Anna karenina, p.51
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       Anna Karenina, p.51

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 17

  Stepan Arkadyevitch went upstairs with his pocket bulging with notes,which the merchant had paid him for three months in advance. Thebusiness of the forest was over, the money in his pocket; their shootinghad been excellent, and Stepan Arkadyevitch was in the happiest frame ofmind, and so he felt specially anxious to dissipate the ill-humor thathad come upon Levin. He wanted to finish the day at supper as pleasantlyas it had been begun.

  Levin certainly was out of humor, and in spite of all his desire to beaffectionate and cordial to his charming visitor, he could not controlhis mood. The intoxication of the news that Kitty was not married hadgradually begun to work upon him.

  Kitty was not married, but ill, and ill from love for a man who hadslighted her. This slight, as it were, rebounded upon him. Vronsky hadslighted her, and she had slighted him, Levin. Consequently Vronsky hadthe right to despise Levin, and therefore he was his enemy. But all thisLevin did not think out. He vaguely felt that there was something in itinsulting to him, and he was not angry now at what had disturbed him,but he fell foul of everything that presented itself. The stupid sale ofthe forest, the fraud practiced upon Oblonsky and concluded in hishouse, exasperated him.

  "Well, finished?" he said, meeting Stepan Arkadyevitch upstairs. "Wouldyou like supper?"

  "Well, I wouldn't say no to it. What an appetite I get in the country!Wonderful! Why didn't you offer Ryabinin something?"

  "Oh, damn him!"

  "Still, how you do treat him!" said Oblonsky. "You didn't even shakehands with him. Why not shake hands with him?"

  "Because I don't shake hands with a waiter, and a waiter's a hundredtimes better than he is."

  "What a reactionist you are, really! What about the amalgamation ofclasses?" said Oblonsky.

  "Anyone who likes amalgamating is welcome to it, but it sickens me."

  "You're a regular reactionist, I see."

  "Really, I have never considered what I am. I am Konstantin Levin, andnothing else."

  "And Konstantin Levin very much out of temper," said StepanArkadyevitch, smiling.

  "Yes, I am out of temper, and do you know why? Because--excuse me--ofyour stupid sale..."

  Stepan Arkadyevitch frowned good-humoredly, like one who feels himselfteased and attacked for no fault of his own.

  "Come, enough about it!" he said. "When did anybody ever sell anythingwithout being told immediately after the sale, 'It was worth much more'?But when one wants to sell, no one will give anything.... No, I seeyou've a grudge against that unlucky Ryabinin."

  "Maybe I have. And do you know why? You'll say again that I'm areactionist, or some other terrible word; but all the same it does annoyand anger me to see on all sides the impoverishing of the nobility towhich I belong, and, in spite of the amalgamation of classes, I'm gladto belong. And their impoverishment is not due to extravagance--thatwould be nothing; living in good style--that's the proper thing fornoblemen; it's only the nobles who know how to do it. Now the peasantsabout us buy land, and I don't mind that. The gentleman does nothing,while the peasant works and supplants the idle man. That's as it oughtto be. And I'm very glad for the peasant. But I do mind seeing theprocess of impoverishment from a sort of--I don't know what to callit--innocence. Here a Polish speculator bought for half its value amagnificent estate from a young lady who lives in Nice. And there amerchant will get three acres of land, worth ten roubles, as securityfor the loan of one rouble. Here, for no kind of reason, you've madethat rascal a present of thirty thousand roubles."

  "Well, what should I have done? Counted every tree?"

  "Of course, they must be counted. You didn't count them, but Ryabinindid. Ryabinin's children will have means of livelihood and education,while yours maybe will not!"

  "Well, you must excuse me, but there's something mean in this counting.We have our business and they have theirs, and they must make theirprofit. Anyway, the thing's done, and there's an end of it. And herecome some poached eggs, my favorite dish. And Agafea Mihalovna will giveus that marvelous herb-brandy..."

  Stepan Arkadyevitch sat down at the table and began joking with AgafeaMihalovna, assuring her that it was long since he had tasted such adinner and such a supper.

  "Well, you do praise it, anyway," said Agafea Mihalovna, "but KonstantinDmitrievitch, give him what you will--a crust of bread--he'll eat it andwalk away."

