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Anna Karenina 376


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displeased glance at Levin, this gentleman sharply turned his back. "Yes, its a dirty business, theres no denying," a small gentleman 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! Hed better not say it, the beast!" "But excuse me! They take their stand on the act," was being said in another group; "the wife must be registered as noble." "Oh, damn your acts! I speak from my heart. Were all gentlemen, arent we? Above suspicion." "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 Semyonovna 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 gray whiskers, wearing the regimental uniform of an old general staff-officer. It was the very landowner Levin had met at Sviazhskys. 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, Nikolay Ivanovitchs." "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 so it must be. "And how do you come to be in our province?" he asked. "Come to take part in our _coup detat?_" he said, confidently pronouncing the French words with a bad accent. "All Russias here--gentlemen of the bedchamber, and everything short of the ministry." He pointed to the imposing figure of Stepan Arkadyevitch in white trousers and his court uniform, walking by with a general. "I ought to own that I dont very well understand the drift of the provincial elections," said Levin. The landowner looked at him. "Why, what is there to understand? Theres no meaning in it at all. Its a decaying institution that goes on running only by the force of inertia. Just look, the very uniforms tell you that its an assembly of justices of the peace, permanent members of the court, 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. Its a moral obligation of a sort. And then, to tell the truth, theres ones own interests. My son-in-law wants to stand as a permanent member; theyre not rich people, and he must be brought forward. These gentlemen, now, what do they come for?" he said, pointing to the malignant gentleman, who was talking at the high table. "Thats the new generation of nobility." "New it may be, but nobility it isnt. Theyre proprietors of a sort, but were the landowners. As noblemen, theyre cutting their own throats." "But you say its an institution thats 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 were the growth of a thousand years. If were laying out a garden, planning one before the house, you know, and there youve a tree thats stood for centuries in the very spot.... Old and gnarled it may be, and yet you dont 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 wont grow him again in a year," he said cautiously, and he immediately changed the conversation. "Well, and how is your land doing?" "Oh, not very well. I make five per cent." "Yes, but you dont reckon your own work. Arent you worth something too? Ill tell you my own case. Before I took to seeing after the land, I had a salary of three hundred pounds 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 ones work is thrown in for nothing." "Then why do you

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