"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. We're all
gentlemen, aren't 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
"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 Sviazhsky's. He knew him at
once. The landowner too stared at Levin, and they exchanged
"Very glad to see you! To be sure! I remember you very well.
Last year at our district marshal, Nikolay Ivanovitch's."
"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
d'etat?" he said, confidently pronouncing the French words with a
bad accent. "All Russia's 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 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 court, and so on, but not of noblemen."