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Chapter 17

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

Levin certainly was out of humor, and in spite off all his desire
to be affectionate and cordial to his charming visitor, he could
not control his mood. The intoxication of the news that Kitty
was not married had gradually begun to work upon him.

Kitty was not married, but ill, and ill from love for a man who
had slighted her. This slight, as it were, rebounded upon him.
Vronsky had slighted her, and she had slighted him, Levin.
Consequently Vronsky had the right to despise Levin, and
therefore he was his enemy. But all this Levin did not think
out. He vaguely felt that there was something in it insulting 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
of the forest, the fraud practiced upon Oblonsky and concluded in
his house, exasperated him.

"Well, finished?" he said, meeting Stepan Arkadyevitch upstairs.
"Would you 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
shake hands with him. Why not shake hands with him?"

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

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

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

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

"Really, I have never considered what I am. I am Konstantin
Levin, and nothing else."

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

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

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

"Come, enough about it!" he said. "When did anybody ever sell
anything without being told immediately after the sale, 'It was
worth much more'? But when one wants to sell, no one will give
anything.... No, I see you've a grudge against that unlucky

"Maybe I have. And do you know why? You'll say again that I'm a
reactionist, or some other terrible word; but all the same it
does annoy and anger me to see on all sides the impoverishing of
the nobility to which I belong, and, in spite of the amalgamation
of classes, I'm glad to belong. And their impoverishment is not
due to extravagance--that would be nothing; living in good style
--that's the proper thing for noblemen; it's only the nobles who
know how to do it. Now the peasants about 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 ought to be. And
I'm very glad for the peasant. But I do mind seeing the process
of impoverishment from a sort of--I don't know what to call it--
innocence. Here a Polish speculator bought for half its value a
magnificent estate from a young lady who lives in Nice. And
there a merchant will get three acres of land, worth ten roubles,
as security for the loan of one rouble. Here, for no kind of
reason, you've made that rascal a present of thirty thousand

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

"Of course, they must be counted. You didn't count them, but
Ryabinin did. 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 their profit. Anyway, the thing's done, and there's an
end of it. And here come some poached eggs, my favorite dish.
And Agafea Mihalovna will give us that marvelous herb-brandy..."

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

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

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

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

"Yes, everything's brought to such a pitch of perfection
nowadays," said Stepan Arkadyevitch, with a moist and blissful
yawn. "The theater, for instance, and the entertainments...
a--a--a!" he yawned. "The electric light everywhere...a--a--a!"

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

"Vronsky?" said Stepan Arkadyevitch, checking his yawn; "he's in
Petersburg. He left soon after you did, and he's not once been
in Moscow since. 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 handsome ruddy face, in which his moist,
good-natured, sleepy eyes shone like stars. "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 better
chance. Why didn't you fight it out? I told you at the time
that...." He yawned 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 his face," and feeling he was blushing, he looked
Stepan Arkadyevitch straight in the face without speaking.

"If there was anything on her side at the time, it was nothing
but a superficial attraction," pursued Oblonsky. "His being such
a perfect aristocrat, don't you know, and his future position in
society, had an influence 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 at home, and the walls of home are a support.

"Stay, stay," he began, interrupting Oblonsky. "You talk of his
being an aristocrat. But allow me to ask what it consists in,
that aristocracy of Vronsky or of anybody else, beside which I
can be looked down upon? You consider Vronsky an aristocrat,
but I don't. A man whose father crawled up from nothing at all
by intrigue, and whose mother--God knows whom she wasn't mixed
up with.... No, excuse me, but I consider myself aristocratic,
and people like me, who can point back in the past to three or
four honorable generations of their family, of the highest degree
of breeding (talent and intellect, of course that's another
matter), and have never curried favor with anyone, never depended
on anyone for anything, like my father and my grandfather. And I
know many such. You think it mean of me to count the trees in my
forest, while you may Ryabinin a present of thirty thousand; but
you get rents from your lands and I don't know what, while I
don't and so I prize what's come to me 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
Stepan Arkadyevitch, sincerely and genially; though he was aware
that in the class of those who could be bought for twopence
halfpenny Levin was reckoning him too. Levin's warmth gave him
genuine pleasure. "Whom are you attacking? Though a good deal
is not true that you say about Vronsky, but I won't talk about
that. I tell you straight out, if I were you, I should go back
with me to Moscow, and..."

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

"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 been in the morning. "You're not angry with me, Stiva?
Please don't be angry," he said, and smiling, he took his hand.

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


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
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