministry.” He pointed to the imposing figure of Stepan Arkadyevitch in white trousers and his court uniform, walking by with a general.
“I ought to own that I don’t very well understand the drift of the provincial elections,” said Levin.
The landowner looked at him.
“Why, what is there to understand? There’s no meaning in it at all. It’s a decaying institution that goes on running only by the force of inertia. Just look, the very uniforms tell you that it’s an assembly of justices of the peace, permanent members of the court, and so on, but not of noblemen.”
“Then why do you come?” asked Levin.
“From habit, nothing else. Then, too, one must keep up connections. It’s a moral obligation of a sort. And then, to tell the truth, there’s one’s own interests. My son-in-law wants to stand as a permanent member; they’re not rich people, and he must be brought forward. These gentlemen, now, what do they come for?” he said, pointing to the malignant gentleman, who was talking at the high table.
“That’s the new generation of nobility.”
“New it may be, but nobility it isn’t. They’re proprietors of a sort, but we’re the landowners. As noblemen, they’re cutting their own throats.”
“But you say it’s an institution that’s served its time.”
“That it may be, but still it ought to be treated a little more respectfully. Snetkov, now…We may be of use, or we may not, but we’re the growth of a thousand years. If we’re laying out a garden, planning one before the house, you know, and there you’ve a tree that’s stood for centuries in the very spot…. Old and gnarled it may be, and yet you don’t cut down the old fellow to make room for the flowerbeds, but lay out your beds so as to take advantage of the tree. You won’t grow him again in a year,” he said cautiously, and he immediately changed the conversation. “Well, and how is your land doing?”
“Oh, not very well. I make five per cent.”
“Yes, but you don’t reckon your own work. Aren’t you worth something too? I’ll tell you my own case. Before I took to seeing after the land, I had a salary of three hundred pounds from the service. Now I do more work than I did in the service, and like you I get five per cent on the land, and thank God for that. But one’s work is thrown in for nothing.”
“Then why do you do it, if it’s a clear loss?”
“Oh, well, one does it! What would you have? It’s habit, and one knows it’s how it should be. And what’s more,” the landowner went on, leaning his elbows on the window and chatting on, “my son, I must tell you, has no taste for it. There’s no doubt he’ll be a scientific man. So there’ll be no one to keep it up. And yet one does it. Here this year I’ve planted an orchard.”
“Yes, yes,” said Levin, “that’s perfectly true. I always feel there’s no real balance of gain in my work on the land, and yet one does it…. It’s a sort of duty one feels to the land.”
“But I tell you what,” the landowner pursued; “a neighbor of mine, a merchant, was at my place. We walked about the fields and the garden. ‘No,’ said he, ‘Stepan Vassilievitch, everything’s well looked after, but your garden’s neglected.’ But, as a fact, it’s well kept up. ‘To my thinking, I’d cut down that lime-tree. Here you’ve thousands of limes, and each would make two good bundles of bark. And nowadays that bark’s worth something. I’d cut down the lot.’ ”
“And with what he made he’d increase his stock, or buy some land for a trifle, and let it out in lots to the peasants,” Levin added, smiling. He had evidently more than once come across those commercial calculations. “And he’d make his fortune. But you and I must thank God if we keep what we’ve got and leave it to our children.”
“You’re married, I’ve heard?” said the landowner.
“Yes,” Levin answered, with proud satisfaction. “Yes, it’s rather strange,” he went on. “So we live without making anything, as though we were ancient vestals set to keep in a fire.”
The landowner chuckled under his white mustaches.
“There are some among us, too, like our friend Nikolay Ivanovitch, or Count Vronsky, that’s settled here lately, who try to carry on their husbandry as though it were a factory; but so far it leads to nothing but making away with capital on it.”
“But why is it we don’t do like the merchants? Why don’t we cut down our parks for timber?” said Levin, returning to a thought that had struck him.
“Why, as you said, to keep the fire in. Besides that’s not work for a nobleman. And our work as noblemen isn’t done here at the elections, but yonder, each in our corner. There’s a class instinct, too, of what one ought and oughtn’t to do. There’s the peasants, too, I wonder at them sometimes; any good peasant tries to take all the land he can. However bad the land is, he’ll work it. Without a return too. At a simple loss.”
“Just as we do,” said Levin. “Very, very glad to have met you,” he added, seeing Sviazhsky approaching him.
“And here we’ve met for the first time since we met at your place,” said the landowner to Sviazhsky, “and we’ve had a good talk too.”
