Anna karenina, p.50
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       Anna Karenina, p.50

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 16

  On the way home Levin asked all details of Kitty's illness and theShtcherbatskys' plans, and though he would have been ashamed to admitit, he was pleased at what he heard. He was pleased that there was stillhope, and still more pleased that she should be suffering who had madehim suffer so much. But when Stepan Arkadyevitch began to speak of thecauses of Kitty's illness, and mentioned Vronsky's name, Levin cut himshort.

  "I have no right whatever to know family matters, and, to tell thetruth, no interest in them either."

  Stepan Arkadyevitch smiled hardly perceptibly, catching theinstantaneous change he knew so well in Levin's face, which had becomeas gloomy as it had been bright a minute before.

  "Have you quite settled about the forest with Ryabinin?" asked Levin.

  "Yes, it's settled. The price is magnificent; thirty-eight thousand.Eight straight away, and the rest in six years. I've been botheringabout it for ever so long. No one would give more."

  "Then you've as good as given away your forest for nothing," said Levingloomily.

  "How do you mean for nothing?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch with agood-humored smile, knowing that nothing would be right in Levin's eyesnow.

  "Because the forest is worth at least a hundred and fifty roubles theacre," answered Levin.

  "Oh, these farmers!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch playfully. "Your tone ofcontempt for us poor townsfolk!... But when it comes to business, we doit better than anyone. I assure you I have reckoned it all out," hesaid, "and the forest is fetching a very good price--so much so that I'mafraid of this fellow's crying off, in fact. You know it's not'timber,'" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, hoping by this distinction toconvince Levin completely of the unfairness of his doubts. "And it won'trun to more than twenty-five yards of fagots per acre, and he's givingme at the rate of seventy roubles the acre."

  Levin smiled contemptuously. "I know," he thought, "that fashion notonly in him, but in all city people, who, after being twice in ten yearsin the country, pick up two or three phrases and use them in season andout of season, firmly persuaded that they know all about it. '_Timber,run to so many yards the acre._' He says those words withoutunderstanding them himself."

  "I wouldn't attempt to teach you what you write about in your office,"said he, "and if need arose, I should come to you to ask about it. Butyou're so positive you know all the lore of the forest. It's difficult.Have you counted the trees?"

  "How count the trees?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, laughing, still tryingto draw his friend out of his ill-temper. "Count the sands of the sea,number the stars. Some higher power might do it."

  "Oh, well, the higher power of Ryabinin can. Not a single merchant everbuys a forest without counting the trees, unless they get it given themfor nothing, as you're doing now. I know your forest. I go there everyyear shooting, and your forest's worth a hundred and fifty roubles anacre paid down, while he's giving you sixty by installments. So that infact you're making him a present of thirty thousand."

  "Come, don't let your imagination run away with you," said StepanArkadyevitch piteously. "Why was it none would give it, then?"

  "Why, because he has an understanding with the merchants; he's boughtthem off. I've had to do with all of them; I know them. They're notmerchants, you know: they're speculators. He wouldn't look at a bargainthat gave him ten, fifteen per cent profit, but holds back to buy arouble's worth for twenty kopecks."

  "Well, enough of it! You're out of temper."

  "Not the least," said Levin gloomily, as they drove up to the house.

  At the steps there stood a trap tightly covered with iron and leather,with a sleek horse tightly harnessed with broad collar-straps. In thetrap sat the chubby, tightly belted clerk who served Ryabinin ascoachman. Ryabinin himself was already in the house, and met the friendsin the hall. Ryabinin was a tall, thinnish, middle-aged man, withmustache and a projecting clean-shaven chin, and prominent muddy-lookingeyes. He was dressed in a long-skirted blue coat, with buttons below thewaist at the back, and wore high boots wrinkled over the ankles andstraight over the calf, with big galoshes drawn over them. He rubbed hisface with his handkerchief, and wrapping round him his coat, which satextremely well as it was, he greeted them with a smile, holding out hishand to Stepan Arkadyevitch, as though he wanted to catch something.

  "So here you are," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, giving him his hand."That's capital."

