But this was worse still. Nevyedovsky and Sviazhsky were the two candidates.
“I certainly shall not, under any circumstances,” answered the malignant gentleman.
This was Nevyedovsky himself. Sviazhsky introduced him to Levin.
“Well, you find it exciting too?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, winking at Vronsky. “It’s something like a race. One might bet on it.”
“Yes, it is keenly exciting,” said Vronsky. “And once taking the thing up, one’s eager to see it through. It’s a fight!” he said, scowling and setting his powerful jaws.
“What a capable fellow Sviazhsky is! Sees it all so clearly.”
“Oh, yes!” Vronsky assented indifferently.
A silence followed, during which Vronsky—since he had to look at something—looked at Levin, at his feet, at his uniform, then at his face, and noticing his gloomy eyes fixed upon him, he said, in order to say something:
“How is it that you, living constantly in the country, are not a justice of the peace? You are not in the uniform of one.”
“It’s because I consider that the justice of the peace is a silly institution,” Levin answered gloomily. He had been all the time looking for an opportunity to enter into conversation with Vronsky, so as to smooth over his rudeness at their first meeting.
“I don’t think so, quite the contrary,” Vronsky said, with quiet surprise.
“It’s a plaything,” Levin cut him short. “We don’t want justices of the peace. I’ve never had a single thing to do with them during eight years. And what I have had was decided wrongly by them. The justice of the peace is over thirty miles from me. For some matter of two roubles I should have to send a lawyer, who costs me fifteen.”
And he related how a peasant had stolen some flour from the miller, and when the miller told him of it, had lodged a complaint for slander. All this was utterly uncalled for and stupid, and Levin felt it himself as he said it.
“Oh, this is such an original fellow!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with his most soothing, almond-oil smile. “But come along; I think they’re voting....”
And they separated.
“I can’t understand,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, who had observed his brother’s clumsiness, “I can’t understand how anyone can be so absolutely devoid of political tact. That’s where we Russians are so deficient. The marshal of the province is our opponent, and with him you’re ami cochon, and you beg him to stand. Count Vronsky, now ...I’m not making a friend of him; he’s asked me to dinner, and I’m not going; but he’s one of our side—why make an enemy of him? Then you ask Nevyedovsky if he’s going to stand. That’s not a thing to do.”
“Oh, I don’t understand it at all! And it’s all such nonsense,” Levin answered gloomily.
“You say it’s all such nonsense, but as soon as you have anything to do with it, you make a muddle.”