FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 26

Leo TolstoyAug 25, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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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.

 

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