Anna karenina, p.185
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       Anna Karenina, p.185
 

          

  Chapter 28

  Levin was standing rather far off. A nobleman breathing heavily andhoarsely at his side, and another whose thick boots were creaking,prevented him from hearing distinctly. He could only hear the soft voiceof the marshal faintly, then the shrill voice of the malignantgentleman, and then the voice of Sviazhsky. They were disputing, as faras he could make out, as to the interpretation to be put on the act andthe exact meaning of the words: "liable to be called up for trial."

  The crowd parted to make way for Sergey Ivanovitch approaching thetable. Sergey Ivanovitch, waiting till the malignant gentleman hadfinished speaking, said that he thought the best solution would be torefer to the act itself, and asked the secretary to find the act. Theact 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 atthat point a tall, stout, round-shouldered landowner, with dyedwhiskers, in a tight uniform that cut the back of his neck, interruptedhim. He went up to the table, and striking it with his finger ring, heshouted loudly: "A ballot! Put it to the vote! No need for moretalking!" Then several voices began to talk all at once, and the tallnobleman with the ring, getting more and more exasperated, shouted moreand more loudly. But it was impossible to make out what he said.

  He was shouting for the very course Sergey Ivanovitch had proposed; butit was evident that he hated him and all his party, and this feeling ofhatred spread through the whole party and roused in opposition to it thesame vindictiveness, though in a more seemly form, on the other side.Shouts were raised, and for a moment all was confusion, so that themarshal of the province had to call for order.

  "A ballot! A ballot! Every nobleman sees it! We shed our blood for ourcountry!... The confidence of the monarch.... No checking the accountsof the marshal; he's not a cashier.... But that's not the point....Votes, please! Beastly!..." shouted furious and violent voices on allsides. Looks and faces were even more violent and furious than theirwords. They expressed the most implacable hatred. Levin did not in theleast understand what was the matter, and he marveled at the passionwith which it was disputed whether or not the decision about Flerovshould be put to the vote. He forgot, as Sergey Ivanovitch explained tohim afterwards, this syllogism: that it was necessary for the publicgood to get rid of the marshal of the province; that to get rid of themarshal it was necessary to have a majority of votes; that to get amajority of votes it was necessary to secure Flerov's right to vote;that to secure the recognition of Flerov's right to vote they mustdecide on the interpretation to be put on the act.

  "And one vote may decide the whole question, and one must be serious andconsecutive, if one wants to be of use in public life," concluded SergeyIvanovitch. But Levin forgot all that, and it was painful to him to seeall these excellent persons, for whom he had a respect, in such anunpleasant and vicious state of excitement. To escape from this painfulfeeling he went away into the other room where there was nobody exceptthe waiters at the refreshment bar. Seeing the waiters busy over washingup the crockery and setting in order their plates and wine glasses,seeing their calm and cheerful faces, Levin felt an unexpected sense ofrelief as though he had come out of a stuffy room into the fresh air. Hebegan walking up and down, looking with pleasure at the waiters. Heparticularly liked the way one gray-whiskered waiter, who showed hisscorn for the other younger ones and was jeered at by them, was teachingthem how to fold up napkins properly. Levin was just about to enter intoconversation with the old waiter, when the secretary of the court ofwardship, a little old man whose specialty it was to know all thenoblemen of the province by name and patronymic, drew him away.

  "Please come, Konstantin Dmitrievitch," he said, "your brother's lookingfor you. They are voting on the legal point."

  Levin walked into the room, received a white ball, and followed hisbrother, Sergey Ivanovitch, to the table where Sviazhsky was standingwith a significant and ironical face, holding his beard in his fist andsniffing at it. Sergey Ivanovitch put his hand into the box, put theball somewhere, and making room for Levin, stopped. Levin advanced, bututterly forgetting what he was to do, and much embarrassed, he turned toSergey Ivanovitch with the question, "Where am I to put it?" He askedthis softly, at a moment when there was talking going on near, so thathe had hoped his question would not be overheard. But the personsspeaking paused, and his improper question was overheard. SergeyIvanovitch frowned.

  "That is a matter for each man's own decision," he said severely.

  Several people smiled. Levin crimsoned, hurriedly thrust his hand underthe 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 lefthand too, and so he thrust it in though too late, and, still moreovercome with confusion, he beat a hasty retreat into the background.

  "A hundred and twenty-six for admission! Ninety-eight against!" sang outthe voice of the secretary, who could not pronounce the letter _r_. Thenthere was a laugh; a button and two nuts were found in the box. Thenobleman was allowed the right to vote, and the new party had conquered.

  But the old party did not consider themselves conquered. Levin heardthat they were asking Snetkov to stand, and he saw that a crowd ofnoblemen was surrounding the marshal, who was saying something. Levinwent nearer. In reply Snetkov spoke of the trust the noblemen of theprovince had placed in him, the affection they had shown him, which hedid not deserve, as his only merit had been his attachment to thenobility, to whom he had devoted twelve years of service. Several timeshe repeated the words: "I have served to the best of my powers withtruth and good faith, I value your goodness and thank you," and suddenlyhe stopped short from the tears that choked him, and went out of theroom. Whether these tears came from a sense of the injustice being donehim, from his love for the nobility, or from the strain of the positionhe was placed in, feeling himself surrounded by enemies, his emotioninfected the assembly, the majority were touched, and Levin felt atenderness for Snetkov.

  In the doorway the marshal of the province jostled against Levin.

  "Beg pardon, excuse me, please," he said as to a stranger, butrecognizing Levin, he smiled timidly. It seemed to Levin that he wouldhave liked to say something, but could not speak for emotion. His faceand his whole figure in his uniform with the crosses, and white trousersstriped with braid, as he moved hurriedly along, reminded Levin of somehunted beast who sees that he is in evil case. This expression in themarshal's face was particularly touching to Levin, because, only the daybefore, he had been at his house about his trustee business and had seenhim in all his grandeur, a kind-hearted, fatherly man. The big housewith the old family furniture; the rather dirty, far from stylish, butrespectful footmen, unmistakably old house serfs who had stuck to theirmaster; the stout, good-natured wife in a cap with lace and a Turkishshawl, petting her pretty grandchild, her daughter's daughter; the youngson, a sixth form high school boy, coming home from school, and greetinghis father, kissing his big hand; the genuine, cordial words andgestures of the old man--all this had the day before roused aninstinctive feeling of respect and sympathy in Levin. This old man was atouching and pathetic figure to Levin now, and he longed to saysomething 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 scaredexpression. "I'm worn out, I'm old. If there are men younger and moredeserving 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 tothe election. The leaders of both parties were reckoning white and blackon their fingers.

  The discussion upon Flerov had given the new party not only Flerov'svote, but had also gained time for them, so that they could send tofetch three noblemen who had been rendered unable to take part in theelections by the wiles of the other party. Two noble gentlemen, who hada weakness for strong drink, had been made drunk by the partisans ofSnetkov, and a third had been robbed of his unifor
m.

  On learning this, the new party had made haste, during the dispute aboutFlerov, to send some of their men in a sledge to clothe the strippedgentleman, and to bring along one of the intoxicated to the meeting.

  "I've brought one, drenched him with water," said the landowner, who hadgone 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'vetold the waiter not to give him anything on any account."

 
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