And the sitting of the board began.
`If they but knew,' he thought, inclining his head with an important air and listening to the report, `what a guilty little boy their president was half an hour ago!' And his eyes were laughing during the reading of the report. Till two o'clock the sitting would go on without a break - then there would be an interval and luncheon.
It was not yet two, when the large glass doors of the board room suddenly opened and someone came in.
All the members of the board, sitting at the table, from below the portrait of the Czar and from behind the mirror of justice, delighted at any distraction, looked round at the door; but the doorkeeper standing there at once drove out the intruder, and closed the glass door after him.
When the case had been read through, Stepan Arkadyevich got up and stretched, and by way of tribute to the liberalism of the times took out a cigarette, being in the board room, and went into his private room. Two of his board fellows, the old veteran in the service, Nikitin, and the Kammerjunker Grinevich, went in with him.
`We shall have time to finish after lunch,' said Stepan Arkadyevich.
`To be sure we shall!' said Nikitin.
`A pretty sharp fellow this Fomin must be,' said Grinevich of one of the persons taking part in the case they were examining.
Stepan Arkadyevich frowned at Grinevich's words, giving him thereby to understand that it was improper to pass judgment prematurely, and made him no reply.
`Who was it who came in?' he asked the doorkeeper.
`Some fellow, your excellency, sneaked in without permission directly my back was turned. He was asking for you. I told him: when the members come out, then...'
`Where is he?'
`Maybe he's gone into the passage, he was strolling here till now. That's he,' said the doorkeeper, pointing to a strongly built, broad shouldered man with a curly beard, who, without taking off his sheepskin cap, was running lightly and rapidly up the worn steps of the stone staircase. One of the officials going down - a lean fellow with a portfolio - stood out of his way, looked disapprovingly at the legs of the running man, and then glanced inquiringly at Oblonsky.
Stepan Arkadyevich was standing at the top of the stairs. His good-naturedly beaming face above the embroidered collar of his uniform beamed more than ever when he recognized the man coming up.
`Why, it's actually you, Levin, at last!' he said with a friendly mocking smile, gazing on the approaching man. `How is it you have deigned to look me up in this den?' said Stepan Arkadyevich and, not content with shaking hands, he kissed his friend. `Have you been here long?'
`I have just come, and very much wanted to see you,' said Levin, looking about him shyly, and, at the same time, angrily and uneasily.
`Well, let's go into my room,' said Stepan Arkadyevich, who knew his friend's sensitive and irritable shyness, and, taking his arm, he drew him along, as though guiding him through dangers.
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