“No, we’d better drive,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, getting into the trap. He sat down, tucked the tiger-skin rug round him, and lighted a cigar. “How is it you don’t smoke? A cigar is a sort of thing, not exactly a pleasure, but the crown and outward sign of pleasure. Come, this is life! How splendid it is! This is how I should like to live!”
“Why, who prevents you?” said Levin, smiling.
“No, you’re a lucky man! You’ve got everything you like. You like horses—and you have them; dogs—you have them; shooting— you have it; farming—you have it.”
“Perhaps because I rejoice in what I have, and don’t fret for what I haven’t,” said Levin, thinking of Kitty.
Stepan Arkadyevitch comprehended, looked at him, but said nothing.
Levin was grateful to Oblonsky for noticing, with his never-failing tact, that he dreaded conversation about the Shtcherbatskys, and so saying nothing about them. But now Levin was longing to find out what was tormenting him so, yet he had not the courage to begin.
“Come, tell me how things are going with you,” said Levin, bethinking himself that it was not nice of him to think only of himself.
Stepan Arkadyevitch’s eyes sparkled merrily.
“You don’t admit, I know, that one can be fond of new rolls when one has had one’s rations of bread—to your mind it’s a crime; but I don’t count life as life without love,” he said, taking Levin’s question his own way. “What am I to do? I’m made that way. And really, one does so little harm to anyone, and gives oneself so much pleasure...”
“What! is there something new, then?” queried Levin.
“Yes, my boy, there is! There, do you see, you know the type of Ossian’s women.... Women, such as one sees in dreams.... Well, these women are sometimes to be met in reality...and these women are terrible. Woman, don’t you know, is such a subject that however much you study it, it’s always perfectly new.”
“Well, then, it would be better not to study it.”
“No. Some mathematician has said that enjoyment lies in the search for truth, not in the finding it.”
Levin listened in silence, and in spite of all the efforts he made, he could not in the least enter into the feelings of his friend and understand his sentiments and the charm of studying such women.
The place fixed on for the stand-shooting was not far above a stream in a little aspen copse. On reaching the copse, Levin got out of the trap and led Oblonsky to a corner of a mossy, swampy glade, already quite free from snow. He went back himself to a double birch tree on the other side, and leaning his gun on the fork of a dead lower branch, he took off his full overcoat, fastened his belt again, and worked his arms to see if they were free.
Gray old Laska, who had followed them, sat down warily opposite him and pricked up her ears. The sun was setting behind a thick forest, and in the glow of sunset the birch trees, dotted about in the aspen copse, stood out clearly with their hanging twigs, and their buds swollen almost to bursting.