Chapter 16

On the way home Levin asked all the details of Kitty's illness and of the Shcherbatskys' plans, and though he would have been ashamed to admit it, he was pleased at what he heard. He was pleased that there was still hope, and still more pleased that she, who had made him suffer, should be suffering so much. But when Stepan Arkadyevich began to speak of the causes of Kitty's illness, and mentioned Vronsky's name, Levin cut him short.

`I have no right whatever to know family matters, and, to tell the truth, no interest in them either.'

Stepan Arkadyevich smiled a barely perceptible smile, catching the instantaneous change he knew so well in Levin's face, which had become as gloomy as it had been bright a minute before.

`Have you quite settled about the forest with Riabinin?' asked Levin.

`Yes, it's all settled. The price is magnificent - thirty-eight thousand. Eight straightaway, and the rest in six years. I've been bothering about it for ever so long. No one would give more.'

`Then you've as good as given away your forest for nothing,' said Levin gloomily.

`How do you mean - for nothing?' said Stepan Arkadyevich with a good-humored smile, knowing that nothing would be right in Levin's eyes now.

`Because the forest is worth at least five hundred roubles the dessiatina,' answered Levin.

`Oh, these farmers!' said Stepan Arkadyevich playfully. `Your tone of contempt for us poor townsfolk!... But when it comes to business, we are better at it than anyone. I assure you I have reckoned it all out,' he said, `and the forest is fetching a very good price - so much so that I'm afraid of this fellow's crying off, in fact. You know it's not ``timber forest,'' said Stepan Arkadyevich, hoping by this distinction to convince Levin completely of the unfairness of his doubts, `but for the most part firewood. And it won't run to more than thirty sazhenes of wood per dessiatina, and he's paying me at the rate of two hundred roubles the dessiatina.'

Levin smiled contemptuously. `I know,' he thought, `that fashion not only in him, but in all city people, who, after being twice in ten years in the country, pick up two or three phrases and use them in season and out of season, firmly persuaded that they know all about it. ``Timber, run to thirty sazhenes the dessiatina.'' He says those words without understanding them himself.'

`I wouldn't attempt to teach you what you write about in your office,' said he, `and if need arose, I should come to you to ask about it. But you're so positive you know all the lore of the forest. It's difficult. Have you counted the trees?'

`How count the trees?' said Stepan Arkadyevich, laughing, still trying to draw his friend out of his ill temper. `Count sands of seas, and rays of stars, though could some higher power...'

`Oh, well, the higher power of Riabinin can. Not a single merchant ever buys a forest without counting the trees, unless they get it given them for nothing, as you're doing now. I know your forest. I go there every year shooting, and your forest's worth five hundred a dessiatina paid down, while he's giving you two hundred by installments. So that in fact you're making him a present of thirty thousand.'

`Come, don't let your imagination run away with you,' said Stepan Arkadyevich piteously. `Why was it none would give it, then?'

`Why, because he has an understanding with the merchants; he's bought them off. I've had to do with all of them; I know them. They're not merchants, you know; they're speculators. He wouldn't look at a bargain that gave him ten, fifteen per cent profit, but holds back to buy a rouble's worth for twenty kopecks.'

`Well, enough of it! You're out of temper.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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