estate from a lady who lives in Nice. And there a merchant leases land, worth ten roubles in rent the dessiatina, for one rouble. Here, for no kind of reason, you've made that cheat a present of thirty thousand roubles.'

`Well, what should I have done? Counted every tree?'

`Of course, they must be counted. You didn't count them, but Riabinin did. Riabinin's children will have means of livelihood and education, while yours, like as not, won't!'

`Well, you must excuse me, but there's something mean in this counting. We have our business and they have theirs, and they must make their profit. Anyway, the thing's done, and there's an end of it. And here come some fried eggs, my favorite dish. And Agathya Mikhailovna will give us that marvelous herb brandy....'

Stepan Arkadyevich sat down at the table and began jollying Agathya Mikhailovna, assuring her that it was long since he had tasted such a dinner and such a supper.

`Well, you praise it, at any rate,' said Agathya Mikhailovna, `but Konstantin Dmitrievich, no matter what you give him - even a crust of bread - will just eat it and walk away.'

Though Levin tried to control himself, he was gloomy and silent. He wanted to put one question to Stepan Arkadyevich, but he could not bring himself to the point, and could not find the words or the moment in which to put it. Stepan Arkadyevich had gone down to his room, undressed, again washed, and, attired in a nightshirt with goffered frills, had got into bed, but Levin still lingered in his room, talking of various trifling matters, and not daring to ask what he wanted to know.

`How wonderfully they make the soap,' he said gazing at a piece of soap he was unwrapping, which Agathya Mikhailovna had placed in readiness for the guest, but a brand which Oblonsky did not use. `Just look - why, it's a work of art.'

`Yes, everything's brought to such a pitch of perfection nowadays,' said Stepan Arkadyevich, with a moist and blissful yawn. `The theater, for instance, and the entertainments... A-a-a!' he yawned. `The electric light everywhere... A-a-a!'

`Yes, the electric light,' said Levin. `Yes. Oh, and where's Vronsky now?' he asked suddenly, laying down the soap.

`Vronsky?' said Stepan Arkadyevich, checking his yawn; `he's in Peterburg. He left soon after you did, and hasn't been once in Moscow since. And, do you know, Kostia, I'll tell you the truth,' he went on, leaning his elbow on the table, and, with his hand, propping up his handsome ruddy face, in which his humid, good-natured, sleepy eyes shone like stars. `It's your own fault. You took fright at the sight of your rival. But, as I told you at the time, I couldn't say which had the better chance. Why didn't you fight it out? I told you at the time that...' He yawned inwardly, without opening his mouth.

`Does he know, or doesn't he, that I did propose?' Levin wondered gazing at him. `Yes, there's something humbugging, something diplomatic in his face.' And, feeling he was blushing, he looked Stepan Arkadyevich straight in the face without speaking.

`If there was anything on her side at that time, it was nothing but a superficial attraction,' pursued Oblonsky. `His being such a perfect aristocrat, you know, and his future position in society, had an influence not with her, but with her mother.'

Levin scowled. The humiliation of his rejection stung him to the heart, as though it were a fresh wound he had only just received. But he was at home, and the walls of home are a support.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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