`It's because I consider the justice of the peace a silly institution,' morosely answered Levin, who had been all the time looking for an opportunity to enter into conversation with Vronsky, so as to smooth over his rudeness at their first meeting.
`I don't think so - quite the contrary,' Vronsky said, with calm surprise.
`It's a plaything,' Levin cut him short. `We don't want justices of the peace. I've never had a single thing to do with them during eight years. And what I have had, was decided wrongly by them. The justice of the peace is over thirty miles from me. For a matter of two roubles or so, I should have to send a lawyer, who costs me fifteen.'
And he related how a peasant had stolen some flour from the miller, and when the miller told him of it, had lodged a complaint for slander. All this was utterly uncalled-for and stupid, and Levin felt it himself as he said it.
`Oh, this is such an original fellow!' said Stepan Arkadyevich with his most soothing, almond-oil smile. `But come along; I think they're voting....'
And they separated.
`I can't understand,' said Sergei Ivanovich, who had observed his brother's gaucherie, `I can't understand how anyone can be so absolutely devoid of political tact. That's where we Russians are so deficient. The marshal of the province is our opponent, and with him you're ami cochon, and you beg him to be candidate. Count Vronsky, now... I'm not making a friend of him - he's asked me to dinner, and I'm not going; but he's one of our side - why make an enemy of him? Then you ask Neviedovsky if he's going to run. That's not done.'
`Oh, I don't understand it at all! And it's all such nonsense,' Levin answered somberly.
`You say it's all such nonsense - yet as soon as you have anything to do with it, you make a muddle.'
Levin did not answer, and they walked together into the big room.
The marshal of the province, though he was vaguely conscious in the air of some trap being prepared for him, and though he had not been called upon by all to run, had nevertheless made up his mind to run for office. All was silence in the room. The secretary announced in a loud voice that Mikhail Stepanovich Snetkov, captain of the guards, would now be balloted for as marshal of the province.
The district marshals walked carrying plates, on which were balls, from their tables to the province table, and the election began.
`Put it in the right side,' whispered Stepan Arkadyevich, as Levin with his brother followed the marshal of his district to the table. But Levin had forgotten by now the machination that had been explained to him, and was afraid Stepan Arkadyevich might be mistaken in saying `the right side.' Surely Snetkov was the enemy. As he went up, he held the ball in his right hand, but thinking he was wrong, just at the box he changed to the left hand, and undoubtedly put the ball to the left. An adept in the business, standing at the box and seeing by the mere action of the elbow where each put his ball, scowled with annoyance. It was no good for him to use his insight.
Everything was still, and the counting of the balls was heard. Then a single voice rose and proclaimed the numbers for and against.
The marshal had been voted for by a considerable majority. All was noise and eager movement toward the doors. Snetkov came in, and the nobles thronged round him, congratulating him.
`Well, now, is it over?' Levin asked Sergei Ivanovich.