“Well, have you been attacking the new order of things?” said Sviazhsky with a smile.
“That we’re bound to do.”
“You’ve relieved your feelings?”
Sviazhsky took Levin’s arm, and went with him to his own friends. This time there was no avoiding Vronsky. He was standing with Stepan Arkadyevitch and Sergey Ivanovitch, and looking straight at Levin as he drew near.
“Delighted! I believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you…at Princess Shtcherbatskaya’s,” he said, giving Levin his hand.
“Yes, I quite remember our meeting,” said Levin, and blushing crimson, he turned away immediately, and began talking to his brother.
With a slight smile Vronsky went on talking to Sviazhsky, obviously without the slightest inclination to enter into conversation with Levin. But Levin, as he talked to his brother, was continually looking round at Vronsky, trying to think of something to say to him to gloss over his rudeness.
“What are we waiting for now?” asked Levin, looking at Sviazhsky and Vronsky.
“For Snetkov. He has to refuse or to consent to stand,” answered Sviazhsky.
“Well, and what has he done, consented or not?”
“That’s the point, that he’s done neither,” said Vronsky.
“And if he refuses, who will stand then?” asked Levin, looking at Vronsky.
“Whoever chooses to,” said Sviazhsky.
“Shall you?” asked Levin.
“Certainly not I,” said Sviazhsky, looking confused, and turning an alarmed glance at the malignant gentleman, who was standing beside Sergey Ivanovitch.
“Who then? Nevyedovsky?” said Levin, feeling he was putting his foot into it.
But this was worse still. Nevyedovsky and Sviazhsky were the two candidates.
“I certainly shall not, under any circumstances,” answered the malignant gentleman.
This was Nevyedovsky himself. Sviazhsky introduced him to Levin.
“Well, you find it exciting too?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, winking at Vronsky. “It’s something like a race. One might bet on it.”
“Yes, it is keenly exciting,” said Vronsky. “And once taking the thing up, one’s eager to see it through. It’s a fight!” he said, scowling and setting his powerful jaws.
“What a capable fellow Sviazhsky is! Sees it all so clearly.”
“Oh, yes!” Vronsky assented indifferently.
A silence followed, during which Vronsky–since he had to look at something–looked at Levin, at his feet, at his uniform, then at his face, and noticing his gloomy eyes fixed upon him, he said, in order to say something:
“How is it that you, living constantly in the country, are not a justice of the peace? You are not in the uniform of one.”
“It’s because I consider that the justice of the peace is a silly institution,” Levin answered gloomily. He had been all the time looking for an opportunity to enter into conversation with Vronsky, so as to smooth over his rudeness at their first meeting.
“I don’t think so, quite the contrary,” Vronsky said, with quiet surprise.
“It’s a plaything,” Levin cut him short. “We don’t want justices of the peace. I’ve never had a single thing to do with them during eight years. And what I have had was decided wrongly by them. The justice of the peace is over thirty miles from me. For some matter of two roubles I should have to send a lawyer, who costs me fifteen.”
And he related how a peasant had stolen some flour from the miller, and when the miller told him of it, had lodged a complaint for slander. All this was utterly uncalled for and stupid, and Levin felt it himself as he said it.
“Oh, this is such an original fellow!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with his most soothing, almond-oil smile. “But come along; I think they’re voting….”
And they separated.
“I can’t understand,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, who had observed his brother’s clumsiness, “I can’t understand how anyone can be so absolutely devoid of political tact. That’s where we Russians are so deficient. The marshal of the province is our opponent, and with him you’re ami cochon, and you beg him to stand. Count Vronsky, now …I’m not making a friend of him; he’s asked me to dinner, and I’m not going; but he’s one of our side–why make an enemy of him? Then you ask Nevyedovsky if he’s going to stand. That’s not a thing to do.”
“Oh, I don’t understand it at all! And it’s all such nonsense,” Levin answered gloomily.
“You say it’s all such nonsense, but as soon as you have anything to do with it, you make a muddle.”
Levin did not answer, and they walked together into the big room.
The marshal of the province, though he was vaguely conscious in the air of some trap being prepared for him, and though he had not been called upon by all to stand, had still made up his mind to stand. All was silence in the room. The secretary announced in a loud voice that the captain of the guards, Mihail Stepanovitch Snetkov, would now be balloted for as marshal of the province.
The district marshals walked carrying plates, on which were balls, from their tables to the high table, and the election began.
