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Chapter 27


The sixth day was fixed for the election of the marshal of the
province.

The rooms, large and small, were full of noblemen in all sorts of
uniforms. Many had come only for that day. Men who had not seen
each other for years, some from the Crimea, some from Petersburg,
some from abroad, met in the rooms of the Hall of Nobility.
There was much discussion around the governor's table under the
portrait of the Tsar.

The nobles, both in the larger and the smaller rooms, grouped
themselves in camps, and from their hostile and suspicious
glances, from the silence that fell upon them when outsiders
approached a group, and from the way that some, whispering
together, retreated to the farther corridor, it was evident that
each side had secrets from the other. In appearance the noblemen
were sharply divided into two classes: the old and the new. The
old were for the most part either in old uniforms of the
nobility, buttoned up closely, with spurs and hats, or in their
own special naval, cavalry, infantry, or official uniforms. The
uniforms of the older men were embroidered in the old-fashioned
way with epaulets on their shoulders; they were unmistakably
tight and short in the waist, as though their wearers had grown
out of them. The younger men wore the uniform of the nobility
with long waists and broad shoulders, unbuttoned over white
waistcoats, or uniforms with black collars and with the
embroidered badges of justices of the peace. To the younger men
belonged the court uniforms that here and there brightened up the
crowd.

But the division into young and old did not correspond with the
division of parties. Some of the young men, as Levin observed,
belonged to the old party; and some of the very oldest noblemen,
on the contrary, were whispering with Sviazhsky, and were
evidently ardent partisans of the new party.

Levin stood in the smaller room, where they were smoking and
taking light refreshments, close to his own friends, and
listening to what they were saying, he conscientiously exerted
all his intelligence trying to understand what was said. Sergey
Ivanovitch was the center round which the others grouped
themselves. He was listening at that moment to Sviazhsky and
Hliustov, the marshal of another district, who belonged to their
party. Hliustov would not agree to go with his district to ask
Snetkov to stand, while Sviazhsky was persuading him to do so,
and Sergey Ivanovitch was approving of the plan. Levin could not
make out why the opposition was to ask the marshal to stand whom
they wanted to supersede.

Stepan Arkadyevitch, who had just been drinking and taking some
lunch, came up to them in his uniform of a gentleman of the
bedchamber, wiping his lips with a perfumed handkerchief of
bordered batiste.

"We are placing our forces," he said, pulling out his whiskers,
"Sergey Ivanovitch!"

And listening to the conversation, he supported Sviazhsky's
contention.

"One district's enough, and Sviazhsky's obviously of the
opposition," he said, words evidently intelligible to all except
Levin.

"Why, Kostya, you here too! I suppose you're converted, eh?" he
added, turning to Levin and drawing his arm through his. Levin
would have been glad indeed to be converted, but could not make
out what the point was, and retreating a few steps from the
speakers, he explained to Stepan Arkadyevitch his inability to
understand why the marshal of the province should be asked to
stand.

"O sancta simplicitas!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, and briefly and
clearly he explained it to Levin. If, as at previous elections,
all the districts asked the marshal of the province to stand,
then he would be elected without a ballot. That must not be.
Now eight districts had agreed to call upon him: if two refused
to do so, Snetkov might decline to stand at all; and then the old
party might choose another of their party, which would throw them
completely out in their reckoning. But if only one district,
Sviazhsky's, did not call upon him to stand, Snetkov would let
himself be balloted for. They were even, some of them, going to
vote for him, and purposely to let him get a good many votes, so
that the enemy might be thrown off the scent, and when a
candidate of the other side was put up, they too might give him
some votes. Levin understood to some extent, but not fully, and
would have put a few more questions, when suddenly everyone
began talking and making a noise and they moved towards the big
room.

"What is it? eh? whom?" "No guarantee? whose? what?" "They won't
pass him?" "No guarantee?" "They won't let Flerov in?" "Eh,
because of the charge against him?" "Why, at this rate, they
won't admit anyone. It's a swindle!" "The law!" Levin heard
exclamations on all sides, and he moved into the big room
together with the others, all hurrying somewhere and afraid of
missing something. Squeezed by the crowding noblemen, he drew
near the high table where the marshal of the province, Sviazhsky,
and the other leaders were hotly disputing about something.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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