Stepan Arkadyevich went upstairs with his pocket bulging with notes which the merchant had paid him for three months in advance. The business of the forest was over, the money in his pocket; their shooting had been excellent, and Stepan Arkadyevich was in the happiest frame of mind, and therefore felt especially anxious to dissipate the ill-humor that had come upon Levin. He wanted to finish the day at supper as pleasantly as it had been begun.
Levin certainly was out of humor, and, in spite of all his desire to be affectionate and cordial to his charming guest, he could not control his mood. The aftereffects of the intoxication of the news that Kitty was not married had gradually begun to work upon him.
Kitty was not married, and was ill, and ill from love for a man who had slighted her. This offense, as it were, rebounded upon him. Vronsky had slighted her, and she had slighted him, Levin. Consequently Vronsky had the right to despise Levin, and therefore he was his enemy. But all this Levin did not think of. He vaguely felt that there was something in it insulting to him, and he was not angry now at what had disturbed him, but he fell foul of everything that presented itself. The stupid sale of the forest, the fraud practised upon Oblonsky and concluded in his house, exasperated him.
"Well, finished?" he said, meeting Stepan Arkadyevich upstairs. "Would you like supper?"
"Well, I wouldn't say no to it. What an appetite I get in the country! Wonderful! Why didn't you offer Riabinin something?"
"Oh, damn him!"
"Still, how you do treat him!" said Oblonsky. "You didn't even shake hands with him. Why not shake hands with him?"
"Because I don't shake hands with a waiter, and a waiter's a hundred times better than he is."
"What a reactionist you are, really! What about the amalgamation of classes?" said Oblonsky.
"Anyone who likes it is welcome to it, but it sickens me."
"You're a downright reactionist, I see."
"Really. I have never considered what I am. I am Konstantin Levin, and nothing else."
"And Konstantin Levin very much out of temper," said Stepan Arkadyevich, smiling.
"Yes, I am out of temper, and do you know why? Because- excuse me- of your stupid sale...."
Stepan Arkadyevich frowned good-humoredly, like one who feels himself teased and attacked for no fault of his own.
"Come, enough about that!" he said. "When did anybody ever sell anything without being told immediately after the sale, 'It was worth much more'? But when one wants to sell, no one will give anything.... No, I see you've a grudge against that unlucky Riabinin."
"Maybe I have. And do you know why? You'll say again that I'm a reactionist, or some other terrible word; but all the same it does annoy and anger me to see on all sides the impoverishing of the nobility to which I belong, and, in spite of the amalgamation of classes, I'm glad to belong. And their impoverishment is not due to living in luxury- that would be nothing; living in good style- that's the proper thing for noblemen: it's only the nobles who know how to do it. Now, the peasants about us buy land, and I don't mind that. The gentleman does nothing, while the peasant works and supplants the idle man. That's as it should be. And I welcome the peasant. But I do mind seeing the process of impoverishment from a sort of- I don't know what to call it- innocence. Here a Polish lessee bought for half its value a magnificent estate from a lady who lives in Nice. And there a merchant leases land, worth ten roubles in rent the dessiatina, for one rouble. Here, for no kind of reason, you've made that cheat a present of thirty thousand roubles."
"Well, what should I have done? Counted every tree?"
"Of course, they must be counted. You didn't count them, but Riabinin did. Riabinin's children will have means of livelihood and education, while yours, like as not, won't!"
"Well, you must excuse me, but there's something mean in this counting. We have our business and they have theirs, and they must make their profit. Anyway, the thing's done, and there's an end of it. And here come some fried eggs, my favorite dish. And Agathya Mikhailovna will give us that marvelous herb brandy...."
Stepan Arkadyevich sat down at the table and began jollying Agathya Mikhailovna, assuring her that it was long since he had tasted such a dinner and such a supper.
"Well, you praise it, at any rate," said Agathya Mikhailovna, "but Konstantin Dmitrievich, no matter what you give him- even a crust of bread- will just eat it and walk away."