“Put it in the right side,” whispered Stepan Arkadyevitch, as with his brother Levin followed the marshal of his district to the table. But Levin had forgotten by now the calculations that had been explained to him, and was afraid Stepan Arkadyevitch might be mistaken in saying “the right side.” Surely Snetkov was the enemy. As he went up, he held the ball in his right hand, but thinking he was wrong, just at the box he changed to the left hand, and undoubtedly put the ball to the left. An adept in the business, standing at the box and seeing by the mere action of the elbow where each put his ball, scowled with annoyance. It was no good for him to use his insight.
Everything was still, and the counting of the balls was heard. Then a single voice rose and proclaimed the numbers for and against. The marshal had been voted for by a considerable majority. All was noise and eager movement towards the doors. Snetkov came in, and the nobles thronged round him, congratulating him.
“Well, now is it over?” Levin asked Sergey Ivanovitch.
“It’s only just beginning,” Sviazhsky said, replying for Sergey Ivanovitch with a smile. “Some other candidate may receive more votes than the marshal.”
Levin had quite forgotten about that. Now he could only remember that there was some sort of trickery in it, but he was too bored to think what it was exactly. He felt depressed, and longed to get out of the crowd.
As no one was paying any attention to him, and no one apparently needed him, he quietly slipped away into the little room where the refreshments were, and again had a great sense of comfort when he saw the waiters. The little old waiter pressed him to have something, and Levin agreed. After eating a cutlet with beans and talking to the waiters of their former masters, Levin, not wishing to go back to the hall, where it was all so distasteful to him, proceeded to walk through the galleries. The galleries were full of fashionably dressed ladies, leaning over the balustrade and trying not to lose a single word of what was being said below. With the ladies were sitting and standing smart lawyers, high school teachers in spectacles, and officers. Everywhere they were talking of the election, and of how worried the marshal was, and how splendid the discussions had been. In one group Levin heard his brother’s praises. One lady was telling a lawyer:
“How glad I am I heard Koznishev! It’s worth losing one’s dinner. He’s exquisite! So clear and distinct all of it! There’s not one of you in the law courts that speaks like that. The only one is Meidel, and he’s not so eloquent by a long way.”
Finding a free place, Levin leaned over the balustrade and began looking and listening.
All the noblemen were sitting railed off behind barriers according to their districts. In the middle of the room stood a man in a uniform, who shouted in a loud, high voice:
“As a candidate for the marshalship of the nobility of the province we call upon staff-captain Yevgeney Ivanovitch Apuhtin!” A dead silence followed, and then a weak old voice was heard: “Declined!”
“We call upon the privy councilor Pyotr Petrovitch Bol,” the voice began again.
“Declined!” a high boyish voice replied.
Again it began, and again “Declined.” And so it went on for about an hour. Levin, with his elbows on the balustrade, looked and listened. At first he wondered and wanted to know what it meant; then feeling sure that he could not make it out he began to be bored. Then recalling all the excitement and vindictiveness he had seen on all the faces, he felt sad; he made up his mind to go, and went downstairs. As he passed through the entry to the galleries he met a dejected high school boy walking up and down with tired-looking eyes. On the stairs he met a couple–a lady running quickly on her high heels and the jaunty deputy prosecutor.
“I told you you weren’t late,” the deputy prosecutor was saying at the moment when Levin moved aside to let the lady pass.
Levin was on the stairs to the way out, and was just feeling in his waistcoat pocket for the number of his overcoat, when the secretary overtook him.
“This way, please, Konstantin Dmitrievitch; they are voting.”
The candidate who was being voted on was Nevyedovsky, who had so stoutly denied all idea of standing. Levin went up to the door of the room; it was locked. The secretary knocked, the door opened, and Levin was met by two red-faced gentlemen, who darted out.
“I can’t stand any more of it,” said one red-faced gentleman.
After them the face of the marshal of the province was poked out. His face was dreadful-looking from exhaustion and dismay.
“I told you not to let any one out!” he cried to the doorkeeper.
“I let someone in, your excellency!”
“Mercy on us!” and with a heavy sigh the marshal of the province walked with downcast head to the high table in the middle of the room, his legs staggering in his white trousers.
Nevyedovsky had scored a higher majority, as they had planned, and he was the new marshal of the province. Many people were amused, many were pleased and happy, many were in ecstasies, many were disgusted and unhappy. The former marshal of the province was in a state of despair, which he could not conceal. When Nevyedovsky went out of the room, the crowd thronged round him and followed him enthusiastically, just as they had followed the governor who had opened the meetings, and just as they had followed Snetkov when he was elected.