  "I did not venture to disregard your excellency's commands, though theroad was extremely bad. I positively walked the whole way, but I am hereat my time. Konstantin Dmitrievitch, my respects"; he turned to Levin,trying to seize his hand too. But Levin, scowling, made as though he didnot notice his hand, and took out the snipe. "Your honors have beendiverting yourselves with the chase? What kind of bird may it be, pray?"added Ryabinin, looking contemptuously at the snipe: "a great delicacy,I suppose." And he shook his head disapprovingly, as though he had gravedoubts whether this game were worth the candle.

  "Would you like to go into my study?" Levin said in French to StepanArkadyevitch, scowling morosely. "Go into my study; you can talk there."

  "Quite so, where you please," said Ryabinin with contemptuous dignity,as though wishing to make it felt that others might be in difficultiesas to how to behave, but that he could never be in any difficulty aboutanything.

  On entering the study Ryabinin looked about, as his habit was, as thoughseeking the holy picture, but when he had found it, he did not crosshimself. He scanned the bookcases and bookshelves, and with the samedubious air with which he had regarded the snipe, he smiledcontemptuously and shook his head disapprovingly, as though by no meanswilling to allow that this game were worth the candle.

  "Well, have you brought the money?" asked Oblonsky. "Sit down."

  "Oh, don't trouble about the money. I've come to see you to talk itover."

  "What is there to talk over? But do sit down."

  "I don't mind if I do," said Ryabinin, sitting down and leaning hiselbows on the back of his chair in a position of the intensestdiscomfort to himself. "You must knock it down a bit, prince. It wouldbe too bad. The money is ready conclusively to the last farthing. As topaying the money down, there'll be no hitch there."

  Levin, who had meanwhile been putting his gun away in the cupboard, wasjust going out of the door, but catching the merchant's words, hestopped.

  "Why, you've got the forest for nothing as it is," he said. "He came tome too late, or I'd have fixed the price for him."

  Ryabinin got up, and in silence, with a smile, he looked Levin down andup.

  "Very close about money is Konstantin Dmitrievitch," he said with asmile, turning to Stepan Arkadyevitch; "there's positively no dealingwith him. I was bargaining for some wheat of him, and a pretty price Ioffered too."

  "Why should I give you my goods for nothing? I didn't pick it up on theground, nor steal it either."

  "Mercy on us! nowadays there's no chance at all of stealing. With theopen courts and everything done in style, nowadays there's no questionof stealing. We are just talking things over like gentlemen. Hisexcellency's asking too much for the forest. I can't make both ends meetover it. I must ask for a little concession."

  "But is the thing settled between you or not? If it's settled, it'suseless haggling; but if it's not," said Levin, "I'll buy the forest."

  The smile vanished at once from Ryabinin's face. A hawklike, greedy,cruel expression was left upon it. With rapid, bony fingers heunbuttoned his coat, revealing a shirt, bronze waistcoat buttons, and awatch chain, and quickly pulled out a fat old pocketbook.

  "Here you are, the forest is mine," he said, crossing himself quickly,and holding out his hand. "Take the money; it's my forest. That'sRyabinin's way of doing business; he doesn't haggle over everyhalf-penny," he added, scowling and waving the pocketbook.

  "I wouldn't be in a hurry if I were you," said Levin.

  "Come, really," said Oblonsky in surprise. "I've given my word, youknow."

  Levin went out of the room, slamming the door.
Ryabinin looked towardsthe door and shook his head with a smile.

  "It's all youthfulness--positively nothing but boyishness. Why, I'mbuying it, upon my honor, simply, believe me, for the glory of it, thatRyabinin, and no one else, should have bought the copse of Oblonsky. Andas to the profits, why, I must make what God gives. In God's name. Ifyou would kindly sign the title-deed..."

  Within an hour the merchant, stroking his big overcoat neatly down, andhooking up his jacket, with the agreement in his pocket, seated himselfin his tightly covered trap, and drove homewards.

  "Ugh, these gentlefolks!" he said to the clerk. "They--they're a nicelot!"

  "That's so," responded the clerk, handing him the reins and buttoningthe leather apron. "But I can congratulate you on the purchase, MihailIgnatitch?"

  "Well, well..."

 
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