Stepan Arkadyevitch took him by the arm and led him away to Karenin.
“Let me introduce you.” He mentioned their names.
“Very glad to meet you again,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch coldly, shaking hands with Levin.
“You are acquainted?” Stepan Arkadyevitch asked in surprise.
“We spent three hours together in the train,” said Levin smiling, “but got out, just as in a masquerade, quite mystified—at least I was.”
“Nonsense! Come along, please,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, pointing in the direction of the dining room.
The men went into the dining-room and went up to a table, laid with six sorts of spirits and as many kinds of cheese, some with little silver spades and some without, caviar, herrings, preserves of various kinds, and plates with slices of French bread.
The men stood round the strong-smelling spirits and salt delicacies, and the discussion of the Russification of Poland between Koznishev, Karenin, and Pestsov died down in anticipation of dinner.
Sergey Ivanovitch was unequaled in his skill in winding up the most heated and serious argument by some unexpected pinch of Attic salt that changed the disposition of his opponent. He did this now.
Alexey Alexandrovitch had been maintaining that the Russification of Poland could only be accomplished as a result of larger measures which ought to be introduced by the Russian government.
Pestsov insisted that one country can only absorb another when it is the more densely populated.
Koznishev admitted both points, but with limitations. As they were going out of the drawing room to conclude the argument, Koznishev said, smiling:
“So, then, for the Russification of our foreign populations there is but one method—to bring up as many children as one can. My brother and I are terribly in fault, I see. You married men, especially you, Stepan Arkadyevitch, are the real patriots: what number have you reached?” he said, smiling genially at their host and holding out a tiny wine glass to him.
Everyone laughed, and Stepan Arkadyevitch with particular good humor.
“Oh, yes, that’s the best method!” he said, munching cheese and filling the wine-glass with a special sort of spirit. The conversation dropped at the jest.
“This cheese is not bad. Shall I give you some?” said the master of the house. “Why, have you been going in for gymnastics again?” he asked Levin, pinching his muscle with his left hand. Levin smiled, bent his arm, and under Stepan Arkadyevitch’s fingers the muscles swelled up like a sound cheese, hard as a knob of iron, through the fine cloth of the coat.
“What biceps! A perfect Samson!”
“I imagine great strength is needed for hunting bears,” observed Alexey Alexandrovitch, who had the mistiest notions about the chase. He cut off and spread with cheese a wafer of bread fine as a spider-web.