FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 8

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

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Getting up from the table, Levin walked
with Gagin through the lofty room to the billiard
room, feeling his arms swing as he walked with a peculiar
lightness and ease.  As he crossed the big room,
he came upon his father-in-law.

“Well, how do you like our Temple
of Indolence?” said the prince, taking his arm. 
“Come along, come along!”

“Yes, I wanted to walk about
and look at everything.  It’s interesting.”

“Yes, it’s interesting
for you.  But its interest for me is quite different. 
You look at those little old men now,” he said,
pointing to a club member with bent back and projecting
lip, shuffling towards them in his soft boots, “and
imagine that they were shlupiks like that from
their birth up.”

“How shlupiks?”

“I see you don’t know
that name.  That’s our club designation. 
You know the game of rolling eggs:  when one’s
rolled a long while it becomes a shlupik
So it is with us; one goes on coming and coming to
the club, and ends by becoming a shlupik
Ah, you laugh! but we look out, for fear of dropping
into it ourselves.  You know Prince Tchetchensky?”
inquired the prince; and Levin saw by his face that
he was just going to relate something funny.

“No, I don’t know him.”

“You don’t say so! 
Well, Prince Tchetchensky is a well-known figure. 
No matter, though.  He’s always playing
billiards here.  Only three years ago he was not
a shlupik and kept up his spirits and even
used to call other people shlupiks.  But
one day he turns up, and our porter…you know Vassily? 
Why, that fat one; he’s famous for his bon
mots
.  And so Prince Tchetchensky asks him,
‘Come, Vassily, who’s here?  Any shlupiks
here yet?’ And he says, ‘You’re
the third.’  Yes, my dear boy, that he did!”

Talking and greeting the friends they
met, Levin and the prince walked through all the rooms: 
the great room where tables had already been set,
and the usual partners were playing for small stakes;
the divan room, where they were playing chess, and
Sergey Ivanovitch was sitting talking to somebody;
the billiard room, where, about a sofa in a recess,
there was a lively party drinking champagne ­Gagin
was one of them.  They peeped into the “infernal
regions,” where a good many men were crowding
round one table, at which Yashvin was sitting. 
Trying not to make a noise, they walked into the
dark reading room, where under the shaded lamps there
sat a young man with a wrathful countenance, turning
over one journal after another, and a bald general
buried in a book.  They went, too, into what
the prince called the intellectual room, where three
gentlemen were engaged in a heated discussion of the
latest political news.

“Prince, please come, we’re
ready,” said one of his card party, who had
come to look for him, and the prince went off. 
Levin sat down and listened, but recalling all the
conversation of the morning he felt all of a sudden
fearfully bored.  He got up hurriedly, and went
to look for Oblonsky and Turovtsin, with whom it had
been so pleasant.

Turovtsin was one of the circle drinking
in the billiard room, and Stepan Arkadyevitch was
talking with Vronsky near the door at the farther
corner of the room.

“It’s not that she’s
dull; but this undefined, this unsettled position,”
Levin caught, and he was hurrying away, but Stepan
Arkadyevitch called to him.

“Levin,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch,
and Levin noticed that his eyes were not full of tears
exactly, but moist, which always happened when he
had been drinking, or when he was touched.  Just
now it was due to both causes.  “Levin,
don’t go,” he said, and he warmly squeezed
his arm above the elbow, obviously not at all wishing
to let him go.

“This is a true friend of mine ­almost
my greatest friend,” he said to Vronsky. 
“You have become even closer and dearer to me. 
And I want you, and I know you ought, to be friends,
and great friends, because you’re both splendid
fellows.”

“Well, there’s nothing
for us now but to kiss and be friends,” Vronsky
said, with good-natured playfulness, holding out his
hand.

Levin quickly took the offered hand,
and pressed it warmly.

“I’m very, very glad,” said Levin.

“Waiter, a bottle of champagne,” said
Stepan Arkadyevitch.

“And I’m very glad,” said Vronsky.

But in spite of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s
desire, and their own desire, they had nothing to
talk about, and both felt it.

“Do you know, he has never met
Anna?” Stepan Arkadyevitch said to Vronsky. 
“And I want above everything to take him to
see her.  Let us go, Levin!”

“Really?” said Vronsky. 
“She will be very glad to see you.  I
should be going home at once,” he added, “but
I’m worried about Yashvin, and I want to stay
on till he finishes.”

“Why, is he losing?”

“He keeps losing, and I’m the only friend
that can restrain him.”

“Well, what do you say to pyramids? 
Levin, will you play?  Capital!” said Stepan
Arkadyevitch.  “Get the table ready,”
he said to the marker.

“It has been ready a long while,”
answered the marker, who had already set the balls
in a triangle, and was knocking the red one about
for his own diversion.

“Well, let us begin.”

After the game Vronsky and Levin sat
down at Gagin’s table, and at Stepan Arkadyevitch’s
suggestion Levin took a hand in the game.

Vronsky sat down at the table, surrounded
by friends, who were incessantly coming up to him. 
Every now and then he went to the “infernal”
to keep an eye on Yashvin.  Levin was enjoying
a delightful sense of repose after the mental fatigue
of the morning.  He was glad that all hostility
was at an end with Vronsky, and the sense of peace,
decorum, and comfort never left him.

When the game was over, Stepan Arkadyevitch
took Levin’s arm.

“Well, let us go to Anna’s,
then.  At once?  Eh?  She is at home. 
I promised her long ago to bring you.  Where were
you meaning to spend the evening?”

“Oh, nowhere specially. 
I promised Sviazhsky to go to the Society of Agriculture. 
By all means, let us go,” said Levin.

“Very good; come along. 
Find out if my carriage is here,” Stepan Arkadyevitch
said to the waiter.

Levin went up to the table, paid the
forty roubles he had lost; paid his bill, the amount
of which was in some mysterious way ascertained by
the little old waiter who stood at the counter, and
swinging his arms he walked through all the rooms to
the way out.

 

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