`All Russia's here - gentlemen of the bedchamber, and everything short of the ministry.' He pointed to the imposing figure of Stepan Arkadyevich in white trousers and his court uniform, walking by with a general.
`I ought to own that I don't very well understand the drift of the provincial elections,' said Levin.
The landowner looked at him.
`Why, what is there to understand? There's no meaning in it at all. It's a decaying institution that goes on running only by the force of inertia. Just look, the very uniforms tell you that it's an assembly of justices of the peace, permanent members of the boards, and so on, but not of noblemen.'
`Then why do you come?' asked Levin.
`From habit, nothing else. Then, too, one must keep up connections. It's a moral obligation of a sort. And then, to tell the truth, there are one's own interests. My son-in-law wants to run as a permanent member; they're not rich people, and he must be brought forward. These gentlemen, now - what do they come for?' he said, pointing to the venomous gentleman, who was talking at the high table.
`That's the new generation of nobility.'
`New it may be, but nobility it isn't. They're landed proprietors - but we're the landowners. As noblemen, they're cutting their own throats.'
`But you say it's an institution that's served its time.'
`That it may be, but still, it ought to be treated a little more respectfully. Snetkov, now... We may be of use, or we may not, but we're the growth of a thousand years. If we're laying out a garden, planning one before the house, you know, and there you've a tree that's stood for centuries in the very spot... Old and gnarled it may be, and yet you don't cut down the old fellow to make room for the flowerbeds, but lay out your beds so as to take advantage of the tree. You won't grow him again in a year,' he said cautiously, and he immediately changed the conversation. `Well, and how is your estate doing?'
`Oh, not very well. I make about five per cent.'
`Yes, but you don't reckon your own work. Aren't you worth something too? I'll tell you my own case. Before I took to seeing after the land, I had a salary of three thousand roubles from the service. Now I do more work than I did in the service, and, like you, I get five per cent on the land, and thank God for that. But one's work is thrown in for nothing.'
`Then why do you do it, if it's a clear loss?'
`Oh, well, one does it! What would you have? It's habit, and one knows it's as it should be. And what's more,' the landowner went on, leaning on the window and chatting on, `my son, I must tell you, has no taste for it. There's no doubt he'll be a savant. So there'll be no one to keep it up. And yet one does it. Here this year I've planted an orchard.'
`Yes, yes,' said Levin, `that's perfectly true. I always feel there's no real balance of gain in my work on the land, and yet one does it.... It's a sort of duty one feels to the land.'
`But I tell you what,' the landowner pursued; `a neighbor of mine, a merchant, was at my place. We walked about the fields and the park. ``No,' said he, ``Stepan Vassilyevich - everything's well looked after but your garden's neglected.' But, as a fact, it's well kept up. ``To my thinking, I'd cut down the linden trees. Only do it when they're running sap. Here's a thousand lindens, and each would make two good bundles of bast. And nowadays that bast's worth something. And you'd cut down the lot of the linden shells.''