Anna karenina, p.187
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       Anna Karenina, p.187

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 30

  Sviazhsky took Levin's arm, and went with him to his own friends. Thistime there was no avoiding Vronsky. He was standing with StepanArkadyevitch and Sergey Ivanovitch, and looking straight at Levin as hedrew near.

  "Delighted! I believe I've had the pleasure of meeting you ... atPrincess 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, obviouslywithout the slightest inclination to enter into conversation with Levin.But Levin, as he talked to his brother, was continually looking round atVronsky, trying to think of something to say to him to gloss over hisrudeness.

  "What are we waiting for now?" asked Levin, looking at Sviazhsky andVronsky.

  "For Snetkov. He has to refuse or to consent to stand," answeredSviazhsky.

  "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 atVronsky.

  "Whoever chooses to," said Sviazhsky.

  "Shall you?" asked Levin.

  "Certainly not I," said Sviazhsky, looking confused, and turning analarmed glance at the malignant gentleman, who was standing besideSergey Ivanovitch.

  "Who then? Nevyedovsky?" said Levin, feeling he was putting his footinto it.

  But this was worse still. Nevyedovsky and Sviazhsky were the twocandidates.

  "I certainly shall not, under any circumstances," answered the malignantgentleman.

  This was Nevyedovsky himself. Sviazhsky introduced him to Levin.

  "Well, you find it exciting too?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, winking atVronsky. "It's something like a race. One might bet on it."

  "Yes, it is keenly exciting," said Vronsky. "And once taking the thingup, one's eager to see it through. It's a fight!" he said, scowling andsetting 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 atsomething--looked at Levin, at his feet, at his uniform, then at hisface, and noticing his gloomy eyes fixed upon him, he said, in order tosay something:

  "How is it that you, living constantly in the country, are not a justiceof the peace? You are not in the uniform of one."

  "It's because I consider that the justice of the peace is a sillyinstitution," Levin answered gloomily. He had been all the time lookingfor an opportunity to enter into conversation with Vronsky, so as tosmooth over his rudeness at their first meeting.

  "I don't think so, quite the contrary," Vronsky said, with quietsurprise.

  "It's a plaything," Levin cut him short. "We don't want justices of thepeace. 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 thepeace is over thirty miles from me. For some matter of two roubles Ishould have to send a lawyer, who costs me fifteen."

  And he related how a peasant had stolen some flour from the miller, andwhen the miller told him of it, had lodged a complaint for slander. Allthis was utterly uncalled for and stupid, and Levin felt it himself ashe said it.

  "Oh, this is such an original fellow!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch with hismost soothing, almond-oil smile. "But come along; I think they'revoting...."

  And they separated.

  "I can't understand," said Sergey Ivanovitch, who had observed hisbrother's clumsiness, "I can't understand how anyone can be soabsolutely devoid of political tact. That's where we Russians are sodeficient. The marshal of the province is our opponent, and with himyou'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 notgoing; but he's one of our side--why make an enemy of him? Then you askNevyedovsky 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," Levinanswered gloomily.

  "You say it's all such nonsense, but as soon as you have anything to dowith 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 airof some trap being prepared for him, and though he had not been calledupon by all to stand, had still made up his mind to stand. All wassilence in the room. The secretary announced in a loud voice that thecaptain of the guards, Mihail Stepanovitch Snetkov, would now beballoted for as marshal of the province.

  The district marshals walked carrying plates, on which were balls, fromtheir tables to the high table, and the election began.

  "Put it in the right side," whispered Stepan Arkadyevitch, as with hisbrother Levin followed the marshal of his district to the table. ButLevin had forgotten by now the calculations that had been explained tohim, and was afraid Stepan Arkadyevitch might be mistaken in saying "theright side." Surely Snetkov was the enemy. As he went up, he held theball in his right hand, but thinking he was wrong, just at the box hechanged to the left hand, and undoubtedly put the ball to the left. Anadept in the business, standing at the box and seeing by the mere actionof the elbow where each put his ball, scowled with annoyance. It was nogood for him to use his insight.

