FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 27

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

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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.

 

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