Levin had meant to tell his brother of his determination to get married, and to ask his advice; he had indeed firmly resolved to do so. But after seeing his brother, listening to his conversation with the professor, hearing afterwards the unconsciously patronizing tone in which his brother questioned him about agricultural matters (their mother’s property had not been divided, and Levin took charge of both their shares), Levin felt that he could not for some reason begin to talk to him of his intention of marrying. He felt that his brother would not look at it as he would have wished him to.
“Well, how is your district council doing?” asked Sergey Ivanovitch, who was greatly interested in these local boards and attached great importance to them.
“I really don’t know.”
“What! Why, surely you’re a member of the board?”
“No, I’m not a member now; I’ve resigned,” answered Levin, “and I no longer attend the meetings.”
“What a pity!” commented Sergey Ivanovitch, frowning.
Levin in self-defense began to describe what took place in the meetings in his district.
“That’s how it always is!” Sergey Ivanovitch interrupted him. “We Russians are always like that. Perhaps it’s our strong point, really, the faculty of seeing our own shortcomings; but we overdo it, we comfort ourselves with irony which we always have on the tip of our tongues. All I say is, give such rights as our local self-government to any other European people—why, the Germans or the English would have worked their way to freedom from them, while we simply turn them into ridicule.”
“But how can it be helped?” said Levin penitently. “It was my last effort. And I did try with all my soul. I can’t. I’m no good at it.”
“It’s not that you’re no good at it,” said Sergey Ivanovitch; “it is that you don’t look at it as you should.”
“Perhaps not,” Levin answered dejectedly.
“Oh! do you know brother Nikolay’s turned up again?”
This brother Nikolay was the elder brother of Konstantin Levin, and half-brother of Sergey Ivanovitch; a man utterly ruined, who had dissipated the greater part of his fortune, was living in the strangest and lowest company, and had quarreled with his brothers.
“What did you say?” Levin cried with horror. “How do you know?”
“Prokofy saw him in the street.”
“Here in Moscow? Where is he? Do you know?” Levin got up from his chair, as though on the point of starting off at once.
“I am sorry I told you,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, shaking his head at his younger brother’s excitement. “I sent to find out where he is living, and sent him his IOU to Trubin, which I paid. This is the answer he sent me.”
And Sergey Ivanovitch took a note from under a paper-weight and handed it to his brother.
Levin read in the queer, familiar handwriting: “I humbly beg you to leave me in peace. That’s the only favor I ask of my gracious brothers.—Nikolay Levin.”