Chapter 17

Stepan Arkadyevich's affairs were in a very bad way.

The money for two-thirds of the forest had all been spent already, and he had borrowed from the merchant in advance at ten per cent discount almost all the remaining third. The merchant would not give more, especially as Darya Alexandrovna, for the first time that winter insisting on her right to her own property, had refused to sign the receipt for the payment of the last third of the forest. All his salary went on household expenses and in payment of petty debts that could not be put off. There was positively no money.

This was unpleasant and awkward, and in Stepan Arkadyevich's opinion things could not go on like this. The explanation of the position was, in his view, to be found in the fact that his salary was too small. The post he filled had been unmistakably very good five years ago, but it was so no longer. Petrov, the bank director, had twelve thousand; Sventitsky, a company director, had seventeen thousand; Mitin, who had founded a bank, received fifty thousand. `Clearly I've been napping, and they've overlooked me,' Stepan Arkadyevich thought about himself. And he began keeping his eyes and ears open, and toward the end of the winter he had discovered a very good berth and had formed a plan of attack upon it, at first from Moscow through aunts, uncles, and friends, and then, when the matter was well advanced, in the spring, he went himself to Peterburg. It was one of those berths (with incomes ranging from one thousand to fifty thousand roubles), of which there are so many more nowadays than there were snug, bribable ones in the past. It was the post of secretary of the committee of the amalgamated agency of the Southern Railways, and of certain banking companies. This position, like all such appointments, called for such immense energy and such varied qualifications, that it was difficult for them to be found united in any one man. And since a man combining all the qualifications was not to be found, it was at least better that the post be filled by an honest than by a dishonest man. And Stepan Arkadyevich was not merely an honest man, unemphatically, in the common acceptation of the word; he was an honest man, emphatically, in that special sense which the word has in Moscow, when they talk of an `honest' politician, an `honest' writer, an `honest' newspaper, an `honest' institution, an `honest' tendency, meaning not simply that the man or the institution is not dishonest, but that they are capable on occasion of stinging the authorities. Stepan Arkadyevich moved in those circles in Moscow in which that expression had come into use, was regarded there as an honest man, and so had more right to this appointment than others.

The appointment yielded an income of from seven to ten thousand a year, and Oblonsky could fill it without giving up his government position. It was in the hands of two ministers, one lady, and two Jews, and all these people, though the way had been paved already with them, Stepan Arkadyevich had to see in Peterburg. Besides this business, Stepan Arkadyevich had promised his sister Anna to obtain from Karenin a definite answer on the question of divorce. And begging fifty roubles from Dolly, he set off for Peterburg.

Stepan Arkadyevich sat in Karenin's study listening to his report on the causes of the unsatisfactory position of Russian finance, and only waiting for the moment when he would finish to speak about his own business or about Anna.

`Yes, that's very true,' he said, when Alexei Alexandrovich took off the pince-nez, without which he could not read now, and looked inquiringly at his quondam brother-in-law, `that's very true in particular cases, but still, the principle of our day is freedom.'

`Yes, but I lay down another principle, embracing the principle of freedom,' said Alexei Alexandrovich, with emphasis on the word `embracing', and he put on his pince-nez again, so as to read the passage in which this statement was made.

And turning over the beautifully written, wide-margined manuscript, Alexei Alexandrovich read aloud the conclusive passage once more.

`I don't advocate protection for the sake of private interest, but for the public weal - and for the lower and upper classes equally,' he said, looking over his pince-nez at Oblonsky. `But they cannot grasp that, they are taken up now with personal interests, and carried away by phrases.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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