Though Levin tried to control himself, he was gloomy and silent. He wanted to put one question to Stepan Arkadyevich, but he could not bring himself to the point, and could not find the words or the moment in which to put it. Stepan Arkadyevich had gone down to his room, undressed, again washed, and, attired in a nightshirt with goffered frills, had got into bed, but Levin still lingered in his room, talking of various trifling matters, and not daring to ask what he wanted to know.
"How wonderfully they make the soap," he said gazing at a piece of soap he was unwrapping, which Agathya Mikhailovna had placed in readiness for the guest, but a brand which Oblonsky did not use. "Just look- why, it's a work of art."
"Yes, everything's brought to such a pitch of perfection nowadays," said Stepan Arkadyevich, with a moist and blissful yawn. "The theater, for instance, and the entertainments... A-a-a!" he yawned. "The electric light everywhere... A-a-a!"
"Yes, the electric light," said Levin. "Yes. Oh, and where's Vronsky now?" he asked suddenly, laying down the soap.
"Vronsky?" said Stepan Arkadyevich, checking his yawn; "he's in Peterburg. He left soon after you did, and hasn't been once in Moscow since. And, do you know, Kostia, I'll tell you the truth," he went on, leaning his elbow on the table, and, with his hand, propping up his handsome ruddy face, in which his humid, good-natured, sleepy eyes shone like stars. "It's your own fault. You took fright at the sight of your rival. But, as I told you at the time, I couldn't say which had the better chance. Why didn't you fight it out? I told you at the time that..." He yawned inwardly, without opening his mouth.
"Does he know, or doesn't he, that I did propose?" Levin wondered gazing at him. "Yes, there's something humbugging, something diplomatic in his face." And, feeling he was blushing, he looked Stepan Arkadyevich straight in the face without speaking.
"If there was anything on her side at that time, it was nothing but a superficial attraction," pursued Oblonsky. "His being such a perfect aristocrat, you know, and his future position in society, had an influence not with her, but with her mother."
Levin scowled. The humiliation of his rejection stung him to the heart, as though it were a fresh wound he had only just received. But he was at home, and the walls of home are a support.
"Wait, wait," he began, interrupting Oblonsky. "You talk of his being an aristocrat. But allow me to ask what it consists of, that aristocracy of Vronsky or of anybody else, beside which I can be looked down upon? You consider Vronsky an aristocrat, but I don't. A man whose father crawled up from nothing at all by intrigue, and whose mother- God knows whom she wasn't mixed up with... No, excuse me, but I consider myself aristocratic, and people like me, who can point back in the past to three or four honorable generations of their family, of the highest degree of breeding (talent and intellect, of course, are another matter), and have never curried favor with anyone, never depended on anyone for anything, like my father and my grandfather. And I know many such. You think it mean of me to count the trees in my forest, while you make Riabinin a present of thirty thousand; but you get from the government your liferent, and I don't know what, while I shall not, and so I prize what's come to me from my ancestors, or has been won by hard work... We are aristocrats, and not those who can only exist by favor of the powerful ones of this earth, and who can be bought for twenty kopecks."
"Well, but whom are you attacking? I agree with you," said Stepan Arkadyevich, sincerely and genially; though he was aware that in the class of those who could be bought for twenty kopecks Levin was reckoning him as well. Levin's animation gave him genuine pleasure. "Whom are you attacking? A good deal of what you say is not true about Vronsky, of course, but I won't talk about that. I tell you straight out, if I were you, I should go back with me to Moscow, and..."
"No; I don't know whether you know it or not, but I don't care. And I tell you- I did propose, and was rejected, and Katerina Alexandrovna is nothing now to me but a painful and humiliating reminiscence."
"Why? What nonsense!"
"But we won't talk about it. Please forgive me, if I've been nasty," said Levin. Now that he had opened his heart, he became as he had been in the morning. "You're not angry with me, Stiva? Please don't be angry," he said, and, smiling, he took his hand.
"Of course not; not a bit- nor is there any reason to be. I'm glad we've spoken openly. And, do you know, stand shooting in the morning is usually good- why not go? I might go, without sleeping, straight from shooting to the station."