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-humour 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 humour, and in spite of 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 has 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 practised upon Oblonsky and concluded in his house, exasperated him.
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 youve a grudge against that unlucky Ryabinin.
May be I have. And do you know why? Youll say again that Im 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, Im glad to belong. And their impoverishment is not due to extravagancethat would be nothing; living in good stylethats the proper thing for noblemen: its only the nobles who know how to do it. Now the peasants about us buy land, and I dont mind that. The gentleman does nothing, while the peasant works and supplants the idle man. Thats as it ought to be. And Im very glad for the peasant. But I do mind seeing the process of impoverishment from a sort ofI dont know what to call itinnocence. 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, youve made that rascal a present of thirty thousand roubles.
Well, you must excuse me, but theres something mean in this counting. We have our business and they have theirs, and they must make their profit. Anyway, the things done, and theres an end of it. And here come some poached eggs, my favourite dish. And Agafea Mihalovna will give us that marvellous herb-brandy.
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 night-shirt 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, its a work of art.
Yes, everythings brought to such a pitch of perfection nowadays, said Stepan Arkadyevitch, with a moist and blissful yawn. The theatre, for instance, and the entertainments a-a-a! he yawned. The electric light everywhere a-a-a!
Vronsky? said Stepan Arkadyevitch, checking his yawn; hes in Petersburg. He left soon after you did, and hes not once been in Moscow since. And do you know, Kostya, Ill 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. Its your own fault. You took fright at the sight of your rival. But, as I told you at the time, I couldnt say which had the better chance. Why didnt you fight it out? I told you at the time that He yawned inwardly, without opening his mouth.
Does he know, or doesnt he, that I did make an offer? Levin wondered, gazing at him. Yes, theres 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 that time, it was nothing but a superficial attraction, pursued Oblonsky. His being such a perfect aristocrat, dont you know, and his future position in society, had an influence not with her, but with her mother.
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 dont. A man whose father crawled up from nothing at all by intrigue, and whose motherGod knows whom she wasnt 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 honourable generations of their family, of the highest degree of breeding (talent and intellect, of course thats another matter), and have never curried favour with any one, never depended on any one 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 make Ryabinin a present of thirty thousand; but you get rents from your lands and I dont know what, while I dont, and so I prize whats come to me from my ancestors or been won by hard work. We are aristocrats, and not those who can only exist by favour 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. Levins warmth gave him genuine pleasure. Whom are you attacking? Though a good deal is not true that you say about Vronsky, but I wont talk about that. I tell you straight out, if I were you, I should go back with me to Moscow, and
No; I dont know whether you know it or not, but I dont care. And I tell youI did make an offer and was rejected, and Katerina Alexandrovna is nothing now to me but a painful and humiliating reminiscence.
But we wont talk about it. Please forgive me, if Ive been nasty, said Levin. Now that he had opened his heart, he became as he had been in the morning. Youre not angry with me, Stiva? Please dont be angry, he said, and smiling, he took his hand.
Of course not; not a bit, and no reason to be. Im glad weve spoken openly. And do you know, stand-shooting in the morning is usually goodwhy not go? I couldnt sleep the night anyway, but I might go straight from shooting to the station.