“No, I am no longer a district councilor. I have quarreled with them all, and don’t go to the meetings any more,” he said, turning to Oblonsky.
“You’ve been quick about it!” said Oblonsky with a smile. “But how? why?”
“It’s a long story. I will tell you some time,” said Levin, but he began telling him at once. “Well, to put it shortly, I was convinced that nothing was really done by the district councils, or ever could be,” he began, as though some one had just insulted him. “On one side it’s a plaything; they play at being a parliament, and I’m neither young enough nor old enough to find amusement in playthings; and on the other side” (he stammered) “it’s a means for the coterie of the district to make money. Formerly they had wardships, courts of justice, now they have the district council—not in the form of bribes, but in the form of unearned salary,” he said, as hotly as though someone of those present had opposed his opinion.
“Aha! You’re in a new phase again, I see—a conservative,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “However, we can go into that later.”
“Yes, later. But I wanted to see you,” said Levin, looking with hatred at Grinevitch’s hand.
Stepan Arkadyevitch gave a scarcely perceptible smile.
“How was it you used to say you would never wear European dress again?” he said, scanning his new suit, obviously cut by a French tailor. “Ah! I see: a new phase.”
Levin suddenly blushed, not as grown men blush, slightly, without being themselves aware of it, but as boys blush, feeling that they are ridiculous through their shyness, and consequently ashamed of it and blushing still more, almost to the point of tears. And it was so strange to see this sensible, manly face in such a childish plight, that Oblonsky left off looking at him.
“Oh, where shall we meet? You know I want very much to talk to you,” said Levin.
Oblonsky seemed to ponder.
“I’ll tell you what: let’s go to Gurin’s to lunch, and there we can talk. I am free till three.”
“No,” answered Levin, after an instant’s thought, “I have got to go on somewhere else.”
“All right, then, let’s dine together.”
“Dine together? But I have nothing very particular, only a few words to say, and a question I want to ask you, and we can have a talk afterwards.”
“Well, say the few words, then, at once, and we’ll gossip after dinner.”
“Well, it’s this,” said Levin; “but it’s of no importance, though.”
His face all at once took an expression of anger from the effort he was making to surmount his shyness.
“What are the Shtcherbatskys doing? Everything as it used to be?” he said.
Stepan Arkadyevitch, who had long known that Levin was in love with his sister-in-law, Kitty, gave a hardly perceptible smile, and his eyes sparkled merrily.
“You said a few words, but I can’t answer in a few words, because.... Excuse me a minute...”