  Though Levin tried to control himself, he was gloomy and silent. Hewanted to put one question to Stepan Arkadyevitch, but he could notbring himself to the point, and could not find the words or the momentin which to put it. Stepan Arkadyevitch had gone down to his room,undressed, again washed, and attired in a nightshirt with gofferedfrills, he had got into bed, but Levin still lingered in his room,talking of various trifling matters, and not daring to ask what hewanted to know.

  "How wonderfully they make this soap," he said gazing at a piece of soaphe was handling, which Agafea Mihalovna had put ready for the visitorbut Oblonsky had not used. "Only look; why, it's a work of art."

  "Yes, everything's brought to such a pitch of perfection nowadays," saidStepan Arkadyevitch, with a moist and blissful yawn. "The theater, forinstance, and the entertainments ... a--a--a!" he yawned. "The electriclight everywhere ... a--a--a!"

  "Yes, the electric light," said Levin. "Yes. Oh, and where's Vronskynow?" he asked suddenly, laying down the soap.

  "Vronsky?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, checking his yawn; "he's inPetersburg. He left soon after you did, and he's not once been in Moscowsince. And do you know, Kostya, I'll tell you the truth," he went on,leaning his elbow on the table, and propping on his hand his handsomeruddy face, in which his moist, good-natured, sleepy eyes shone likestars. "It's your own fault. You took fright at the sight of your rival.But, as I told you at the time, I couldn't say which had the betterchance. Why didn't you fight it out? I told you at the time that...." Heyawned inwardly, without opening his mouth.

  "Does he know, or doesn't he, that I did make an offer?" Levin wondered,gazing at him. "Yes, there's something humbugging, diplomatic in hisface," and feeling he was blushing, he looked Stepan Arkadyevitchstraight in the face without speaking.

  "If there was anything on her side at the time, it was nothing but asuperficial attraction," pursued Oblonsky. "His being such a perfectaristocrat, don't you know, and his future position in society, had aninfluence not with her, but with her mother."

  Levin scowled. The humiliation of his rejection stung him to the heart,as though it were a fresh wound he had only just received. But he was athome, and the walls of home are a support.

  "Stay, stay," he began, interrupting Oblonsky. "You talk of his being anaristocrat. But allow me to ask what it consists in, that aristocracy ofVronsky or of anybody else, beside which I can be looked down upon? Youconsider Vronsky an aristocrat, but I don't. A man whose father crawledup from nothing at all by intrigue, and whose mother--God knows whom shewasn't mixed up with.... No, excuse me, but I consider myselfaristocratic, and people like me, who can point back in the past tothree or four honorable generations of their family, of the highestdegree of breeding (talent and intellect, of course that's anothermatter), and have never curried favor with anyone, never depended onanyone for anything, like my father and my grandfather. And I know manysuch. You think it mean of me to count the trees in my forest, while youmake Ryabinin a present of thirty thousand; but you get rents from yourlands and I don't know what, while I don't and so I prize what's come tome from my ancestors or been won by hard work.... We are aristocrats,and not those who can only exist by favor of the powerful of this world,and who can be bought for twopence halfpenny."

  "Well, but whom are you attacking? I agree with you," said StepanArkadyevitch, sincerely and genially; though he was aware that in theclass of those who could be bought for twopence halfpenny Levin wasreckoning him too. Levin's warmth gave him genuine pleasure. "Whom areyou attacking? Though a good deal is not true that you say aboutVronsky, but I won't talk about that. I tell you straight out, if I wereyou, I sh
ould go back with me to Moscow, and..."

  "No; I don't know whether you know it or not, but I don't care. And Itell you--I did make an offer and was rejected, and KaterinaAlexandrovna is nothing now to me but a painful and humiliatingreminiscence."

  "What ever for? What nonsense!"

  "But we won't talk about it. Please forgive me, if I've been nasty,"said Levin. Now that he had opened his heart, he became as he had beenin the morning. "You're not angry with me, Stiva? Please don't beangry," he said, and smiling, he took his hand.

  "Of course not; not a bit, and no reason to be. I'm glad we've spokenopenly. And do you know, stand-shooting in the morning is unusuallygood--why not go? I couldn't sleep the night anyway, but I might gostraight from shooting to the station."

  "Capital."

 
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