Chapter 29

The narrow room, in which they were smoking and taking refreshment, was full of noblemen. The excitement grew more intense, and every face betrayed some uneasiness. The excitement was specially keen for the leaders of each party, who knew every detail, and had reckoned up every vote. They were the generals organizing the approaching battle. The rest, like the rank and file before an engagement, though they were getting ready for the fight, sought for other distractions in the interval. Some were lunching, standing at the bar, or sitting at the table; others were walking up and down the long room, smoking cigarettes, and talking with friends whom they had not seen for a long while.

Levin did not care to eat, and he was not a smoker; he did not want to join his own friends - that is Sergei Ivanovich, Stepan Arkadyevich, Sviiazhsky, and the rest, because Vronsky in his equerry's uniform was standing with them in eager conversation. Levin had seen him already at the meeting on the previous day, and he had studiously avoided him, not caring to greet him. He went to the window and sat down, scanning the groups, and listening to what was being said around him. He felt depressed, especially because everyone else was, as he saw, eager, anxious, and interested, and he alone, with an old, toothless little man with mumbling lips, wearing a naval uniform who sat beside him, had no interest in it, and nothing to do.

`He's such a blackguard! I have told him so, but it makes no difference. Only think of it! He couldn't collect it in three years!' he heard vigorously uttered by a stoop-shouldered, short country gentleman, who had pomaded hair hanging over his embroidered collar, and new boots obviously put on for the occasion, with heels that tapped energetically as he spoke. Casting a displeased glance at Levin, this gentleman sharply turned his back.

`Yes, it's a dirty business, there's no denying,' another puny landowner assented in a high voice.

Next, a whole crowd of country gentlemen, surrounding a stout general, hurriedly came near Levin. These persons were unmistakably seeking a place where they could talk without being overheard.

`How dare he say I had his breeches stolen! Pawned them for drink, I expect. Damn the fellow - Prince indeed! He'd better not say it - that's swinish!'

`But excuse me! They take their stand on the act,' was being said in another group; `the wife must be registered as a noble.'

`Oh, damn your acts! I speak from my heart. We're all gentlemen, aren't we? Have trust in us.'

`Shall we go on, Your Excellency - fine champagne?'

Another group was following a nobleman who was shouting something in a loud voice; it was one of the three intoxicated gentlemen.

`I always advised Marya Semionovna to let for a fair rent, for she can never save a profit,' he heard a pleasant voice say. The speaker was a country gentleman with white mustache, wearing the regimental uniform of an old general staff officer. It was the very landowner Levin had met at Sviiazhsky's. He knew him at once. The landowner too stared at Levin, and they exchanged greetings.

`Very glad to see you! To be sure! I remember you very well. Last year at our district marshal's, Nikolai Ivanovich's.'

`Well, and how is your land doing?' asked Levin.

`Oh, still just the same, always at a loss,' the landowner answered with a resigned smile, but with an expression of serenity and conviction that it must be thus. `And how do you come to be in our province?' he asked. `Come to take part in our coup d'état?' he said, confidently pronouncing the French words with a bad accent.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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