FictionForest

PART SIX : Chapter 30

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

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Sviazhsky took Levin’s arm,
and went with him to his own friends.  This time
there was no avoiding Vronsky.  He was standing
with Stepan Arkadyevitch and Sergey Ivanovitch, and
looking straight at Levin as he drew near.

“Delighted!  I believe
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you…at Princess
Shtcherbatskaya’s,” he said, giving Levin
his hand.

“Yes, I quite remember our meeting,”
said Levin, and blushing crimson, he turned away immediately,
and began talking to his brother.

With a slight smile Vronsky went on
talking to Sviazhsky, obviously without the slightest
inclination to enter into conversation with Levin. 
But Levin, as he talked to his brother, was continually
looking round at Vronsky, trying to think of something
to say to him to gloss over his rudeness.

“What are we waiting for now?”
asked Levin, looking at Sviazhsky and Vronsky.

“For Snetkov.  He has to
refuse or to consent to stand,” answered Sviazhsky.

“Well, and what has he done, consented or not?”

“That’s the point, that he’s done
neither,” said Vronsky.

“And if he refuses, who will
stand then?” asked Levin, looking at Vronsky.

“Whoever chooses to,” said Sviazhsky.

“Shall you?” asked Levin.

“Certainly not I,” said
Sviazhsky, looking confused, and turning an alarmed
glance at the malignant gentleman, who was standing
beside Sergey Ivanovitch.

“Who then?  Nevyedovsky?”
said Levin, feeling he was putting his foot into it.

But this was worse still.  Nevyedovsky
and Sviazhsky were the two candidates.

“I certainly shall not, under
any circumstances,” answered the malignant gentleman.

This was Nevyedovsky himself. 
Sviazhsky introduced him to Levin.

“Well, you find it exciting
too?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, winking at Vronsky. 
“It’s something like a race.  One
might bet on it.”

“Yes, it is keenly exciting,”
said Vronsky.  “And once taking the thing
up, one’s eager to see it through.  It’s
a fight!” he said, scowling and setting his
powerful jaws.

“What a capable fellow Sviazhsky
is!  Sees it all so clearly.”

“Oh, yes!” Vronsky assented indifferently.

A silence followed, during which Vronsky ­since
he had to look at something ­looked at Levin,
at his feet, at his uniform, then at his face, and
noticing his gloomy eyes fixed upon him, he said,
in order to say something: 

“How is it that you, living
constantly in the country, are not a justice of the
peace?  You are not in the uniform of one.”

“It’s because I consider
that the justice of the peace is a silly institution,”
Levin answered gloomily.  He had been all the
time looking for an opportunity to enter into conversation
with Vronsky, so as to smooth over his rudeness at
their first meeting.

“I don’t think so, quite
the contrary,” Vronsky said, with quiet surprise.

“It’s a plaything,”
Levin cut him short.  “We don’t want
justices of the peace.  I’ve never had
a single thing to do with them during eight years. 
And what I have had was decided wrongly by them. 
The justice of the peace is over thirty miles from
me.  For some matter of two roubles I should have
to send a lawyer, who costs me fifteen.”

And he related how a peasant had stolen
some flour from the miller, and when the miller told
him of it, had lodged a complaint for slander. 
All this was utterly uncalled for and stupid, and
Levin felt it himself as he said it.

“Oh, this is such an original
fellow!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with his most
soothing, almond-oil smile.  “But come along;
I think they’re voting….”

And they separated.

“I can’t understand,”
said Sergey Ivanovitch, who had observed his brother’s
clumsiness, “I can’t understand how anyone
can be so absolutely devoid of political tact. 
That’s where we Russians are so deficient. 
The marshal of the province is our opponent, and
with him you’re ami cochon, and you beg
him to stand.  Count Vronsky, now …I’m
not making a friend of him; he’s asked me to
dinner, and I’m not going; but he’s one
of our side ­why make an enemy of him? 
Then you ask Nevyedovsky if he’s going to stand. 
That’s not a thing to do.”

“Oh, I don’t understand
it at all!  And it’s all such nonsense,”
Levin answered gloomily.

“You say it’s all such
nonsense, but as soon as you have anything to do with
it, you make a muddle.”

Levin did not answer, and they walked
together into the big room.

The marshal of the province, though
he was vaguely conscious in the air of some trap being
prepared for him, and though he had not been called
upon by all to stand, had still made up his mind to
stand.  All was silence in the room.  The
secretary announced in a loud voice that the captain
of the guards, Mihail Stepanovitch Snetkov, would
now be balloted for as marshal of the province.

The district marshals walked carrying
plates, on which were balls, from their tables to
the high table, and the election began.

