He wanted Levin to be in good spirits. But it was not that Levin was not in good spirits; he was ill at ease. With what he had in his soul, he felt sore and uncomfortable in the restaurant, in the midst of private rooms where men were dining with ladies, in all this fuss and bustle; the surroundings of bronzes, looking glasses, gas, and waiters—all of it was offensive to him. He was afraid of sullying what his soul was brimful of.
“I? Yes, I am; but besides, all this bothers me,” he said. “You can’t conceive how queer it all seems to a country person like me, as queer as that gentleman’s nails I saw at your place...”
“Yes, I saw how much interested you were in poor Grinevitch’s nails,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, laughing.
“It’s too much for me,” responded Levin. “Do try, now, and put yourself in my place, take the point of view of a country person. We in the country try to bring our hands into such a state as will be most convenient for working with. So we cut our nails; sometimes we turn up our sleeves. And here people purposely let their nails grow as long as they will, and link on small saucers by way of studs, so that they can do nothing with their hands.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch smiled gaily.
“Oh, yes, that’s just a sign that he has no need to do coarse work. His work is with the mind...”
“Maybe. But still it’s queer to me, just as at this moment it seems queer to me that we country folks try to get our meals over as soon as we can, so as to be ready for our work, while here are we trying to drag out our meal as long as possible, and with that object eating oysters...”
“Why, of course,” objected Stepan Arkadyevitch. “But that’s just the aim of civilization—to make everything a source of enjoyment.”
“Well, if that’s its aim, I’d rather be a savage.”
“And so you are a savage. All you Levins are savages.”
Levin sighed. He remembered his brother Nikolay, and felt ashamed and sore, and he scowled; but Oblonsky began speaking of a subject which at once drew his attention.
“Oh, I say, are you going tonight to our people, the Shtcherbatskys’, I mean?” he said, his eyes sparkling significantly as he pushed away the empty rough shells, and drew the cheese towards him.
“Yes, I shall certainly go,” replied Levin; “though I fancied the princess was not very warm in her invitation.”
“What nonsense! That’s her manner.... Come, boy, the soup!.... That’s her manner—grande dame,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “I’m coming, too, but I have to go to the Countess Bonina’s rehearsal. Come, isn’t it true that you’re a savage? How do you explain the sudden way in which you vanished from Moscow? The Shtcherbatskys were continually asking me about you, as though I ought to know. The only thing I know is that you always do what no one else does.”
“Yes,” said Levin, slowly and with emotion, “you’re right. I am a savage. Only, my savageness is not in having gone away, but in coming now. Now I have come...”