FictionForest

PART ONE : Chapter 8

Leo TolstoyAug 21, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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When the professor had gone, Sergey
Ivanovitch turned to his brother.

“Delighted that you’ve
come.  For some time, is it?  How’s
your farming getting on?”

Levin knew that his elder brother
took little interest in farming, and only put the
question in deference to him, and so he only told
him about the sale of his wheat and money matters.

Levin had meant to tell his brother
of his determination to get married, and to ask his
advice; he had indeed firmly resolved to do so. 
But after seeing his brother, listening to his conversation
with the professor, hearing afterwards the unconsciously
patronizing tone in which his brother questioned him
about agricultural matters (their mother’s property
had not been divided, and Levin took charge of both
their shares), Levin felt that he could not for some
reason begin to talk to him of his intention of marrying. 
He felt that his brother would not look at it as
he would have wished him to.

“Well, how is your district
council doing?” asked Sergey Ivanovitch, who
was greatly interested in these local boards and attached
great importance to them.

“I really don’t know.”

“What!  Why, surely you’re a member
of the board?”

“No, I’m not a member
now; I’ve resigned,” answered Levin, “and
I no longer attend the meetings.”

“What a pity!” commented Sergey Ivanovitch,
frowning.

Levin in self-defense began to describe
what took place in the meetings in his district.

“That’s how it always
is!” Sergey Ivanovitch interrupted him. 
“We Russians are always like that.  Perhaps
it’s our strong point, really, the faculty of
seeing our own shortcomings; but we overdo it, we
comfort ourselves with irony which we always have
on the tip of our tongues.  All I say is, give
such rights as our local self-government to any other
European people ­why, the Germans or the
English would have worked their way to freedom from
them, while we simply turn them into ridicule.”

“But how can it be helped?”
said Levin penitently.  “It was my last
effort.  And I did try with all my soul. 
I can’t.  I’m no good at it.”

“It’s not that you’re
no good at it,” said Sergey Ivanovitch; “it
is that you don’t look at it as you should.”

“Perhaps not,” Levin answered dejectedly.

“Oh! do you know brother Nikolay’s turned
up again?”

This brother Nikolay was the elder
brother of Konstantin Levin, and half-brother of Sergey
Ivanovitch; a man utterly ruined, who had dissipated
the greater part of his fortune, was living in the
strangest and lowest company, and had quarreled with
his brothers.

“What did you say?” Levin cried with horror. 
“How do you know?”

“Prokofy saw him in the street.”

“Here in Moscow?  Where
is he?  Do you know?” Levin got up from
his chair, as though on the point of starting off at
once.

“I am sorry I told you,”
said Sergey Ivanovitch, shaking his head at his younger
brother’s excitement.  “I sent to
find out where he is living, and sent him his IOU
to Trubin, which I paid.  This is the answer
he sent me.”

And Sergey Ivanovitch took a note
from under a paper-weight and handed it to his brother.

Levin read in the queer, familiar
handwriting:  “I humbly beg you to leave
me in peace.  That’s the only favor I ask
of my gracious brothers. ­Nikolay Levin.”

Levin read it, and without raising
his head stood with the note in his hands opposite
Sergey Ivanovitch.

There was a struggle in his heart
between the desire to forget his unhappy brother for
the time, and the consciousness that it would be base
to do so.

“He obviously wants to offend
me,” pursued Sergey Ivanovitch; “but he
cannot offend me, and I should have wished with all
my heart to assist him, but I know it’s impossible
to do that.”

“Yes, yes,” repeated Levin. 
“I understand and appreciate your attitude
to him; but I shall go and see him.”

“If you want to, do; but I shouldn’t
advise it,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.  “As
regards myself, I have no fear of your doing so; he
will not make you quarrel with me; but for your own
sake, I should say you would do better not to go. 
You can’t do him any good; still, do as you
please.”

“Very likely I can’t do
any good, but I feel ­especially at such
a moment ­but that’s another thing ­I
feel I could not be at peace.”

“Well, that I don’t understand,”
said Sergey Ivanovitch.  “One thing I do
understand,” he added; “it’s a lesson
in humility.  I have come to look very differently
and more charitably on what is called infamous since
brother Nikolay has become what he is…you know what
he did…”

“Oh, it’s awful, awful!” repeated
Levin.

After obtaining his brother’s
address from Sergey Ivanovitch’s footman, Levin
was on the point of setting off at once to see him,
but on second thought he decided to put off his visit
till the evening.  The first thing to do to set
his heart at rest was to accomplish what he had come
to Moscow for.  From his brother’s Levin
went to Oblonsky’s office, and on getting news
of the Shtcherbatskys from him, he drove to the place
where he had been told he might find Kitty.

 

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