“Put it in the right side,”
whispered Stepan Arkadyevitch, as with his brother
Levin followed the marshal of his district to the
table.  But Levin had forgotten by now the calculations
that had been explained to him, and was afraid Stepan
Arkadyevitch might be mistaken in saying “the
right side.”  Surely Snetkov was the enemy. 
As he went up, he held the ball in his right hand,
but thinking he was wrong, just at the box he changed
to the left hand, and undoubtedly put the ball to
the left.  An adept in the business, standing
at the box and seeing by the mere action of the elbow
where each put his ball, scowled with annoyance. 
It was no good for him to use his insight.

Everything was still, and the counting
of the balls was heard.  Then a single voice rose
and proclaimed the numbers for and against. 
The marshal had been voted for by a considerable majority. 
All was noise and eager movement towards the doors. 
Snetkov came in, and the nobles thronged round him,
congratulating him.

“Well, now is it over?”
Levin asked Sergey Ivanovitch.

“It’s only just beginning,”
Sviazhsky said, replying for Sergey Ivanovitch with
a smile.  “Some other candidate may receive
more votes than the marshal.”

Levin had quite forgotten about that. 
Now he could only remember that there was some sort
of trickery in it, but he was too bored to think what
it was exactly.  He felt depressed, and longed
to get out of the crowd.

As no one was paying any attention
to him, and no one apparently needed him, he quietly
slipped away into the little room where the refreshments
were, and again had a great sense of comfort when
he saw the waiters.  The little old waiter pressed
him to have something, and Levin agreed.  After
eating a cutlet with beans and talking to the waiters
of their former masters, Levin, not wishing to go
back to the hall, where it was all so distasteful
to him, proceeded to walk through the galleries. 
The galleries were full of fashionably dressed ladies,
leaning over the balustrade and trying not to lose
a single word of what was being said below. 
With the ladies were sitting and standing smart lawyers,
high school teachers in spectacles, and officers. 
Everywhere they were talking of the election, and of
how worried the marshal was, and how splendid the
discussions had been.  In one group Levin heard
his brother’s praises.  One lady was telling
a lawyer: 

“How glad I am I heard Koznishev! 
It’s worth losing one’s dinner. 
He’s exquisite!  So clear and distinct all
of it!  There’s not one of you in the law
courts that speaks like that.  The only one is
Meidel, and he’s not so eloquent by a long way.”

Finding a free place, Levin leaned
over the balustrade and began looking and listening.

All the noblemen were sitting railed
off behind barriers according to their districts. 
In the middle of the room stood a man in a uniform,
who shouted in a loud, high voice: 

“As a candidate for the marshalship
of the nobility of the province we call upon staff-captain
Yevgeney Ivanovitch Apuhtin!” A dead silence
followed, and then a weak old voice was heard: 
“Declined!”

“We call upon the privy councilor
Pyotr Petrovitch Bol,” the voice began
again.

“Declined!” a high boyish voice replied.

Again it began, and again “Declined.” 
And so it went on for about an hour.  Levin,
with his elbows on the balustrade, looked and listened. 
At first he wondered and wanted to know what it meant;
then feeling sure that he could not make it out he
began to be bored.  Then recalling all the excitement
and vindictiveness he had seen on all the faces, he
felt sad; he made up his mind to go, and went downstairs. 
As he passed through the entry to the galleries he
met a dejected high school boy walking up and down
with tired-looking eyes.  On the stairs he met
a couple ­a lady running quickly on her
high heels and the jaunty deputy prosecutor.

“I told you you weren’t
late,” the deputy prosecutor was saying at the
moment when Levin moved aside to let the lady pass.

Levin was on the stairs to the way
out, and was just feeling in his waistcoat pocket
for the number of his overcoat, when the secretary
overtook him.

“This way, please, Konstantin
Dmitrievitch; they are voting.”

The candidate who was being voted
on was Nevyedovsky, who had so stoutly denied all
idea of standing.  Levin went up to the door
of the room; it was locked.  The secretary knocked,
the door opened, and Levin was met by two red-faced
gentlemen, who darted out.

“I can’t stand any more
of it,” said one red-faced gentleman.

After them the face of the marshal
of the province was poked out.  His face was dreadful-looking
from exhaustion and dismay.

“I told you not to let any one
out!” he cried to the doorkeeper.

“I let someone in, your excellency!”

“Mercy on us!” and with
a heavy sigh the marshal of the province walked with
downcast head to the high table in the middle of the
room, his legs staggering in his white trousers.

Nevyedovsky had scored a higher majority,
as they had planned, and he was the new marshal of
the province.  Many people were amused, many
were pleased and happy, many were in ecstasies, many
were disgusted and unhappy.  The former marshal
of the province was in a state of despair, which he
could not conceal.  When Nevyedovsky went out
of the room, the crowd thronged round him and followed
him enthusiastically, just as they had followed the
governor who had opened the meetings, and just as they
had followed Snetkov when he was elected.

 

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