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Chapter 26


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.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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