  Everything was still, and the counting of the balls was heard. Then asingle voice rose and proclaimed the numbers for and against. Themarshal had been voted for by a considerable majority. All was noise andeager movement towards the doors. Snetkov came in, and the noblesthronged round him, congratulating him.

  "Well, now is it over?" Levin asked Sergey Ivanovitch.

  "It's only just beginning," Sviazhsky said, replying for SergeyIvanovitch with a smile. "Some other candidate may receive more votesthan the marshal."

  Levin had quite forgotten about that. Now he could only remember thatthere was some sort of trickery in it, but he was too bored to thinkwhat it was exactly. He felt depressed, and longed to get out of thecrowd.

  As no one was paying any attention to him, and no one apparently neededhim, he quietly slipped away into the little room where the refreshmentswere, 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 theirformer masters, Levin, not wishing to go back to the hall, where it wasall so distasteful to him, proceeded to walk through the galleries. Thegalleries were full of fashionably dressed ladies, leaning over thebalustrade and trying not to lose a single word of what was being saidbelow. With the ladies were sitting and standing smart lawyers, highschool teachers in spectacles, and officers. Everywhere they weretalking of the election, and of how worried the marshal was, and howsplendid the discussions had been. In one group Levin heard hisbrother's praises. One lady was telling a lawyer:

  "How glad I am I heard Koznishev! It's worth losing one's dinner. He'sexquisite! So clear and distinct all of it! There's not one of you inthe law courts that speaks like that. The only one is Meidel, and he'snot so eloquent by a long way."

  Finding a free place, Levin leaned over the balustrade and began lookingand listening.

  All the noblemen were sitting railed off behind barriers according totheir districts. In the middle of the room stood a man in a uniform, whoshouted in a loud, high voice:

  "As a candidate for the marshalship of the nobility of the province wecall upon staff-captain Yevgeney Ivanovitch Apuhtin!" A dead silencefollowed, and then a weak old voice was heard: "Declined!"

  "We call upon the privy councilor Pyotr Petrovitch Bol," the voice beganagain.

  "Declined!" a high boyish voice replied.

  Again it began, and again "Declined." And so it went on for about anhour. Levin, with his elbows on the balustrade, looked and listened. Atfirst he wondered and wanted to know what it meant; then feeling surethat he cou
ld not make it out he began to be bored. Then recalling allthe excitement and vindictiveness he had seen on all the faces, he feltsad; he made up his mind to go, and went downstairs. As he passedthrough the entry to the galleries he met a dejected high school boywalking up and down with tired-looking eyes. On the stairs he met acouple--a lady running quickly on her high heels and the jaunty deputyprosecutor.

  "I told you you weren't late," the deputy prosecutor was saying at themoment when Levin moved aside to let the lady pass.

  Levin was on the stairs to the way out, and was just feeling in hiswaistcoat pocket for the number of his overcoat, when the secretaryovertook him.

  "This way, please, Konstantin Dmitrievitch; they are voting."

  The candidate who was being voted on was Nevyedovsky, who had so stoutlydenied all idea of standing. Levin went up to the door of the room; itwas locked. The secretary knocked, the door opened, and Levin was met bytwo 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. Hisface 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 walkedwith downcast head to the high table in the middle of the room, his legsstaggering in his white trousers.

  Nevyedovsky had scored a higher majority, as they had planned, and hewas the new marshal of the province. Many people were amused, many werepleased and happy, many were in ecstasies, many were disgusted andunhappy. The former marshal of the province was in a state of despair,which he could not conceal. When Nevyedovsky went out of the room, thecrowd thronged round him and followed him enthusiastically, just as theyhad followed the governor who had opened the meetings, and just as theyhad followed Snetkov when he was elected.

 
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